A meeting at Starbucks was all it took. Mona Harty, President and Chief Executive Officer for PSR Associates, Inc., headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, was to meet with a gentleman for coffee. What she imagined would be a brief, 30-minute beverage break instead turned into a three and a half hour meeting that would forever change her life.
The gentleman, whom she now affectionately calls her mentor, began speaking about worlds that Harty confesses she did not know existed.
“It elevated where I was,” she shared with the group of Members who joined her for breakfast recently, as part of the Breakfast with… series presented by the Commerce Club’s own Commerce Society for Young Executives (CSYE). “And if you plant a seed in me, I’m going to meditate on that. That’s just who I am.”
Who she is, of course, is more than just a young woman who was mentored at an informal meeting in a random Starbucks. A graduate of both Pepperdine University (Bachelor of Arts in Communications) and Georgia Tech (Master of Science in Information, Design & Technology), Harty came to both that meeting and to PSR after having left her role as Vice President of Professional Services for North America with Siemens Business Services Inc.’s Media & Entertainment Group. Prior to that, she ran BBC Technology North America’s East Coast Operations and was the Head of Delivery/Vice President of Professional Services role for BBC Technology’s Digital Media Solutions (DMS) group. Additional prior experience came from serving as the South East Director of Strategy for iXL’s Digital Media & Broadband Solutions Practice Group (DMS) and the five years she spent as the founder, General Manager and Director for the Cable Television and Multimedia facility at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
Still, she is quick to credit that informal meeting with being the impetus which set the trajectory for the rest of her professional life.
“I don’t see myself as an opportunistic person, but I am open. I had a formal program with a coach at Siemens, but my informal mentors, they’re the ones I go to all the time now,” confided Harty.
Being open, taking full advantage of opportunities as they cross one’s path, were themes that surfaced again and again throughout Harty’s presentation. Along with sharing sound life and business advice (“Don’t undervalue your value” and “Go for a run every once in a while. Please!” were some of the standouts), Harty spent extensive time discussing this idea of mentorship, whether formal or informal, with the morning’s eager group of young executives.
“I think I was born and raised with confidence,” she continued, “[but] I was not part of a formal mentorship program until Siemens. I was flying by the seat of my pants! I could have used some guidance.”
Surprising words to hear from someone who was described by attendees as both courageous and an innovative trail-blazer. Throughout the city, too, she’s been recognized for her outstanding achievements and success. Most recently, Harty was named Women in Technology’s “Woman of the Year” for Small and Emerging Businesses in 2013. She also serves on the Board for Junior Achievement of Georgia, is the Vice Chair for Chris Kids, is a member of the Board of Advisors for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Technology Committee for Woodruff Arts Center.
Noteworthy accomplishments aside, when asked about finding an outstanding mentor, the ever jovial Harty joked with her audience.
“There are formal ones,” she advised, “but don’t pay! And you don’t have to say, ‘Will you be my mentor?’ Just ask for coffee. I do [mentorship] through Leadership Atlanta, [but] formal may just mean you agree to meet a certain number of times. I think there are informal mentors everywhere. Don’t force it. Sometimes it won’t be the right fit. But don’t be afraid to ask either. They’ll tell you yes or no!”
She went on to explain that these special relationships, these mentorship or sponsorship opportunities, are a win-win for both parties. Individuals and companies who extend these move up the value chain by providing added services to the customer. When speaking about herself, Harty suggested that for her clients today, this is a part of her unique value proposition.
“I like to solve problems. I am a business person. People ask me questions. I answer. I’m telling people to get out of their own box. Let’s look at new opportunities.”
These possibilities for success are everywhere and this particular CEO thinks you shouldn’t have to extend something in return in order to take full advantage of them. She reminded the group of under-40s that what she learns from their demographic, her mentees, is payment enough.
The presentation, which attendee Derin Dickerson, Partner, Alston & Bird, described as “tremendously helpful,” closed with Harty giving a forceful reminder to pay it forward.
“You ALL can be mentors,” she closed. “And you should. You have something to give. Look for those opportunities. You have to. People plant really great seeds in my head all the time. It elevates your game.”
PSR is an IT Consulting firm providing business and technology consulting, enterprise web, mobile and tablet development, as well as IT Staffing and Recruiting services.
The Commerce Club, Atlanta, Georgia, is one of the Southeast’s oldest and largest business and civic clubs. For additional information about how the Club works to “develop the leaders of today and tomorrow for the city of Atlanta,” please call 404.222.0191.