For Calvin Byer, joining Fordham IT’s mentoring program was a crucial part of acclimating to his new position as Assistant Director of Technology Training and Development. “I went from being a systems engineer in a very technical role, to a more customer service-oriented management side of the work chart,” said Calvin. “I felt like I needed guidance on how to navigate that shift.” So, last spring, Calvin turned to Shaya Phillips, AVP of Software Services and Information Architecture, for some mentoring.
“A big part of a mentoring program is to have people who are somewhat comfortable with each other meet on their own time and in their own way, to build trust,” explained Katherine Egan, Executive Director of Organizational Effectiveness. She oversees Fordham IT’s mentoring program. “If you’re mentoring with someone, you have to be open and a little vulnerable.” That advice applies to both mentors and mentees.
Mentors are senior in the sense that they have “more, and broader, work experience,” explained Katherine. They help individuals whose footsteps they have perhaps already been in, or at least know something about. Fordham IT’s mentoring program, which began in 2014, includes topics like vendor management and negotiation, performance management, leadership, and budget administration. During their mentoring period, Calvin and Shaya met on a regular basis to discuss general management challenges such as managing up, accountability and responsibility, and time management.
The mentoring program was first suggested on Ideascale, Fordham IT’s space for sharing innovative ideas. An impetus for starting the program is that Fordham IT employees often come from corporate backgrounds. Sometimes they “don’t quite get the academic culture,” said Egan. She matches up the mentee with a mentor, who is chosen based on his or her professional background and personality. For Shayaa the best part of mentoring is “being exposed to more people for more than just business reasons. And getting to share my experiences with others.”
Calvin notes, however, that the program isn’t for everyone: “It requires effort because it requires commitment, investment and humility.” But the investment is worth it, and continues to reap benefits after the commitment (9 months to a year) has ended. “We can still meet at any given time and chat,” he said.
Fordham’s IT mentoring program creates a safe space for staff support and growth. Through unique mentor-mentee partnerships, participants build relationships that target the skills, ideas, and inspiration needed for development. If you would like to be mentored or be a mentor, contact Katherine Egan at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’ll be sending out a formal invitation to IT staff before the holidays.