Every time I read one of those "keys to success" articles its at least one point that mentions the importance of a mentor. Soon as I started my internship at Imagineering many people reinforced the importance of a mentor and finding the right person to connect with. One of the best pieces of advice I received was to pick a mentor in a different career path. I ended up creating a team of mentors from different backgrounds but it all happened over time. There was a mentorship program through my internship; I ended up choosing a guy named Bob Loza, a Principal Fabrication Designer. I chose Bob because even though his work is within graphics, he' s apart of a design world that I really didn't know about, but I knew I needed to become knowledgeable about that world. Lesson #1 if you're interested in a certain department/trade but can't access it try to find a mentor in that trade/department that can casually educate you on the in's and out's. *Now don't go around using people, make sure its genuine. Through many conversations we both learned about different aspects of design, and talked about everything from future goals to voice over lessons.
Early into my internship I was introduced into the world of producing. I had no idea what producing really even meant but I knew my boss was good at it and it seemed like everyone in the company was some type of producer. I knew after I volunteered to produce something for an in house event that I should probably figure out what producing is and find someone who knows how to do it. Lesson #2 this has nothing to do with mentoring but if you're really interested in something but don't know how to do it, take the opportunity anyway. You can Google the rest later. My boss at the time Trish Cerrone is an executive producer and the best person for me to talk to about the job. I volunteered to create a weekly reoccurring meeting where I would updated her on my projects and also ask any questions in regards of advancement and producing. Throughout the months we created mentoring relationship (and a great friendship) where I could seriously go to her about everything (and I learned a TON about producing). At this point I have two mentors in two different lines of business. Lesson #3 feel free to diversify your mentors, having different mentors for different parts of life is a good thing.
During my very first project at Imagineering I met a woman by the name of Carmen Smith. I forgot exactly what happened the first time I met her but she has the type of presence that demands respect without having to say a word. I could tell she was serious about her work, and good at what she does. After working with her on this project and also the project I was producing for, I came to the conclusion that she's definitely someone I should connect with. Not only was she good at her job, well respected, and insanely connected. She's an African American executive, and we all know that unfortunately that's rare. I remember just coming out and asking her, and luckily she accepted. From my relationship with Carmen I've learned so much and have connected with people/projects that I would've never thought of. Through Carmen I was asked to produce something for a guy name Joe Rohde. I worked with Joe on this project and eventually another for the Disney D23 summit. After working with Joe for a few months I started to realize how smart he is and learned a ton about thinking differently. He's one of those people who is usually the smartest person in room and has had the opportunity to go on adventures that you would see on National Geographic. The mentorship happened organically but I still asked just to put it on there. Lesson #4 find someone who is extremely smart and can challenge your way of thinking.
At this point you're probably like, girl! How many mentors do you have? Lesson #5 going back to diversity, don't be afraid to form a team of people. You don't have to have just one mentor (but its okay if you do). I moved to LA not really knowing anyone, so people that I worked with quickly became friends and people that I could go to in different situations. Along with my boss, another Designer/Creative Producer Stephanie Colvin, became a mentor/friend I could go to about anything. Lesson #6 find a mentor that you can go to about anything, even personal stuff. I know I can call Stephanie and get her guidance on a job but also talk about how we should quit our jobs and open a design studio.
My last mentor, but definitely not least, Dian Holton, Art Director and Designer. Even though I have mentors in many different areas I really didn't have a mentor that I could talk about all types of design with that was currently practicing it. One thing that I really couldn't find is an African American woman that met those qualifications. One day I was scrolling through the AIGA national site and I ran across the Diversity Task Force. I was so curious about this because I never heard of it. I read Dian's profile, looked at her work, and loved it. I also noticed that she's involved in mentoring in her own chapter. We seemed to have similar interests so I figured I would reach out and see if she's interested in mentoring a random girl off the internet. Luckily for me she was, and now I have someone I can talk to whom I know understands my experiences in the design industry. Lesson #7 don't let "I don't have any one around me" be an excuse. Reach out to people you don't know and take a chance. Yes, it’s a chance they may not respond but it’s not the end of the world.
If you don't have a mentor, focus on what you would want to learn and compile a list of people you look up to and would love to learn from. Go through the list and reach out, even if the person doesn't have time for a mentorship, maybe they would be open to a meet and greet over coffee, or a quick phone call. I'm learning more and more that you never know whom you can reach out to until you try. Do you guys have mentors? Do you think it’s beneficial?