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Mentoring Future Generations

by Mike Wilkinson on July 20, 2010

TexPREP students trying out a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) detection device.

Whether you’ve met me once or have known me for years, you may have noticed I have many passions – product innovation, entrepreneurship, family, friends, and sailing.  The order may change depending on the day, but what ever I am doing, I do with passionate enthusiasm.

Last week, Paragon had the privilege of hosting once again a group of high school students participating in the TexPREP-Lubbock summer program sponsored by the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Texas Tech University.  TexPREP is an intense academic, mathematics-based, summer enrichment program for high school student in nine counties surrounding Lubbock, Texas.

Paragon was first approached in 2001 to be one of two engineering companies — Bell Helicopter being the other company — in the Dallas area to sponsor a group of TexPREP students.  At first, we were a little nervous about how we would entertain and educate them for an afternoon, especially when the following day they would be visiting Bell Helicopter.  Helicopters are really cool.  However, the students thoroughly enjoyed the variety of projects we demonstrated and the hands-on learning.  Since that time, Paragon continues to be the host engineering firm in Dallas for TexPREP-Lubbock.

So you may ask “why do we take time to talk with high school students?”  My passion for participating in TexPREP is I want future generations to be aware of small business and entrepreneurship and see them as an option for their careers.  I think it is important for them to understand the value of small businesses and the need for skills and knowledge in running a business in addition to engineering capabilities.

One of the most important skills is the ability to communicate clearly, both orally and the written word.   As an engineer, it’s not enough to communicate with other engineers. Eventually, you have to leave your office and interface with other people within the organization, whether it’s with your manager, sales and marketing, or customers.  To be successful in your career, you will have to communicate clearly and effectively every day.

To emphasize this point, I shared a conversation I had with a customer.  I had been talking with a Senior VP of a multi-billion dollar company who was having problems with a new product they had just released.  We had been asked to test the product and determine what the problems were and how we could fix them.  I could have provided our customer with a detailed technical explanation of the problem and recommended solution.  However, I knew from experience that he wanted a clear and concise discussion that I understood the problem.  Our team understood the problem.  We knew what the solution was, the cost to solve it, and the time frame to complete.  And, we were confident that we could make it happen and test it appropriately.  It was very important to communicate our expertise and knowledge so that our customer had confidence in our ability to deliver.

We have some of the best and brightest engineers at Paragon, and they work smart every day for our customers.  They also love to talk about their work.  While the TexPREP students were visiting, a few of our engineers took them around the office to showcase a variety of projects we’ve developed over the last few years.  It was a great experience for our team to share their passion for product innovation and communicate so that the students could appreciate and understand.  It was a wonderful opportunity to inspire and encourage.

It’s never too early to begin the mentoring process with the next generation of engineers and entrepreneurs.  They are our future and exciting innovations will come from their enthusiasm, vision and passion.  I am proud to be a part of their future.

What are you passionate about?

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