Sara Bailey has been involved with WISE since 2008, first serving on the WISE Chicago board of directors while co-chairing the local chapter’s WISE Within mentoring program and then joining the WISE Within National Committee in 2010 for a two-year term as program director. In 2012, Bailey was accepted into the WISE Within program as a mentor and is now in her second year.
After years of being involved with WISE Within on the execution end, what prompted you to apply to become a participant?
I give credit to the program. It is probably what impressed me about WISE more than anything, and I felt very fortunate that I was able to get involved with the committee locally and nationally. The more I learned and the more calls I was on with the other chapters talking about the program, the more I realized, “Wow, this is a really strong program, and I would love to be a part of its growth.”
Prior to being accepted into the program, what had your experience been with mentoring, either as a mentee or mentor?
I’ve always done volunteer work, which you could say is an aspect of mentoring because you are helping others — whether it’s kids with their schoolwork or adults learning computer skills. And, I’m very lucky that both professionally and personally, I have always had somebody to look up to. I looked to my mom and dad; they are amazing parents, but also amazing mentors. I also had a great relationship with my first boss out of college, Aleta Taylor Porter. She instilled in me that I could do anything and to know no limitations. That has stuck with me my entire career.
Despite being so familiar with the program, did you have any concerns going in?
Not at all. I knew it was a well-run program and that my time would be well spent. Even though there is a mentor and a mentee role, it is a very collaborative relationship. Both sides are giving a lot, and I have learned from my mentees. Also, I really commend the committee that’s in place. Committee members provide opportunities for us to meet, they check in to make sure everything is going well, and they set dates far in advance so we have everything set — from a midpoint session to a wrap-up session to networking opportunities in between. The committee has made it easy to embrace the program.
What have you learned from your mentees so far?
One of my mentees is on the agency side. In my current job, I deal with agencies day in and day out, but I don’t know a whole lot about the specifics of their operations, so it has been interesting to hear her talk about what she does. Like me, my current mentee works for a sports team, so it has been fun to talk about our roles within our respective organizations. Also, they’re inspiring. Both are very motivated, and we’ve talked about their plans professionally and personally, their goals. That’s a big part of the WISE Within structure. I am impressed with how they want to continue to learn and grow. It inspires me to do the same.
What do you know now that you wish someone had told you earlier in your career?
I have always looked ahead and saw no limitations. I wasn’t even in the sports industry 10 years ago. I completely changed my career path, and I give a lot of credit back to Aleta, so I don’t know if I have a “wish I knew” type of thing. But when people call me for informational interviews, one thing I tell them is to remember that this is a journey and to not get fixated on what you think you want in a job because there are so many directions you can go and your path can change at any time. The important thing is to always feel a sense of accomplishment, growth and satisfaction in what you are doing.