UMGC Mentors Offer Career Advice for Students

January is National Mentoring Month, a time dedicated to celebrating the career-boosting power of mentoring relationships—especially for students.

“At UMGC, we know that mentoring can make all the difference in someone’s career,” says UMGC Assistant Director of Career Programming Cathy Francois. “That’s why we offer our career mentor program, Community Connect, which helps students and alumni tap into the power of the UMGC community.”

In honor of National Mentoring Month, here’s what some of UMGC’s alumni career mentors have to say about their motivation for mentoring and career insights.

Demetra Mishler ’04

Bachelor of Science in Computer and Information Science

Master of Science in Cybersecurity Management and Policy (projected completion September 2021)

About Demetra

Demetra is an information systems security management professional with 20+ years working in the U.S. Department of Defense and Space Industry (as active duty military in United States Air Force).

Why do you mentor?  

I love seeing people succeed and realize their dreams.  I believe it’s one of our purposes to be the “Mentor Archetypes” in other people’s “Heroes’ Journey” (while also of course being the hero in my own).  Like Glinda the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz, I just want to remind people, “You had the power all along, my dear.”

What’s your best advice for up-and-coming professionals?  

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, and then you believe it to be true. Every dream could be realized by those self-disciplined enough to believe it.” 

–Neville Goddard

Should students seek a mentor?

It’s never too early to benefit from a mentor.

What advice do you have for students as they embark on a mentoring relationship?

  • Be available, open-minded and genuinely interested. 
  • Ensure you’re the right fit for a mutually beneficial relationship that values both of your time.
  • Ask questions like “What’s your current situation and why are you interested in being mentored? What kind of support or encouragement would you require to reach your goals?” 
  • Actively listen, communicate, empathize and empower.
  • Let the mentee lead and make all the decisions in the journey.

Nathan Muncy ‘13

Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Management

About Nathan

Nation works for the MITRE Corporation in the National Security Engineering Center, a Federally Funded Research and Development Center, as the project lead responsible for the oversight of all MITRE support to the U.S. Army Pacific Command.

Why do you mentor?

For the past 20 years I have served in a variety of leadership positions, and I have come to discover that mentoring not only allows me to help shape up-and-coming leaders, but it also exposes me to new perspectives and fresh ideas.

As a manager, understanding how the workplace looks through the eyes of incoming younger generations, really understanding how they act and feel about things, helps to shape my own ideas and beliefs as to the direction the organization and work needs to go. Mentoring provides me the opportunity to not only help influence someone else’s personal and professional career path, but to continue to grow and evolve myself. It is a win-win relationship.

What’s your best advice for up-and-coming professionals?  

Treat every single meeting you attend as if it is a job interview. Realize that you might be unknowingly interviewing for a position someone in the room has not fully yet recognized they need to fill in their own organization. When they come to that realization, you want to be the first person they think of to fill that role.

How can a mentor help students?

Mentors can help expose a student to potential opportunities and career paths they might not have ever heard of. In my experience, when a mentor agrees to take on a mentee, they inherently agree to assume a degree of personal responsibility to aid in that person’s success.

Mentorships do not have to be short-term endeavors. Being able to bounce ideas off a person with extensive experience in a career field you are interested in is invaluable.

Tyler Gesling ’17 and ‘20

Bachelor of Science in Computer Networks and Cybersecurity

Master of Science in Cybersecurity Management and Policy

About Tyler

Tyler works as a cybersecurity subject matter expert in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, CIO’s Office.

Why do you mentor?

To be a sounding board for those that are looking to get into cybersecurity or may be in the field already but are afraid to approach their senior leaders.

What is the best advice you can offer up-and-coming professionals?

Always be your best advocate. No one is going to look out for your career more than yourself. 

How can a mentor help students?

A mentor can help them understand the different paths that are available for them and understand that cybersecurity is a vast discipline with so many paths that a person can go down. 

Have you ever had a mentor of your own who helped you advance in your own career? 

