In celebration of Mentorship Month throughout November, The Evening Sun will host a series of mentoring success stories twice each week from the Regional Mentoring Program at DCMO BOCES. The program was funded by a federal Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant in November of 2022, administered by the Southern Tier 8 Regional Board. With help from Commerce Chenango and the Delaware and Otsego Chambers, the program connected 62 high school seniors, from 16 area school districts, with local mentors in the private and public sectors.
President of Pivotel LLC
Mary Branham believes that a good professional network is a key to success. When it came to mentoring a student, she turned that believe into action– in many different ways. Branham is President of Pivotel LLC, a telecommunications services company based in Norwich.
First, Branham’s network brought the mentoring opportunity to her attention. Branham is involved with Development Chenango Corporation, a partner organization of Commerce Chenango, and learned of the mentoring program through that connection.
She was interested, and that interest was shared by one her network connections, Jenna Ostrander, Economic Development Specialist at Chenango Commerce. “Development Chenango had a big hand in making sure the mentor program started off well,” according to Branham. “I have to give kudos to Jenna– we wanted to have a goal that Chenango County got the most mentors” of the three counties involved, and Ostrander helped promote the program to successfully pull in plenty of eager mentors.
Then, Branham got a surprise when she found out who she would be mentoring, because it was someone who was already in her network– sort of. “We’ve known each other since she was born,” Branham said of her new mentee. That close connection allowed the two to quickly have a good rapport, and they build a strong mentoring relationship. Their conversations covered a wide range – from career to college to dealing with setbacks. “I always tell people, first and foremost, when it comes to your career path, if at any point you find out that it is maybe not your career path after all, and you want to change it, do not look at it as a failure.”
Branham’s mentee did in fact have a particular career in mind, and so once again, Branham reached out to her network and pulled in three professional practitioners in the field her student was interested in, setting up meetings with each, allowing the student to hear about different aspects of the field, and getting specific advice on exploring different options, including how to study for it in college. Branham reinforced good networking practices with her mentee, encouraging her to follow up with the practioners she was introduced to. “Never underestimate how important it is to make connections with the people you’ll need to deal with.”
The importance of having a good network seems to have been embraced by Branham’s mentee, who she is still in touch with, and still advising. Branham enjoyed the experience, and considers it have been successful, but not just because of Branham and her network. “The reason why it was so successful was also the student. She went beyond the required commitment. She was very invested in this as well.”
The mentoring program will now be coordinated by Commerce Chenango, Delaware County Chamber of Commerce and Otsego Chamber of Commerce. For more information on how to become a mentor, visit the chamber organizations’ website. For students’ access to mentoring services or to learn more about mentoring support, visit www.dcmoboces.com.