“There is a difference between mentorship and sponsorship” With Joyce Johnson

Sponsor and Support. There is a difference between mentorship and sponsorship. Mentors invest time into you by talking to you, educating you, and training you. Sponsors are in the room at a very high level and support you moving into actual roles — they sponsor your career. Mentorship can often become a box-checking activity. When […]

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Sponsor and Support. There is a difference between mentorship and sponsorship. Mentors invest time into you by talking to you, educating you, and training you. Sponsors are in the room at a very high level and support you moving into actual roles — they sponsor your career. Mentorship can often become a box-checking activity. When you sponsor someone, you are committed. True support is sponsorship. When it comes time for mentors to recommend their mentees for a job, they’ll bring in their friend’s son instead. Sponsorship expands beyond nepotism.

As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of speaking with Joyce Johnson.

Joyce Johnson is an Author, Speaker, Sales Champion, and Business Coach, who has worked as a sales leader, business consultant and mentor for over 20 years. Joyce began her career in professional sports and later entered the telecommunications industry leading to a role as Sales Director in Global markets. Joyce finished at the Top (#1) for two consecutive years 2017 and 2018. She is the black female founder behind her brand I am Joyce Johnson and her company Why Sales Network, which provides education and training tools for the success of college students, recent grads, sales professionals and their supporting leadership teams.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance field?

Houston is my hub. In high school I was a journalism student and worked on a newspaper through high school and college.

I always wanted to be a writer and journalist — that was my foundation. After college, I took a sales job but I didn’t have a good experience: there was no one to work closely with me or properly train me. From that experience grew my passion: I want to educate college students and other individuals on their network within the sales industry and the opportunities within. Through my own experience out of college, I realized there was a need that wasn’t being met: I wasn’t the only one scared out of my mind as a fresh graduate. Many feel that way, even if they think they have a plan. My fellows were having job offers rescinded and overall experiencing a massive lack of training and mentorship.

After that experience, I eventually found my way back to sales and have now been in sales over 20 years. I wrote six books and founded three business and a few nonprofits.

I began mentoring college students as interns for my businesses and personal brand, and created a platform to support interns. I realized, no matter what your position is within a company, you own the company brand for the time that people are interacting with you as a representative of the brand. Thus, it is beneficial to both the employee and brand to invest in their people.

From there, a window of opportunity opened and I decided it was time for me to take my brand to the next level. That’s how we got here today.

I Am Joyce Johnson. Coaching, mentoring and supporting development of college students and others is my passion and calling. After I established my own brand, I created the formal learning program Why Sales Network. It is the everything training, education and engagement brand created by I Am Joyce Johnson.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

The catalyst occurred when I was at National Sales Network conference as a local member when I received the final push I needed to write my own book. Michelle McGee was speaking about how her authoring a book actually helped distinguish the company she worked with. She saw the light go off in me and asked me to stand up and introduce myself. That was the first time I really presented myself as: I Am Joyce Johnson.

I had a moment in that space. I realized when I walked out that door it was time for me to write a book and realize the things I was meant to do. I wrote the book and quoted Michelle.

Last year at a 360 Leadership conference, I ran into Michelle McGee and shared with her the story of how her speech motivated me to push myself to the next level. I told her how I quoted her in my book and gave her a signed copy. Later as she was speaking, she asked me to stand up and shared the story. It all came full circle.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Meet the Recruiter is spin off from our sales conference. It was such a great event that companies have reached out to me and now it will become a quarterly event for companies to recruit, brand and expand their messaging on diversity and inclusion. Coming up, there will also be a student conference in April, 2021.

