This “Mentorship Monday” post was written by Joel Richard, Lead Web Developer, Web Services and Digital Library. The Smithsonian Institution Mentorship Program is an annual 9-month program dedicated to “developing leaders throughout the Institution” through professional development in the areas of networking, interpersonal skills, coaching, and institutional engagement.
This past year, I participated in the Smithsonian’s Mentorship Program. I found it to be a rewarding experience and one that I would do again. I participated as a mentor and before I was even matched up with a mentee, I felt I’d already accomplished a lot.
This year, the process for matching mentors and mentees was driven by the mentee, who sought out and “interviewed” those mentors they felt would best fit their needs. I met with four different people before I found my mentee. Although one would think that there could be a sense of rejection surrounding this process, I was happy to be part of helping each of these people find the person they were best suited to work with, even going so far as to make a match when the mentee was unsure about approaching a potential mentor. The point of the mentorship program is to learn and grow and if an interview with me accomplishes that, then everyone wins!
My mentee was Irina Dreyvitser from the Smithsonian Science Education Center. She works in the Office of Advancement and has quite a broad history of job experience. She’s worked in marine biology, real estate and now development/advancement. She was looking to expand her skill set, especially in terms of public speaking and organizing events, in an effort to make herself more marketable and possibly change positions at some time in the future.
We met about once a month, sometimes more often, and I acted mostly as a sounding board for things that she was planning to do and advising her on things that she was unsure of. I was quite surprised, but I shouldn’t have been, when I learned that she was part and possibly leading the organizing committee for the Mentorship Rountable discussions. These meetings with influental or accomplished individuals in the Instutution proved to be a popular and rewarding feature of the Mentorship program. Being a non-native english speaker, Irina was unsure of her public speaking skills and we talked a lot about this. I, and I suspect most people, have a bit of anxiety when speaking in front of groups. I feel that organizing these round table discussions, introducing the speakers, and other efforts as part of this group gave Irina experience in the public speaking area in a safe, non-judgemental environment.
Over this time, I also benefited from the program. While Irina is looking to change her career path through learning and challenging, I realized that my path has to change as well or else I risk stagnating or being “stuck” because I am the type of person who needs new challenges to grow and learn. I learn by doing and I need to put myself into situations where I force myself to learn as part of my day to day. The entire mentorship program reminded me of that.
In summary, I look forward to participating in the mentorship program again in the future. I feel it is an important part of our organization and I am happy to have been part of it.