Your most important mentor could be the person who knew you first.
That's according to media maven Arianna Huffington, who didn't have to think twice when asked to name her role model: "Without a doubt it's my mother," she told Inc. ahead of the annual Matrix Awards for women in communications in New York City on Monday.
Huffington, who is best known as the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the eponymous Huffington Post, went on to explain the core values that her mother embodied: "I was brought up in a one bedroom apartment in Athens, Greece. She made me feel that I could aim for the stars. And if I failed along the way, that is okay. Failure is not the opposite of success, she used to say, it's a stepping stone to success."
Huffington served as one of the ceremony's five presenters, with the award recipients including: U.S. senator (D-NY) Kirsten Gillibrand, BET Networks CEO Debra L. Lee, MSBNC host Andrea Mitchell, Elle editor-in-chief Robbie Myers, Macy's CMO Martine Reardon, and U.S. CTO Megan Smith. Famed entrepreneur Martha Stewart emceed, surprising the audience by launching her drone on stage during the introduction: "Meet my drone," she quipped: "Sometimes it sneaks into Ralph Lauren's backyard, but don't tell Ralph."
Aside from her mother, Huffington touted honoree Gillibrand as a similarly worthy role model to men and women alike: "We are so used to leaders making terrible decisions, so when you're with Kirsten, you feel like you've discovered something that had been rumored to exist: A political leader who actually has the wisdom to lead, to do good, to find solutions, and to help us tap into our better angels," she said.
Huffington wasn't the only one who dished on the subject: Megan Smith echoed the importance of having a strong mentor in an interview with Inc. ahead of the ceremony. "Young women need to be encouraged [to pursue technology]. They need to try it. When you're a young person, and you run into struggles [in] tech, the boys will feel like: 'Oh, there's lots of people like me, I just have to work harder.' The girls go: 'Oh, this is proof that I'm not good at it.' We need to help them [the girls] in that moment," she explained.
Smith, like Huffington, looked to her own parents for guidance during difficult times: "My parents...were amazing entrepreneurs, innovators, and teachers." She also nodded to programmer Grace Hopper, as well as scientific trailblazers such as the marine biologist Rachel Carson and the chemist Rosalind Franklin, for having created those opportunities for women in technology today.
To sum up the value of a good mentor, Smith put it best: "No one person can do anything. Who's your team?"