Secondly, “The Oval.” I’m big on partnerships. I’vebeen trying to partner and network with other organizations, focusing on my core and outsourcing everything else. I hadn’t planned to become a membership organization — that wasn’t the reason behind doing what I do but ultimately, I found people weren’t following through. As a solution, we’ve created “The Oval.” When you expand a circle it becomes an oval. We want this program to be a cluster of individuals in sales and other related industries for recruitment. That way, we have a self-sufficient and succinct order of everyone in one place so we don’t have to rely on partnerships.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

It has a lot to do with me and my own personal brand: I’ve been consistent in my life journey. I’m following my passion for informing, educating, and engaging others. It’s unique because it is all about sales and my demographic is not like most others: college students. The millennial college students I started with are today’s business leaders. I focus on a younger base; a demographic that is often left out of these conversations. It’s a niche!

The gap is often coming from counselors, recruiters and other members of the college students’ support team that we count on to feed their students information: they’re the ones that need the blinders taken off so they can better serve their students.

Here’s the great thing about sales: no matter what your field, skills, experience or passions are, they are all transferable to a sector of sales that is specific to you. Massive sales markets, such as that of Houston, are better tackled in smaller niches. That is where you’ll thrive.Why Sales Network is a niche for finding niches.

No matter your background or major, sales offers a unique place for you that implements the language you are familiar with and leverages the relationships you already have. Take philosophy majors for example: they are educated in understanding stories and storytelling. Philosophy will set you up for a niche of selling educational books and programs. Political Science majors can sell to government markets — they understand that language. If you graduated in art, go sell art.

I want each individual I meet to feel empowered to take their transferable skills to sell in a space they are passionate about.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

Change? In my opinion, this has not changed. We have added some opportunities to it, but this has not changed.

Normally I wouldn’t address my personal experience as a black woman in business, but these times call for it. There have been countless times where I was the only person in the room that looked like me. There were times when I was the only woman in the room. There were many times when I was “the first.”

Being a woman of color is a balancing act. You have to go into every conversation believing that you will be accepted for what you know and respected for what you’ve accomplished. More often than not, that’s not the case. You keep driving and giving it your best, but oftentimes there’s a box being checked by just you being there. Are they just checking a box? Or are they being sincere? Either way, you do the best job possible. The end goal is that eventually, no matter why they brought you in, they know you are the best person for the job.

The catalyst behind change and inclusion is two-fold: the head and the heart.

The head is the governmental regulations that intervene and require markets to open up to more people.

However, what truly drives change in any segment that is dominated by men is the heartstrings. The change has to be personal. When you have a successful businessman that really loves and respects his own daughter whom he groomed to be a brilliant and talented young woman, he will begin to think differently and will use his power to remove obstacles for other women like his beloved daughter.

The gentleman that built Stanford University did it for the love of his own child. He and his wife tragically lost their child and didn’t have any more children. They were wealthy and decided that if they could not leave their wealth to their own children, they would leave it to the children of the world.

The head and the heart.

Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?

  1. Build relationships. We need to get to know one another at our core. We have to be friends, and can no longer be during-the-week friends. A friend knows what I’m up to outside of work and on the weekends. We need to move away from Segregated Sunday. In my family we say that a family that prays together stays together. I believe a nation of people that pray together thrive together as well.
  2. Introduce diversity into our networks. To build an authentic relationship, you have to be able to bring that person into your network. Give them the seat at the table, and not just the corporate table but your dinner table too. If a white male CEO’s friend calls asking to help out his white male son, he’ll do his best to introduce him to his network. If instead someone calls to say, “Hi — can you help Joyce?” he’ll talk to Joyce, maybe mentor Joyce, but that’s it. It won’t go any farther. We have to be able to expand our networks for each other.
  3. Sponsor and Support. There is a difference between mentorship and sponsorship. Mentors invest time into you by talking to you, educating you, and training you. Sponsors are in the room at a very high level and support you moving into actual roles — they sponsor your career. Mentorship can often become a box-checking activity. When you sponsor someone, you are committed. True support is sponsorship. When it comes time for mentors to recommend their mentees for a job, they’ll bring in their friend’s son instead. Sponsorship expands beyond nepotism.

Let’s now turn to a slightly new topic. According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers? If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?

If you educate a man, you educate a man. If you educate a woman, you educate the world. That’s why we need women on Wall Street. Women are all about educating and nurturing people.

