Mentors give us wings! January is National Mentoring Month, celebrating the positive effect it can have while encouraging individuals to mentor. Several members of the Community Foundation’s Board of Directors shared how mentoring has impacted them, including Michelle Schuler, pictured above.
David Gross, SECURA
“Mentoring has been so important to me throughout my life. From my parents to five siblings, to teachers and coaches and friends, I’ve been blessed by many men and women who have taken the time to listen to me and help me develop into the person I am.
“As I broadened into greater leadership roles, it has been my honor and privilege to mentor others. Perhaps I’m most proud of the reverse mentoring program that I started at SECURA, whereby ‘newbie’s’ mentor senior leaders, across a host of topics and life lessons. It opens my eyes and my heart to all and cuts down on management barriers.”
Michelle Schuler, manager, TechSpark Wisconsin
“My professional journey through life is all because of people who I met along the way. People who saw strengths and passions in me long before I could see them. This network of people became my friends, and some organically became my mentors. Thank you everyone who has been part of my professional journey. I continue to learn each day from all of you. To my mentors, thank you for believing in me and giving me the strength to believe in myself.”
Pa Lee Moua, diversity, equity and inclusion officer, Appleton Area School District
“Mentorship is an important aspect of one’s personal and professional development. We learn and grow through our interactions with other people.
“I am a firm believer in the power of representation because personal narratives change perceptions, possibilities, and purpose in life.”
Jon Stellmacher, retired, Thrivent
“The greatest lesson from my mentors was that they saw potential in me that I didn’t see in myself. They pushed me to the edge of my comfort zone and beyond, to take on new challenges and develop new skills outside those that were my personal relative strengths. These stretches led to opportunities and experiences I never could have imagined.
“My mentors did more than help me alone. They reinforced a central element of development: taking on new and difficult challenges. I’ve tried to do the same for those I mentored. This shows how a mentor’s impact can reach far beyond one individual!”
Reg Wydeven, attorney, McCarty Law
“I’ve been very blessed to have a few great mentors in my practice. First, my dad was always there to mentor me through college, law school and the early part of my career when we practiced together. While I could look up statutes or research caselaw for answers to legal questions, he was instrumental to me for teaching me how to deal with families and different personalities and to find creative solutions to issues that aren’t in statutes or cases. Even after he retired and updates in the law passed him by, I would still meet with him to discuss more personal issues of clients.
“After my dad retired in 2004, John Esler took me under his wing and shared different, but equally effective, strategies for dealing with families and finding solutions for problems. No matter how busy he was, he always made time for me to pepper him with questions.
“When he retired, I tried to remember what I learned when I suddenly was the seasoned attorney and had to mentor our younger associates. After struggling with that role reversal for a decade, I was again fortunate to have Ben Adams and Bill Woodrow join our firm. They joined with an eye toward retirement and the hopes of finding a home for their clients. Both were in their 60s and had practiced for a long time. Suddenly, I got not only one, but two mentors! It was wonderful to not have to be the attorney with all the answers and I could look to them for guidance, which they also happily supplied.
“I believe that for every career, you can find books that tell you what is involved with a job and what are the benchmarks for succeeding in that job. But in my mind, to be truly effective in your career, to be truly effective in dealing with customers or clients and effective in dealing with coworkers, that can’t be found in a book – it requires mentoring.”