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Were you a mentor?
Old 06-21-2019, 04:04 PM   #1
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Were you a mentor?

I never really thought I was, but I got an email today from a former co-worker. She is leaving where we worked together, for a different company. I have been retired for 3 years, but she thought to include me in her good-bye email.

When I wished her good luck, she sent another email thanking me for helping her along the way, and telling me I was a big part of her growth.

She came to the company as a new grad. I was not her supervisor, but she worked on several projects that I managed. She did, indeed, grow in her confidence and experience.

I gotta admit, it feels good to have someone think you help them, but the reality is, she was good at what she did. I just made sure others knew that, as well.
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Old 06-21-2019, 04:51 PM   #2
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Old 06-21-2019, 05:07 PM   #3
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... I gotta admit, it feels good to have someone think you help[ed] them ...
It does. You might consider trying this: https://www.score.org/volunteer
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Old 06-21-2019, 05:36 PM   #4
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I think there are people that enjoyed working for me and I'm sure some of them would say that I gave them good advice along the way, but personally, I wouldn't call myself a mentor. I would, however, be proud to wear that label. Good for you.
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Old 06-21-2019, 05:45 PM   #5
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From the very early days... age 18 on was always there for classmates, and then age 22... from my first management position, through the end of my corporate employment in '84 always had one two or three people under me, that had potential, that I spent extra time to nurture, beyond their original jobs. It worked two ways... one... that I was a regular source to to prepare future managers, but a second more selfish reason.. that I had prepared my successor, making my own promotions easier.

50+ years in scouting, from assistant patrol leader, to scoutmaster to committeeman, and as a church group trip organizer and leader of teen hiking and canoeing trips.

Later after retiring from my own business, a few years enjoying teaching SBA classes and helping start new businesses with new entrepreneurs.

Yeah... I know... egomaniac, blowing his own horn. I suppose, but life was just never complete without sharing. In truth, never thought of it as volunteering or mentoring... it was just something that helped make my life happy. I always received more than I gave.
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Old 06-22-2019, 09:12 AM   #6
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I never really thought I was, but I got an email today from a former co-worker. She is leaving where we worked together, for a different company. I have been retired for 3 years, but she thought to include me in her good-bye email.

When I wished her good luck, she sent another email thanking me for helping her along the way, and telling me I was a big part of her growth.

She came to the company as a new grad. I was not her supervisor, but she worked on several projects that I managed. She did, indeed, grow in her confidence and experience.

I gotta admit, it feels good to have someone think you help them, but the reality is, she was good at what she did. I just made sure others knew that, as well.
It's an awesome feeling. I remember my DF calling me to tell me about a phone call he received from his last trainee. The guy thanked him for teaching him the right way to do the job. The gentleman was a early retiree and he gave DF all the credit for his success.

I tried to mentor folks like I was. I suppose I was somewhat successful. My biggest thanks came from a guy who was openly gay. He sent me a note saying he realized I didn't treat him any differently than straight people. I didn't realize it, I tried to treat him like anyone else.
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Old 06-22-2019, 11:47 AM   #7
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Those kinds of messages make wonderful keepsakes not only for the receiver but also their families. My father was a high school teacher and often received Xmas cards & other messages from his former students. After he passed away and my sister was cleaning up, she found a number of such messages from those students expressing appreciation for his efforts. She even tracked one of them down and had a wonderful conversation with him. Good to know that you were appreciated.
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Old 06-23-2019, 03:27 PM   #8
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My megacorp had an official mentor program which I was a mentee, and mentor. I can't say it helped me when I was a mentee. As a mentor, I hope I helped others. I have gotten thank e-mails, phone calls, in-person but I don't know if they were 100% sincere.

