Where Mentors Fit into the Circle of life

In the work force mentors become part of ones family.

July is my birth month. As I get older, my birthdays become less celebratory and more reflective. I guess that’s natural with aging, although I still enjoy receiving gifts.

I recently heard from one of my cousins in California that her mother, my Aunt Betty, had passed away. She was in her 90s and had been in declining health. As my father’s last living sibling, Aunt Betty represented the last of her generation, which I grew up knowing and learning from.

My dad passed away 10 years ago and was the youngest of eight. He had seven older sisters with Betty closest to him in age. They had a close relationship, too, since they were only one grade apart in school. It seems my grandfather kept having children (all girls) until he got a boy to carry on the family name and then apparently called it quits. 

Being an only child myself made me the only son of an only son. During the Vietnam War, when I was draft eligible, nobody told me that my “only son of an only son” status would have kept me out of combat. That issue became moot when I was not chosen during the draft lottery. Military service was not popular then, so I was pleased. My attitude about serving our country has changed dramatically through the years, though, as I have gotten to know veterans and learned how special they are. 

Aunt Betty’s passing made me think about people in my life that had influence in my development as a person and in my career. As I said, birthdays have become reflective.

I have been blessed with friends, family and mentors who have taken the time to basically “raise” me personally and professionally. My start in life was a little shaky, having lost my birth mother at the tender age of two and a half. That was in the 1950s and single fathers were not really a thing in those years. Therefore, another one of my dad’s sisters took me in, while she had seven of her own children. It was quite a childhood and learning experience. My family was matriarchal, with the five oldest children being girls. The three youngest kids, including me, were boys and were close in age. My one cousin and I were only two weeks apart in age and were very close and remain so.

It was an interesting childhood, but truth be told, I can’t think of a better one. I now understand how lucky I was to be loved and embraced by my family.

After my school years as I moved into the workforce, my family grew to include mentors and colleagues. Maybe you have had the good fortune of the presence of a good mentor or two in your career. If you have, you understand their value.

One of the first of mine was Dick Neu. He was the advertising and PR manager at Cincinnati Milacron and hired me to do PR for the company’s turning center line of machine tools. He taught me how to write for a technical audience and, depending on your opinion, I have been trying to successfully do that ever since.

Dick was a smart and generous man who had the confidence to share what he knew with those of us who knew much less. To me, that is the definition of a mentor. I’ve met too many people in my career who are too insecure to mentor subordinates.

Another mentor in my career was Harold “Hal” Moore. He was a character. He was a single, cigar smoking, martini drinking machine tool agency owner who took me in for a year and taught me a lot. Hal’s love of the business of making things instilled passion for the business because his was infectious. His flagship account was Cincinnati Gilbert, which built boring mills back in the day and sponsored Hal’s agency.

Working with Hal’s agency taught me many things, not the least being that the metalworking industry has a breadth beyond any one manufacturer. There are many things that make this industry tick and that helped set me on my current course in trade magazine journalism.

As time has passed, and my confidence in what I know has grown, I will promise to never make the mistake of trying to hold anybody back by not sharing what I know. I hope you feel the same way and share your industry knowledge by being a mentor.

It’s been a great ride for 25 years, and the things I’ve learned, the people I’ve met and the places I’ve seen were unimaginable to that two-and-a-half-year-old moving into to his cousin’s house all those years ago.