We hosted a Q and A with two of OZ Architecture’s Youth Mentors, Director of Marketing, M.R. Hicks, and Associate, Chris Vandall, AIA, LEED AP .
Why did you decide to become a mentor?
MH: When SMPS (Society for Marketing Professional Services) launched their first mentor/protege program, I thought it was a great opportunity to share what I’ve learned over the course of several decades of marketing experience. I’ve always enjoyed mentoring the people I’ve hired and work with on a day-to-day basis, and this was a chance to focus on one individual at a time who’s very willing to learn.
CV: I was asked to be a mentor for a recent graduate from CU Boulder’s undergraduate architecture program as he transitions into the real world of architecture. I decided to accept the challenge because the value of experiential learning and learning from others was an important part of my development, so I wanted to help someone else in the same way.
What have you gotten out of the experience?
MH: I’ve really enjoyed hearing my protege’s point of view and perspectives on issues and challenges she encounters every day. I share some of my challenges and she sees what things look like from more of a management point of view. Since we’re on a level playing field away from the office, we can be pretty honest with each other and explore solutions to problems and questions we both have.
CV: I learn from my mentee’s experience and from my interactions with him all the time. For example, since my mentee is hearing impaired, I have been exposed to a different set of communication skills. From my perspective communicating with my mentee to helping him develop his written and verbal communications with others, the lessons of communication particularly have been immense.
MH: We both have very similar senses of humor, and it’s been fun not to take things quite as seriously as you may need to in the workplace, but still give good advice. It’s been a pretty relaxed experience, and the SMPS rule is to let the mentee/protoge make the plans and direct the conversations for the most part, so I’m just following her lead. It’s like being the Wikipedia entry on Marketing!
CV: I have been surprised by the amount that I have learned. As a mentee, I thought that my mentor knew everything. As a mentor, I now know that there is as much I can learn from my mentee as I can help him learn. Whether discussing interviewing skills, networking, or design, his perspective is refreshing.
Has it changed your perspective?
MH: Not really — because a lot of my role at OZ is mentoring, I’m just taking that role outside the office walls. I have very clear memories of my early years as a marketer, so it’s easy for me to put myself in the place of someone who’s just starting out or may be mid-career.
CV: Not for me. I’ve been involved in mentoring from one side or the other for several years. I learn more and more each year but my perspective and goals for mentorship have remained the same – helping my mentee develop skills and knowledge to transition into the professional world or graduate school.
Do you have a mentoring style?
MH: I try to encourage marketers to have their own style and put their own stamp on things. There’s never just one solution to a problem or one right way of doing things, and there’s always room to learn a better way. I try to be open and listen more than I talk, and really look at different approaches.
CV: As a mentor, my style is one to empower the mentee. I challenge my mentee to think for himself and to identify his needs. Then together we explore the steps to fill their needs and determine the best process to go from there.
How do you see your role as a mentor?
MH: I want to share any wisdom I might have gathered along the way, and be open to questions that might be difficult to ask your own boss during the course of the work day. I also want to learn some new things from my mentee and how she solves problems and makes her process more efficient.
CV: I see my role as a mentor being to challenge, collaborate and facilitate. As an experiential educator, we focused on providing people with tools to learn from their experience. Similarly as a mentor, I try to help identify their needs and then help find the tools needed to solve issues.
Any advice for other mentors/mentees?
MH: I’d advise mentees to feel free to have a truly open dialogue — its a great opportunity to gain knowledge and learn some different approaches, especially in areas where they’re stuck or have had problems. It’s been a great experience for me, and I recommend it to potential mentors — there’s always more to learn!
CV: I’d advise to start your mentor relationship with a plan. Make specific short and long term goals for each partner and agree on a schedule and process, then revisit the goals often and make changes in the process as needed. Finally, celebrate successes.