My Mentor Series: Meet Erika P.

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Explore the Impact of Academic Mentorship


“My Mentor…” posts are an ongoing series of short pieces written by members of the Trilogy Mentoring Community about impactful mentors in their lives. This post is written by Erika Powell, Ed.D. She is a Learning Strategist and Instructional Designer, holding a doctorate in education from the University of Virginia.

Who was your mentor? How did they have an impact on your life?

One of my most memorable mentors was a former colleague named Katherine Coles. About 3 years ago, Katherine and I worked together to develop a customer service training program for Amtrak’s Onboard Services group.

She and I reported to different supervisors but were assigned to the same project. The program that we were tasked with developing was no easy feat. This was a high stakes project with many executives from the company invested in the project’s outcomes. However, we technically had no budget for the program and our timeline was very short. Additionally, this project had passed through the hands of many teams before we were brought in to work on the project. Despite many attempts, none of the previous teams had been able to accomplish the goal of organizing the leaders and stakeholders. While they had tried their best, many of the teams brought in before us weren’t able to build buy-in or consensus with the leaders and stakeholders let alone produce a final finished training program that met their stakeholder’s needs and vision. The odds seemed stacked against us.

When Katherine and I first began working with each other, we would meet at least 2 times a week to discuss and strategize around the project. What I immediately noticed about her was how good she was with working with people from different backgrounds and with different interests. Katherine was a true professional who always seemed to be able to stay focused on listening for and articulating an individual’s needs. She was also a pro at working with the client to demonstrate the value of an upfront needs analysis as well as showing them how to take deliberate and intentional actions that would align their needs and values.

The more I worked with Katherine, the more she began to impact my professional and personal approaches to life. She shared valuable frameworks around various personality types. These helped me understand the nuances in every individual. After a short few months collaborating with her, I too began connecting in new ways with individuals on the project as well as my wider team. I began to listen for their spoken and unspoken needs as well as cultivated a deep patience in guiding individuals towards taking intentional actions that are aligned with their higher needs and core values.

Prior to working with Katherine, I was very process oriented and, at times, too results oriented. This often caused me to overlook the impact of my words and behaviors on other individuals. While I was always polite, efficient, and effective, I never seemed to achieve that deep human-to-human connection that makes a project memorable and makes people come back for more. Through collaboration with her, I realized that life is more than just about “getting the job done” or selecting the right process, tool, or technology. She helped me grow into a professional and a person who values, honors, and prioritizes the relationships that often are the foundation of our success.

If you are looking for an academic mentor, ask for Erika!
For more on Trilogy's Mentors, follow our "My Mentor..." series. 

Here is our last post from Trilogy’s Chief Learning Officer -Erika Carson
The Impact of Academic Mentorship