By Lee Hall
Special to TelevisionWeek
NAMIC’s L. Patrick Mellon Mentorship Program has helped hundreds of aspiring young people find their way in a complex business world.
Begun in 1993, the program was renamed four years later to honor the late L. Patrick Mellon, one of the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications’ founding members. It is designed to facilitate diversity in the cable and telecommunications industries by matching NAMIC members with seasoned executive-level mentors who steer them toward positive career development.
“I understand that people sometimes have difficulty navigating an organization’s culture. This [mentorship] can help them better understand how to do that and how to progress in their career,” said Mae Douglas, senior VP and chief people officer for Cox Communications in Atlanta.
Mentors must commit to stay in the program for at least nine months and to offer support, guidance and career advice on an as-needed basis. Ms. Douglas calls her current mentoring of a young woman through the NAMIC program a natural fit.
“Part of it for me is that I understand that I need to give something back. And I have a great interest in seeing people achieve their potential,” she said.
Jenny Alonzo, senior VP of production, planning and multicultural strategies for Lifetime Entertainment Services and NAMIC’s immediate past president, has seen the program from both sides. Ms. Alonzo got a crash course in association management from her mentor, industry veteran Rob Stoddard, the senior VP of communications and public affairs at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
“When I started my term [as NAMIC president], I realized there was a lot of stuff that I was not prepared for, like how to navigate the press world. Having Rob as a mentor provided me with someone of whom I could ask questions and bounce ideas off of. It was an absolutely wonderful experience,” she said.
Ms. Alonzo has since served as a mentor to two NAMIC members. In one case, she said, she persuaded a young woman not to go into the cable business.
“Her passion was really not in this area. To this day she sends me notes and tells me that she is very happy,” Ms. Alonzo said.
Quid Pro Quo
While the benefit to the mentee is apparent, the mentor can also get a lot out of the relationship. Ms. Alonzo said she gained valuable insight from one of her mentees about how to relate to younger employees.
“I was able to use some of what I learned from her to manage my own team, some of whom are quite young. I probably gained more than I was able to offer in return,” Ms. Alonzo said.
Beyond fostering close relationships and helping people hone their skills, the mentorship program promotes diversity by showing young people they can build a successful career within the cable business, said Vicki Hamilton, president of NAMIC’s Atlanta chapter.
“It is imperative that we continue to work to figure out ways to retain these people and to provide them with opportunities so they don’t feel they have to leave the industry in order to advance,” Ms. Hamilton said.
NAMIC members and potential mentors may participate in the mentorship program via an online application. The program seeks to match the needs and interests of each mentee with the appropriate industry professional. Once matched, the pair enters into an informal contract that spells out expectations.
The connection includes individual homepages that help with scheduling appointments and that include an online chat option. All conversations are confidential. Only one area is considered taboo: Participants are not permitted to discuss future employment possibilities within their respective organizations.
NAMIC tweaked the program in June, creating a new format the organization thinks will help it keep better track of participants and improve results. New nine-month cycles begin every January, June and September.
For information about the mentorship program, contact Bernard Guinyard at 212-594-5985 or at email@example.com.