While Alejandro lives and works in the Netherlands and Damon is based in the United States, they both work towards common goals at Proponent – the world’s largest independent aerospace distribution company.
As we all start out with different mentoring experiences, Damon and Alejandro share how their mentoring careers started and who helped them along the way.
Damon: Although I’ve never had an official mentoring experience before, I did have a professor in college that I could go to for guidance and assistance whenever I needed it. That’s who taught me how much there is to be gained by seeking the help of others.
At Proponent, I’m an engineering technician and I provide support for the engineering team in the development of PMA packages. This is my first job out of college, but I did have two engineering internships while I was a student.
As I am just beginning my career, I’m hoping to receive guidance from Alejandro – whether it be technical guidance related to specific programs or general principles that will benefit me in my career. I feel that I have a lot to learn and I hope to do so with the help of someone who has been in my position.
Alejandro: Prior to my start at Proponent, I had the opportunity to have an excellent mentor and this was the CEO of my previous job as Key Account Manager for LG Sonic, Mr. Yousef Yousef. He dedicated his time and knowledge to guide me to perform my job much better and to understand more deeply the company’s know-how.
His dedication and passion for what he does has helped me to become a better professional, but more importantly a better person. We remain in close contact as friends and are always ready to help each other in any way we can. Yousef is a great inspiration to me and an example to follow.
My current position is Inside Sales Representative and I am responsible for all commercial activities and new business for all our transactional clients in the Western Mediterranean and Baltic countries.
From Damon, I have learned to be a little more analytical with my organization as he has a completely different approach and background than I do. For me, the challenge is always to try and make time to complete everything, but given my position in sales, it is difficult to align all processes and projects.
Mentoring with an Ocean in Between
The ‘Future of Work’ is here. Since colleagues aren’t always in the same location, it can be difficult for them to engage with one another in meaningful ways. Even mentoring styles have adapted (mentoring remotely versus face-to-face) as employers constantly look for ways to ensure their people feel connected.
With an ocean in between Alejandro and Damon, they describe their own approach to mentoring and how it’s changed.
Alejandro: I consider, given my personality, that our mentoring relationship is probably quite traditional – but incredible. We have weekly sessions every Monday for about one hour, where from the beginning, we determine what our goals, objectives, and areas of improvement are.
Once we got past the initial stage of getting to know and understand each other better, we started with a series of social experiments where Damon and I put into practice everything we had talked about.
Additionally, during our sessions, we always have a question-and-answer period where we evaluate different approaches. At this point in the process, our level of interaction is fantastic both personally and professionally.
Damon: I would say it is a traditional mentoring relationship but not very rigid. Our conversations can go all over the place, and I’ve been surprised by how much I can learn from Alejandro. He has had a very interesting path to get to where he is today, and his stories and advice have helped guide me in my career as well as my personal life.
How do you think mentoring remotely differs from mentoring in person?
Damon: Technology has certainly made it so that there isn’t too much lost by doing the meetings remotely. Using Skype for the meetings and the Mentorloop chat in between has worked well for us. There are still some parts of the conversation lost when you aren’t able to see expression or body language and the difference in time zones has impacted our availability, but overall, we have been able to conduct our meetings successfully.
Alejandro: Of course, it is more complex to go through the process remotely, the connection with the other person and some of the interpersonal skills are much easier to absorb being together by watching their gestures and body language, as-is for generating confidence and empathy when transmitting some knowledge or developing a new skill.
Once a bond is created, the distance stops being a problem and the relationship intensifies.
Damon: Participants need to be willing to cooperate to find a method that works best for both of them. With any relationship, there will be ‘give and take’. It’s necessary to put the effort in to enable the relationship to thrive in a way that benefits both participants.
What drew you to participate in the Propel mentoring program?
Alejandro: For more than 5 years I have been very interested in the subject of coaching and mentoring, I have had the opportunity to participate in many seminars and courses on the subject.
From this experience, I have grown a natural interest in generating empathy and always with a positive attitude to generate a multiplier effect in my environment. This has helped me a lot in my personal and professional life.
Damon: With this being my first job out of college and the beginning of my career, I thought it would be best to take the advice of someone who has been in my position and could teach me what they learned along the way.
Going into the program, what did you hope to get out of it?
Damon: My main hope was to learn more about what I could do to ensure I started my career on the right foot and learn about what I can expect as well as what will likely be expected of me.
Alejandro: Improve my skills around a person with a different background than me, generate empathy, and be able to share the acquired knowledge at a distance since I do not know Damon personally.
Also, help facilitate the process of adaptation of our new talents in the company about the pillars of Proponent and how to apply them.
What do you think the ‘secret’ is to a good mentoring relationship?
Alejandro: I think it is no secret that knowledge is power, the more we know about our mentoring partner the easier it will be to go through the engagement process, generate empathy and therefore achieve better results, all this surrounded by an open and honest atmosphere will help take the mentoring process to the next level.
Damon: I believe the “secret” is mutual respect. Because of that, I know there is sincerity behind the advice Alejandro gives and that it is for my benefit. Showing mutual respect also demonstrates to him that I am invested in the relationship and not wasting his time.
But what if the Proponent Mentoring Program didn’t exist?
Would the organisation or the industry look different? We asked Alejandro and Damon what their thoughts were.
Damon: Mentor-mentee relationships can develop on their own, and create a lot of development across any industry.
This program, however, acts as a catalyst for that process and has allowed those relationships to be kickstarted – and then grow, quickly.
By speeding this process up and making it more widespread, it’s allowed more interaction across different levels of the company, created ways to share knowledge, and will foster the growth of the company into the future.
Alejandro: I believe that this initiative should be mandatory in all companies regardless of the industry. For each new employee, the process of adaptation and the time needed for them to start adding value in their positions are increasingly long. I am certain that with an onboarding program based on mentoring, the processes would be leaner and shorter, allowing employees to feel comfortable and independent to start showing results.
Any advice for others?
Alejandro: Don’t be afraid to be part of the process. Many people think that the time invested is not valuable for the mentor, but we can always learn a lot from all our peers regardless of their position or background. The family values and skills that each person can bring are much stronger than a college degree.
I feel extremely fortunate to be part of this initiative and I am more than happy to highlight Damon’s work as my partner during this process for being so dedicated and showing great interest in learning and developing each of the proposed activities.
Above all, I have learned a lot about other areas of the company by understanding our processes better, and finally, I consider it great to share that this process started as a mentor and mentee and now we are friends.
Damon: I would say, participate with an open mind and be willing to learn from others to set yourself up for success.
This has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for me. Although we will be moving on to the next phase of the Propel mentoring program, I’m sure Alejandro and I will remain in touch and I will be able to look to him for advice.
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