Are You a Mentor, Mentee or Both?

The other day, I heard that a teacher I had in high school had passed away. To me, this person was more than just a teacher in a required class. Over my four years in high school, he was a great mentor who influenced my direction in life. To this day, I credit his influence for many of the successes I’ve enjoyed and for my appreciation of the arts. And his passing got me thinking about other mentors I’ve had in my career. I could endeavor to give “shout-outs” here, but the list would be long and I, like people accepting awards, run the risk of forgetting someone.

So what’s my point?

Take a moment to think about the people who have influenced you, served as a mentor, or in some way helped you succeed. Then thank them in some way. Sure, it would be great to contact them all personally, but that’s not always practical or possible. (Although I will tell you that when a former student I taught 20-plus years ago in an InfoComm class comes up and thanks me for the influence I had on them or their career, it blows me away!) At the very least, take a moment to reflect of those people who helped you out and acknowledge their role in your own quiet time. Zen-like, probably.

Again, what’s my point, other than to engage in a feel-good exercise?

Now take a moment to think about the people that you have mentored or influenced. And I mean truly influenced. How is that list? Does it have room for expansion? I bet it does.

I attend InfoComm member events and see hundreds of members each year. Many of the attendees are senior managers or owners. I know from conversations with them that most came into the AV industry, learned the ropes, and are where they are today because they were mentored and influenced by those that preceded them. Yes, technology changes; and yes, there is a continuing need for more technical education; and yes, it would be great to have an AV degree program. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about business skills, the thirst for finding and creating a solution, the drive to make it happen, and the passion that exemplifies the pro AV industry. Who better to pass along those lessons than those of us in this industry who’ve benefitted so greatly from others?

InfoComm wants to foster that mentoring spirit. We encourage members, through initiatives such as our recent Volunteer Leadership Summit, to give their time and teach others what they know. We encourage members to join one of many councils as a way of getting involved in the industry. Every year, companies participate in AV Week, an important part of which is getting students enthused about this industry.

And now, in response to feedback from hundreds of young AV professionals (YAP!) looking for their own networking and education group, we will be moving forward with a YAP e-group.  The group will reside virtually on the InfoComm Community site.  We’re planning on creating educational programming for people new to the AV industry based on the feedback we hear from this the group.  All members are welcome to join and get in the mentoring spirit.  If you’re interested, e-mail mbialek@infocomm.org or membership@infocomm.org.

John C. Crosby, a Massachusetts politician who died in 1943, once said, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”                               

So how’s your mentoring list looking?

About Duffy Wilbert

Duffy Wilbert, CTS, CAE, is InfoComm International’s Senior Vice President of Member Services, overseeing membership recruitment, retention and general association sales as well as the association’s market research and industry outreach initiatives. He also serves as Executive Director of the Professional Audio Manufacturers Alliance and the International Communications Industries Foundation.

One Response to “Are You a Mentor, Mentee or Both?”

  1. This is a great article, particularly for me as someone new trying to better understand the AV industry. Mentoring is a truly rewarding part of life in any area or career path pursued, and there is just no value that can be placed on the power of passing on wisdom onto others. The infocomm website has helped me tremendously to get a better understanding.. but I feel I would better benefit from hearing from you guys out there who are already doing what I am trying to do. Detailing your experiences and highlighting possible pitfalls, career paths, mistakes and do-overs.. etc..