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My Mentor Made Me Do It (and I am so grateful)

What drives someone in our industry to get out from behind their desk, workstation or the environment of their day-to-day job and engage in industry community or volunteer activities? In my case, it was a mentor. He pretty much ordered me to consider the world beyond my desk and my own company.

It was early in my career. I was trying to demonstrate to my company that I could work hard at my job at the same time the industry around and outside me was exploding with change. My mentor DEMANDED that I join SMPTE and become active on industry committees (he was THAT sort of guy).  At first, I resented the extra time. More than anything, I did not think that I had anything to offer.

The discussions seemed a bit outside of the areas in which I was working and frankly, sometimes they were beyond my understanding and depth. The people who were involved in these groups and meetings were people whose names I had heard. They were giants in the industry. They won awards and had made huge contributions.

In those early days, I mostly lurked. I went to meetings and events. I observed. I started hearing new terms and learning new things. But then, I started meeting new people. Some of them were those giants who were only too happy to share their knowledge with the new guy. And much to my surprise, I had knowledge to share too.

Little by little, I became a peer, colleague and in many cases, friends with some of the most influential names in our industry simply by showing up and engaging. And then I started raising my hand. It’s crazy how it easy it was to get involved. And it’s crazy how fantastic it was for me to work with others to help our industry – and I can’t deny it – help myself. But something that was equally true was my soon to be full blown “volunteeritis” absolutely helped my company as much as it did my career.

Getting on top of trends. Having access to the big brains and great people at events. Hanging out in a committee where the off–agenda discussion could spark a thought or conversation that could literally fuel amazing new ideas that can help your company and you in your own job, succeed. That was my experience. I can truly say that without my participation within industry groups, my career would have been very different. And I can say the same for my employer. They absolutely benefited from what I learned and helped accomplish through industry association.

We all tend to focus on what is right in front of us, working hard at our jobs and giving our all to our companies, projects or own endeavors. There is this thing called Work Life Balance that I truly believe is important to a healthy and happy life. But to me, my life and work would not have been in balance unless I added industry participation to my hard work and focus on my family.

In those early, defining years of my career, where it was becoming clear that I had a passion for this industry, stepping out from behind my desk and venturing into the community cemented an important status for me. I was becoming more confident in my role in my job and within the industry. I was becoming a “professional.”

Our Hollywood Professional Association, now fueled by that 100-year-old start-up, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, is poised to help today’s generation of professionals reach their potential. I am so interested in helping our new President, Seth Hallen succeed in his vision of “enrolling” our community in this important dialogue and to help those seeking their own professional path. It’s important to the organization, the industry and the individuals engaged in our business at every step of their careers.

Charles J. Lipow was the mentor who demanded I join the community. I cannot thank him enough. Hopefully you will have a mentor like Charles.  Maybe you will heed the wakeup call yourself – or perhaps my words can serve as the mentor that demands you widen your career journey. You will thank yourself. See you at an HPA event soon.

Just take the step.

PS: If you want to know more about my mentor Charles J Lipow, please read my remembrance of him in this month’s issue of the SMPTE journal or via this link on the HPA website.

Leon Silverman
Past President and Founder
Hollywood Professional Association

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