Mentorship

The Newest Tool in Your Toolbox

John De Paola

John De Paola (MA ’97)

Ask anyone what the best job search tool is and he or she will tell you “networking.” However, networking only succeeds if one is comfortable with his or her abilities and knows what career he or she is seeking.

On the other hand, mentorship not only provides personal and professional growth opportunities, but also the self-awareness to truly excel at networking, as well as a meaningful, long-term friendship.

John De Paola (MA ’97), alumnus of the master of arts in clinical psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy program, has been the mental wellness clinical director for the Hurtt Family Health Clinic at the Orange County Rescue Mission (OCRM) since 2003. He is also a collaborator on the Pepperdine University Mental Health Collaborative—a program enabling additional research, supervision of trainees, and relationship development between the OCRM’s Health Care Services; University of California, Irvine Department of Psychiatry; and GSEP to better serve Orange County’s homeless.

For the last eight years, De Paola has been working with GSEP’s Irvine Community Counseling Center to offer marriage and family therapy trainees and interns a practicum site with OCRM: “I had partnered with roughly six other universities to provide supervision up until this point, but when I saw the architectural plans for the Village of Hope (VOH), a transitional facility built under the umbrella of the OCRM, and realized that it had 192 beds, I knew I had to collaborate with a university that had the training, experience, staffing, and reputation necessary to serve such a large group. The Irvine Community Counseling Center, directed and operated by my former professor and longtime mentor Dr. Duncan Wigg, was an obvious choice. Our partnership allows the many homeless individuals, couples, families, and children at VOH to receive quality psychotherapy services from GSEP’s trainees. In turn, I provide them with supervision and guidance so that they can become capable counselors.”

De Paola’s mentoring involves a lot of informal and formal conversations with trainees and interns about the theory, practice, and ethics of psychotherapy, and their experience with their clients. He also shoots baskets (and the breeze) with some of the trainees, including GSEP student Ron Wilson on the VOH outdoor basketball courts. “I strongly believe in mentoring and taking the time to mentor and coach someone during a time that poses many challenges and worries. Mentoring is key to developing relationships, as well as enhancing one’s abilities, skills, personality, and humor at an agency.”

Jim Palmer, president of OCRM, described De Paola, a Mental Health Association of Orange County Community Service Award nominee, as “exemplary,” deeming him an ideal mentor for students new to the field. “His servant-leadership style has allowed him to build community consensus, develop interdepartmental collaboration, and increase the overall quality, scope, and continuity of care provided to the “least, last, and lost” of our community suffering from mental illness.”

But De Paola didn’t become all that without help. “I have had a few mentors in my life. If someone
showed qualities, ethics, and abilities that I admired, I would ask them for some time. Wigg is one such example. Years ago, he coached me on being patient. He advised me to do great work with clients every day, and that all my hopes and dreams would follow.”

De Paola advises those identifying a mentor to determine if the potential candidate has both desired qualities, and most importantly, time to commit to the relationship.

“For me, it’s all about giving back to the community, future colleagues, and the University. I am indebted to GSEP for contributing to my advancement in this field. Curriculum and learning were a part of that; however, the supportive relationships forged with professors, administrators, advisors, and students are what I will always carry with me, and what I hope Dto provide to the next generation of counselors.”

Shreyas Gandhi

Dr. Shreyas Gandhi (MBA ’98, EdD ’09).

Dr. Shreyas Gandhi (MBA ’98, EdD ’09), alumnus of the doctor of education in organizational leadership, has been a senior manager of engineering at Raytheon, the premier defense and aerospace company, since 2005. Gandhi acts as a deputy program manager for the Trident Integrated Support Facility in Los Angeles, developing strategic initiatives such as proposal generation, procurement strategy, and information technology solutions to increase the efficiency of operations, while also pursuing new business.

In June 2006, Gandhi created the Functional Leadership Series, later retitled the Space and Airborne Systems Leadership Series, to educate managers and supervisors on the things mission area leaders needed to succeed in their portfolio of programs. A total of 15 bimonthly forums were held over a two-and-a-half-year period, and surveys revealed that more than 90 percent of attendees found the sessions to be a value-added enhancement to their professional abilities.

“Mentorship is important because no matter how astute an individual is, there is no substitute for on-the-job knowledge obtained through cycles of learning and experience,” explained Gandhi. “A mentor can help guide you and ensure you leverage their knowledge, which serves to hyper-accelerate our learning curve when tackling any new or existing challenge.”

When Gandhi became a manager and program advisor to the engineering rotation program the same year, he again had an opportunity to provide mentorship—this time to high- potential recruits just starting their careers at Raytheon. This program promoted the growth and development of promising new employees across multiple engineering functional areas over the course of a two-year period.

“Raytheon’s culture focuses on people and employee development,” said Gandhi. “This is directly aligned with my personal beliefs—I’m passionate about employee development and feel it is the duty of all leaders to mentor our young talent to ensure the viability of our company.”

Gandhi is clearly a generous mentor. But who groomed him? Does he have any mentors of his own?

“I view everyone as my mentor, as we all have unique experiences and can all learn something from everyone,” Gandhi replied. “One of my favorite professors at GSEP, personal leadership professor Vance Caesar, used to say, ‘The language of leaders is storytelling … The lessons are in the stories that influential people tell you as you gain their trust.’ I’ve learned a lot from Vance both in his leadership course, and at the leadership workshops he holds on a routine basis in Orange and Los Angeles Counties.”

Gandhi also has advice for anyone seeking to be a mentor to a mentee: “Both parties must have a mutual interest in investing time and imparting knowledge. The best mentors are those with several cycles of learning in a particular field, and that have the patience and willingness to guide an aspiring leader.”


Interested in Mentoring or Finding a Mentor?

Each year Pepperdine hosts hundreds of gatherings for the 80,000 alumni around the country. Update your e-mail address through the Pepperdine Alumni Network (PAN) Online at alumni.pepperdine.edu to ensure that you receive Waves, the monthly e-newsletter with details on events where you can connect with people who may benefit from your experience, or who may benefit you with theirs.

Marriage and family therapy students can partner with “seasoned” practicum students to answer questions and build confidence throughout the practicum process. Mentors are students who have already completed a semester or two of practicum, and who can offer advice to newer students adjusting to their site. For more information, contact Kathleen Wenger at psyprofdev@pepperdine.edu.

The Career Services office can also facilitate mentoring relationships. Education Division students and alumni may contact Yas Djadali at yas.djadali@pepperdine.edu for an individual consultation, and Psychology Division students and alumni may contact Sadaf Mayet at sadaf.mayet@pepperdine.edu.

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