As a self-described Office fanatic, I can always find moments from the show that seem all too real in our careers.  Surely, we have all met a “Dwight” or even worked for a “Michael” and it’s those similarities that keep bringing new fans to the show even though it ended over a decade ago.  While I would love to write an entire blog on my love of the Office, that is not the crux of why we are here.  As I began putting thoughts down for the 3rd installment of “Coach’s Corner,” I had The Office playing in the background and this particular episode gave me the idea to begin writing.  It was Season 6, episode 3, I believe, in which “co-managers” Michael and Jim are tasked with how to choose who to give out raises to when there is not enough to go around to everyone.  As the episode unfolds and Jim’s “reasonable” decisions backfire one after the next, you see Michael and Jim hiding in the office and Michael smiles and says, “I used to have to do these things alone”.  They then share a drink to calm down.  If you really dissect the moment, you might find a hint of respect from Jim to Michael as well as a tad of teamwork from Michael to Jim as they navigate the situation.  To me, that screams MENTORSHIP!  Whether Jim realized it in the moment, he was under the tutelage of Michael and while they didn’t directly acknowledge it in that episode, I think they finally got to that point later on when Michael left the show and Jim admitted he was the best boss ever.
The Office promotion scene
I believe that Mentors can come in many backgrounds and forms,
but they all have 4 Striking Similarities:

  • Relatability
  • Experience/Knowledge
  • Understanding
  • Compassion

As I approach the age of 43, I have several who I consider Mentors.  Brian Rhatigan, who hired a pro AV “unknown” and who not only gave me my initial training but also the reassurance that I was on the right path.  Rob Ziv, who I once complimented as “Audio’s Babe Ruth” and who could’ve easily run in the other direction but instead continued to push me towards bigger things.  Tom Kehr, who will talk my ear off about terminology that is foreign to me, but never shies away from the “teachable moment” and has always said he’s got my back.  Last but not least, John Fuqua.  In the midst of a merger between Exertis and Almo, I gained a teammate that I didn’t know I needed.  I remember immediately looking at John’s Linkedin profile and realizing he had more years of experience than there are days in the month and instantly I knew I was about to learn a thing or two.  In the 2 years since the merger, John, Tom, and myself have teamed up on multiple audio projects, shared opinions, stories, and thoughts as well as a few comical moments along the way.  Whether it be sharing a meal during one of our E4 Experiences or the occasional Zoom message about a project one was working on, I always found myself thinking, “I used to have to do these things alone”.

As we head into the next 25% of 2024, one of my goals is to simply pay it forward.  As I continue to learn from the “Brian”s and “Rob”s and “Tom”s and “John”s of the industry it becomes essential to continue the evolution and pass those learnings off to others even if it’s a quick note about “what not to do” so others don’t follow my same mistakes! Just as important as the mentorship is, there needs to be a willing “mentee”.  Someone who doesn’t hide from those teachable moments I referenced and who shares the same eagerness for self-improvement.  Much like how we might’ve asked inquisitive questions as children, I’m sure I asked John and Tom my fair share of “Why’s?” along the way.  It was their Understanding and Compassion that made it easy.

It is a bittersweet moment as I write this because John Fuqua will soon be retiring at the end of March.  I gave some thought to what an appropriate gift would be, then would get sidetracked by ideas of gag gifts – just to get a laugh out of him.  In 2-year’s time, I’ve learned about DSP’s, Dante, speaker placement, amp selection, room acoustics, mixer control, and so much more simply from being a willing student and John being the Relatable yet Experienced Mentor.  It was quite fitting that at his final E4 Experience in DC, he made sure I was comfortable with the audio setup for the event but made sure to tell me “Facetime me at the next show if needed”.

One of the biggest reasons why I think mentorship is so important is that I feel it’s a logical step in the self-improvement process, not to mention the road to growth and advancement, regardless of which is most important to the mentee.  While I noted the 4 Similarities that a Mentor has, I think there are 3 Traits that every Mentee should possess:

    mentor retirement

  • Willingness
  • Humility
  • Passion

At the very beginning of my pro AV career (and even to this day), I am humbled both by what I know as well as what I don’t know.  Gone are the days when I would be too embarrassed to ask questions, and part of that is due to my mentors being so willing to support my education.  If a mentee has a passion/desire for improvement and growth, then the willingness to learn should follow easily.  However, admitting you could improve is always a good stepping stone!

All of this brings me to the future. John, I promise I will not bother you while you are building hot-rods, milking cattle, or living life on a beach somewhere with your loving family. You were the teammate I needed in the moment and your teachings always were appreciated, even when you would sit back and watch my stubborn self figure something out on my own!  I wish you all the best in the next chapter and will forever be indebted to the discussions you took the time for.

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image but giving them the opportunity to create themselves” – Steven Spielberg 

Enjoy this blog?
Let Rob know over on LinkedIn …and/or connect with #ExertisAlmo on our LinkedIn company page.

Robert Voorhees

About the Author

Rob Voorhees | CTS, CTP, DSCE, CTNS, Dante

BDM II – Technical Specialist

Supported Manufacturers: Business Communications Services, and Harman: AKG, AMX, BSS, Crown, DBX, JBL, Soundcraft, Martin Lighting

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