With the Chamber’s popular Emerge/Protégé program wrapping up on Nov. 3, we present this perspective on the value of participating in the program.
Amanda Uliano an attorney with her own firm, served as a mentor, and Brittany Jackson, Sr. Communications Coordinator with Southwest Florida Water Management District, participated as a protégé. Although not paired together, they both got a lot out of the program.
Amanda, when did you participate in the program and what made you decide to sign up?
I served as a mentor in 2014. Two of my Leadership Tampa classmates were involved in organizing and recruiting for the Protégé Program that year. They had approached me because a young female professional was seeking a mentor with experience in starting and running her own business. I received a lot of guidance and help when I started my own law practice so it was important for me to pay it forward.
Brittany, when did you participate and what did you think about the experience?
I was a protégé in the program in 2015. I loved my mentor! I never would have had the opportunity to meet him if it weren’t for our involvement in the program. We built a genuine friendship. Having him as a mentor benefited me both personally and professionally. At each meeting, he would bring along a colleague in my field to help develop my network and answer any questions I had about that person’s specific career journey. He gave great guidance on building my personal brand and provided great resources that will help me for years to come. I was also able to attend a session he taught on marketing to entrepreneurs. He was also there to encourage me in my professional journey and shared some of the victories and pitfalls he’s made along the way. I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world!
Any suggestions for those considering becoming a mentor or protégé to get the most out of the experience?
AU: For both, be open to learning new things about yourself and have fun with the experience. I got as much out of being a mentor that I hope she got out of being a protégé.
BJ: Be open and honest with your mentor. Don’t just tell them things you want them to hear. The mentor is there to guide and support you during the program, and most likely has experienced many of the same successes or challenges that you have. And make the most out of your sessions with your mentor. He or she is investing time and energy into building the relationship, and you should do the same.
Do you still keep in touch with your protégé?
AU: Yes. We have become good friends and still make a point to have lunch together once a month even though the official program ended two years ago.
Would you ever see yourself as a mentor?
BJ: Yes, based on my personal experience, I’d like to be able to mentor someone else in my field. Having a supporter who’s already gone before you is one of the most valuable things anyone could have.
To apply for the 2017 program, email email@example.com by Dec. 2. Mentors and protégés will be formally assigned in February at a kick-off event. Contact Kat Benjamin at 813-276-9448 with questions.
(Side Bar Call Out)
Lyle Blanden – Still giving back
During my 38-year career as owner of J. O. DeLotto & Sons, General Contractors, I was very invested in my employees and helping them develop their own personal strengths as well as finding their best fit within our organization. When I retired eight years ago, our average employee had been with us for 12 years, and many had been there much longer.
My interest in becoming a “builder” was sparked by my grandfather, who was a carpenter, and continued by my father, who was also a carpenter. Unlike them, I was fortunate, not only to be able to attend college but to have the opportunity to grow a business along with my partner, Jay DeLotto, into a successful and reputable small business. Many people along the way provided me with great ideas, encouragement and support and I am happy to have the opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ as a part of this program.
My protégé was perfectly selected for me, as he had the same educational background as I did in building construction. It has been exciting for me to be involved in his process of starting his own business and helping him to develop realistic goals that will guide his business to success. Our monthly meetings have not been focused JUST on his business development, but we’ve had opportunities to discuss many other aspects of how business influences his personal life and that of his family.
This program has encouraged us to meet monthly with a plan for our time together. As we have implemented this, I believe it has helped us both to focus on the making the best use of our time together. It is exciting to encourage a young person starting out and be able to validate good ideas as well as offering new ones. I try to see beyond the everyday issues to help him develop and continue to move forward toward a bigger vision for his future success. Having this one on one connection has created a friendship that I believe will last beyond just the commitments of this program.
Kerry O’Reilly, Leadership Tampa ’15, is the Marketing Director for the Tampa Bay Times and Politifact.