It is rare and a benefit when someone automatically develops as a mentee at the earliest stages of life. That’s exactly what happened to Maria V. Thorpe, head of NAVAIR’s Avionics Systems Integration Branch.
As the youngest girl of eight, Thorpe’s childhood gave her the innate ability to listen effectively, acquire knowledge from life lessons and become motivated to succeed. Thorpe achieved her goal of becoming the first in her family to attend and graduate from college. Thanks to the mentoring she received from her teachers, older siblings and family members, she sought the advice of professional mentors later in life, which ultimately contributed to her successful career in naval aviation.
Thorpe began her career working as a Cooperative Education Employment Program student for Naval Sea Systems Command and progressed to a senior engineer. Her mentor during those early years helped motivate her to look for opportunities with more visibility, which demonstrated her capabilities. Following her mentor’s advice, she began working for the Air Force at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio as an engineer.
In August 1990, she accepted a position at Naval Air Development Center in Warminster, Pa., where she was one of the few electrical engineers in the Human Systems Department.
“My mentors were able to help me identify my path forward in my career and help me focus and plan on how to get there,” she said. This led Thorpe to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, where she continued her work in the Human Systems Department.
Through hard work, determination and supportive mentors, Thorpe has risen through the ranks and is currently head of the Avionics Systems Integration Branch, where she leads a team of engineers, technicians and contractors. Dreaming big and learning from motivating mentors helped her along the way, she said.
In addition to her successful career, Thorpe has received numerous awards and honors, including the Black Engineer of the Year Award for Community Service, the Department of Defense Women’s History Month Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Role Model Award, and a Women of Color Technology & Defense Award for Outstanding Achievements in Government.
Becoming a mentor was also something Thorpe was born to do.
“I wanted to be able to give back,” she said. “I have been fortunate throughout my career to have wonderful mentors and think individuals who are able to have mentors in their life create opportunities for success, both personally and professionally.”
Her most gratifying experience as a mentor is watching her mentees realize their goals and grow in their personal and professional lives, she said.
She recommends her senior colleagues join NAVAIR’s Mentoring Program. “It can help you grow, and it is a great opportunity for you to meet and share your experiences with the next generation of NAVAIR leaders,” she said.
Take a minute to consider the professional benefits of mentoring. To learn more about NAVAIR’s Mentoring Program, visit https://mentoring.navair.navy.mil or contact Donna Belcher, NAVAIR’S mentoring program manager, at 301-342-5096. If you have a personal mentoring success story to share, contact Veronica Miskowski at 301-757-8391 or Lonnie Snead at 301-757-8252. We’d love to hear from you.