Mentor, Protege--We're Both

We all have people in our lives, personal and private, we can credit as having helped us grow. It may be a parent, teacher, boss or co-worker who helped us kindle a spark of interest into a flame burning for more knowledge.

Columns From: 12/1/1996 Modern Machine Shop, ,

We all have people in our lives, personal and private, we can credit as having helped us grow. It may be a parent, teacher, boss or co-worker who helped us kindle a spark of interest into a flame burning for more knowledge.

It's an amazingly common experience in spite of the seemingly randomness of its occurrence. A mentor and protégé aren't necessarily seeking each other. More often than not, they meet and interact by chance.

In business today, mentoring has become a sort of popular status symbol. It seems there is some amount of mileage attached with being viewed as a mentor. Conversely, by association with a mentor of significant position, a halo effect is somehow bestowed on the protégé. People are scrambling to fill these respective roles.

But there is a superficiality to this new age mentoring that seems to corrupt and trivialize a heretofore special and important relationship. I think back on the handful of mentors who influenced me. They didn't help me for credit. Giving someone else the benefit of one's experience is essence of the mentoring process. It's about teaching.

Frankly, I didn't realize a mentoring was even occurring at the time. It was after I moved away from a given mentor that I realized a mentoring process had taken place and that somehow, perhaps through osmosis, I had grown from the association.

Mentoring is stereotypically seen as an old hand passing the torch of experience to a younger person. Often this is indeed the case. However, there are exceptions. Take for example the reverse chronology of a young computer literate who takes the older computer illiterate under wing (I know this scenario first hand). Is this not mentoring?

As I see it, mentoring is about sharing what you know with those who need the knowledge without expectation of reward. Our industry seems especially blessed with knowledgeable people willing to mentor others. That's, in essence, what this magazine is about. We're able to disseminate information to you about manufacturing technology--both pure and applied--because somebody stepped up and shared what they know with us. So, depending on what you know and need to know, aren't we all a combination of mentor and protégé?

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