In December 2012, the DIA Director approved an updated DIA Instruction on mentoring. As a result, there has been an increase in DIA-sponsored programs that highlight how mentoring can support career development, leadership and training objectives, as well as foster an environment of collaboration, continual learning and competency development. Two types of events have promoted the value of mentoring: the first was a panel discussion in January 2013 in recognition of National Mentoring Month, the second is a permanent block of discussion in the new employee orientation program (called “Touchstone”) that introduces employees to the concept and value of mentoring. DIAA members participated in both of those events – as the request of DIA.
On 25 January, DIA hosted an afternoon panel in the Tighe Auditorium that was broadcast to the Commands and to the desktops of DIA personnel. Mr. David Shedd, Deputy Director, delivered the keynote address on the value of mentoring for both mentors and mentees; why mentoring can help build a career at DIA and in the IC and his personal experiences with mentoring. Mr. Paul Batchelor then moderated a panel that included three current employees (two of them were at the Commands) and two alumni members (Bill Huntington and Barbara Duckworth). He asked the panel members to provide their views on the challenges of starting, maintaining and ending mentoring relationships and to provide examples of the type of issues that mentees typically last. There were about 100 employees in the auditorium. Once they realized that the panel members all had different views on mentoring, they were enthused that there was real value in the panel and started asking lots of direct questions. It was a lively session and even though it was a snowy Friday afternoon, it lasted for the entire length of time.
The Touchstone program is the one-week orientation for new employees. It includes a block of time where mentoring is discussed and the employees get to participate in “speed mentoring” discussions with current DIA personnel and DIAA volunteers. Each session usually has two DIAA members. To start the discussions, employees view a video on mentoring that was produced in-house and that features current DIA employees who talk about their mentoring experiences. Don Mathis, one of the DIAA Board members, is interviewed in the video. After that, the speed mentoring begins. The mentors move between tables with about 8 employees at each table. The mentors kick-off the conversation by providing their thoughts on or experiences with mentoring. Once the ice is broken (yes, just like speed dating), the employees are eager to ask for advice about networking, career mobility and how to succeed at DIA). In the past months, employees have frequently asked about how you move from one career field to another, the value of rotational assignments in the Intelligence Community and how to deal with the change and uncertainty of reorganizations and sequestration. As you can imagine, every mentor is able to say they have experienced the same issues – and is able to provide an objective perspective on these topics.
The most common feedback I hear from the mentors is how energizing it is to meet and interact with DIA’s new personnel. It is a very rewarding experience. Some of the other feedback include: 1) the amazing background and skills that DIA is bringing into the agency – these employees are impressive! 2) They’re eager to hear from others about the culture and opportunities at DIA, and 3) they want to know how a mentor can help them and how the relationship with a mentor is different from their relationship with their supervisor.
We have also heard feedback from DIA that they are delighted to have DIAA volunteers with such a range of experiences — people who have been in the military and became civilians at DIA, people who have served in several different directorates, people who have worked overseas and people in management or SME positions. In short , they appreciate the support that the DIA Alumni bring to the program and our willingness to share our experiences with DIA personnel. This is one of the best ways that can interact with DIA and its personnel. We are always looking for additional volunteers. If you are interested, please contact Barbara Duckworth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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