Sending the Elevator Down for the Next Generation

To be frank, I wouldn’t be where I am right now if I didn’t cross paths with people who believed in me and gave me a chance. Thus I need to send the elevator back down to bring the next generation of talent up to where I am. That’s why I was thrilled to have been invited to represent WinMagic at the Glenforest STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) Conference as a “speed mentor.” That meant that I would be set up in a room, and high school students in groups of three to five will come in and be seated with a mentor. From there, the students will be given five minutes to ask questions pertaining to my career before rotating to another mentor. The logic was that by doing these “speed mentoring” sessions, the students would get an amazing opportunity to learn more about the STEM careers available to them as well as to ask questions in a more personal environment. Thus I agreed to be a “speed mentor” for roughly 1000+ students.

No pressure there.

“If you have done well in whatever business you are in, it is your duty to send the elevator back down and try to help bring up the next generation of undiscovered talent.”

Kevin Spacey

I must admit that this was a very interesting experience as after I introduced myself to each group of students and explained what I did, I was bombarded with questions that were all across the board. Some were about my responsibilities here at WinMagic and the fact that my responsibilities cover the globe. Or what education I needed to get where I am today. However some questions were about how I felt about companies and individuals securing their IT environments, and even recent events like the ransomware attack from a few weeks ago. I even got a curve ball from one student who wanted to know what my thoughts were about the need for strong encryption, the right to privacy, and the right for law enforcement to do their jobs in relation to the San Bernardino shooter and the FBI’s attempts to force Apple to unlock the assailant’s iPhone. That started a very spirited discussion that not only lasted the majority of the five minutes that we had, but then they tracked me down afterwards to get more of my thoughts. Clearly these high school students are very aware of what is going on around them and very engaged with the issues and events of the day – which dispelled any myths to the contrary that I might have had about this generation.

By the end of the day I was exhausted. Being a “speed mentor” turned out to be very grueling as talking to 1000+ high school students isn’t exactly an easy thing to do. But it was very much worth it as I felt I was able to influence the next generation on a variety of levels. I was glad to have had the chance to metaphorically send the elevator down for the next generation. That’s something that we should all do as it will help to ensure that the world is, and will continue to be a better place long after we are gone.

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