Five years ago, the NBAA Mentoring Network launched with a few dozen participants seeking to connect industry veterans with young professionals and students who are eager to discover the benefits of a career in this exciting industry. Now, as we enter the 2022-23 season, more than 600 mentors and mentees are using cutting-edge technology developed for this year’s program to build relationships that could last a lifetime.
“The NBAA Mentoring Network was created to give young professionals and students an opportunity to meet people who could give them advice and knowledge to help them with their careers. We achieve this by leveraging business aviation’s strongest assets and greatest advocates – the people who work in our industry day-in, day-out – to provide the next generation of professionals unique and powerful insights into the vitality of our industry, as well as rewarding and fulfilling relationships that can last far beyond the nine months of our mentoring program,” said NBAA Manager, Operations Noah Yarborough, who coordinates the program.
“This year,” continued Yarborough,” we are able to draw on experts from more than a dozen career paths – including flight department managers, directors of safety, pilots, maintenance technicians, marketers, sales and senior executives – to showcase the full potential of business aviation. And our mentors win, too, as they have this wonderful opportunity to collaborate with our next generation of business aviation professionals to provide the guidance and insight that will help our future leaders build on our industry’s current successes,” he added.
Benefits for Mentors, Mentees
This spirit of collaboration and sharing attracted Eric Canup, head of flight operations at Live Oak Bank, to become a mentor in 2020.
“I’ve had some steep learning curves in my career, and while I was able to find people to reach out to and learn from, there was no structured program like the NBAA Mentoring Network. If I had a mentor to turn to, I feel that the learning process would have been a lot smoother and a lot more efficient,” Canup explained.
“So, when I heard about the NBAA Mentoring Network, I saw this great opportunity to provide someone with my experience of what to do – and what not to do – and give something back to an industry that has been a joy to be part of for so many years,” Canup added.
Andre Watson – who was on furlough because of the pandemic some 15 years into his business aviation career – was looking to advance beyond his role as a maintenance technician.
“I was attending a virtual job fair hosted by NBAA when they I saw an advertisement for the NBAA Mentoring Network. I have never thought of a mentorship program before in a formal sense. I had reached out to people at work, but never in a formal, structured way. But here was a way for me to find someone who I could ask questions and lean on for guidance and experience,” said Watson, who is now director of aviation maintenance at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Canup and Watson connected through the mentoring program in the fall of 2021.
“I learned things that would have taken me years to find out, if at all, and thanks to Eric and the other mentors that I have connected with through this mentoring program beginning in the summer of 2020,” Watson explained. “This truly had a profound impact on me and my life. Finding a good mentor has changed how I view my career and my perspective of what I should become. It means something to have another person commit to you and provide insights you may never have found. There is a kindness about this that stays with you, and I know one day I will return the favor and offer to be a mentor,” Watson added.
Sharing Marketing Knowledge
NBAA Manager, Marketing Ashley Granada, who was also a mentee during the 2020 season, had a similarly positive experience.
“I can honestly say that the NBAA Mentorship Network truly was a life-changing experience. My mentor – Lyndse Costabile, president and CEO of FunD Av Consulting – took me under her wing, and she still provides real insights and guidance through the friendship that grew out of this experience. It’s an amazing program, and I hope that other young professionals have the opportunity to experience this.
“Since I am a self-taught marketer,” continued Granada, “it is inspiring to come across other individuals who have made successful careers in aviation marketing, but still devoted their time to providing guidance and knowledge that would not be accessible to others without the help of a mentor.
“The NBAA Mentoring Network and my mentor have introduced me to other industry professionals, who have also been wonderful in sharing their guidance and experiences,” added Granada. “This program has been so impactful, and I truly believe this will help the next generation of young professionals across our industry,” Granada added.
Networking Is Key
Networking is a crucial benefit for mentees.
“Being a mentee and knowing Eric has literally opened doors for me,” said Watson. “Eric knows lots of people in this industry, people I would not know, and his introductions and advice have been important in helping me build my network.
“But it goes deeper than that,” added Watson. “Eric has advised me on what committees I should join, what resources are available to me and what conferences I should attend. You can feel alone out there trying to do these things, but if you have the right advice and sometimes see a familiar face, it gets easier and helps build confidence,” he noted.
Mentors benefit from these new relationships, too.
“We tend to get caught up in this label of mentor/mentee as if I’m imparting all this wisdom and the young protege is taking it all in,” said Canup. “But the reality is that I probably learned as much as, if not more than, the mentee. Here is someone taking a different path than me, which opens up a whole new perspective.
“And just because I may have been in the industry a little bit longer, Andre has experiences I will never have and dealt with things that I haven’t had to consider,” added Canup. “This is not a binary thing, there is a lot of give and take, and thanks to the NBAA Mentoring Network, I have been able to gain insights into our industry from someone that does not share my career background,” Canup added.
According to Yarborough, this receptiveness and inclusion make the NBAA Mentoring Network the success it has become.
“The best results happened when mentors and mentees both come into this relationship with an open mind and open heart,” he explained. “Mentees will gain insights that will help them grow in their careers, and mentors will have first-hand experience working with the next wave of pilots, directors, maintenance technicians and other industry professionals that will help them learn how to improve workforce development and recruitment techniques. The NBAA Mentoring Network is truly about everyone learning
from each other,” Yarborough added.
A Fresh User Experience Enhances the Mentoring Network
The NBAA Mentoring Network has grown substantially since its launch in 2018, and over the past five years NBAA has adapted the program to accommodate the growing number of mentees and mentors. After consulting with past members of the network, the association has built a new online user interface for the 2022 season that meets the demands of the modern workforce.
With this redesign, mentees will be better able to navigate the profiles of the hundreds of industry experts that have signed on to be mentors for the 2022 Mentoring Network. With a few simple clicks, mentees can now focus their search by industry sector, years of experience, location and specialty skills to find a mentor that is best suited to their needs.
Similarly, mentors now can use detailed biographies to make a more informed decision regarding which mentees they will work with from September to May. The new user interface also keeps mentees updated on the progress of their requests with email notifications.
“From the beginning, the NBAA Mentoring Network was intended to bring people together to build a brighter future for the business aviation industry,” said NBAA Manager, Operations Noah Yarborough, who coordinates the program. “With our new user interface, we are leveraging technology to make the process of connecting our current leaders with the next generation of professionals easier and more adaptable, while also ensuring that the Mentoring Network is scalable so it can support the increasing interest in this exceptional program.”