Kathy Hawk, the chairwoman of the Political Science Department at the University of Alabama-Huntsville and a Navy Reserve commander, talks about mentorships with members of the Tennessee Valley Chapter of Women in Defense. She said all professionals have the ability to be both formal and informal workplace mentors when they are focused on doing the right thing.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Throughout her career, Kathy Hawk has had mentors.

Yet, many of the professionals she sought out for guidance and assistance didnAca,!a,,ct even know they were viewed in that way.

Looking back on a civilian and military career that has taken her to the Pentagon, the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt and Iraq, Hawk said most of her mentors were established with professionals she respected and admired through her own informal workplace process.

Aca,!A"I had no formal mentor that helped carry me through my career because I worked here and I worked there,Aca,!A? said Hawk, who is the chairwoman of the Political Science Department at the University of Alabama-Huntsville and a Navy Reserve commander and executive officer.

Aca,!A"Sometimes formal programs create artificial structures. Mentors are people who sincerely want to help others and thatAca,!a,,cs how, in many ways, the bonding starts.Aca,!A?

Hawk, who spoke at the Women in Defense Mentorship Luncheon on Nov. 6, urged the 85 women attending the event to be mentors in their everyday lives to younger professional women and men who need guidance in their careers.

Aca,!A"If you do things right, you are a mentor. Mentors are people you know and trust in the work environment. Everyone is capable of being a mentor. Just please step up and be a mentor when you have the opportunity.Aca,!A?

Hawk also encouraged her WID audience to continue attending professional luncheons and meetings where Aca,!A"you can share experiences and learn from each other and laugh together and move forward togetherAca,!A? in mentorship relationships.

Although the mobility of her early career years kept Hawk from establishing long-term formal mentor relationships, she said that mobility also provided opportunities and challenges in her career.

Aca,!A"Twenty years ago, I worked for a contractor at the Pentagon,Aca,!A? she recalled. Aca,!A"The defense community was not a very hospitable place for women to work Aca,!A| Things have changed since then and thereAca,!a,,cs certainly a lot more women working today in the defense community. But thereAca,!a,,cs a good ole boy network that is still hard to bring down.Aca,!A?

In those early days of her career, Hawk was relegated to answering phones and was not allowed to travel. When she did receive opportunities, she was viewed by co-workers as receiving special treatment or as having privileged access.

Today, the work environment is different because Aca,!A"women who have been around longer can help navigate through some of this stuff for younger women,Aca,!A? she said.

HawkAca,!a,,cs determination to continue her career despite setbacks also led her into situations where she could not refuse opportunities. One such situation was her deployment as a Navy reservist to work with the Army Special Forces in Balad, Iraq. In 2007-08, she not only left her job at UAH for a six-month deployment, but also her husband, Marshall County Circuit Judge Howard Hawk, and her then 10-year-old son.

Aca,!A"With a lot of the choices we make there are implications for those around us,Aca,!A? Hawk said. Aca,!A"When you have opportunities or problems or obstacles, they affect others, too. In many ways, my deployment was very hard on them, probably more so than me.Aca,!A?

The deployment became a learning and bonding experience for her husband and son, and a chance for her to contribute to the nationAca,!a,,cs military mission.

Yet, looking back on her career, she said Aca,!A"a lot of choices made in advocating my professional career have not always been well thought out. But opportunity opens doors. For a lot of bright people, there are numerous opportunities. Once you take the first step you have a lot more opportunities than you realize and multiple paths to choose from.Aca,!A?

Hawk shared with the WID group five ideas about seizing challenges both professionally and personally.

First, she said, Aca,!A"being in the right place at the right time usually takes a lot of work. When an opportunity comes along, you have to react, you have to have the skills and attitude to be able to take advantage of that.Aca,!A?

Hawk said young people should talk to everyone they can to gain information and advice on career paths, and then they should know themselves well enough to know what advice best fits their own needs and wants.

Second, she suggested that the brightest professionals donAca,!a,,ct always make the best leaders. The best leaders are those who are driven, not by money and recognition but by their commitment to make a difference.

Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs not easy to teach people to care. ItAca,!a,,cs easier to teach skills,Aca,!A? Hawk said.

Third, she said, the best employees do what needs to be done, regardless of what that task may be. They are also flexible and can easily adapt to changing circumstances, and they set a positive example in everything they do.

Aca,!A"People watch you and what you do,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"(As a leader) if you whine and complain, then others will, too. When I looked up to someone as a leader, I watched the way they acted, talked and presented themselves, and I learned from them Aca,!A| ThatAca,!a,,cs why it is so important to maintain your integrity and do the right thing.Aca,!A?

Fourth, Hawk said professionals should always be learning and they should be team players.

Aca,!A"Most things in life are team sports,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"We get ahead by helping others get ahead. If you help those around you then everyone is better off. If you take care of each other, everyone is better off. When a person is competitive and they do things to hold other people down, then itAca,!a,,cs harmful to the development of both people.Aca,!A?

And, fifth, professionals should develop and keep priorities.

Aca,!A"Often, when you move up you have got to make sacrifices and choices,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"But mentorship groups can help you with that. WeAca,!a,,cre each in the best position to make the decisions on what is right for us. ThereAca,!a,,cs ways to get to different goals with different paths. The balance in life is something that nobody else can decide but yourself.Aca,!A?

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16