I was talking today with an organization that has mentoring as a very core feature of their culture, and it got me reflecting on the fantastic luck I’ve had in my career. Even before working, I had some great teachers, and then many folks have helped shape me through my job experience.
Dick Bergeron was a 12th grade teacher at SPHS who really helped me understand a different path to learning and thinking. He did what I now know to be reciprocal teaching, had us take turns talking about what we were learning from our reading, and discussing it, with him facilitating our reflection.
I got a job while I was in college at UCSD, maintaining the computer records for the office that did tutoring on campus, and Carmel Myers and Ken Majer helped me learn how to be professional (particularly when I screwed up).
Seeing the connection between computers and learning via that job, I designed my own major in college, and with the guidance of Hugh Mehan and Jim Levin learned a lot about what constituted good research. They also lived what great student development was.
In my first job, designing and programming educational computer games for DesignWare, Jim Schuyler and Lesley Czechowicz helped me learn quite a bit about how organizations run and what good management is.
I returned to grad school at UCSD after a summer working with Ken Majer again, and Don Norman patiently helped me rediscover and expand my understanding of research and cognition, particularly the application thereof. Don is also a great role model for top-notch critical and innovative thinking. At the Learning Research & Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh, Leona Schauble furthered my understanding of detailed research and development while guiding my post-doctoral fellowship.
At the University of New South Wales, where I took up an academic position, Paul Compton served to model what a wise leader really looks like. When I stepped away from the University, first Ron Watts at Open Net and then Rim Keris at Access CMC helped me take steps in understanding a strategic approach to business.
Jim Schuyler brought me back to the US, where he again mentored me on team leadership. He also introduced me to Joe Miller, who has served to really help me understand the next level of organizational strategy.
Since then, my business partners, Charlie Gillette at Knowledge Anywhere and Mohit Bhargava at LearningMate, have helped me learn much about business models and the art of the deal. And my colleagues in the Internet Time Alliance – Jay Cross, Jane Hart, Harold Jarche, and Charles Jennings – have taught me a lot about working as an independent and together.
These are the ones where I had an extended period of time with, but many other folks have served as models and provided assistance: Ellen Wagner and Marcia Conner are two that come to mind, and many more I’m forgetting, as well as many friends who’ve shared good times (and bad). Naturally, my parents had a wee bit of influence as well. And I’ve been doubly fortunate that many of these folks have remained in touch.
There certainly is an art to mentoring, though it can be developed, and I reckon there’re also some skills to being a good mentee. I hope I’ve been able to do some of the former, and not do the latter too badly.
I certainly still have lots to learn, but I’m exceptionally grateful to these folks. Many kudos to them, but of course all faults of the end product remain with the author ;). I think increasingly we can and should be continually mentoring those we care about, and mutually mentoring each other. Here’s to learning!