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Michelle Talbot '14 & Lester Dery '23

Mentoring: It's a Whitworth Thing

By Julie Riddle '92

Michelle (Koy) Talbot '14 knows about career pivots. She entered Whitworth planning to become a doctor but graduated with a degree in economics and international business. "I had no idea what I wanted to do," she says.

At a Whitworth event in Seattle, Talbot met Michael Mpare '03, MBA '05, founder of ScrumPoint, a software company in Bellevue. Mpare hired Talbot as a project manager. "He took a chance and gave me an opportunity to improve my skills in technology," says Talbot, who has since worked in IT product management with Boeing and now with Costco. Her latest pivot is earning a master's degree in human-centered design and engineering at the University of Washington.

Above: Mentor Michelle (Koy) Talbot ’14, left, and mentee Lester Dery ’23

Lester Dery '23 entered Whitworth as an engineering major but is now majoring in human-computer interaction. As she prepares to work in the tech industry, she has learned from Talbot that her career path will likely follow a much different route than she anticipates.

Last fall, Talbot mentored Dery online as part of the Whitworth Women's Leadership Network's Womentors pilot program. "I wanted Lester to know that as she builds a network and puts herself out there, she can work in areas that she didn't even know she wanted to get into," Talbot says.

During the third week of the mentorship, which focused on making career connections, Talbot connected Dery with Mpare online. "He spoke about his journey," Dery says, "coming from Ghana, like me, to go to school here, getting his master's, going to work at Microsoft and starting his own business. This opened my eyes to the things we are all capable of."

What has meant the most for Dery is learning from Talbot's and Mpare's experiences and the wisdom they have gained along the way. "I have to do what makes me grow and makes me happy," Dery says, "and I'll get to where I'm supposed to be."

Even though Dery's mentoring program has concluded, she, Talbot and Mpare have agreed to keep in touch. "I can be a sounding board for Lester," Talbot says. "[For students], just having someone in their corner, rooting for them, is really important."

Womentors Program

In fall 2021, alumnae from Spokane, Seattle, Portland and beyond mentored 19 students. Across four weeks the mentors helped students identify their values and goals; develop a personal brand and refine their portfolio/résumé; chart a career path; and make industry connections. Mentor a student and foster the next generation of women leaders! Go to

This story appears in the spring 2022 issue of Whitworth Today magazine.

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