Embracing the Power of Mentorship

Marna Ricker makes a big impact in the world of tax. As EY’s Global Vice Chair of Tax, she oversees all aspects of EY’s global tax business. Today, we’ll be discussing all things mentorship, including the significant role it plays in Marna’s personal and professional life. Marna shares her journey of rising through the ranks at EY and highlights how every business owner can benefit from both giving and receiving mentorship. She firmly believes it’s one of the best ways to grow yourself, your team, and your business. Stick around to learn more about the power of mentorship with Marna.


man and woman chatting - mentorship


Marna’s Mentorship Journey

Mentorship holds extraordinary value in any organization, regardless the size. Reflecting on her own life and career, Marna highlighted the importance of mentors at various stages. As a child, her gymnastics teacher played a pivotal role. During her school years, it was her teachers, and in law school, her tax professor had a significant influence on her career path.

In the professional world, Marna found mentors and mentees to be especially crucial during vulnerable moments—whether it’s after making a mistake or facing a significant personal or professional decision. She stressed the importance of having someone trustworthy and comfortable to turn to, providing a safe space for honest conversations and guidance.

Marna also spoke about the importance of paying it forward. Having greatly benefited from mentorship herself, she feels a strong obligation to provide the same support to others. She dedicates time to mentoring, ensuring that others have the same safe space and guidance she received. Every interaction with her own mentors serves as a reminder to carve out time in her calendar to offer support, thus continuing the cycle of mentorship and growth.


The Mentor & Mentee Relationship

A mentor is someone who provides a trusted space for open and honest conversations. It’s a relationship built on trust, connection, and mutual respect. A mentor is someone you can turn to with anything you need to discuss, knowing that the conversation will be supportive and understanding. This relationship can be formed in various ways—through a teacher, a professor, a boss, or even someone you met at a conference. The key is creating interactions that allow for that level of trust and openness. 

A mentee, on the other hand, is typically someone who seeks advice and guidance from a more senior or experienced person. The relationship maintains the same level of trust and respect, but the mentee is usually the one reaching out to initiate the conversation. Marna emphasizes the importance of being responsive when someone reaches out for mentorship. She believes in being available and supportive, just as she hopes others will be when she seeks guidance.


Mentorship Evolves Significantly Over Time

Mentorship evolves significantly over time, adapting to different stages of life and career. Early on, when we are growing up, mentorship is often about learning fundamental life lessons such as work ethic, commitment, teamwork, dealing with failure, and sportsmanship. Marna recalls her gymnastics coach as a key figure in her early development, providing guidance and support during a crucial developmental window. This coach taught her how to be a young adult, handle disappointment, communicate effectively, and work hard. The long-term relationship with her coach was uniquely impactful, complementing the guidance from her parents.

As Marna progressed in her career, mentorship took on a different turn. She emphasizes the importance of recognizing and leveraging the strengths of each team member, rather than focusing solely on improving weaknesses. Regarding mentorship style, Marna adjusts her approach based on the individual’s level and aspirations. Overall, Marna’s mentorship journey has evolved from foundational life lessons to strategic career guidance, always adapting to meet the needs and aspirations of those she mentors.

For her, the key to a successful mentor-mentee relationship lies in honesty, vulnerability, and mutual respect. Both parties need to be transparent about their struggles and needs. Without this openness, it’s challenging to build a deep connection where meaningful advice can be exchanged. Trust and respect are crucial elements that must exist on both sides for the relationship to flourish.


Why Business Owners Should Consider Mentorship

When asked why business owners should focus on mentorship while running a busy business, Marna emphasized its immense value. She shared that seeking different perspectives within the organization is crucial for any business. By doing so, she makes sure she’s not missing anything that could improve her business, foster collaboration, or anticipate potential disruptions.

Marna highlighted the importance of reaching out to others, whether through mentorship or simply to learn and stay curious. Engaging with various perspectives helps businesses evolve and avoid becoming too insular. She also stressed the necessity of spending time outside the organization. This includes interactions with clients, alliance partners, ecosystem partners, and potential acquisition targets. Regularly stepping outside the business bubble helps to stay informed and innovative.


You’re Never Too Senior to Have A Mentor

Absolutely not! Marna believes that mentorship knows no age or seniority limits. She finds value in a diverse array of mentors, including retired clients from the parent firm, alliance partners, coaches, and trusted long-standing mentors with whom she shares specific interests, such as navigating strategic challenges during major transitions like welcoming a new CEO.

What’s fascinating is that mentors can come from unexpected places, including those younger than us. Marna fondly remembers learning a great deal about technology from her own kids, highlighting that mentorship isn’t about hierarchy but rather about learning from different perspectives and experiences across life’s spectrum.


‘You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.’  — William Faulkner


Another quote that struck Marna was “I am because we are” which is the foundation of Ubuntu leadership. We also discussed this leadership style in a previous episode, and you can listen to it here.


Why is mentorship important in business and life?

Mentorship, as Marna sees it, is vital in business for grooming the next generation of leaders. She values how mentorship can create a pool of capable successors, making leadership transitions smoother and ensuring the organization’s continuity. Marna also appreciates the societal impact of mentorship, especially in supporting women’s careers and advocating for equal opportunities like paternity leave. Additionally, she recognizes the importance of understanding and adapting to generational differences, particularly in a tech-driven world where younger generations may have unique perspectives and skills that can drive innovation and success.

Here are my key takeaways from this conversation with Marna. 

First, confident leaders actively seek mentorship. They understand the value of seeking advice and staying open to new ideas, no matter their position. Building a strong network of mentors is like having a treasure trove of wisdom at your fingertips. Second, confident leaders cherish life’s lessons. They learn from every experience, whether in sports, family, or tough times, finding positives and using them to shape their future. Finally, confident leaders are energized by mentoring others. They lean in. Their passion for growth is contagious, igniting potential in others and creating a ripple effect of positive influence.

What’s your key takeaway? Share it with me on YouTube or leave us a comment here.

Marna shared a wealth of stories and insights during our recent chat, which we’ve captured in our podcast episode Embracing the Power of Mentorship. You can listen to it here for all the details!

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