I was also "mentor" for my employees, and co-worker's employees (they were compelled to seek my advice than their bosses). I felt this unofficial mentoring was more appreciated as evidenced by the reactions to my ER announcement. I had so many lunch invites, RE parties, retirement gifts by individuals, and people just walking into my office to thank me in person. That made me feel good about my management career.
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Old 06-23-2019, 03:56 PM   #9
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Well yes, in a way. My office attracts the youngins' probably because listen, am patient, and typically have practical advise for them.
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Old 06-23-2019, 06:21 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by CardsFan View Post
I never really thought I was, but I got an email today from a former co-worker. She is leaving where we worked together, for a different company. I have been retired for 3 years, but she thought to include me in her good-bye email.

When I wished her good luck, she sent another email thanking me for helping her along the way, and telling me I was a big part of her growth.

She came to the company as a new grad. I was not her supervisor, but she worked on several projects that I managed. She did, indeed, grow in her confidence and experience.

I gotta admit, it feels good to have someone think you help them, but the reality is, she was good at what she did. I just made sure others knew that, as well.
I am looking forward to seeing the responses to this thread from folks with careers in business, government and teaching.

As an academic scientist, mentorship of graduate students and post docs was a major part of my job description. I was not as successful as many in terms of numbers - I count 5 grad students, 6 post docs and one junior colleague with whom I have collaborated intensely for a decade, as mentees. These were all pretty intense relationships stretching over 2-10 years. One was a bit fraught - he is now a very successful research scientist but probably is not going out of his way to acknowledge my mentorship, all the others were very satisfying. My biggest fear (always a huge source of stress for me) was having a student or post doc spend years with me and then head out to an unsuccessful career. Fortunately things worked out. Of my 5 students, one is very successful senior researcher for a US government agency, one is an early-mid-career scientist with a US government agency, one is a very successful senior government scientist in Europe, one went on to apply his mathematical expertise on Wall Street and has been quite successful (unfortunately lost track of him in recent years), and one married into a very rich family and is out of science and presumably helping to manage his in-laws' businesses. Of my post docs, one went into finance and was quite successful but passed away suddenly in his mid-50's, one is back in China as a big academic administrator, one has a successful career, not as a researcher, but still applying his scientific expertise in a big company in Europe, one is a successful early/mid-career researcher with a European government agency, one is still an early career research scientist with a private company in the US, and one is just starting as an assistant professor at a Japanese university. My long-term junior collaborator is now a quite successful research scientist with a Japanese government agency.

So I have intensely mentored only one person now on the professor track (an ideal 1-for-1 replacement in the professoriate that is not growing anywhere - outside of China and possibly some less developed countries), but have hopefully helped start careers of folks who are making/will make contributions in the government and private sectors.

I am not sure I ever inspired enough confidence in my younger faculty colleagues to ever have any consider me as a mentor. I frequently "joked" that I could serve as a bad example for younger faculty colleagues.

Anyways for those who read through this, thanks for indulging these memories. I hope we may have some interesting contributions from others here on E-R.org.
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Old 06-24-2019, 10:03 PM   #11
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I loved mentoring! It's the only thing I miss about w*rk, except of course, for the paycheck.

I stumbled into mentoring after I had been performing my technical j*b for about 10 years. As I grew more senior in mini-tech, I found myself leading very small teams of younger engineers tasked with launching "impossible", politically visible, problem projects. Senior management's sense of desperation permitted us wide operational lattitude, and the stress and long hours on the road forged a sense of camaraderie. We begrudingly admitted that we were having the time of our lives!

Over a decade later, I occasionally hear from my old mentees, and have even seen a few in person. I enjoyed mentoring so much that DW and I continue to mentor 20-somethings through our local church.
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Old 06-24-2019, 10:14 PM   #12
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I mentor business students at our local university and love it. For those who enjoyed mentoring during your career, doing it for university students is a great way to give back. You’ll receive more than you give!
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Old 06-25-2019, 03:38 AM   #13
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Smoothing the way for others comes naturally to some.

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Old 06-25-2019, 05:54 AM   #14
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Like other megas, we had formal and informal mentoring. I recall no longer having a formal mentor and a feeling of loss after years of patron support. Guess we all graduate this phase of professional life.

