Intercultural Mentoring Panel Highlights Mentoring Challenges and Opportunities > Air Force > Article Display

That Luftwaffe Material Command recently hosted its first cross-cultural mentoring panel, aiming to inspire and motivate individuals to seek diverse mentoring relationships as they grow in their careers.

The virtual event, coinciding with the annual Black History Month observance, included a group of Black executives from across the command, including Alphonso Thomas, director of engineering and technical management at the Air Force Conservation Center; Col. Jenise Carroll, commander of the 75th Air Base Wing, Hill Air Force Base, Utah; and Master Sgt. Aaron Trammell, construction supervisor, Tinker AFBOklahoma, who shared their personal experiences and challenges as members of a minority demographic in the areas of mentoring and careers.

“Development and support [are] important for growth in all career areas,” said Thomas. “This discussion today is a big part of what it really takes to evolve and grow.”

More than 350 people tuned in to the event, hosted on ZoomGov, with panelists answering questions on all aspects of mentoring relationships. The importance of taking personal responsibility for one’s career and seeking the advice of leaders from all demographics emerged as a recurring theme throughout the event, which emphasized mentoring across cultural and gender boundaries.

“I’ve been fortunate to have many lifelong mentors, and that’s why I’m where I am today,” Carroll said. “I didn’t have anyone who looked like me… who looked after me throughout my journey, [but] that hasn’t stopped me from asking for mentoring. Knowing that other people are being cared for… so raise your hand and say why not me? And I actually did that early in my career when I really wanted to do something. I think sometimes you have to ask what you want.”

According to the panellists, while race is not a predominant topic in mentoring conversations, they agreed that it is discussed more often when working with a person of the same race or gender who is interested in how the mentor tackles a particular challenge or coped with the situation as a member of the same community.

In cross-cultural mentoring relationships, however, when race-related discussions arise, being aware of cultural stereotypes and the uniqueness of a person’s life and career experiences is critical to openness, transparency, and success.

“It’s very easy to ask a person questions about a demographic, [but] often this person cannot answer this question for demographics. You know, “How does an African American think about this?” I can only tell you what an African American thinks about this,” Thomas said. “When that happens, the first thing you need to be sure of is that you respect each other in this mentor-mentee relationship … You respect each other enough to tell when there are discussions that are either inappropriate, or discussions that might be.” potentially offensive. You have to be ahead and do that. But still, reach out, be proactive. Look for a diverse group of people to mentor.”

The event also provided panelists with an opportunity to share personal mentoring experiences that have shaped their development as leaders. The leaders also offered advice for those interested in becoming a mentor but unsure if they were ready or how to start.

“When you achieve 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 experience, then you’re ready,” Trammell said. “You can also help the next generation or the person who comes behind you to achieve this.”

This event is the first in a row various cross-cultural mentoring panels planned for 2022 across the AFMC. The events are one of several ongoing efforts to promote more diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in all areas. The goal of the events is to train and empower Airmen of all demographics to pursue mentorship and better understand the challenges others face when working towards achieving their career goals.

The next AFMC Intercultural Mentoring Panel is scheduled for March 30 at 2pm ET to coincide with the observance of Women’s History Month. More details will be released at AFMC mentoring website.

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