What does the word “mentor” mean? It originated in Homer’s Odyssey as the name of the teacher of Telemachus, the son of Odysseus. A contemporary definition would be anyone who is a positive guiding influence in another person’s life. The mentored is generally a younger person than their mentor.
The term “mentor” was popularized in the United States in the late twentieth century, when issues of workplace equity and career mentorship spawned such terms as glass ceiling, networking, role model and gatekeeper – terms that didn’t exist in 1970. I do feel fortunate that social consciousness in the 70’s paralleled my career. I’m not sure what my first employers saw in me but it was enough for them to eventually make me a partner after 15 years with the firm. In these first 15 years, I not only learned from two admired Architects but I also taught myself on my own time over the weekends and on lunch hours at the Dunedin Library how to pass the former 7-part exam, and what was at the time, the newly written Professional exam.
During my apprentice years, my employers taught me the value of mentoring first hand. I admired how my employers made me feel that they cared about my career. It is this valuable lesson that I was determined to pay forward. I always tried to push my employees out of their comfort zones and into areas of the practice that added to their skills, and hopefully improved their career path.
As I reflect on the 35 years since my licensure and partnership, there have been many employees working under my guidance, and now it is very satisfying to see many of them practicing as successful professionals in architecture and interior design. I thought it might be interesting to reach out to some of my past employees to see if they have picked up the mentoring torch themselves, and to see if they are paying it forward to the next generation.
More to come on this subject.