My First REAL Mentor
I had just finished my sophomore year in college and
was entering my second internship. But this one was HUGE:
this summer I would be working for THE United States Army
as an Engineering Technician repairing helicopters down
in South Texas.
Backstory – I wanted to show how well rounded I was,
how confident I was in my skills and ability and willingness
to try new things – I included my last big achievement
on my resume. I was a contestant for the Miss Milwaukee pageant. I had never been in pageants, I was the ONLY STEM major in the pageant and the judges told me it was a very close call even through it was my first EVER and quite frankly I had no idea what I was doing.
Cheryl was from South Texas, went to school at USC to get her Aerospace Engineering degree – because – Rocket Science – and was co-lead on the project I would soon be supporting. We still laugh to this day how hard she rolled her eyes when she saw "Miss Milwaukee" on my resume but little did she know she'd be the MOST-LIKE-ME person I'd ever find in my life.
Long story short, we hit it off. She was fun, colorful, would wear pink bows in her hair and glittery eyeshadow. She was a boss when it came to anything technical & kept me under her wing so much I got family function invitations. Cheryl believed in me; supported me but she also pushed me. Our mentorship was so strong she would call me out on my ish – demand she expected better from me – and I'd rise to the occasion.
I could never put into words the gratitude I have for this amazing engineer – but also now one of my dearest friends. Taking the time to seek out mentorship and find someone willing to invest in me was the best decision I made that summer. We're still friends today and let me tell you – this amazing woman went to Law school, passed the bar, & had an internship of being one of the very few in the world dealing with technical military law.
Be conscious of the people around you. Find mentors & invest in that relationship. Reach out. Follow up. Be intentional with your time, questions, efforts, and goals. I’m lucky enough to have found a mentor who believed more in me that I did myself and helped me reach new heights of my own personal life, confidence, and career.
Taking Responsibility For Yourself
It's easy to play a victim; easy to tell yourself that story.
It's scary to take responsibility; to own up to your flaws, your faults, to simply admit what you know & what you don't know. It's not easy. It takes real courage to fully understand and account for your actions, a lack of, or simply your ignorance.
Today's #WednesdayWisdom is oh too real & a rather challenging topic.
One of the questions I get from young 'soon-to-be' engineers is "what if I don’t know the answer" or "what if they ask me something I don't know".
My response - “that's the point”. Let's think about it. You're a brand new baby engineer.
You're not expected to really KNOW anything. The degree is simply stating that you're a trained learner. You know how to grasp difficult concepts, you're able to work through not so straight forward problems. That's what you're brought in for - as an intern; as an entry level engineer.
The wisdom behind it all is acknowledging you don't know it all and YOU. WILL. FAIL.
It's scary, it hurts, it's not fun but it's a part of the process. The same way all of us didn't turn in a homework, bombed a quiz, or absolutely tanked a test - it will happen to you a professional.
You'll be unprepared. You won't prioritize correctly. You'll completely FORGET about a major milestone or upcoming date & you'll scramble, throw something together, & you'll get called out for it. It happens.
The difference is - how you go about it. You can make every excuse in the book - dog ate my homework, I got sick, it wasn't on my calendar, no one told me about it - or you can own it. Take responsibility. Things get away from us. Rather than make excuses or even give legitimate reasons - create a mitigation plan. Show up, eat humble pie, & admit to how & why you missed it & what you're plan is to never make the same mistake again or how this helped you better understand the expectations, the process, the content - whatever.
Being a problem solver isn't just about solving the problems around you - but the internal problems you face as an imperfect human, managing yourself, & the crazy chaos that will be life, your company, & your responsibilities.