Nithya Maneish (left) connects with her mentor, Julie Prough (right), over coffee. (Photo courtesy of PhOddo Photography and Productions)

The saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” While this old adage isn’t totally accurate when it comes to job searching and career advancement (you have to know something!), it certainly helps to have contacts in your profession to move up the ladder. But how do people make the right career connections, especially in this new, modern “remote” work world?

Pennsylvania Women Work [PWW] is a local nonprofit that supports people on their path to career success through free programming and services. Whether someone is just beginning their job search, re-entering the workforce after a career break or trying to move into a leadership position, PWW connects job-seekers to seasoned professionals from across industries.

Through one-on-one mentoring, career coaching and group workshops, the support, knowledge and connections made through the organization offer a support system for local professionals working toward achieving their career goals. 

“While our organization provides services to all people, we recognize the challenges women in particular face in finding employment and climbing the career ladder. At PWW, we have decades of experience supporting women through the highs and lows, helping them to find their career path and the confidence to achieve their goals,” said PWW Executive Director Kristin Ioannou. 

PWW’s 3 Cups of Coffee is a free program that connects job-seekers or those looking to advance their career with a professional mentor in their field. Together, the two meet for three one-hour mentoring sessions either virtually or in person. They create a custom career plan while networking and building connections. 

Carrie Ortsey (middle) with two of her 3 Cups of Coffee mentees, Hannah Mormer (left) and Yvette Evans (right). (Photo courtesy of PA Women Work)

“Networking can feel intimidating, but 3 Cups of Coffee takes the awkwardness out of the equation by connecting mentees to volunteer mentors who are excited to talk to them and help however they can,” said Maple Chen, manager of product strategy for American Eagle Outfitters. 

Chen is one of more than 300 mentors volunteering with PWW. The organization’s pool of mentors represents more than 200 companies. Last year, the program connected 166 professionals to mentors.

“Building relationships and learning from others is an important part of our growth — it helps us advance in how we think, in how we look at things and in how we identify solutions and new innovative ideas. When we make networking a priority it is a two way investment — in ourselves and in others,” explained Carrie Ortsey, the vice president of talent development and modernization for Highmark Health and a 3 Cups of Coffee mentor. 

This powerhouse group of 3 Cups of Coffee mentors support their mentees in obtaining employment or educational opportunities, leading to an 80% placement rate. Above that, participants of the program see a 65% increase in salary on average, according to data collected by PWW from their 3 Cups of Coffee participants. 

Jazmine Grant (bottom right) is seated at PWW’s recent Meet & Mingle Breakfast with several of her 3 Cups of Coffee mentees. (Photo courtesy of PA Women Work)

Stats and data aside, the mentors involved in this program witness the impact firsthand. Whether it’s helping their mentee make an important connection, encouraging them to participate in a workshop, providing advice for interviews or resumes or simply being there as a helping hand, every mentorship results in positive change, opportunity and connection. 

“PWW offers low time commitment, highly impactful career programs that give women the opportunity to connect,” said Jazmine Grant, senior counsel at PNC Bank. “I have recommended their programming to my friends in all stages of their careers — those just starting out and those who are seeking a career change.” Grant is a 3 Cups of Coffee mentor and vice president of PWW’s board of directors. 

Whether someone is looking to build their network as a participant or join the organization as a volunteer, there’s a place for everyone at PWW. 

“PWW helps connect women in a safe, supportive and engaging way. Their team is encouraging and the individuals who volunteer are genuine and care about helping others,” Ortsey said. “Together, PWW is making a difference in our community and the lives of women.”

Those interested in learning more about PWW’s 3 Cups of Coffee program can visit

We don't have paywalls — but your support helps us bridge crucial information gaps.

Readers tell us they can't find the information they get from our reporting anywhere else, and we're glad to provide this important service for our community. We work hard to produce accurate, timely, impactful journalism without paywalls that keeps our region informed and moving forward.

However, only about .1% of the people who read our stories contribute to our work financially. Our newsroom depends on the generosity of readers like yourself to make our high-quality local journalism possible, and the costs of the resources it takes to produce it have been rising, so each member means a lot to us.

Your donation to our nonprofit newsroom helps ensure everyone in Allegheny County can stay up-to-date about decisions and events that affect them. Please make your gift of support now.