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The 18 mentees and 17 mentors who participated were given the option of participating virtually or in person in the command’s headquarters building in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Mentoring is recognized as a highly effective tool for both career and personal development,” said Ornette Harley, financial analyst and AIAN team co-lead who spearheaded the event. “Through mentoring, mentees have a chance to hear about lessons learned and gain specific advice from seasoned employees, while mentors, conversely, have an opportunity to help motivate and inspire others.”
“Speed-mentoring is a fun, fast-paced and structured way of providing guidance and knowledge gained across different levels of the organization in a short period of time,” Harley said.
Executive Director Peter C. Reddy kicked off the two-hour event with opening remarks, followed by mentors introducing themselves before breaking out into one-on-one discussions for about 10 minutes each. Organizers guided the mentees as they circulated around the group.
Mentor Chris Hills, a NIWC Atlantic employee who serves as Naval Research and Development Establishment (NRDE) deputy director for Technical Workforce for the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (DASN) for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E), said he was impressed by the professionalism and drive of the mentees.
“I was amazed at the talent and ambition of the young professionals we have in our workforce and feel encouraged by the next wave of leaders who want to step up,” Hills said.
To prepare mentees for the event, the AIAN team provided questions and conversation starters about effective communication across the workforce and efficiently prioritizing work efforts, among other topics.
“We wanted to help the mentees break the ice so that they would feel more comfortable engaging and building a rapport with the mentors, while learning their background and what each mentor brings to the table,” said Jeff Welch, software engineering supervisor and AIAN team co-lead who assisted in planning the event remotely from Washington, D.C. “The goal is to expand the mentees’ network of people who they can reach out to for career and professional advice and to hear a perspective from a person or a team that they may never otherwise have the opportunity to interact with.”
Participants also had the opportunity to network more informally after the event with no requirement to maintain an ongoing mentoring relationship.
“We want people to see that they don’t need to commit to a long-term mentoring program to build their network,” Welch said.
Welch said he hopes that more employees decide to participate in upcoming speed mentoring events, but even more so, that ongoing mentoring happens organically across the command as a result of events like this — especially informal mentoring at the peer level.
Danielle Holmes, a supervisor for NIWC Atlantic’s Employee Support Services for the Travel and Payroll team, was encouraged by a former mentee to participate in the recent event.
“I was asked by a former employee [to mentor] and by someone I met earlier this year as well,” Holmes said. “I felt as though the universe must want me to do this if multiple people asked. How could I say no? When a former employee asked me, I was very happy that I made enough of an impact in the past that I was included here!”
Each mentor spoke with three to four mentees during the event.
“I learned a lot about all of them,” Holmes said. “I was able to easily put myself in their shoes at that point of my own career, and it helped me remember where I had been and how I got to where I am now.”
Holmes said she had been mentored throughout her career and had received valuable advice and wisdom that she could pass along to mentees.
“Paying it forward is a critical part of mentoring,” Holmes said. “I hope that more people realize that mentors get as much as the mentee in these types of engagements.”
Welch, who also mentored, said the event was a chance for him and the other mentors to listen to questions and concerns that come from other members of the workforce.
“Sometimes our immediate staff don’t feel as welcome to share their issues with their immediate ‘lead,’” Welch said. “Events like this give us a chance to hear from members of the workforce with very different backgrounds from the people we immediately work with, and to understand the concerns people might have that we don’t get to hear about every day.”
Shantel Rasure, technical acquisition manager (TAM) for the Air Traffic Control (ATC) Engineering division, attended the event in person for that very reason: an opportunity to meet new people outside her division and physically put faces to names.
“I was looking to meet people, hear about what they do for the command and how they got to where they are today,” Rasure said.
In most cases, mentors and mentees were paired based on similar career tracks.
Dequane Richardson, administrative specialist for NIWC Atlantic’s Fleet Command, Control, Communications, Computers (C4) Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (FC4ISR) department, said as a mentee, he appreciated the pairing because he was looking for guidance about his specific career field and best practices for seeking promotion.
“It’s usually a good practice to seek guidance from someone who has already experienced what you are about to go through,” Richardson said. “Different courses of action always motivate me to stay the course.”
Richardson, who attended the event virtually, also said he was impressed by how well the event turned out in a hybrid work environment.
“It was truly an awesome experience,” Richardson said. “I made some amazing connections and look forward to participating at more events like this in the future.”
Holmes attributed the event’s success to the efforts of the AIAN team.
“The reason this was successful directly reflects the attention to detail of the organizers,” Holmes said. “This event was planned and executed as a high energy networking event that was intended to serve all participants — both mentees and mentors. I think people passing by could pick up on the energy. I received a couple inquiries from folks wondering what they were missing.”
Story posted on CHIPS Magazine
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About NIWC Atlantic
As a part of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.
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