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Understanding Your Role as a Mentee

Yrthya Dinzey-Flores explains the importance of listening, giving back and building your personal brand, no matter how far along you are in your career.

SHANE NELSON: What advice can you give to folks that are new to their company on how they can adapt to the company's culture quickly?


YRTHYA DINZEY-FLORES: It is important to listen. What I typically do when I'm new to a company is go on a small listening tour, if you will. I make sure that I take time out to either meet for 15 minutes or do a lunch with the people on my team. Then I ask them to recommend someone else that I should speak to so that I can learn a little bit more about what everybody does. I want to know what the company is like, what the different roles are, and how those intersect. Listening to the cues that help you understand what the company's culture is is very important.

NELSON: Any tips for high potential women in terms of how to balance work/life, the importance of being mentored or sponsored, or giving back to the organization what was given to them early in their career?

DINZEY-FLORES: I think the important thing is to realize that you're never too far along in your career to be mentored. It's important to have mentors within the organization, but also outside of the organization so that you're getting 360 feedback about how you are internally, both within the organization and what you're aiming to achieve.

But also to have an external perspective that also helps you calibrate your broader life goals. I do think it's important to give back. A lot of people sometimes become overwhelmed by the time investment. For me, if I don't know someone very well or I'm asked to speak to someone, instead of thinking of it as a big investment (time), I try to say yes and meet with them for a half hour. It's important for me to share with them the benefit of my experience. And sometimes, just that one touchpoint gives that person some ideas about how they want to proceed.

NELSON: That's good. Why should employees join resource groups? What are the benefits to them, and how can joining help their careers?

DINZEY-FLORES: The interesting thing about this question is that employee resource groups have come a long way since their inception. There are now many companies that have leading employee resource groups. Places where you get to understand what the leadership's commitment is; where you get to meet some of the senior executives that run the company and hear what their vision is, not just around diversity and inclusion, but also for the company and what the business priorities are. So, a benefit to joining is exposure to leadership. It's also exposure to the leadership of the business resource groups, which typically have people that are very well connected within companies. These people have a track record of success, especially if the ERG is very strategic. They can really help you understand how to maximize your network at your company. They can also help you understand what kind of leadership qualities are valued within the company, in addition to connecting you with the leadership of the organization in a way that's very genuine and goes beyond a work product. It's really the soft skills that at a particular point propel your career. It's not just about knowledge of a particular subject.

NELSON: So we've often heard that mentoring isn't just a one-way street, it's a two-way street.

DINZEY-FLORES: Right.

NELSON: And the mentee should bring something to the table. They have a big role in the relationship. What advice can you give to folks in terms of understanding their role as a mentee?

DINZEY-FLORES: I just had this conversation with someone today. I think that a lot of times mentees go into their relationship almost as an empty vessel. I think mentees have a lot to contribute. I would say number one, understand what it is that you want to get from the relationship and define some goals or things you want to accomplish with your mentor.

Second, I think that it's important to open up your mentor's world to other perspectives, challenges and points of view and to have a real discussion and exchange. That exchange shouldn't always just be around professional goals or specific to your current job, but more broadly about your career path and some of the challenges that one would either face or need to address. You need to get a little bit deeper into the relationship.

One way mentees could really activate the relationship is by making it not so transactional but by opening up and actually deepening the relationship. I've done this many times. On one particular occasion, I was looking for a job transition and I had lunch with my mentor. I said, very honestly, "You know, I don't know what my vision is but I need to find a way for my ideals to line up more with my career objectives. I need you to tell me how you did that, and also I need you to help guide me in terms of how I can accomplish that."

NELSON: Great point there. I have one more question here and an interesting one. What advice would you give to folks on how to manage their personal brand in the workplace?

DINZEY-FLORES: You can't build your personal brand alone. It's important to understand that it's not just about what you want other people to understand about your brand, but that people also form ideas about who you are. And so, in that sense, I think it's important for us to manage our personal brand and to understand what the external factors are that impact it and create a feedback loop.

Managing your personal brand is not just about your idea, but also about understanding the culture in which you work and how people understand your brand. It's appropriate in some cases to have those conversations with your manager and with other people on your team to understand how they assess your contribution and who you are as a team member.

Anthony B. Coleman: Veterans Should Discover Their Passion and Allow it to Lead to a Profession

Coleman, talks with DiversityInc about his journey transitioning from life in the U.S. Navy to working for Kaiser Permanente as an Assistant Hospital Administrator.

