Steve is a veteran market researcher and marketing strategist, who founded his own shop, WolfWorks, in 2013. He relishes revealing customer and market insights through multi-modal approaches, and he also develops brand, messaging and customer experience strategies based on research findings. This year he thought, “Now’s the time to become a mentor.” Read on to see what both Steve and his protege gained from the experience.
Founder & President
Steve is a veteran market researcher and marketing strategist, who founded his own shop, WolfWorks, in 2013 following a baker’s dozen years at mid-sized firms. He relishes revealing customer and market insights through multi-modal approaches like in-person or virtual interviews, group surveys, and secondary research. Steve also develops brand, messaging and customer experience strategies based on research findings. His clients range from associations and non-profits to education, technology, and healthcare companies. Though transplanted from his native California, he loves the cultural and regional diversity of the DC population, and the outdoor activities afforded by all 4 seasons!
AMADC: What motivated you to start mentoring with Marketing Mentors Network?
SW: I’ve been aware of the Mentors program for years, and it always seemed appealing as a way to help young professionals, get to know more local marketers, and challenge myself. But 10 years ago, I didn’t feel ready – I wasn’t yet “seasoned” enough. 5 years ago, I was too busy juggling work, family, and a smattering of volunteer efforts elsewhere. This year, I thought “now’s the time,” having built up sufficient industry experience and perspective to (hopefully!) impart some modest wisdom, and enough spare time and energy to take on the commitment.
AMADC: What are you getting out of mentoring?
SW: Far more than anticipated! First off, I simply enjoyed the process of offering advice on specific challenges faced by my protégé. Then, I truly felt a sense of gratification when she reported how my guidance affected her actions.
To my surprise, the program challenged me profoundly. I needed to step outside my current state and routines, to hark back to past projects and professional relationships, good bad and ugly. It forced me to draw upon all my 20+ years in marketing – with the benefit of hindsight – to “connect the dots” to my protégé’s goals and issues. For example, she was navigating the complexities of a large organization that didn’t especially value marketing. As someone who has mainly worked for smaller firms and now runs his own business, I had to recall earlier experiences working or consulting for the likes of Toyota, Capital One and Merck.
Best of all, my protégé became not just a professional connection but a genuine friend. We’re different ages, genders, and ethnicities, but we bonded over some common interests and, now, a shared experience. As we worked through not only intra-organizational challenges but also profound career path decisions she was facing, the experience drew us closer together.
AMADC: What advice do you have for new marketers/proteges in your field?
SW: Fire away! Mentoring is your chance to ask any and all questions. Your mentors have valuable stories and professional life lessons to share, but the onus is on you to inquire about their experiences and unearth those nuggets which can help steer you toward your goals.
Be brave! The mentor-protégé relationship is special because it’s a “safe space” to tackle any uncertainties about your skills, role, or career path, without any direct or indirect penalties that may result from confiding in a work colleague or (gasp) direct report. Although it’s tough to address one’s shortcomings or fears head-on, this enables you to do so risk-free.
Have fun! Since you two will see each other frequently, enjoy it. Meet at your favorite places. Let down your professional guard a bit. Tell a joke. Get to know each other not just as marketing professionals, but as people.