InfoComm‘s AV Month is but a distant memory now, which is exactly why it is the best time to talk about mentoring someone entering the AV industry.
During the month of October, there was a good deal of conversation encouraging each of us to reach out and foster folks into the work we love. That was the call to arms, now is the time to act.
One of the best ways to bring in diversity and youth is to become a mentor to individuals. You were most likely mentored in some way or had that person who pushed you to excel and explore new paths. It is a responsibility more important than standards committees, trade organizations or new products, for without a new generation of excellence none of these matter.
The origin of the word ‘mentor’ is ancient. One of the earliest, and best examples of it is in the character from Homer’s Odyssey. Mentor is the teacher to Odysseus’s son Telemachus. Mentor is tasked by Odysseus, as he prepares to leave for the battle in Troy, to be his son’s proxy father and guide. Mentor’s task is not only to nurture the education of the young man in the essential arts but also in how to be a king equal to his father.
This is what we are charged with — not only to bring folks into the industry but also to have them become the new leaders, advocates and expert craftsmen of the trade.
When one first starts in AV there is much excitement and eagerness and, sometimes, a modicum of knowledge. In an industry thick with technological disciplines tackling them can appear to be a chasm too wide. We as mentors are the ones who do not just provide a bridge to cross but also the skills to eventually make their own.
The process is more than pointing in the correct direction or providing a link to an explanation of a technical topic. The true learning, that which teaches a person to fish rather than simply receive a one, comes with the follow through, the follow up. Teaching the skill with oversight and repetitive opportunities to get it right and to correct the mistakes.
With allowing the process of getting it wrong, and learning to master the skill(s), also comes the most valuable tool a mentor can provide — communication. The ability to have unfettered conversation with someone who can give honest answers, or connect them to someone who can, cannot be overstated.
The process of being a career guide is not a cursory act, if done with dedication it creates a lifelong relationship. A protege becomes an associate and trusted industry ally. Mentoring is not about molding a replica of you from clay, it is something much more.
Like a teacher, there is a satisfaction in providing the path for growth and relishing the achievements of another. The ultimate goal, if one is lucky, is that the student eventually exceeds the mentor — this is the grandest of accomplishments.