and I’m a Community builder and social analyst based in Kitchener-Waterloo
The Best Mentors I Ever Had Transformed Me into a People-Centric Thinker
(Originally for Switch & Shift)
In the ten years that I’ve been employed, I had just over dozen jobs. And while, like most people, I can point out which jobs gave me what skills, there is one place that sticks out above the rest. The job itself was a combination of product marketing and community management. However, it was the mentorship that I received that placed it above the rest.
I understand how cliche that sounds. Search mentorship and you’ll find a dozen blog posts saying the same thing. However, they were so fantastic that I actually contemplated dating their son* to just be able to spend more time with them. To this day, I still tell people that I was willing to marry into the family of the best mentors I ever had.
What made them so special? They made me into a people-centric thinker.
When I was at the ripe old age of 19, I found REAP Waterloo. REAP is an incubator that focuses on mentorship and utilizing already-made tech for new solutions. You can read my piece on here (Amy, hyperlink the piece here). The interview process involved taking three items out of a mystery box and creating three different uses for each product. From there, we had to choose our most innovative solution and do a 30 second elevator pitch.
Based upon which products and solution we came up with, Jill and Dave Goodwin, the founders of REAP, decided if we were a good fit. And if you were a good fit, they were going to take you places. Our incubator was housed in one of the best-known communications firms in the region. Each student (or REAPster as we so lovingly called ourselves) had both of the Goodwins as mentors, plus a few other individuals with the expertise in the types of products and solutions we gravitated towards. These additional mentors were hand chosen by the Goodwins, showing the dedication and care they put into each student’s journey.
From the beginning, they treated us like real researchers and innovators. We were paid for our work. Moreover, we had to created detailed invoices of everything we wanted to claim as work. On the days that I worked in the incubator, Dave and Jill would do a check-in with me. This meant everything from technical questions on my projects to asking me how I was doing.
Above, no matter what project I was on, Jill and Dave wanted to help me become the best version of me possible. When my thesis was accepted as a presentation at a prestigious academic conference, the Goodwins cheered me on. When I wanted to look at local economics and student jobs, they made me to prove to them why it should be a REAP project. It was never a system where you were given everything on a silver platter. Instead, you had a group of individuals who truly wanted you to grow into a people-centric thinker.
When I mean people-centric, I don't mean sales-centric. There were question at every step of the way, all on how this project will affect people. How will better society? What solutions will this bring? In your research, why did this solution catch your attention? And, most importantly, is there desirability?
In every job that I have gone on to do, these questions follow me. How will this project better society? What solutions does this task bring? Why about this job caught my eye and what changes do I think it can bring? And, most importantly, do I have desirability for this work and is this work desired by others?
People always think that mentors are individuals in the workplace that help you get up the ladder. I've had those kind of mentors. But, the best mentors I've ever had made me a people-centric thinker. They gave me the skills to be the best person I could be - and I doubt I'll find another set of mentors like that again. However, in the roles where I've been given leadership, I try to enact these qualities. If I can be even half the mentor to others that the Goodwins were to me, I'll call that a success.
*In my defence, their son is a solid human and I am glad that I got to be friends and coworkers with him over the span of 4 years. Paul, if you are reading this, I’m now married. It just didn’t work out for us - I would gladly set you up with my single friends. Also, I’m going to go out for coffee with your parents soon. I’ll make sure they pass on my well wishes.
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