The benefit of experience

A mentor is someone who shows by example and helps lead you along your personal or professional path. There have been many descriptions of Walter Cronkite lately, and a frequent one was mentor. Integrity, trust, respect, and industry knowledge all play a large part in being and becoming a mentor. In the last year there have been many letters and articles on the impact Bill O’Brien had on individuals and the industry. He was also a mentor.

According to, mentoring is a matter of trust. “Mentoring is a structured and trusting relationship” that brings younger people together with individuals who offer guidance, support, and encouragement aimed at developing their competence and character. “A mentor is an adult who, provides support, counsel, friendship, reinforcement, and constructive example. Mentors are good listeners, people who care, people who want to help young people bring out strengths that are already there.”
According to “Beyond the Myths and Magic of Mentoring” by Margo Murray, the concept of mentoring goes back to the Middle Ages and craft guilds. Professional societies were established to train the younger inexperienced worker by following the example of an older, experienced craftsman. It’s still a valid concept today, people still need to be trained, and it’s a low-cost strategy for developing a skilled work force.

Finding a good mentor
A good mentor will help improve another’s skills, personally or professionally, by increasing technical or problem-solving abilities. So where do you find one? Look around at your place of employment. Is there someone you admire, someone you look up to? Or, if you belong to a professional organization, there may be someone you see as a role model that you think would be helpful in your career advancement.

And what qualities should you look for? A good mentor should be professional, a good listener and negotiator, and knowledgeable about industry practices, regulations, and technology.

Approach the individual and ask if he or she would consider being your mentor. Depending on the individual, and your current relationship, your proposal will vary in the amount of detail and how it is delivered. At the very least, let the person know why you selected them and what you hope to accomplish. If appropriate for the specific individual, you can also discuss amounts of time to be committed and what you will contribute.

I talked to a few people in the industry to see what impact mentors have had on their careers.

According to Ken MacTiernan, his first mentor was a sergeant in the Air Force. MacTiernan has worked for American Airlines for 23 years and is on the board of directors for AMTSociety. “He was my first supervisor when I was 17 in the Air Force. He was a great guy, very professional. His way of keeping you up to speed was to ask questions, he wasn’t trying to trick you. He led by his appearance and actions.

“Another mentor was Bill O’Brien, he showed by example. He would ask if I ever finished my degree, he never pushed, but would keep asking, ‘Have you ever thought about getting inspection authorization license?’ I said I didn’t need it at American. He said, “You never know, and it looks good on the resume. MacTiernan is three units away from getting his associate’s degree and got his IA certification nine months ago and gives O’Brien the credit. “He mentored by being positive and never overbearing.”

Howard Fuller also credits Bill O’Brien as being a good mentor. Fuller is an A&P that founded Solatec Corp. in 1998; the company is based in Greenville, NH.

“I have had many mentors over the years,” Fuller says, “in pretty much all areas of civilian aviation. One that stands out head and shoulders above the rest, though, is Bill O’Brien.

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