Of all the amazing things that went on in The Printerversetm at GRAPH EXPO this year – The GRAPHitti Wall, Girls Who Print Day, playing Rock Em Sock Em Robots with Benny Landa –  the panel discussion I put together titled “Wooing Women to Print: Mentors and Mavens” stood out as something very special.  It was just one of those moments where everything came together in this bigger picture manner, and in many ways a movement was started.

Mary Beth Smith is already incorporating this topic into her Girls Who Print mission, and for my part, I will be bringing mentors and their stories to the blog space here at PrintMediaCentr. To kick it off I asked one of the mentorship panelists Chris Echevarria, Customer Experience Center Manager at Oce’ North America, if she would like to participate. In true mentor fashion, she volunteered a blog SERIES!

More to come on this topic for sure, and I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to share your mentorship stories – regardless of gender! For now, a big thanks to Chris for her time and dont forget to take a moment and help someone each day!

 Who needs a mentor?

by Chris Echevarria

Several years ago I felt that my career wasn’t moving in the direction I thought I wanted it to go. It’s not that I was in a dead-end job, I just wanted more. I felt I had done everything I could to navigate the political structure within the company but it seemed like I was spinning my wheels. I have a friend in the industry who told me about a mentoring program her company had formally instituted through a company called Menttium and in which she was selected to participate. It was recognized within her company that career-minded individuals sometimes needed help in making their way up the corporate ladder while understanding the political nuances of corporate culture. While the company I worked for didn’t have anything this formal, a group of us decided to start our own internal mentoring group. It was then I began to realize how important networking, together with mentoring was, in terms of career movement and talent development.

Who is a mentor?

For me it’s been those individuals in my life who have provided guidance in making my next career move as well as those in my life who’ve helped me work through a problem. I think of my mentors in two camps; the long-term strategic thinkers who help me vet out my future plans with their thought-provoking assessments of possible scenarios and the second group who are my trusted friends and colleagues that help me solve more immediate issues. If you look at your own life you probably have a few of these great individuals providing guidance and answers.

My strategic mentors are those who have been in the industry a long time, share their insight on the direction of the industry and help point me in the direction of new opportunities. While not formal in nature, I try to connect with these individuals ( I have more than one – there’s no rule as to how many you should or shouldn’t have) on a regular basis, carving out time which can be a challenge with everyone’s schedule’s these days. The friend I mentioned earlier had been in a very formal program where meetings and topics were scheduled well in advance. Having a mentor and finding time to talk about specific objectives doesn’t have to be as formal as that, though I make sure that we’ve got our calendars blocked for the hour. I look to connect with my mentors minimally once a quarter. In another blog I’ll share with you the types of mentors I have and the qualities I look for before I approach an individual.

In addition to having several mentors in my life, I am a mentor as well, which I guess means I’ve been around awhile as well. I make myself available to those who are trying to find their next step in their career and I find myself helping those who are new and don’t know our industry well. Especially for young women coming into this industry it can be intimidating to figure out how to move forward. While I certainly don’t have all the answers I try to steer my mentorees into thinking about all the possible options.

Does everyone need a mentor?

You probably don’t need one if you’re someone who has the uncanny ability to figure out how to get where you need to be and what you want from your career easily. But for those of us who struggle, finding people in your life, who have forged the path and survived the hard knocks, can be the life line to helping you get where you want to be. Mentors help make things happen.