Anthony B. Coleman, DHA, is the Assistant Hospital Administrator (Operations Support) for Kaiser Permanente, Fontana and Ontario Medical Centers.

He was born at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. At 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy serving aboard the USS Pioneer (MCM 9) and USS Ardent (MCM 12). After completing a full sea tour he was transferred to shore duty, and earned a Bachelor's degree in Workforce, Education and Development, as well as a Master of Health Administration. He later earned a commissioned as a Naval Officer serving in various roles overseas and afloat, including Chief Financial Officer at U.S. Naval Hospital Beaufort SC, Human Resources Director at U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Japan and Medical Operations Officer onboard the USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75) nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

Anthony retired in 2016 with 20 years of honorable service and holds a Doctor of Health Administration Degree and currently serves as the Assistant Administrator (Operations Support) for Kaiser Permanente Fontana and Ontario Medical Centers.

DI: What was the initial transition like going from the armed services to a civilian career?

My initial thoughts on transition brought unnecessary anxiety. However, when I learned that my preceptor was a retired Air Force Colonel, it helped put me at ease about the transition. On my first day at Kaiser Permanente, the staff and physicians welcomed me and ensured that I had the support I needed to make a successful transition.

DI: What are some skills or habits you developed while serving in the military that have helped you in your current role?

Two things stick out in my mind as important.

The first is transitioning mindset from duty to desire. I joined the navy at 17, and during the first 3-5 years of my military career I didn't realize I was part of something bigger than myself so I competed tasks out of obligation (duty). After completing my first full sea tour, I realized how my efforts contributed to the overall mission of the U.S. Navy and the duties I carried out started to come from a desire to do so. This realization helped shape my leadership style and how I groomed young sailors early on in their enlistments. I wanted them to realize their very important part in the overall U.S. Navy mission and motivate them to bring their "A" game every day.

This has helped in my current role overseeing nine non-clinical departments (Housekeeping, Food and Nutrition, Engineering, Construction, Parking, Safety, Property Management, Telecommunications, Security and Supply Chain Management) where the majority of the employees I oversee are entry-level and can feel disconnected to health care because they are not physicians or nurses. However, I stress to them as often as possible that whether their job is to nourish the patient, clean and disinfect a patient room, make sure life-saving equipment is in working order, or any other of the hundreds of non-clinical functions they perform day in and day out, they too are vital to a patient's health and healing.

The second is attention to detail. Most times, my staff are the first and/or last interaction our members have with Kaiser Permanente. It is crucial for them to pay attention to every detail about the patient they encounter because each and every detail about the patient, large or small can help us do a better job in serving them. Sometimes, it may be as simple as a smile or word of encouragement that could make all the difference in the patient experience.

DI: What career advice can you offer to veterans or current military folks who are looking to pivot, and what types of jobs should they be looking for?

Stay current in world health affairs, as well as the political climate in the US. Now more than ever, politics are shaping our approach to health care and vice versa. Veterans and current military members should make sure they have an idea of where civilian health care is, as well as where it's going in the future, so they can demonstrate their value to potential health care employers.

Devote time to discovering their passion and allow it to lead them to a profession. So often, when military members plan to transition to civilian life, they tend to focus on their ability to continue providing for their families beyond military service. This can cause us to accept positions for the sake of securing post military employment, or accept positions that are not aligned with our core beliefs, or passion.

DI: Did you always have an idea of the type of career you wanted to pursue after the military?

Yes. As a matter of fact, I began planning my exit from the military in 2005 when I discovered my passion for eliminating health disparities however, because I was a single father of a 5 year old girl, my mom convinced me to complete a full career first.

In 2004, the Navy sent me to graduate school to learn how to be a health administrator. During the summer of 2005, I interned at Wallace Thomson Hospital in rural Union County, South Carolina. While there I met a kitchen worker who impressed me with her skill in preparing meals for all of the sick patients at the hospital, specific to their individual needs. Her name was Pee Wee and even though she never finished high school, and worked a second job to make ends meet she somehow found a way to show compassion for each patient while contributing to the healing environment.

After the rotation was complete, I went back to finish graduate school and learned that Pee Wee died of a stroke. She was 52. Her death really affected me and a began to look at how a person in America could die so young of a preventable health issue. That's when I learned about health disparities and discovered my passion for eliminating them. I understand that I may not be able to complete this task in my lifetime however, I am completely comfortable with making it my life's work at Kaiser Permanente.