By Stephen Hickok
DCMA Public Affairs
FORT LEE, Va. - It has been portrayed in movies and TV shows, groups of people paired off at tables for two, introducing themselves, making small talk, getting up and moving to repeat the whole process with a new person. It’s called speed dating, and it is the inspiration for a new mentorship program at Defense Contract Management Agency.
“This is something that’s existed obviously in the dating realm for some time, but many organizations within professional and trade organizations have been doing this for years,” said George Braxton, DCMA special advisor for Diversity and Inclusion. “We decided we wanted to give it a spin here at headquarters.”
The new speed mentoring program works just like the dating version. A mentor is stationed at each table and a team member interested in being mentored starts at one of the tables. The program director signals the beginning of a seven-minute conversation with a whistle. The next whistle ends the session signaling to the participants they have 30 seconds to move to the next mentor. The whole event takes about two hours depending on how many are in attendance.
Braxton recently finished the second speed mentoring event and he anticipates positive feedback to continue. “From the reviews we’ve received from the first one it was very successful,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to people making connections and learning something from their time with each other.”
The program is part of DCMA’s Strategic Plan initiative 3.2.2, which is developing a culture of mentoring within the agency.
“Mentoring is something, that in most healthy organizations, happens organically,” said Braxton. “People pass on their institutional knowledge; people pass on what is very important to being successful in a career. What we want to do is make sure people understand that’s something important to the agency. It’s important to the leadership, and we want to create environments where that can happen.”
This event focused on government employees at the 12 and 13 grade levels being mentored by employees at the 14 and 15 grade levels. According to Braxton, speed mentoring is about making connections with people further along in their careers and possibly finding out the secrets of getting there.
Those secrets are often held by people in the same office, said Braxton. “Very often we work side by side with people and we don’t know a lot about them, we don’t know what their goals are or how they got where they are.”
One participant was impressed with the information shared during the event. “I decided to do this to get to the next step,” said Melissa Burgess, labor and employee relations specialist. “Sometimes you just don’t know what is all involved, what type of classes you should take, what kind of training you should seek. I think it is amazing. From all the senior leaders in the room providing information on as far as what you should do and here is what I did” I think they gave some invaluable information.”
Speed mentoring at headquarters is just the first step. Braxton encourages all DCMA offices to hold their own events. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion has step by step program instructions along with everything needed to get started.
“It’s very organic. Just put the pieces in place,” Braxton said. “It’s a build it and they will come kind of thing. We hope people do it and do it better. Then we can learn from them and do it again at headquarters.”
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