This past Thursday and Friday, the Citrix Conference Center at our Silicon Valley headquarters hosted the second annual BlogHer Entrepreneurs conference. This event is designed for innovative women who want to start something; whether their goal is to strike out on their own with a brilliant idea, or to bring an entrepreneurial approach to innovation within a company.

Over 170 women from across the US, Canada and Mexico came together for networking, expert panels, and mentoring sessions. I was delighted to have the opportunity to serve as a mentor and to participate in a panel on hiring as part of the event.

It is the mentoring aspect of the program that makes the conference very unique and adds tremendous value. Based on interests and goals, experienced women in leadership roles are paired with women seeking input on their business plan, ideas and concepts. The experience made me reflect back on my first mentor. I had recently arrived in Silicon Valley fresh from grad school and my manager presented me with the opportunity to have a mentor. Believe it or not, I was actually a little insulted. I thought, “I know it all! What do I need a mentor for? I already have a manager, I don’t need a second one.”  I quickly changed my tune after my first conversation with Joe, my new mentor. I realized this was something very different. My mentor was someone I could have very open and candid conversations with about my skills, ambitions, workplace politics, and whatever else was on my mind. No matter what I said, I knew I would not be judged and our conversations were always in strictest confidence. My relationship with Joe, now going on over 12 years, has been one of the most valuable both professionally and personally.

Living in Silicon Valley we often take for granted the accessibility of tech mentors like Joe who have many years of experience in the field. The BlogHer conference fosters this opportunity for people across North America. Mentors from top tech companies such as, Google, Electronic Arts, Ernst & Young and Citrix participated. Several mentees commented that they would never have the connections to engage in intimate conversations with such experts if it were not for the BlogHer event. The conference provided the framework so that each mentor and mentee had an hour for a one-on-one intimate discussion. The mentees reported that they received tremendous value from the candid conversations and detailed feedback. One woman I chatted with said that the advice she received was invaluable and that the one hour of real-world experience trumped the business and innovation classes she had taken.

On the flip side, the mentors came away inspired by the wonderful and creative ideas that the entrepreneurial women had brought to the table. I was inspired by the woman I chatted with who had the courage to leave her partner track job at a big five consulting firm to pursue her dream and start a tech blog.

In addition to the mentorship sessions, eight expert panels were presented as a part of the conference. A great variety of topics appealing to entrepreneurs were covered, including hiring, sales, creative bootstrapping and social commerce.  I appreciated the level of interactivity and discussion that took place as a part of the panels – real stories were shared and relevant questions were asked, which brought great value to attendees.

If you couldn’t join the BlogHer event this year, check out some of the photos from Danielle Tsi.

This was my first introduction to the BlogHer community and I was impressed! I am already looking forward to participating in next year’s event.