I first met Megan Anderson, the Director of Business Development at Integrate.ai, at the Go Sponsor Her and Move the Dial Hackathon Solving for Sponsorship in the New Economy back in October. Megan is the Co-Founder of #GoSponsorHer, and her mission is to #MoveTheDial on women's advancement. How does Megan think this can be achieved? Megan is advocating for more sponsors who actively support a woman's career and commit to her growth and success. We were so intrigued by Megan's many successes, and had to know more.
Read her interview below! Also included are some slides from her inspirational talk at a recent event with the Bad Girls Collective.
INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO OUR READERS. TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR FORMAL AND INFORMAL EDUCATION.
I’m Megan and I am the Business Development Director at Integrate.ai. I took my undergraduate degree in Business at the University of Toronto. I have had three primary sources of informal education. My career in the arts taught me about the power of failure, and the importance of grit and resilience. My previous role at McKinsey taught me an invaluable skill set. Now at Integrate.ai, as employee number two at a startup, I am learning an incredible amount.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OR SKILL YOU LEARNED INSIDE THE CLASSROOM?
The foundations of economics was the most applicable course I took. If I could do my degree over again, I would take way more courses in Behavioural Economics.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OR SKILL YOU LEARNED OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM?
- Say yes before you’re ready and figure it out later.
- Grit matters more than IQ. Your ability to push through hard situations and failure, and hear no over and over and still show up with a smile on your face will get you farther in life and business than the highest IQ.
- The power of giving: I think Karma in the business world is a very real thing, and your reputation precedes you. The more you can give, and bring others up around you, the better. It is not a zero sum game.
WHO WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE TEACHER?
My mom! She is a warrior queen. She has more zest, integrity, heart and persistence than anyone that I have ever met. She doesn't have a lot of formal education but that never stopped her. Take the last 10 years as an example - she started her own business in her mid-fifties and is about to enter her first power lifting competition at age 60, all while nurturing her family and community. She is tough as nails and I have learned so much from her.
HOW HAS YOUR BACKGROUND IN MUSICAL THEATRE HELPED YOU IN YOUR FORMER ROLE AS A CONSULTANT, NOW AS THE DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AT INTEGRATE.AI?
Business is all about improvisation. It is about saying yes to the hand you’re dealt and doing something awesome with it. In theatre, once the curtain goes up, the show must go on. It’s the same in business. Theatre taught me lessons in communication, teamwork, and the power of empathy.
From a communications standpoint, I learned that how you say things matters more than what you say. I learned how to present myself and get my point across.
Musical theatre is an education in emotion. You could parallel it to a psychology degree in many ways. Being a great performer on stage is all about tapping into your emotions and the emotions of the audience. It is powerful to bring that lens into the boardroom. And to have empathy for the people you are dealing with. Emotions end up influencing a lot of what we do so it is important to understand them.
I also learned the power of teamwork. In theatre, you are so reliant on your team! In a live show, you have to have eachothers’ back, and trust that they have yours. Not every day is going to be your best performance. The same is very true in business.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT #GOSPONSORHER - WHY DID YOU START IT AND WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
My co-founder and I started #GoSponsorHer because we have both personally experienced the power of a sponsor early in our careers. Sponsorship is above and beyond mentorship. A sponsor is someone who will pound the table and will actively create opportunity for you.
We both heard from women around us that they were having trouble forming these relationships like us and our male counterparts. We spoke to CEOs and asked them what got them to where they are today. The answer was always some variation of “so and so took me under his wing”. There was always a person or set of people who made the difference.
We dug even deeper into research and found out that women are 46% less likely to have a sponsor than their male peers. We were both doing work on gender empowerment at McKinsey and we wanted to do more. We wanted to do something tactical and actionable to get the ball rolling.
YOU RECENTLY INTRODUCED YOUR SPONSORSHIP TOOLKIT, WHICH SHOWS WHY SPONSORSHIP MATTERS, WHY MENTORSHIP ISN’T ENOUGH, AND HOW SPONSORSHIP WORKS. WHAT HAS THE FEEDBACK BEEN?
It is a good start, and has been great at helping sponsors and sponsorees kick off their relationships. Now, both the sponsors and sponsorees want more tools to help sustain the relationships. Tools to help ensure they are being a good sponsor, and giving back as a sponsoree. Organizations want to know how they can hold sponsors and sponsorees accountable, and measure the impact of these relationships. We’d like to make these tools more readily available and integrated into work life.
HAVE YOU SPONSORED ANY YOUNG WOMEN IN THE EARLY STAGES OF HER CAREER?
I have done more mentorship and purposeful sponsorship. For example, I have helped people who want to work at McKinsey meet the right people, position themselves properly, and get through the interview process.
I actually don’t have a sponsoree right now - nobody has asked me! I would love to eventually sponsor someone more meaningfully over time, but I truly believe this isn’t a relationship you can force or rush, and I am just starting to get to a point in my career where I have the influence to help me be a good sponsor. You need to be in a position of influence where you can meaningfully move the dial for someone, and I want to find someone I really believe in.
WHAT IS ONE LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED THAT YOU’D LIKE YOUNG GIRLS GROWING UP TODAY TO UNDERSTAND?
It goes back to the idea that you can literally do anything. When I was in highschool, a person that I cared about deeply told me I wasn’t smart enough to attend business school. I worked hard in school, and achieved good grades, but I was not the shoe-in student to have a career in business and tech. Math always was scary for me, but I kept with it all the way through high school. I ended up taking math in my undergrad, and now I work with people on a daily basis who are literally math savants at Integrate.Ai. Math is the underpinning of all things AI.
I wish that I had learned sooner that I can figure out anything. I used to be way more scared of failure, and looking stupid. You don’t have to wait for an adult that knows the answer. You can create the answer.
WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW (OR FAVOURITE BOOK)?
I am reading the Power of Habit - it is so good!
A great book which provides a 101 on the latest tech and business trends that are disrupting our world is Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future. It covers machine learning, the shift from products to platforms and the rise of crowdsourcing. Why it matters, how it’s evolved and its applicable for whatever sector you’re in.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN TODAY?
I’m trying to spend more time witnessing myself over the course of the day, meaning I am paying attention to what activities give me energy, what activities drains energy. Today, for example, I spent all day with clients, rolling my sleeves up and really getting into it. I left work feeling high-energy and happy. I reminded myself of what gives me energy.
It is super important to keep tabs on what gives you energy and what drains it. By being aware of it, you can shape your life and career to do more of what gives you energy. You can also create fixes for yourself in the moment when you are feeling drained.