Sonata Kucin Louvigny

Sonata Kucin Louvigny is a seasoned Mentor and Coach specializing in empowering women to navigate career transitions, shatter self-imposed limitations, and ascend to desired leadership roles. With accreditation from the EMCC, she also serves as a proficient program manager, aiding organizations in assessing the efficacy of their mentoring initiatives or crafting new, impactful programs. Her expertise contributes to fostering employee well-being, bolstering engagement, enhancing outcomes, and optimizing cost efficiency. Additionally, she is dedicated to community building, fostering networks that enrich the professional landscape.

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your professional journey/venture/initiative and what inspired you to choose this career.

I have transitioned my career a few times. After completing university, I embarked on my professional journey as a teacher. Those years were intriguing, but after six years, I faced the question of whether I wanted to commit to this path for the rest of my life. Despite making some minor adjustments, the work will remain largely the same. I had a desire to explore different fields, but at that point, leaving my secure and pleasant job to venture into the unknown was quite challenging. I devised a strategy to manage the need for security and overcome the fear of the unknown, which enabled me to transition into the realm of project management seamlessly. Although I found great satisfaction in this field, after a comparable period of about 5-6 years, I once again found myself pondering the same question: what comes next? Although one might expect the second career change to be smoother, it proved to be just as challenging. Although the circumstances were different this time, there were still compelling reasons for me thinking to remain in my current position. A few notable examples include my responsibilities as a parent, various financial commitments, the strong trust my manager placed in my job, the opportunity to explore subjects I’m passionate about, and the presence of inspiring colleagues. Consequently, it was difficult once more to decline all that I had built within my professional sphere. But as you can already guess, I did it again- I turned my career in some other direction. What’s more, I moved to another country. As a consequence, I began motivating and offering support to individuals around me who were trapped in their careers, urging them to make a change. I volunteered as a mentor and observed that many women, while highly regarded in their respective fields, faced a challenging transition from specialists to managers. The primary obstacle? A lack of management experience. However, let’s pause there. Every manager was once in the same situation—devoid of any management experience. Therefore, if they could do it, so could anyone else. It’s incredibly gratifying to receive letters from those I’ve mentored or coached informing me that they’ve successfully changed jobs, organizations, or positions after a few months. This heartening feedback drove me to immerse myself in the field of mentoring and coaching fully.

Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.

One day, while reading a magazine, I stumbled upon an invitation for readers to compile a list of things they would regret if it happened to be the last day of their lives. This list could encompass everything, from minor actions like sharing a cup of coffee with someone to significant undertakings that had been left untouched or unfinished. I took up the challenge and crafted that list. Subsequently, I started to realize this list; more and more parts were with the mark “done”. Initially, I focused on the smaller records, those that required minimal time and financial investment, and lately, I moved on to bigger takes. Consequently, I achieved several meaningful goals: I completed my MBA, an aspiration previously constrained by lack of both time and money (that was my limiting belief), and my thesis centered on the topic of Mentoring. I transformed from a subpar swimmer to one who can confidently navigate the water, and I made a life-altering decision to relocate to another country, broadening my perspective on the world. Furthermore, I committed more of my time to mentoring and coaching women while also assisting organizations in achieving their strategic objectives through the implementation of effective mentoring programs.

Tell us about your goals, interests, and role models.

My goal is to grow my business, creating more opportunities to help women overcome job-related stagnation and challenge the perception that they’re limited by a glass ceiling or other barriers to achieving managerial positions. Simultaneously, I aspire to be an ambassador for the Mentoring Culture within organizations, designing diverse mentoring programs. These programs aim to enhance employee well-being and engagement, improve communication among various departments and workgroups, and ultimately create more streamlined paths to achieve companies’ goals swiftly and efficiently. My own mentors serve as role models in this accomplishment. Throughout various stages of my professional journey, I’ve been fortunate to have mentors and coaches. I seek individuals who understand the nuances of my experiences, and the challenges I encounter, and who have previously navigated the same path I’m on now, achieving goals akin to my current aspirations.

Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?

