We are teaming up with OKREAL for our interview series, “Pay it Forward.” We spoke with women who we collectively admire to hear what mentorship means to them, the advice that has been most meaningful and the importance of uplifting the women around you. OKREAL is a platform that curates wisdom shared by a range of smart, leading women role models.

Fourth in our series is Charlotte Palermino, partner development lead for the Discover feature at Snapchat. We spoke with Palermino about the importance of being nice, taking charge of your career and knowing your self-worth.

Check back next week for our fifth interview in this series. We’ll be talking to Savannah James, American entrepreneur, interior designer, businesswoman and philanthropist.

Do you have a female mentor or leader you respect? Who is she?

My mom, my sister, my grandmother, my cousins, my aunts — we’re a family of hustlers. Living in New York, I’ve met many women I’m in awe of. One that comes to mind is Amy Emmerich (chief content officer of Refinery29) who, in addition to being hilarious and kind, is infectious with her creativity, wisdom and confidence. She brings the brilliance out in people and is happy to have them own it, something that can be quite rare in a leader.

What qualities make a good mentor or leader?

Listening, being approachable and treating your mentee like a peer. Pushing someone to think outside of their comfort zone and being honest about missteps. A good mentor will tell it to you straight.

Also, being nice. I’m proud that the women I choose to have in my life excel at their careers and as humanitarians. As a friend of mine always says “being nice is cool.”

Mentors come in all different forms, and are not always people who we expect. What is your experience with this?

I’ve found that the best mentors often are people I don’t work directly with — or who sometimes aren’t even in my same field. Your mentor doesn’t have to be your boss or even at your company. Branching out has shown me different perspectives, career paths and encouraged me to take risks. I feel comfortable jumping around because I now strive to find what gets me excited in the morning.

It’s important to constantly remind yourself that you don’t know what you like until you try it. My mentors have helped me realize that it’s ok to do a career 180. It ultimately makes you better at your job.

What is something a woman mentor or leader did for you, that you now try and do for other women?

Always, always, lift up women around you. Say something when someone does something fantastic and better yet, tell their boss. Praise them at a happy hour. Be positive and do everything in your power to be the tide that raises all boats. Being a constructive agent of change not only brings good energy but you’re helping the women around you, it’s a win-win.

How did that experience (of what your mentor did for you) change your career/life?

It’s cyclical, when someone recognizes your worth, you recognize your worth. Spreading this goodwill is addictive, whether it’s at home at work or with friends. It’s an unfortunate reality that gender and ethnicity can determine unintentional workplace interactions. Being dismissed, having to work harder for less, getting interrupted — these things can happen. Understanding that these things aren’t a reflection on you, believing your voice needs to be heard, and speaking up helps enact meaningful change in the long run.

What’s one piece of advice that you struggle to put into practice (even though you know you should).

Surround yourself with people who are different. I’d love to think I’m right all the time, but you need varying opinions to be good at your job. It’s what makes a stronger and more curious team. Good solutions are not made in a vacuum by one voice, they’re made out in the open by differing opinions. Getting out of the vacuum is something I have to check myself on daily.

Where and when do you do your best work?

The place I complain about the most — the MTA (please fix the M if anyone in public transportation is reading this). As I get trapped often and have no reception, I have a lot of time to think. I’ll fire up Evernote and start jotting down ideas and questions. These more often than not turn into projects or learnings for the teams I work with.

Have you had a recent “Aha!” moment or breakthrough?

Not recent, but one that keeps resurfacing. You are in charge of your career, no one else. You’ll have ebbs and flows with any position. It’s up to you (and you alone) to make sure you’re headed in the right direction. Surround yourself with good, strong mentors, but you’re ultimately in charge of what happens.

When I first started working I thought things “just happened” to people. Luck and privilege have a place in anyone’s career, but you are accountable. Complaining can be cathartic, but if you want a new job or a promotion, you’re responsible to make sure it happens. If it doesn’t, keep course correcting.

What is one piece of advice that someone can put into action today?

Be helpful and know your worth. I’ve been a chameleon in my career by offering help to things I thought were interesting or would help me learn something valuable. These side projects within companies would morph my role and I’d find myself advancing to great roles or defining something that would add value to the company. Do the job you’re hired for, but what can you do to be better? To help your company? What have you always been curious about? If you have any thoughts around those questions, explore them.

What is one thing you want women to keep in mind as they go through life?

No one has it “all figured out,” not even Beyoncé.

Having it all is a myth. Your perfect isn’t the same as your neighbor’s; half the struggle is figuring out what you like. Spend time figuring it out and go for it. Don’t make decisions purely on what you think you have to do, to fill some social construct, or because you’re seeing everyone else on some trend train. Make decisions professionally and personally that better your life and make you happy.

Be nice, have good people in your life, be easy on yourself (you’re not perfect), and make decisions because you want to. If you can do all that, you’re already killing the game.

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