Influential Women in IP: ‘find a mentor you trust’


Saman Javed

Influential Women in IP: ‘find a mentor you trust’

A good mentor is key to overcoming failures and progressing on your career path, Kirkland & Ellis partner Katie Coltart said at WIPR’s Influential Women in IP conference yesterday, September 12.

During a previous job, Coltart was sent on several training sessions by her employer, where a coach would help her improve the way she pitches to clients.

It was during these sessions that Coltart and her coach struck up a friendship, and after they finished, the pair remained in touch.

“I started communicating some of my other doubts at work with her, about how my career was going, and that I was feeling a bit lost professionally,” Coltart said at the London event.

She added: “Eventually, through those discussions, she gave me the strength to quit my job. I left with no other job to go to. I wouldn’t have had the courage to do it, if she hadn’t been there.”

In that time, Coltart worked for herself, before an opportunity came up to join Kirkland & Ellis as a partner.

“The first person I wanted to speak to about it was her: that’s when I realised that she was my mentor. She helped me to believe in myself and I was good enough,” she said.

While Coltart fell into her mentoring relationship, she also gives advice on how other women can find mentors for themselves.

“Firstly, pick someone you trust, pick someone you admire and ask them to guide you. But remember, this person has zero responsibility for your success,” she said.

Research has shown that for a mentee to get the best out of the relationship, the mentor needs to be invested in that person.

Coltart said this means the mentee should also show their mentor they are committed to the meetings by carrying out the relevant follow-up actions.

In particular, she said female mentors have been particularly important throughout her career.

“To have really strong female mentors allows me to believe that it is possible to be top in your field regardless of being a woman”.

She said a mentor should be open-minded and curious, but ultimately someone who will listen carefully. What is equally important, is that this person is “invested in you” and willing to give constructive criticism.

“Someone who can say: ‘right I see how things are, and this may hurt, but this is where you are going wrong.’”

Lastly, she stressed the importance of “passing the baton”.

“First you are the mentee, but as we become more senior it is important to keep the loop going and become a mentor. We owe it to new women coming through to support them.”

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Kirkland & Ellis, Influential women in IP, Katie Coltart, mentoring, career progression