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Courtesy of Naval Air System Command's Mentoring Program Externally Directed Team.

This month's mentoring spotlight is on the Naval Air Systems Command Mentoring Program Manager, Donna Belcher.

How long have you been the Mentoring Program Manager?

Since June 2007 when I was assigned to the AIRSPEED project team chartered to benchmark government and private industry mentoring programs and take the “best of breed” to develop Naval Air Systems Command’s mentoring program.

Belcher’s professional journey

I began working with the Navy right out of high school as a GS-2 clerk typist in the Joint Cruise Missiles Project, now called PEO U&W, personnel office in Crystal City, Va.

I supported the team that handled all human resource matters for JCMP personnel: staffing, classification, awards, manpower, performance management and training. I relocated with JCMP to NAS Patuxent River in 1997 as the training coordinator and later as a team lead for training, awards and Beneficial Suggestions.

In 2001, my mentor recommended a change, so I left JCMP and became a team lead on the NAVAIR 7.0C staff managing training and awards for 7.0, and later transferred to the NAVAIR Career Development Office. I worked with the Virtual SYSCOM team to develop a Navy-wide skills process then called the Five Vector Model. I developed the NAVAIR Career Development Handbook and assisted with developing a CDO website.

In 2004, my mentor encouraged me to take a position at the Naval Network and Space Operations Command in Dahlgren, Va., as team lead for the military and civilian training program.

I then moved into a supervisory position managing the staffing and recruitment division for NNSOC. After the command was notified in the spring of 2005 that it would be relocated to Norfolk, Va., I lead a team to standup a Command Transition Center offering training and guidance to those affected by the move.

Once the team was established, I returned to NAVAIR at Pax River and the CDO. I’m currently responsible for numerous projects; the largest by far is the Mentoring Program.

The program’s evolution from 2007 to today

NAVAIR’s Mentoring Program is the result of months of benchmarking, analysis, and voice of the customer collection during a Black Belt AIRSPEED project. We kicked off the program in June 2007 by asking senior leaders to become mentors and sign up using the iMentor Tool.

The iMentor tool is just one of the mentoring tools available to the NAVAIR workforce. iMentor allows users to register as a mentor or a mentee, and can assist mentees in finding a mentor.

Once NAVAIR’s senior leaders were registered in iMentor, we cascaded the request down through mid-management. When there were sufficient mentors, the program was promoted throughout the command.

We currently have almost 4,000 mentors and menteesor protégésregistered in the iMentor Tool, with many more informal, but meaningful, developmental partnerships established.

Since 2007, I’ve deployed “Introduction to Mentoring” training and updated the original iMentor Tool several times.

During 2012, I collaborated with several teams to hold mentoring events and introduce speed mentoring to the workforce to increase program awareness.

I am currently working on an Advanced Mentoring class and computer-based training. But the biggest change is the new version of iMentor that will deploy in early 2013. It has an updated look and feel with greater search functionality. It will allow for uploading photographs and will capture user feedback. A much needed upgrade to our current tool.

Some of the program’s great successes

It is very inspiring to hear mentors and mentees share their success stories and how mentorship has helped them personally and professionally.

The two mentoring events at NAS Patuxent River and broadcasted nationally this year, “Who Mentored You?” and “Navigating NAVAIR and Beyond,” brought together a varied group of presenters who shared how mentoring enhanced their careers and helped them get to where they are today.

There has also been a lot of interest from other Navy agencies looking to benchmark NAVAIR’s mentoring program and utilize the iMentor Tool.

Belcher’s goals for the program

First, I want the workforce to be aware of the Mentoring Program and its benefits and truly understand how mentorship can enhance their careers. I want supervisors to realize that supporting mentoring improves employee morale, leads to increased productivity and helps with knowledge transfer.

We are facing a potential mass exodus in the coming years as baby boomers begin to retire. Mentorship is a great way to capture knowledge that may otherwise be lost.

If you had one message for the NAVAIR workforce related to mentoring, what would it be? Find a mentor and be a mentor. Mentorship can open doors and provide opportunities that might not otherwise become available. Participating in mentorship can be a very rewarding experience.