I signed up for my first mentorship several years ago through AESP. I was leaving a familiar job and breaking into a new role and company. The former company was a bit of a “Boys Club,” as a very quirky female, I often felt like I was on the outside. My new company had several strong female leaders, and I was taking on my first department head and leadership role myself. With all the changes moving from one company to the next, I sought out help from AESP and a match in their mentorship program. Best. Decision. Ever.  

My mentor was of a similar age, female, and had been in the industry a bit longer than I had been. It was a fantastic relief to talk to someone safe about my feelings in my new role and many old feelings of being left out of the boys’ club at work and in the industry. 

Finding My People

Here is a hint for those who haven’t felt like outsiders during boy’s club activities: it’s not fun. You must learn about activities and participate to be considered part of the team or be left out of the club. Activities include (but are not limited to) golf, drinking excessively, visiting strip clubs, and watching sports. I don’t speak for all women in the slightest, but that was the immediate list of situations that have come up. I’m not a sports person. I’ll try watching anything and see its value as a group activity, but it’s not my jam. My jam is history, art, food, travel, science, technology, and anything creative. I’d take three hours in a museum over a three-hour game any day. I recently completed a DEI certificate at Cornell, where I heard many voices and read many studies about inclusion. At its core, inclusion is making a safe space for people to be their whole selves and not feel they need to assimilate to be accepted.

My mentor made me feel like I was not alone.  

We shared experiences; I shared my fears about the new job and trying to fit in without losing myself. We talked about setting boundaries at work and in the industry that felt comfortable. My mentor gave me the best advice about finding my people at events, people I could feel safe being my quirky self with and have in my corner. I never thought about seeking people out beyond networking or business relations. At my core, I am a self-proclaimed introvert, and doing things for myself is hard; doing something for work, friends, or family is easy. She gave me a good challenge.  

Hear how Bridget’s journey in Ukraine eventually led her to being an AESP mentor/mentee.

Passing It On

My next challenge was to build a team and decide what kind of leader to be. I made a point of bringing in people who thought a bit differently than I do, quirky in their own way. I love seeing how people new to the industry fall in love with energy efficiency and how we, as individuals, can make the world a more vital, more resilient place. I am obsessed with seeing people feeling empowered and coming into their own. There is a Yiddish word for it, KVELL. It’s the pride you feel seeing others succeed.  

I started taking on mentees. I wanted to support new people in the industry and make it easier for them to make their way instead of feeling like they had to hack through the jungle. Sometimes, it was a short relationship; they needed a friendly face at their first conference or career advice.  

Expanding My Impact

When the AESP Joule Mentorship Program launched, I saw my chance. I sought to be a mentor and mentee again. I think that I will always have both in my life. I needed and will always need women in the industry to talk to about situations that come up. I need a sounding board from outside of my company and friend group. I recently joined the AESP Women In Energy Group. I found that others had experienced many of my exclusion situations, and it felt terrific to share and know that I was not alone. It’s incredible to feel supported by others. Still, you only feel it once you start sharing your stories and go beyond the small talk and pleasantries. When you can be authentically you.  

What I learned from being mentored was how to better mentor others. How to make a safe space for newcomers in the industry or on my team. My DEI program left me with many more questions to ask others, to find out how they feel comfortable being included, what they need to thrive and grow, and ultimately be the next generation of mentors.   

I wanted to sign off by thanking LeAndra for being my first mentor. You are such a rock star and have helped me more than you could imagine.  

For the rest of you, what are you waiting for? This is your sign to get involved, get unstuck, get inspired, and get connected.

Gillian Saidman

Gillian Saidman

Senior Program Manager, C+C | All About The Good

Gillian is a bagel enthusiast, has a gorgeous dog named Loki, and is a firm believer that you’re never too old to dress up as a superhero. A consumer product expert, she comes to C+C by way of clothing, footwear and eventually energy-efficient products. Her mantra is that it’s important to model the behavior and change you’d like to see in the world and lives it out in her work channeling her retail experience into energy efficiency programs that work for clients and consumers.