In transition, I tried to develop members of my team. While not yet a grizzled veteran, tried passing along my growing experience. After awhile, was assigned a series of formal mentees. My advice for young in career usually followed these lines (of course there were times that I strayed from my own tips and had to re-center).

1) Focus first on relationships with your spouse and children - you can never make up lost time from a young family. Climb the corporate ladder when the young uns become surly teenagers.
2) Your health is more important than work.
3) While specialization is ok, you will be more valuable to the company later by taking on a variety of jobs and training opportunities early in career.
4) Take on temporary leadership assignments to develop skills and attribute success to the team, not yourself. Personally own the mistakes. Helps to develop professional relationships needed later.
5) And, I kid you not, mentoring advice included contribute max with 100% to a low load index fund in the 401k.


At one point I had an early engineer program of about 3-4 candidates each years. Farther along, responsible for a rotational (aka 'rehabilitation') program for managers who had stumbled and were otherwise going to be shown the door.


Ego always appreciated the feedback. On my last days at work, the manager running the morning meeting started with recognizing me for helping him change the way he now worked with other departments.
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Old 06-25-2019, 06:50 AM   #15
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In life, my mentor has been (and still is "sometimes") the school of hard knocks.

In my younger years in business, I learned a lot from several folks but I don't think I'd call any of them my mentor. Maybe 5 or 6 really stand out in my mind as "very insightful and helpful" in developing my skill set. In my later years, I think I passed along a lot of that knowledge to others but I don't think I'd call myself a mentor to others either.
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Old 06-25-2019, 08:50 AM   #16
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When I started working at MegaTechCorp, it had a formal mentoring program. I had a mentor my first year or so, then mentored other new hires after I was fully on board. There was also a lot of informal mentoring - helping others was part of the culture, and was rewarded at performance review time.


When the company started to struggle, the formal mentoring went by the wayside, since there were no new hires. When things got worse, what had been informal mentoring turned into defending one's turf by withholding information from others. I found a group where that dysfunction and not yet taken hold, and rode out my last couple of years there. When that team started going by the wayside, I ERd and never looked back.
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Old 06-25-2019, 09:24 AM   #17
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I would like to say that I was, but as I got older I realized that I am much more of a doer rather than teacher. Probably not a great thing to admit, but its the truth. I found the subtleties of being successful in business sometimes are more innate in a person and can't always be taught.
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Old 06-25-2019, 10:18 AM   #18
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For my first 10 years I was a mentee, observing and sucking up as much information as I could. The last 20+ years, I tried to be the best mentor/teacher/manager I could be.
I still get positive feedback from previous work folks via internet connections. It is both rewarding and humbling. I really enjoyed my job, it was the politics that did me in.
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Old 06-25-2019, 01:21 PM   #19
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In life, my mentor has been (and still is "sometimes") the school of hard knocks.

I was greatly honored that several younger folks considered me their teacher or mentor, but I know that these folks would have all succeeded even without me. They were all very gifted and self-motivated, all believers, as I was, in the school of hard knocks. I learn much from all of them. The best thing I gave them was just my time and attention, much more useful in the long run than specific technical or career advice. Best of all, we had fun together and made some $$ for ourselves and the company.


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When the company started to struggle, the formal mentoring went by the wayside, since there were no new hires. When things got worse, what had been informal mentoring turned into defending one's turf by withholding information from others. I found a group where that dysfunction and not yet taken hold, and rode out my last couple of years there. When that team started going by the wayside, I ERd and never looked back.

Same situation here, although the company was much smaller and lacked a formal mentoring program. Especially in engineering, we had a long tradition of helping out other engineers and sharing information. We left the politics to management to fight out.

This changed gradually over the years until the point that even new entry level hires were involved in political machinations. It seemed you couldn't trust anyone, even your "mentees". A war of all against all. I was glad I was in a position to FIRE and never look back.
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