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UMGC Career Connection UMGC Mentors Help Elevate Careers—and Lives

By UMGC Alumni Relations

Have you ever wondered about what a mentor could do for you? In honor of National Mentoring Month this January, we connected with UMGC alumni mentors to get their take on the power of mentoring.

“At UMGC, we’re grateful to have a wonderful slate of mentors who are willing to share their wisdom with fellow alumni and students to help them reach their professional goals,” said Nikki Sandoval, UMGC associate vice president for Alumni Relations. “Our career mentor program, Community Connect, is changing lives for members of the UMGC community, and we’re grateful to our alumni for making this possible.”

Here, three UMGC alumni career mentors share their best advice for getting ahead: 

Jessica Mertz ‘00

Cyber Watch Officer
U.S. Department of Labor

Why do you mentor?

I mentor because I feel fortunate to have all the opportunities I have had, and I want to pay it forward. I also believe there are things you learn on the job that when shared with beginners, can help them find a way into a good career.

What’s your best advice for up-and-coming professionals?
Look for and study free information online. For example, in the cybersecurity field, documentation like NIST 800-53 about the information system control families and the degree to which the controls must be applied to high, medium and low designated systems is freely available online. The Risk Management Framework is also freely available.

By learning the control family names and the Risk Management Framework, at least to the point where you can speak to them intelligently, will help you in interviews. It will also help you hit the ground running when you land the job.

How can a mentor help students who are just starting out?
A mentor can help students who are just starting out by being a sounding board. We can help with potential interview questions, we can advise you on job applications and we can proofread resumes.

What are some of the benefits of mentoring?
Mentoring keeps you alert to the mindset of students and is a way to share your accumulated knowledge and experiences. Mentoring keeps your mind open to possibilities and keeps you on your toes. You cannot possibly become complacent when you are actively mentoring.

What key lesson have you learned during your career?
Be empathetic to the position, including opinions and motives, of others in order to be successful.

Lyndzie Carter ’08, ‘09

Assistant U.S. Attorney
Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of California

Why do you mentor?

Because binge-watching Netflix isn’t always a healthy or rewarding life distraction, especially after you realized you watched an entire season of a show you don’t even like. Instead, mentoring is a healthy and rewarding way to take a break from your career and help someone up the ladder.

What’s your best advice for up-and-coming professionals?
Do what you say you are going to do. Your colleagues will love you. Your boss will love you. Your customer/client will love you. Being awesome is easy when you realize just by keeping your word, you can stand out.

How can a mentor help students who are just starting out?
[We provide a] reality check. As a mentor, I will never sugarcoat it for you. That’s what grandmas or girlfriends are for. A mentor will tell you how they did it—facts, not theory or wishful thinking.

What are some of the benefits of mentoring?
Ego. Who doesn’t like talking about themselves? You are successful for a reason, and someone out there could benefit from knowing how you did it. Tell them. Enjoy the reward of knowing you helped someone… by getting to talk about yourself. [It’s a] win-win.

What key lesson have you learned during your career?
Money doesn’t matter. Ok, it does matter for little things like, I don’t know, living. But doing something because you enjoy it is so much more rewarding. Don’t chase a career for the money. You will only be miserable. Instead, chase purpose.

Sunday Ogunlana, CISSP, C|CISO, ’12, ’14

Teaching Professor of Cybersecurity, Collin College, Frisco Campus, Texas.
Vice President on the Threat Management Team, CitiGroup

Why do you mentor?
Mentorship is a way of giving back to younger professionals at UMGC. I mentor because I want to raise a new army of cybersecurity professionals by providing leadership and acting as trusted advisors for new entrants and aspiring professionals.

What’s your best advice for up-and-coming professionals?
My best advice for up-and-coming professionals is to stay focused, disciplined, passionate and committed. A need exists for them to have mentors that can hold them accountable to achieve their goals. They need to stay on track and stay motivated to attain their goals.

How can a mentor help students who are just starting out?
A mentor can help students just starting to kickstart their professional development. For instance, I have helped my mentees to clarify and set goals and motivate them to succeed in [their] profession. I share my connection and extend relevant conferences and networking invitations with my mentees to enable them to expand their network and connect to other people in various ways.

What are some of the benefits of mentoring?
[It] is a way to transform career trajectory, which is one of the critical benefits of mentorship. It is important to note that a mentor will guide, support, advise and provide honest feedback to help mentees achieve their goals.

What key lesson have you learned during your career?
People and the job are equally important. Also, nothing is permanent, and we must always stay ahead and proactively meet all the challenges.

Interested in mentoring or being mentored through UMGC’s Community Connect program? 

Visit careerquest.umgc.edu to learn more about UMGC Career Services and to register to participate in the Community Connect program.