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On the Eve of Mentor Month

If this blog post is live, it means that I made it safely to Iowa City, Iowa.

I’m on a little excursion of sorts. I am attending the Samuel L. Becker Conference this weekend. I’m looking forward to it because the content is different from an HR conference. It is delivered by scholarly people. I get to listen to people talk about subjects like An Infernal Culture Machine: Semantic Foundations of Algorithmic Culture–What is that? I’m dying to find out.

Basically, I’m back among my people. This isn’t to say that HR folks aren’t my people, but long before I was in HR I was in communications.

I feel in my career that I’ve been able to apply a lot of what I learned in my early career to my current career. Take this blogsite for example. Few HR professionals actually sit down to maintain a blog post, but I do it in part because it is part of my genes.

This is the last post of February before we get into Mentoring Month at EO, and to start us off, I want to blog about one of my early mentors, coincidentally from Iowa City, IA.

Kim Wall and I worked together for four years. Kim ran the marketing side of the Audiovisual Centre. As the “intern” Kim gave me a lot of things to do. A lot of these things required creativity. He was a documentary filmmaker by training and he knew a lot about how productions came together. In the office he was both the creative guy and the budget guy. Under his tutelage I was responsible for some interesting, possibly strange projects. One summer I spent part of my time in Amana, Iowa, scouting sites for photoshoots for a multi-image slide show being produced for the Amana Colonies. One term I was responsible for developing a marketing program for a university series on family mediation and divorce. This meant that not only did I have learn how family mediation and divorce works, but also learned what colleges might teach the subject and how to reach the decision-makers in those programs. In this I learned all sorts of networking skills. As part of my role, I even got to select a professional speaker for the various voice-overs that came part of the marketing videos. Our office was full of creative types, turning dreams into business ventures. I remember this work experience extremely fondly.

Kim’s mentorship left me with the following:

  • confidence that I could figure things out (I was left to my own devices a lot).
  • it is OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.
  • an appreciation of deadlines and how to deal with multiple stakeholders in the delivery of services.
  • an understanding, in the old-fashioned days of print production, of how to make camera-ready art work. This involved doing mock-ups using paper and hot wax, and I still have the scars today.

In the corner of our main work area was a Macintosh computer. I had a Mac so I knew how to use it–literally the only person in the office. Once I showed a little interest, he acquired the PageMaker software and left me with the responsibility to learn how to use it, which I did. In no time, I was making brochures and newsletters on it, eventually becoming the editor of the Greek Hawkeye. I’m not sure I would’ve ever tried to to learn PageMaker on my own; I have Kim to thank.

HR Professionals need more than HR experience. Accordingly they need mentors that are not only in HR. When thinking about how grow, surround yourself with people who have different things to offer.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get back to my funky conference.


  1. Great post, Bonni. We love reading about mentoring success stories—especially like that you bulleted the points that your mentor left you with. Nice touch! We will be sharing your #mentoring story via our social media channels!

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