Empowering Growth: Regina Dowdell on Mentorship in the Black Community

As Black History Month draws to a close, we spotlight the vital role of mentorship in personal and professional growth. This month, we’re excited to feature Regina Dowdell, a digital marketing maven and Content Solutions Consultant at LinkedIn, whose career is a testament to the power of guiding others towards their goals. With over 12 years of experience across diverse sectors and a passion for impactful storytelling, Regina exemplifies the essence of mentorship. Join us as we explore her insights and journey in a field where creativity meets strategy.

As a content strategist and expert digital marketer, you’re a leader in your field. What role has mentorship played in this? Can you share a personal experience or story that illustrates the profound impact a mentor had on your life?

Mentorship has played a huge role in the choices I’ve made throughout my career. When I got started in marketing at Girls Scouts, I had an incredible boss who was CMO of the organization at the time. Before working with her, I hadn’t had direct experience with a Black woman at such a high executive level before. She demonstrated how to carry yourself with grace, stay authentic, believe in your ideas and stand 10 toes down behind them – no matter who tried to shut them down. I’ve carried that mindset with me ever since, and I believe it’s been a huge part of my success. A particular experience that stands out was with another boss I considered a mentor who I was working with when I began to launch my consulting work. She asked about my service offerings and I told her I was offering support with everything because I knew how to do everything – a very Regina response. She shut it down, lol. We had a great talk about the importance of specific areas of expertise, and she guided me through narrowing my focus. She’s the reason I focus on digital marketing today.

Mentorship often involves both giving and receiving. How have you seen mentorship benefit mentors themselves, and how does this reciprocal relationship contribute to the Black community’s progress?

I always see helping someone as being mutually beneficial, especially within the Black community. When you’re supporting, teaching or guiding someone in any arena – both you and the person you’re supporting are learning and growing. The more you interact and collaborate with others you’re exposed to different ways of thinking, working, even seeing the world. And although you may be sharing expertise and experience, you’re gaining a better understanding of what people endure and how they overcome the different obstacles that come their way, especially being Black in America.

I know we talked about gentrification in NYC before. In your experience as a multi-generational family living in New York City, why is it so important to use mentorship to combat systematic problems like gentrification? Does entrepreneurial mentorship specifically play a role in combatting larger problems?

I think mentorship makes the community more aware of what is happening around them and how they can fight against it. I feel like way more people would start organizations, run for political positions, and be overall more activated if they truly understand A – what they’re up against and B – what they can do to stop it. Entrepreneurial mentorship supports the mindset shift that needs to take place for people to take action against systemic issues. An entrepreneurial mind says “I can strategize, I can make these ideas a reality, I can make an impact” and that’s exactly how people need to see it. You aren’t a victim, you do have power to make change.

Mentorship can sometimes be an informal, unstructured process. Can you elaborate on the importance of recognizing and valuing these organic mentorship relationships?

Anyone who knows me knows that informal is my way of life, lol. I thoroughly enjoy everything I do, including mentoring and being mentored, and it’s mainly because I do things my way. Having relationship building skills is something that is so key in these organic mentorship relationships because it’s just people getting to know each other and not only recognizing how they can help one another, but actually wanting to. I have had several mentors over the years and have mentored so many young people – none of them were from a standard program or formal set up. When you connect with people on an authentic level, it allows you to see what they may need, where they may need direction, what gaps you may be able to fill for them. And vice versa! There was one woman I worked with where I very bluntly asked her to essentially show me her ways LOL. She still is to this day. That’s another benefit of the organic relationship – it doesn’t have a time limit. You truly want what’s best for one another, and that never changes.

Mentorship isn’t limited to one age group. How can intergenerational mentorship within the Black community help bridge the gap between different generations and preserve cultural knowledge?

