“I wish I had access to an organization like Lumity when I was trying to figure out a career,” notes Monica Bibbs, Strategic Sourcing Director at ITW. Monica Bibbs is a new volunteer in our STEMWorks program, where she shares her personal and professional journey and offers guidance to Lumity students through STEMTalks. (Listen to Monica tell her inspiring story here.)

Monica’s commitment to Lumity students stems from her experience with her own personal mentors and informal career coaches who helped shape and guide her success. Referred to by Monica as her “ancestor team,” Monica’s list of mentors includes a parent at her son’s school, who offered them rides to class when she didn’t have a car years ago, to her current supervisor at work whom she calls a “player-coach” because he is “right there with us.”

“I am extremely lucky to have had several mentors throughout my career,” explains Monica. “They provided a safe zone to make mistakes, gave me feedback and examples to improve my work, and checked my attitude when I needed it.  They coached me through challenges and exposed my talent that I didn’t even know I possessed.”

It’s these types of mentoring experiences that Lumity provides Chicagoland’s teens—so that their access to career guidance and a professional network is intentional and not reliant on “luck” alone. Thanks to Monica and other area STEM professionals who volunteer with us, our students have a variety of ways to receive work experience and support, including ongoing mentoring in their new STEM jobs through our STEMWorks program. In turn, our volunteers develop important leadership skills they can use in their own careers.

“Mentoring requires important competencies, including patience and pushing yourself to be open-minded and judgment-free,” says Monica. “You have to be a parent, therapist, friend, teacher – and maybe all at the same time. You also have to understand where your mentee is in accepting your mentoring of them. Often, they don’t know how to utilize the relationship and don’t yet know the benefits. And you don’t know the rewards until a bit later on.”

Monica notes, “I follow the e.e. cummings saying, ‘I carry your heart with me.’ People helped me along the way. They just wanted me to win and they didn’t expect anything in return. Those acts of kindness changed everything about my life and I try to follow those examples.”