The Ethical Edge
The Art of Integrity
MORE THAN A MENTOR
“God enters by a private door into every individual.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
At age 32 I was hired into Aerochem, Inc., an aerospace company in Orange, CA as QA Manager. My hodgepodge resume showed military duty, BA degree in Industrial Arts, Toolmaker, Youth Leader, and QA Manager experience.
Gene Langworthy saw potential in me as a technician able to coach others; I was confident of my abilities, but I was amazed anyone else would see it my way. Gene’s first act as mentor in my life was just that…he believed in me. He knew I could help him put tomorrow’s team in place.
This “Pygmalion Effect” was powerful in me. He explained his vision for the company and left me virtually alone. The immediate problems that needed to be solved were relational difficulties with key customers such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Grumman, and Rohr Industries. The common thread to our customer snags: we were temporarily disqualified as suppliers and, as a supplier, we were the core of the problems. What remedy did I use to solve the problems? I gave the customers what they wanted…problems solved! These early victories confirmed for Gene that he was right about his hunches.
Gene schooled me in the science of Chemical Milling, a little known technology outside of the aircraft world, which would prove critical in my growth. Chemical Milling was a most complex technology involving metallurgy, chemical process controls, temperature, and other parameters causing variations in results. It was a study in subtle factors that controlled outcomes. With time, I grew in knowledge of the process. As other experts in the business moved on, including Gene himself, it left me as the authority on Chemical Milling within and outside of the company. He had succeeded in replacing himself as the expert in the company; I was the beneficiary.
Factors making a big difference in my success were my background as a counselor to adolescents, toolmaking and machinist experience and training in metalworking/Industrial Arts. My outside-the-box view of problem solving and Gene’s customer focused mentoring worked together as a powerful combination, making Aerochem a perfect place for me to thrive.
I often wonder where I would be had Gene Langworthy not come along to see my potential. In my professional life I like to see qualities in others and give them a chance as well, remembering my own big break. Often it has paid big dividends, and even to this day, people are still “paying it forward”. Gene was more than a mentor. He offered God’s counsel in my life.
Jeff Abbott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org