Many. One of my first leaders in the Army taught me a valuable lesson. He told all of us “take something from each leader that you have, good or bad.” He also told us “if you are the smartest person in the room, find another room,” teaching us to always push yourself to learn more.

David Odhiambo ‘19

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science

About David

David works as a web developer/application developer in Fullerton, Calif.

Why do you mentor?

It is a very rewarding and fulfilling way to give back to the community that has help me achieve so much. Throughout my journey to attain my degree, I have received tremendous support from staff here and mentors who were always there and ready to help every step of the way. [I want to do] whatever I can do to help be a part of [someone’s] successful journey here at UMGC.

What’s your best advice for up-and-coming professionals?  

It is worth it!! All the hard work you put in toward research, communication and your contributions adds up to invaluable learning and practical experience. This eventually prepares you to be able to define yourself in relation to your skills and the professional you are.

How can a mentor help students?

A mentor is in a position to see the bigger picture, in terms of some unforeseen obstacles. A mentor sometimes also happens to be in the field or the job market [the student is interested in] and is dealing with the realities the student might [like to know about or know] how to navigate.

What are some of the benefits of mentoring?

A mentor can be a go-to person for the mentee in situations where the mentee needs an honest and direct answer from a relevant and reliable source. A mentor is also a motivator, helps to cheer up and positively motivate the mentee by guiding appropriately, when needed.

Tanishia Jones ‘15

Master of Business Administration

About Tanishia

Tanishia is the sole proprietor of a skincare company based in Lanham, Md.

Why do you mentor?

I believe it is important to treat people the way you want to be treated, so I cannot expect a hand up if I am not reaching back. It is also my desire to see people succeed in every area of their lives. Mentoring is just one way to assist people in making their dreams a reality. 

What’s your best advice for up-and-coming professionals?  

Learn how to properly network. It is not only about what you know, but who you know. 

How can a mentor help students?

A mentor can guide students in learning from their experiences. Although there is not a cookie-cutter approach to life, there are guidelines one must learn how to navigate. A mentor can be that coach, teacher, agent and sounding board to catapult a student into their next career. 

Rochelle Massey ‘16

Master of Science in Human Resource Management

About Rochelle

Rochelle works as a financial manager in the Budget Officer School of Graduate Studies (MSU) in Baltimore, Md. In her role, she also performs human resources duties.

Why do you mentor?

Early on I would have benefited from a mentor when I was contemplating a field of study/career path.

What’s your best advice for up-and-coming professionals?  

Research – get many opinions.

How can a mentor help students?

Mentors can be a resource to students in many areas. A lot of mentors network with colleagues and/or are members of professional societies. Therefore, they can offer one-on-one experiences in the desired field and give personal experience about their own journey.

Thad Mann ’15 and ‘16

Master of Business Administration

Master of Science in Cybersecurity

About Thad

Thad works as a vice president and cybersecurity strategist in the Washington, DC, area.

Why do you mentor? 

As way to give back to the community and help develop our next generation of cybersecurity practitioners

What’s your best advice for up-and-coming professionals? 

Enjoy the challenge of learning and doing something new. Don’t get into the trap of being complacent—actively seek out new skills and experiences. You never know when you might need them.

What key lesson have you learned during your career?

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes—as long as you learn from them.  

How can a mentor help students?

I have mentored a number of students, and while each person has a different take on life, each one was concerned about finding the best job/career. My suggestion is to not focus on the money nor which job will pay the best. Instead, focus on what you enjoy and what makes you tick. Then build your skills around these things. It doesn’t matter where you start or if you have a master plan. What matters more is if you are motivated and energized about what you are doing. Just get started and be willing to adjust your course (career) along the way. It’s ok to change your mind.

Interested in mentoring through UMGC’s Career Connect program?

If you’re looking for a mentor or would like to sign up to become a mentor, visit careerquest.umgc.edu to learn more about UMGC Career Services and to register to participate in the Community Connect program.