Some schools are trying to combat this. Depending on where they are and how they are financially funded, some schools are showing kids how to invest, the basics of building a business, money, currency and other things to that nature. However, if you’re in a school district that doesn’t have those types of resources, you’re not going to be presented with the same opportunities. This just perpetuates the cycle. Poorer communities are then unable to educate their children in financial literacy.

People can’t take the time to learn about finances because they are too busy stuck in survival mode.

Financial literacy is a direct reflection of the financial state and distress the country is in — it aligns with the numbers of wealth. What we can do to flip the script is add in the learning. It needs to start at the high school level as required elective. College teaches you to be an adult through experiential learning. You learn how to do your laundry, buy your textbooks and manage your money in a sink-or-swim manner. A brief background from high school in “adulting” would help college students immensely.

But it doesn’t end there: there needs to be “adulting” curriculum added to higher education as well to better prepare students for the workforce.

I knew someone that had a company-matched 401K and for years they avoided enrolling because they simply knew nothing about it. They ended up losing out on an incredible opportunity. Beyond educational institutions, employers need to be held accountable for educating their people as well. Companies aren’t taking the time that they used to onboarding and training new employees. Financial literacy needs to be a part of that process, and preferably in the form of an ongoing annual training.

Each step is necessary:

  1. Start education in financial literacy in schools.
  2. Continue education in financial literacy throughout higher education.
  3. Hold companies accountable for informing their employees.

(Choose) You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.

  1. Download an app for kids to invest with fake money. Teach them to invest in the companies that surround them that that are passionate about. If they love Nike, they should invest in Nike. If they’re playing with a basketball, ask them who makes that basketball and suggest that they invest in that company.
  2. Sign up for free webinars. They’re everywhere.
  3. Write out a budget for the kids in your family and make it a game.
  4. Start by asking them what they want to be when they grow up; this teaches them perspective too. Help them research the respective salary.
  5. Then ask them how they want to live their life. What size house to they want? What kind of car? Don’t forget to throw in the insurance and gas expenses they didn’t think about.
  6. Take a look at the big picture you’ve illustrated before them and figure out what adjustments need to be made to make it all fall into place. Nudge them to understand that what they see around them was saved for and worked hard for.
  7. Play Monopoly. Buy and sell property. Touch and transfer money.
  8. Remove the blockers from their eyes and have a family meeting with a financial planner or insurance company. Bring the kids along.


(Choose) You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive essentials for smart investing what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I think I am successful because of my core — my mother and my aunts and my grandmothers and the other women in my life who nurtured me from the beginning. They taught me to believe in my faith and to believe in myself. They taught me to always be good to others and treat others fairly. Usually I mention my college mentors in questions like these, and yes, my mentors added to my life career-wise. But my drive, passion and level of excellence comes from my mother, aunts and grandmothers. They are powerhouses.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I tell the children in my family often: “Have fun responsibly.” What I mean by that is enjoy life always, but don’t forget why you’re here. Don’t forget about your responsibilities and your purpose. Don’t be reckless to the point of being harmful to yourself, and certainly not others. This illustrated the crossover to “adulting” in understanding the impact of your actions on other people and comprehending that you need not only be responsible for yourself but for others too.

I think that it costs nothing to be kind. Nothing at all. If everyone can work on that, we will all be better off day by day.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I wrote my MBA paper on investing in Sierra Leone, Africa. I believe that if we could get companies to go in and help kids get access to education, communities like Sierra Leone would improve. The problem is that these communities aren’t changing because their families can’t afford to let their kids stop working to go to school. With investments from the corporate world here in the U.S., we could provide one year certificate programs for nursing, farming and teaching so that these women can take their education back to their communities. The program would pay the families so that the women are able to go away and train for a year. Pay would be weekly for the amount of what the young woman would have made working, which for us here in the United States is very minimal and not a massive financial burden but it would make such a huge impact. This project would empower women. It would help women feel strong and confident and engaged. That will go so far because we are the ones that will care for the world.

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