Selecting and Engaging an executive sponsor:
An executive sponsor is a C-level or other senior executive who oversees a specific initiative’s life cycle. They ensure an initiative’s goals are aligned with the overall company strategy. They collect support, rally resources, communicate goals and reduce resistance from senior executives. They help provide ongoing direction to an initiative’s team over time. Having an effective executive sponsor to help create buy-in at senior levels for equitable apprenticeship is an important component of buy-in success. As much as possible, it’s helpful to be strategic about how to approach an executive sponsor and how to select who that sponsor is.
1) What to seek out in a strong sponsor.
- Experience leading diversity, equity, inclusion, and community efforts, or experience championing individuals who have come into tech via alternative routes.
- Demonstrated commitment to leadership and sponsorship, not just checking a box in this area
- Experience in a senior executive role, or internal & external expertise and recognition as a champion of equitable talent development
- Shared-lived experience as apprentices or strong lens on racial and educational disparities, such as a personal background or lens on alternative education, the value of apprenticeship, racial underrepresentation in technical units
- Willingness to go to bat to push against systemic obstacles (for example: equitable apprentice compensation, evaluation, access) and champion needs
- Willingness to leverage their own community and network in support of the apprenticeship initiative
- Willingness and ability to represent the initiative effectively in leadership forums that the working group can’t access
- Availability and accessibility when critical needs arise that require escalation
- Degrees of separation from the working group or initiative itself so there’s reduced conflict of interest
2) Questions to ask a potential sponsor
- Why are you seeking to be involved?
- What are you seeking to accomplish?
- How would your engagement help advance the working group’s goals?
- How would your engagement help advance your professional goals?
- What’s an example of one tangible commitment or a previous action you’ve taken around DEIB and equitable technical or other talent development?
- What is your time availability? How often would you like check-in’s and in what format?
- How do you want to engage (decision-making vs staying informed) across various workstreams?
3) Points to highlight for what’s in it for the sponsor
- Opportunity to scale equity impact as a leader
- Opportunity to advance their own goals — whether they are related to DEIB or setting up talent pipelines
- Ideal for someone seeking to serve on a board of directors or internal opportunities to move the needle on equitable change
- Builds clout and influence as they demonstrate their authority to move mountains to enable equitable tech apprenticeship
4) Considerations when preparing to engage an executive sponsor
- Compile expectations in the form of a project charter that highlights what commitment is needed from the sponsor and over what timeline for an initiative that does not yet have full-buy in but is seeking to gain it.
- In the charter you can include:
-What is the commitment requested of the sponsor?
-What is the expected monthly time commitment?
-In what areas is their help most needed? (Examples: budget approval, escalation of needs, serving as a sounding board for steering in one direction or another)
-Include key resource links, an overview of workstreams, an overview of working group leaders, working group objectives and key results (OKR’s), progress to-date, challenges and asks, key meetings to be aware of
- Establish early any boundaries around micromanagement from a top-down direction
- Ensure core equity mission that’s driving the initiative is not lost in the charter or watered down by the sponsor
- Work constructively with your executive sponsor, even if you didn’t get to choose them. They may not sit in the part of the tech organization you expect. Where they sit will have strong bearing on how apprenticeship is or is not supported, especially based on the OKRs that the sponsor is driving. If a working group wants to take apprenticeship in a different direction than the sponsor’s designated OKR’s, this will pose challenges, so make sure to understand and assess their OKR’s off-the-bat
Tactics and metrics for successful engagement once sponsor is deployed
- The sponsor will likely be passionate about this work, but have many competing tasks, so it’s about empowering them to cheerlead and champion the task force
- If the sponsor is open to weekly updates, create share-backs with sponsors. This is an end-of-week bulleted email list of accomplishments, reminders of what’s needed and when. Essentially, updates on the charter but more dynamic
- If the sponsor is more geared towards monthly and quarterly progress updates, share high-level strategic planning updates, initiative review, and asks. This keeps them in the loop, maintains the relationship, and keeps the initiative on their radar. Thus, when there’s an urgent need, they’re mostly in the loop
- Ensure with the sponsor that there’s recognized and formal support from leadership for the working group’s contributions to the initiative’s success
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Tool and best practices co-designed with champions in tech Rahul Choudhury, Meana Kasi, and Angela Pablo.
Have questions or comments about the Tech Apprenticeship Equity Toolkit? Send us a note.