Put a young professional and an industry leader together for a simple coffee break and “wonderfully rich conversations” ensue that can help shape lives, careers and a community.
That’s the experience of mentors and proteges participating in FMA’s Rising Star Mentorship Program. The program, which kicked off in the fall, allows young professionals to book hour-long, one-on-one conversations with a cross section of FMA board members.
“One of my passions is to listen and understand and ask probing questions,” said Bill Dunahoo, a mentor and President of Praxis Engineering. “I learned that years and years ago from some senior people who mentored me. So I was invigorated by the conversations I had with three Rising Stars.”
The conversations between mentors and Rising Stars have explored a range of topics, including insights about how to develop careers,
grow small businesses, and maintain work-life balance amid all that professional advancement. They have covered the history of Fort Meade, the missions of Fort Meade agencies and commands, the evolution and challenges of cyber security, the contracting environment in the Fort Meade Region, and promising contacts or opportunities for individual Rising Stars.
One young attorney “picked my brain really well about how I built my network when I was in my twenties – how I met contacts, sifted through them to identify the really good contacts, and determined how to best spend my energy outside of the office,” said Greg Prossner, a mentor and Vice President of Asset Management at Corporate Office Properties Trust.
“I’m looking to grow my career and I wanted feedback from people who had built successful careers, especially outside of my profession,” said Kyle McQuighan, a CPA with Aronson LLC. McQuighan met with Joe Pacileo from IronNet Cybersecurity Inc., Will Metts from Northrop Grumman Corporation and Deon Viergutz from Lockheed Martin Corporation. “The mentors encouraged me to think differently and that’s the beauty of talking to people from different backgrounds.”
The mentor-protege meetings have also included discussions of the mission of the Fort Meade Alliance and the opportunities FMA members have to make positive impacts on the community.
“I was heartened to hear that these individuals, who are in the early days of their careers, are interested in contributing to the greater good,” said Maureen McMahon, a mentor and Deputy Superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools.
Young professionals, McMahon said, sometimes feel they haven’t developed sufficient skills to give back to the community or simply don’t know about the wide range of opportunities to make a contribution.
“Many say when they were in school, they never saw anybody from business or industry in their classrooms,” she said. “That’s changed quite a lot. Anne Arundel County Public Schools now has more than 1,500 partners in business and industry” and volunteer opportunities can be as modest as doing a single classroom presentation a year.
“Before, I typically associated giving back with doing something like volunteering in a soup kitchen. I hadn’t thought about volunteering with the unique organizations that plug into the Fort Meade Alliance,” McQuighan said.
Now, McQuighan is planning to support fundraising efforts by the FMA Foundation and support STEM initiatives by giving a presentation to public school students about mathematics and careers in accounting.
The Rising Star Mentorship talks, he added, “really pulled together the full mission of the Fort Meade Alliance. It’s a unique organization and once you understand how it works, well I became more impressed and more interested in getting involved.
The mentorship program, Dunahoo said, has the potential to help foster the next generation of leaders in the Fort Meade community.
“I think this is one of the key reasons why the FMA should exist as an organization,” he said. “In any vibrant community, you have to be looking forward and looking for people who are willing to invest the time and energy to passionately grow their careers, prepare for next opportunities and are going to be in senior leadership roles down the road in their industry and in organizations, like the Fort Meade Alliance.”