'My best days are ahead of me': The power of sponsorship
Published March 22, 2022
Wendy Rinaldi knows a good idea when she sees one. A longtime editorial director, she's led the release of countless technology titles focused on IT workforce development.
One idea—a digital subscription platform to help those studying for IT certification—seemed especially promising. But a crush of daily meetings, deadlines and commitments kept it a permanent bullet on Wendy's to-do list.
Which is where it might still be today were it not for the launch of McGraw Hill's Women's Leadership Initiative sponsorship program in June 2020. The program's main goal is to open up opportunities for women at McGraw Hill to be exposed to senior leaders and decision makers through high-profile assignments.
Wendy was drawn to the program's structured approach and focus on outcomes, and she sensed it could be just the opportunity she needed to explore the IT certification platform idea. She applied to be a sponsoree. Her sponsor was Scott Grillo, president of McGraw Hill's Professional group and an early champion of the platform.
Over the next year, the two juggled their day jobs with working on the platform. From the start, theirs was a true partnership. Scott introduced Wendy to McGraw Hill senior leaders around the world, who gave her important insights and feedback. Wendy used those conversations to help shape and sharpen the concept. She also set up a regular biweekly meeting with Scott so they could assess progress, troubleshoot issues and talk about next steps.
By the time the sponsorship program ended, the original idea for the IT certification platform had morphed into several other initiatives, each with its own potential to serve a wider range of customers.
This evolution was possible, they say, because of the unique sponsor/sponsoree relationship. "I just recall I spoke to so many people around the company, and I'd take copious notes," Wendy says. "I'd keep track of everything and succinctly deliver that information to Scott so he could give me his insights and guidance. If I was really struggling with something, I could ask him for advice, and I would always get it. You have to put a lot into the program, but the return is phenomenal for the company and for the individual."
"The program is a lot of work, especially for the sponsoree," Scott adds. "As a sponsor, you need to respect that and make sure you carve out time on the calendar to keep things on track. Try to be supportive but also proactive in the sense of making those introductions or providing feedback in a timely manner so things can keep progressing."
Their partnership didn't just breathe new life into the original platform idea. It also gave Wendy exposure to other leaders at McGraw Hill and allowed Scott to see his longtime colleague in a new light. "To be able to start exploring other opportunities through this sponsorship initiative and find that there's a whole host of other things Wendy could be doing for us—it was really great," he says. "It was also kind of eye opening. Like, why didn't we just think of that five years ago?"
What's more, the experience left Wendy feeling more energized than ever about the company and her place in it. "I've been here for more than 30 years, and the program showed me that I have a lot more to give," she says. "After the sponsorship ended, there was an opportunity for me to move up in the organization [to Associate Publisher]. And it's got me thinking, wow, my best days at McGraw Hill are ahead of me, not behind me."