by Rachel L. Richardson

A Mentorship Journey

A long-time participant in the Valbridge Women’s Council (VWC) and Operations Manager for the Palm Beach | Treasure Coast office, Heather Barnes has taken on the role of Chair for the VWC Mentorship Committee.

This committee is primarily concerned with arranging Val-Talks—virtual meetings open to all Valbridge employees and featuring educational content from a variety of subject matter experts within and outside the company. Aside from these monthly Val-Talks, the committee also has arranged one-on-one mentoring opportunities for VWC members who have expressed interest in learning from more seasoned professionals in the company.


Through the committee’s programs, Barnes herself has received one-on-one mentoring for nearly a year, cultivating a relationship with former VWC president, Joanne Montgomery, who is also on the Valbridge Board of Directors and is COO of the Valbridge offices that serve the areas around Kansas City, Indianapolis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Fargo, and St. Louis.


  • Heather Barnes has a creative and administrative background and brings these skills to both her position as Operations Manager with Valbridge and her new role as Chair of the mentorship committee with VWC.
  • As someone who appreciates the people the VWC has brought into her life, Barnes is looking forward to giving back through this leadership position.
  • She is keen on cultivating a low-pressure approach to mentorship, investing in the monthly Val-Talk presentations and informal ways to make connections with other members of Team Blue.

“We’re constantly talking about ways to get involved,” Barnes says of her meetings with Montgomery. And when this opportunity arose, Montgomery urged her to give it a shot.

“The cool thing,” Barnes says of her career path with Valbridge, “has been really about finding where I fit and being able to use my skill set to the best of my ability.”

Barnes considers this position with the VWC as another step that direction—taking a chance and applying her skills to the tasks at hand.

As someone with a background in human resources administration and a degree in fine/studio arts, Barnes wasn’t perhaps an obvious candidate for a role in the commercial real estate appraisal industry—and yet, through her time with the company since 2017, she has found that she has a “niche skill for supporting appraisers” while utilizing her creativity and perspective.

“With a very mathematical-based profession,” she shared, “you need somebody who thinks creatively as well.”


Barnes is eager to use this creativity to further the Val-Talks, since they help connect people across the Valbridge offices in ways they otherwise would not.

“It’s a really cool way to get to know people,” she says of the VWC, adding that it can be a significant factor in keeping a sense of human connection among remote workers.

Through VWC, Barnes says, “I’ve been thankful to meet a lot of people over the years in different offices.” These connections have grown into a support network—people she can turn to for insight on unique administrative projects and tips for best practices.

“I never feel like I’m alone in that,” she adds. “I always have resources.”

Of her time being mentored by Montgomery, Barnes said: “The biggest thing is knowing that someone else knows what it’s like to be me in my job.” As someone in such a niche position, in a comparatively small industry, she says it is so valuable to have someone with whom she can relate.

“And she’s just an awesome person,” Barnes adds, “so it’s really nice to just grow a contact and friendship with her.”


In her new role, Barnes is keen to get more people—especially younger people—involved in the Val-Talks and in the VWC, “bringing some fresh eyes” to the group and its events.

As someone on the younger side of the industry, she knows that high-commitment endeavors can be overwhelming—so she plans to keep lower commitment, informal gatherings a high priority and give a chance for people to connect more organically.

“The introductions people have made informally have meant a lot more than any kind of formal interaction I’ve had,” she shared.

“It’s as low commitment as you can imagine, just joining the Women’s Council,” she adds. “I think the hardest step is just saying, ‘Hey, I want to join.’”

For those in Team Blue who haven’t given it a try, she’d encourage them to sign up for the newsletters, attend the quarterly meetings, and check out the ways to get involved—large or small. Sometimes there are even one-off commitments that hardly take any time at all, she adds.


Barnes is excited to see how the mentorship committee’s programs evolve in the coming months, as they continue to invest in the Val-Talks and other ways to connect among the offices nationwide.

Reflecting on her new role and this opportunity, Barnes says, “I just feel very lucky.”