Deb Mills-Scofield

Mentoring Both Startups And Students In Innovation And Strategy

Q&A With Deb Mills-Scofield

What attracted you to the BIF Summit?

I learned about it in 2009 when searching for innovation ‘stuff’ in Providence for a student of mine from Brown. I called and talked with Saul, and that was the start!

Tell us just a bit about the subject of your BIF Summit story.

My story is about, from years of my own career and its circuitous path and years of mentoring both college kids and adults, how to look at your career and your life for the 21st century. These days, you look at your life and career in terms of what you want to learn, explore, discover, experience over the next two to three years, not 10 years. After doing this for a while — experimenting, learning, applying, and iterating with mentoring — I’ve settled upon a set of key questions to ask yourself to think differently about your career, your paths, and your opportunities. etc.

The “business model” for careers has been disrupted, in a very good way. However, realistically, this new approach to careers isn’t something that’s doable for everyone yet — so far, really only those who are advantaged. This bothers me and I am thinking through how this could work for those who are disadvantaged.

What, to you, is the value of sharing stories?

Humans learn through stories — it’s how we learn as kids and somewhere, someone stupidly thought that we stopped learning that way when got to school-age!! Stories provide examples of lessons, experiences, ideas that helps us interpret, relate to, and see how those could work for ourselves. Stories are personal, so we see the impact of the story on real lives, in a concrete way.

Do you have a motto, or “words to live by”? If so, what is it?

I have three mottoes I live my life by:

I-Thou (in the Martin Buber sense of the term)

Rush to discover, don’t rush to solve.

Experiment — Learn — Apply — Iterate

What one thing (or more, if you like) would you like Summit attendees to know about you before they hear your story?

Mentoring is scary. It’s an awesome responsibility because these are human lives. Mentoring isn’t for wimps, nor for the faint of heart. It’s serious, serious business and should be treated accordingly.

That said, I LOVE LOVE LOVE my work with Brown students. It keeps me mentally young and keeps me learning. I can bring those new ideas and approaches to my clients, and they can hire these amazing kids. It was the kids who said I had a mentoring process that I didn’t know I had. Brown has basically endorsed my mentoring process and wants to use it throughout the campus. It will be beta-tested this fall and rolled out during the spring semester, across all years and disciplines.