Scott Blair is Vice President of Finance and Operations at Activision, a leading worldwide developer, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment and leisure products. Scott and his colleague*, Dennis Durkin, CFO at the company, mentored Jesus, an 8th grader in Los Angeles. Below, Scott shares his Spark mentoring experience.
This was my first student mentoring experience and while it was different from what I expected, it completely exceeded my expectations.
I was expecting all the students to be super excitable, since Activision is a gaming company and so many kids love video games, but Jesus, my 14-year-old mentee, was actually pretty shy. To get him excited, I needed to take an alternative approach to how I usually mentor a peer or colleague; I focused on helping, supporting and nurturing him, as opposed to providing constructive feedback the way I would in the work environment.
Our biggest challenge was making sure that Jesus was comfortable. We turned to video games, a common interest, to help break the ice. Each week we assigned ourselves homework to play five mobile games and write down what we liked and disliked about each one of them, how much time we played each game and if we spent any money (imagine playing games for homework, what a dream come true for a 14-year-old)! This icebreaking exercise eventually led to our project, how to make a video game, and became one of the projects key deliverables – Market Research.
You don’t know what your mentee will take out of the experience, but I just took it one week at a time, putting all the building blocks in place and planning interactions with various colleagues he could also learn from – I wanted to make him feel special every week.
Jesus presenting his project with Scott (foreground)
and Dennis (background) at Discovery Night
The project enabled us to focus on collaboration and although we didn’t know exactly how our project would end up, we built a solid project plan early in the process so we knew exactly what to do each week. That was something that I really hoped Jesus would take away from our conversations; that time management and planning is such an important skill and helps make everything easier, like making sure you plan to study for an exam at school, for example. I really wasn’t sure whether this was something Jesus would take away with him, but I was so pleased to read the thank you card he gave me at the end of his mentorship, as everything we had focused on with him was in there!
“The thing I liked about the apprenticeship was working with your company and experiencing the different things people do over there. I learned that it takes lots of time to accomplish something… I am thankful that you guys brought in many programmers to tell me what they do and how both of you care about me. With the things you showed me, in the future I will learn to manage my time. I will miss working with one of the top companies… and how you guys would encourage me to do well in school.”
Share Your Spark (formerly Discovery Night), Spark’s culminating project fair -and his presentation of our project to his teachers, family and friends – was just awesome. I was so proud – he did such a fantastic job! It was the most rewarding part of this experience. I did not know how it would go, but seeing him present his project with ease and seeing that he heard and incorporated all the feedback that we gave him during rehearsal was so special. There was a moment when we really connected; while practicing for Share Your Spark I mentioned that he should pretend that he is presenting to the girl that he likes – from this point forward he took his practicing to the next level!
Scott (left) and Dennis (middle) with Jesus (right)
Participating in Spark was an incredibly rewarding experience. Most of us want to help others, but we are either too busy or can’t make it work for a number of other reasons. The fact that Spark comes to you, at your office, makes it an ideal solution. Not only is it very convenient for the mentors, but the students also benefit by getting exposure to an office environment, which is very impactful and motivating for them too. I looked forward to these two hours every week – two hours of a different challenge; two hours making a special bond; and two hours that were the most rewarding time in my working week. I signed up to mentor because a colleague pulled me in, and now I am going to be one of the biggest Spark advocates around the office! Given how convenient and rewarding it is, everyone who has the opportunity to participate, should get involved. Helping someone who might not have all the opportunities that others do felt really special.
*Spark strives to pair each student in a one-to-one mentoring relationship. Occasionally there’s the need for a student to have more than one mentor due to volunteer workloads and/or travel schedules. Thanks to Scott, Dennis and Activision for their support!