WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio —
Air Force Materiel Command hosted its first Cross-Cultural Mentoring Group, Feb. 22, with the goal of inspiring and motivating individuals to seek out diverse mentoring relationships as they grow in their careers.
Coinciding with the annual celebration of Black History Month, the event brought together a panel of black leaders from across the command, including Alphonso Thomas, director of engineering and technical management at the Air Force Sustainment Center; Col. Jenise Carroll, 78th Air Force Base Wing Commander, Hill Air Force Base; and Staff Sgt. Aaron Trammel, Superintendent of Contracts, Tinker AFB, who shared his personal experiences and challenges as a member of a minority demographic in the areas of mentorship and career.
“Development and mentorship are important for growth in all career areas,” Thomas said. “This discussion today is a big part of what it really takes to develop and grow.”
Over 350 people tuned in to the event hosted on ZoomGov, with panelists answering questions about all aspects of mentoring relationships. The importance of taking personal responsibility for your career and seeking input from leaders across all demographics emerged as a recurring theme throughout the event, which emphasized pushing boundaries. cultural and gender issues in mentoring.
“I’ve been blessed with many mentors throughout my life, and that’s why I’m here where I am today,” Carroll said. “I didn’t have anyone who looked like me… who mentored me throughout my journey, [but] that didn’t stop me from asking for mentorship. Knowing that other people are framed…so you raise your hand and say, why not me? And I did it early in my career when I really wanted to do something. I think sometimes you have to ask for what you want.
According to the panelists, although race is not a prominent topic in mentoring conversations, they agreed that it was more often discussed when working with someone of the same race or gender who is interested. how the mentor handled a specific challenge or situation. as a member of the same demographic group.
In cross-cultural mentoring relationships, however, when race-related discussions emerge, being aware of cultural stereotypes and the unique nature of an individual’s life and career experiences is essential to openness, transparency and to success.
“It is very easy to tell or ask an individual about a demographic group, [but] often this individual cannot answer this question for the demographic group. You know, ‘how does an African American think about that?’ I can only tell you what an African American thinks about it,” Thomas said. “When that happens, you first have to make sure that you respect each other in this mentor-mentee relationship…you respect each other enough to say when there are discussions that are either inappropriate or discussions that can potentially be offensive. You have to be up front, and do it. But still, reach out, be proactive. Look for a diverse group of people to mentor.
The event also provided panelists with the opportunity to share personal mentoring experiences that have shaped them in their growth as a leader. Leaders also offered advice for those who wanted to become mentors but weren’t sure if they were ready or how to get started.
“When you accomplish something…whether it’s a degree, a professional license, or professional success, you’re ready to be a mentor. When people come up to you and ask, ‘how did you do that?’ and you can tell them about your experiences, which is when you’re ready,” Trammel said. “You can also help the next generation or the person who follows you to achieve it.”
This event is the first in a series of diverse cross-cultural mentoring panels scheduled for 2022 across AFMC. The events are part of a number of ongoing efforts to foster greater diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in all areas. The goal of these events is to educate and empower Airmen of all demographics to pursue mentorship and better understand the challenges others face as they work toward their career goals.
The recorded event can be viewed on:
Additional information about mentoring and future panel events can be found on the Mentoring Feature page of the AFMC website at https://www.afmc.af.mil/careers/AFMC-Mentoring/.
The next AFMC Cross-Cultural Mentoring Panel is scheduled for March 30 at 2 p.m. ET to coincide with the celebration of Women’s History Month. Additional details will be posted on the AFMC Mentorship site.