The Influence of Virtual Mentors

When I was 21, after years of saving money from my part-time jobs, I finally had enough to buy the cheapest ticket imaginable to Europe. I was ready for adventure but devoid of information.

I picked up a book by Rick Steves, legendary discount-travel writer, and I devoured it. Soon we were on first-name terms.

Well, I was on first-name terms, saying things like, “Rick says the Cinque Terre is gorgeous,” or “Rick says you can’t miss this restaurant when you’re in Rome.”

Rick and I have never met, but he played a massive part in my decision to go to law school because once I’d been to Europe, I became obsessed with travel. I figured if I went to law school, someone might pay me to travel for cases or investigations. Rick changed my life.

In Praise of Mentors Never Met

I began thinking of the importance of virtual mentors, or mentors never met, last week after doing Kelly Paxton’s Great Women in Fraud podcast (listen to the episode at the bottom of the blog). She asked me to name the three people who have been the most influential in my career.

To my surprise, two of the three people I named were people I hadn’t ever met.

One was Bette Midler.


When I was a theater major at UCLA, she taught me to accept myself because she was so thoroughly comfortable in her skin. She embraced her individuality and gave me tacit permission to do the same. That courage to be me has carried me through every phase of my career, from actor to lawyer, to compliance officer, to entrepreneur.

As a younger professional, Sheryl Sandberg became my virtual mentor as I consumed Lean In with vigor.


It’s not uncommon in my house to hear me say, “Well, Sheryl says…” Everyone here, including my dog, knows to which Sheryl I am referring.

How to Find a Virtual Mentor

The best virtual mentors have two or more of the following characteristics. They:

  • Reflect some of your best qualities or qualities you wish to develop in yourself
  • Are at least two steps closer to your current goals than you are
  • Have written, spoken, or created content you can consume or participate in
  • Inspired you previously
  • Don’t have to be in your field, but speak to skills or experiences that apply to your field

Virtual mentors are unlikely to disappoint you and certainly won’t judge you. Their advice can help you to get to the next level.

The people you choose to be your virtual mentors are likely to change over time as you evolve, grow, and make new goals. I no longer look to Rick Steves for advice when I travel, but I’m grateful for everything he taught me.

Now Oprah – I expect she’ll be my virtual mentor for a very, very long time.

Great Women in Fraud Podcast Episode

Listen to my interview with Kelly Paxton here to hear all about virtual mentors as well as:

  1. Why buying a special pair of shoes was the best money I ever spent
  2. Why I predict the EU Whistleblower Directive is going to be the hardest thing many compliance officers deal with in 2022
  3. How Spark Compliance got its name
  4. The best advice I have for young people starting their careers

This one was fun!

Or Apple podcast listeners, listen here.

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Kristy Grant-Hart

Kristy Grant-Hart is the founder and CEO of Spark Compliance.
She's a renowned expert at transforming compliance departments into in-demand business assets.

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