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How to Work with a C-Level Mentor

by Melanie Moffett | May 26, 2016 | Insider | Fiterator |

C-Levels are just like the rest of us, they still put their pants on the same way every morning (probably, unless they have found some way more efficient way to do it that I am not aware of!). But there really is a difference in how a C-Level person thinks, and it helps to understand those differences so you can get the most out of working with a C-Level mentor, especially one in a large enterprise. At UpRamp, our Fiterator is a different kind of startup accelerator that pairs founders with C-level mentors in the global cable and broadband industry. Our mantra is Deals Not Demo Days, so we want our participants to get the most out of their mentorship.

Here are a few ways to better understand what makes an enterprise C-Level person tick, so you can get the most out of working with one.

1. Understand Their Skill Set

C-Levels have a unique skill set that helped them transition from a functional role to a leader. As Harvard Business Review wrote, “To thrive as a C-level executive, an individual needs to be a good communicator, a collaborator, and a strategic thinker—and we think the trend toward a general business orientation over a functional orientation will continue.”

Of course many C-Levels will have technical knowledge (especially CTO’s) but that is really just one of many pieces of knowledge they will share. These are folks that weigh in on some heavy decisions and discussions at their company, so getting bogged down in minutia is not really the type of mentoring they will offer.

2. Understand They are Short on Time

This article puts it best: “C-Level executives are consistently short on one thing: time. They are protective of their time because they have so little of it when you compare it to the demands of their organization and its stakeholders or against the results that they need to produce.”

Mentees who understand this limitation and get to the point when asking questions will benefit. However, there is a downside. Often the download of knowledge is a lot like a cannon shot – a whole bunch of information all at once, so you are going to need to make sure you spend the time sorting through it to make sure you get the most valuable bits.

3. Understand C-Level “Speak”

When working with C-levels, it’s important to know that their worlds often revolve around the bottom line of the business. So they think in terms of phrases like:

  • "Improve our customer satisfaction"
  • "Increase our market share"
  • "Decrease our operating expenses"
  • "Increase our revenue"
  • "Beat the competition or at least keep pace"
  • "Shorten our time to market"
  • "Improve employee performance"
  • "Reduce turn-over"

These are all great for mentees to be learning about anyway in order to handle your startup in the future days to come. I think most mentees can agree that they would love to get top-level knowledge on ideas like “How to increase our revenue” even if that means, for now, getting more VC funding. And it might not be important today to worry about decreasing turnover, but you can bet that 3-5 years down the road you are really going to care about that metric.


UpRamp’s Fiterator is an accelerator that is being compared to a “graduate” program for startups.  The program is focused on helping you find product/market fit inside the global cable industry. This 3 month, non-resident program combines C-level mentorship from the industry with over $120k in available financing. Time is running out to apply though, so don’t wait. Apply now.


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