Sponsors, Proteges Advance Each Other’s Careers

Virginia Nido, Global Head, Product Development Industry Collaborations, Genentech

Altruism aside, don’t be surprised if becoming a sponsor or protégé emerges as one of the most rewarding and impactful decisions you make in your professional life, says Virginia Nido, global head for Product Development Industry Collaborations at Genentech.

“Studies have shown sponsors with proteges get promoted more quickly,” says Nido, who has been active in several relationships as the sponsor. Also saying that she’s “gotten so much back” from the experience, she notes, “You’ll get a trusted advocate and someone who will have your back and fight for your shared goals.”

The relationship doesn’t necessarily end if the protégé transfers to a different part of the organization and reports to someone else. “In that case, you have an advocate in another part of the organization,” Nido says.

It’s also important to understand the nature of the relationship, she says. For example, while it can be formal in structure in terms of the organizational chart and having regular meetings, much of it is tacit, Nido explains—less formal than a mentor/mentee relationship, for example. “There’s a big difference [between the two kinds of relationships] and we often conflate them,” she adds.

However, the sponsor/protégé relationship can tangibly enhance the careers of both participants, Nido says.

“It’s not always easy to be a good protégé,” Nido acknowledges, in part because it requires being a “grasshopper” who can react quickly and effectively to a sponsor’s call for assistance. “If I need help on a big project in a time crunch, I know I can count on my protégé to rise to the occasion” because of the strong, two-way relationship that has been built, Nido says.

On the other hand, a good sponsor will provide a protégé with, among other things, “opportunities for visibility within the organization,” and find funds to support quality training and other important resources, Nido says.

Nido also wants to clarify that effective sponsors aren’t looking to mold a professional clone. “A protégé isn’t your mini-me,” she stresses. Instead, the two professionals share end goals and a commitment to backing each other up.

Author: Michael Causey