My primary challenge lies in surpassing the assumption that everyone possesses the same knowledge as I do. I must recognize that what seems straightforward and effortlessly comprehensible to me might be entirely new information for others. It’s a normal realization, especially after more than 15 years of immersing myself in the study and exploration of mentoring, that some concepts may appear overly simplistic to me, yet I still have an obligation to share them. Yet another challenge I face is being comfortable with the reality that I can’t excel in every aspect of my business, and it’s necessary to delegate certain tasks to others. It’s not productive to invest hours in something that others can accomplish in just 30 minutes or so. Instead, I can utilize that time for more impactful and results-driven activities. My coping strategies are straightforward: I engage in regular professional supervision (that is an obligation for accredited mentors and program managers), and also I rely on my mentors who guide me, making it easier and faster to achieve my goals and professional growth. Being part of professional associations and networking also plays a significant role. Conversations and sharing experiences with others remind me that I’m not alone and provide valuable opportunities for mutual learning and support.

What impact do you feel you have been able to create with your work so far and how would you want to grow in the next few years?

It’s truly motivating when I witness the impact of our sessions using my program Shift in transforming someone’s aspirations into reality, even if the women themselves initially doubted its feasibility. In the upcoming years, I aim to scale my business and expand my team. This expansion will grant us more opportunities to assist women in shattering the perception that hinders their path to seeking managerial roles. Sometimes these glass ceilings are just in our own minds.

While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?

Even before the pandemic, most of my meetings were conducted online. From a professional standpoint, the period when everything transitioned to virtual platforms was very beneficial for me. I no longer had to address any doubts from the new clients regarding conducting mentoring/coaching sessions or consultations online.

Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?

I am completing my book about mentoring. My goal is to blend storytelling about one professional woman who has experienced mentoring relationships that led to transformative changes in her professional life, along with concise sections of theory and exercises designed to prepare readers to become mentees themselves. I anticipate that reading about the main character’s mentoring journey will serve as inspiration to seek a mentor, while also providing valuable insights into how to derive maximum benefit from a mentoring relationship.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

I want to see more women understand their limiting beliefs, face them, and work through them. This would lead us to greater self-confidence, increased tolerance for one another, enhanced mutual support, and a higher potential to achieve well-being in our professional and personal lives. It would also empower us to shape our lives according to our vision and desires.

What’s the most important thing you have learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?

If you don’t start, you won’t achieve. Just take the first step, and keep moving forward. Don’t worry about looking too far ahead if it’s intimidating. It’s important to know what your destination, your final goal, is. However, constantly fixating on it and gauging how far you’ve come every few minutes isn’t helpful. It’s better to focus on the next step and then move to the one afterward.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?

I am pleased to witness an increasing number of women in management positions, a rise in diverse mentoring programs for women leaders across various organizations, and the growth of networking clubs and organizations where women can mutually support one another. I’m thrilled to contribute to this support system and assist women aspiring to become managers in achieving their goals. Nevertheless, I’d like to emphasize the crucial role of male influence in shattering glass ceilings that sometimes are real, but sometimes we create ourselves. In my own experience, there was a moment when I worked as a project manager in a company that announced the open position of program manager. Although I found it intriguing, I didn’t consider applying as I didn’t meet all the criteria by 100 percent. One of the requirements was having worked at the company for a minimum of 1 year, and I had only been there for nine months. Despite receiving positive feedback about my work from my managers, I didn’t even think I had a right to apply. However, at the last moment, one of my male colleagues asked me if I intended to apply, as he thought that I was a perfect fit for this role. I responded with a “no,” explaining my reasons. He didn’t understand the significance of those three missing months and encouraged me to try it. I did try and succeed – all because someone uttered a few words that inspired me to take action. Lately, I read an article about the differences between men and women when applying for job positions. Unlike women, men are more likely to use it even if they don’t meet all the criteria. I couldn’t agree more with this observation, as I’ve experienced it myself.

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

Know what you want and find someone who will actively support you. Trust yourself, read a lot, learn something new daily, and step by step go forward to your dreams.