Opportunities Abound in the NRL Mentor Program

8/27/1996 - 43-96r
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In its second year of existence, the NRL Mentor Program continues to provide opportunities for both mentors and mentorees. A number of successful mentorship teams have been reported through the program's annual progress review. Those involved in the program report gaining valuable organizational and career knowledge and constructive feedback that may not have been possible without the Mentor Program.

Let's visit several Mentor Program members. The first is a team established in the Executive Directorate that brought together mentor Ms. Chrystal Hill of the Radar Division with mentoree Mr. William Guthrie of the Administrative Services Branch, Technical Information Division.

Mr. Guthrie joined the program to expand his professional knowledge with an eye to advancement and to prepare for a possible career change. "I came to the program with three goals in mind: to be an administrative officer, a management analyst, and/or to be qualified for my supervisor's position upon her retirement," says Mr. Guthrie.

Ms. Hill met regularly with Mr. Guthrie during the past year, and established a training plan for him. As part of the training curriculum, Ms. Hill arranged for one-to-one discussions with Mr. Joseph Cox, Acting Budget Officer, and assisted Mr. Guthrie in enrolling in the Defense Business Operations Fund (DBOF) training course and other NRL related courses. Mr. Guthrie will attend an administrative officer's course scheduled for later this year.

According to Ms. Hill, "I have learned much from the experience of mentoring William. I have gained insight into the operation of a support code by visiting his work area and receiving valuable firsthand information on the differences between the support and research codes.

"Thanks to Chrystal, I was able to visit other areas of the Lab, to observe the agency's internal functions and their interactions that directly support NRL," said Mr. Guthrie. "I, in turn, invited Chrystal to my workplace and shared a hands-on demonstration of my responsibilities that enabled her to make suggestions, that will build on my present knowledge and assist me in reaching my career goals. Being a part of the Mentor Program has provided me with opportunities that I was not aware existed at NRL or were not available to me outside an established training program. My experience in the Mentor Program has progressed so well, I will continue in the program, receiving additional guidance from Chrystal to reach my career goals," concluded Mr. Guthrie.

Another successful team consists of mentor Ms. Diane Martin of NRL's Management Information Systems Staff, and Mr. Billy Wright of the Supply Divisions' Credit Card Branch.

"I introduced Billy to careers that deal with computers, explaining some of the different ways computers can be utilized in the workplace. We discussed the differences between personal computers and terminals for accessing computer systems such as the MISVAX or LABMIS and the capabilities of each. I feel we both learned a great deal about interpersonal relations in regard to the handicapped employee. Billy has shown me a different view on what the handicapped employee faces in the work environment. I reciprocated by providing Billy with views from the non-handicapped side, as we work on possible solutions to some of these issues," said Ms. Martin.

According to Mr. Wright, "I am the current chairperson of the NRL Individuals With Disabilities (IWD) Committee, and Diane has been most helpful in providing me with many new ideas and assistance in continuing the proactive direction of the IWD committee. We are both working on such matters as developing an IWD Home Page which will explain what the IWD is and what services are provided. In addition, the Home Page will contain information and links to information that would be of interest to the disabled or anyone that deals with the disabled.

"Through our mentorship, we are investigating ways to help the disabled at NRL. Every year 1.8 million people are injured in car accidents. Out of this number, 780,000 people are physically disabled and are unable to work for at least five months. Their return to the workforce is a big test both psychologically and physically. The IWD would like to be available to help these NRLer's return to work and again be productive members of the NRL organization."

Both Ms. Martin and Mr. Wright report they are pleased with their experience and will continue in the Mentor Program.

The Optical Sciences Division (OSD) had the largest number of participants in January 1995, when 20 mentor/mentoree pairs began the program. According to Dr. Celia Merzbacher, Mentor Program OSD Coordinator and a mentoree in the pilot program, "The high participation rate was aided by the explicit endorsement of our Division Superintendent, Dr. Thomas Giallorenzi, who spoke at a seminar held to explain the program to potential mentors and mentorees. The seminar included video excerpts from Dr. Coffey's speech at the ceremony establishing the NRL Mentor Program, as well as firsthand accounts from a mentor and mentoree who participated in the pilot program. The presentation helped people to understand the 'resources' that the program has to offer and realize that NRL management is fully supportive to the highest levels."

Dr. Merzbacher met individually with mentorees to discuss their goals and backgrounds and also with potential mentors in order to make appropriate matches. "This step was critical to
identifying the right mentor for each mentoree and paid off in overall success of the program", she said.

At the year-end review, Dr. Merzbacher, Dr. Giallorenzi and program participants met in small groups for a period of 20 minutes to discuss the program. This review was quite successful in determining how the program was working within the division.

According to Dr. Patricia Tatem, of the Chemistry Division and Mentor Program Co Chairperson, "The NRL Mentor Program provides an opportunity for participants to achieve career and personal goals, whatever they may be. The program is a mechanism for gaining insight into realistic pathways to reach these goals. The most important part of the program is good communication between mentors and mentorees. Success in the program cannot be achieved without this one, very important ingredient.

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