Ingrid Tolentino

Ingrid Tolentino
CEO, MetLife Legal Plans

Education: Bachelor’s degree, political science, Syracuse University
Company Name: MetLife Legal Plans
Industry: Insurance
Company CEO: Ingrid Tolentino
Company Headquarters Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Number of Employees: 180
Words you live by: “Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you become your reality.” –Les Brown
Who is your personal hero? I have two, Maya Angelou and Ruth Bader Ginsburg
What book are you reading? Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
What was your first job? Nanny
Favorite charity: Facing History and Ourselves
Interests: Reading, cooking, and movies
Family: I live here with my husband, Jeff Potter, and my parents. We have two daughters, Abbey and Kamryn.

Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor

Mentors have been a critical part of my career success. I firmly believe that regardless of how talented and hard working you are, no one succeeds on his or her own. A good mentor is someone who is committed to your career success and who therefore spends precious time coaching and developing you. A relationship that is built on trust and respect, where you are able to have honest discussions about your strengths, opportunities, and challenges are invaluable for your development. I have been privileged to have had the advantage of mentors from very early in my career, and they definitely positioned me for success.

Unfortunately, where you come from still plays too large a part in determining where you succeed; having the right mentor can help level the playing field, especially for people of color. What I mean by that is that often people of color need more support learning how to navigate an organization and understanding the unspoken rules of operating. Having a more experienced person who understands the rules of the game makes a real difference.

Unlike a sponsor, who is someone who can hire, promote you, or influence someone else to do so, my relationships with my mentors have been more personal. I have developed long-lasting friendships with many of my mentors.

When I first entered corporate America, I was the only woman of color at the supervisor level, and I was not fitting in. Instead of finding my voice, I made myself small and quiet; taking the jobs no one else wanted and working long hours to try and prove myself. It was my first mentor who witnessed my behavior and stepped in. He reminded me that I had every right to be at the table and that I had valuable views that needed to be shared to help the entire team achieve our goals. It took some time, but I leaned in and I spoke up. When I found my voice, my contributions to the team increased exponentially and I have never looked back. I built a brand based on achieving results, collaborating, and developing strong teams. It has led me to the position I am in today.

When I see talented people who step back instead of stepping up, I reach out to them and pay back the gifts I have received. My advice is that if you don’t have a mentor, you should seek one out. When you do that, remember that the mentor/ mentee relationship is a win/win. The mentor gets to develop talent, which all leaders need to do, and the mentee gets to grow her capabilities. We have a responsibility to bring each other up.