Whew, this is SO imperative for the Black community. We are living in such different times from generation to generation, but still dealing with the same BS in many instances. The way things were handled before are totally different from the way they can be handled now. This opens the door to an incredible opportunity to learn from the past, soak up all of that knowledge and ways of being, understand what worked/didn’t work, and really advance our approach to bettering the community. Sometimes we have our sticklers – my way is THE way – and that can really hold us back. Everyone has to come to the table with a “ I don’t know what I don’t know” approach and be open to different ways of thinking. This comes back to the organic relationships – there’s a respect level in those relationships that ensures that the differing perspectives are valued, no matter where you stand on them. My daughter and I have a podcast that is about just that- looking at current issues and experiences from the viewpoints of  17 year old and a 40 year old. Yes, we disagree on a LOT lol, but we also respect each other enough to listen and learn. Maybe even agree from time to time Lol.

Looking to the future, how can we ensure that mentorship remains a vital tool for empowerment and progress within the Black community, and what strategies can be employed collectively to expand access to mentorship resources?

I think it’s really imperative for the desire to be there – on both sides! Mentees have to want to learn, be led, understand the different opportunities and possibilities that are available to them. Mentors have to genuinely want to give their time and energy to guide their mentees to empowered actions. A few strategies I can think of are:

    1. Potential mentors making themselves available. I’ve had friends of my daughter’s, my cousins – you name it- ask me if they can just pick my brain and boom – that relationship is born. If I was closed off to supporting, who knows if their ideas or goals would have still come to fruition or been stifled.
    2. Potential mentees having an idea, even if it’s base level, of what they’re interested in or what they see for their futures so they can connect with a potential mentor when the opportunity arises.
    3. Community connections. Spaces and events dedicated to entrepreneurs and leaders within the Black community to share their stories, engage with those who may benefit from their guidance and build those necessary connections. People cannot benefit from what they don’t know is available. I’m speaking at my daughter’s school this month because they put out an ask for Black professionals with a story to tell and a desire to help the students. That’s an example of what intentional connection looks like.

Mentorship can transcend traditional boundaries, such as race or ethnicity. Can you discuss any examples of cross-cultural or cross-racial mentorship and the lessons they can offer for Black History Month?

Yes! Although I believe that Black history should be learned and celebrated year-round, for someone dipping their toe into the relationship building/mentorship pool, this is the perfect time to do so cross-culturally. This is a time when Black people are more open than ever to share, teach and guide, so leading with an open mind and genuine interest in connection can lead to amazing results this month. Attend allyship events, support Black colleagues or community organizers with their programming, collaborate on initiatives – there are so many ways to learn more about the culture and connect with potential mentors and mentees.

You just released a podcast with your daughter, and I know y’all have a very energizing and loving relationship— how does mentorship work between the two of you?

Of course this is by far my favorite mentor/mentee relationship of all. 🙂 I had my daughter fairly young (22 and fresh out of college) so a lot of the mentorship in the early days was in the form of her simply watching and learning. I made SO many of my decisions and moves because I knew she was watching. I wanted her to see what believing in yourself looked like, that you didn’t have to just take what was given to you, that stretching to your growing edge is beneficial across the board. That working hard can yield incredible results, and you can be authentically you through it all. As she got older and was better able to verbalize things she was grappling with, friendships, and even interactions with teachers and administrators – I began to guide her through navigating those relationships. Now she’s a few months away from graduating from high school and we’re tackling her life plan. What brings her joy, what does she see herself doing that makes an impact, what does it take for he to be the best at it, what school will give her the tools to do it well? While the respect level of mother and daughter is definitely present, we speak like old friends just shooting the shit and talking about life. I’m so incredibly proud of the bond we’ve built and the trust she has in me to have her back through this crazy thing called life.

Regina is a digital-minded, marketing creative with an entrepreneurial spirit focused on helping individuals and companies change the world. Through effective communication, thought leadership and a strong digital presence, Regina has supported forward-thinking organizations across all industries from non-profit to technology to start-ups, spread their messages and scale for over 12 years. As a Content Solutions Consultant at LinkedIn, Regina helps organizations craft impactful content strategies that are creative and effective and help them reach their business objectives. An avid traveler and self-proclaimed Super Mom, Regina is based in New York City.

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