Zoomcast 50 Mentees at 50 | Randall Belknap and Tina Fox Interview

Tina Fox: Hi everyone. This is Tina Fox, creator and CEO of TERN Mentoring, and am here with an old friend, Randall Belnap. We actually know each other from our very first job out of school. We also happen to share a birth date, so we have a lot in common outside of the fact that we bleed purple. You can tell by his uniform today that even though he’s on the job, he’s still bleeding purple. But I wanted to bring on my friend Randall because he is an amazing mentor to many people. And Randall had this idea a while back and he mentioned it to me. And since then so many others have been inspired by his goal. So, Randall, here we are, dare I say, at our half-century mark. And you made an announcement about some of the things that you want to do differently or aspire to in the second half of life. And so you’re living your legacy like nobody lives a legacy. And I wanted you to share with the TERN audience what was it that you mentioned about a personal goal that had to do with mentorship. And can you tell us a little bit about why that goal?

Randall Belknap: Sure. Thanks, Tina. I’m almost three years into that second century. So the idea of of my nifty 50 or 5050 started on December 6th, 2020, which is that birthday we share. Um, and the mentoring of 50 young professionals was born on really on our birthday, if you will. As I sat in Bridgewater, Virginia, with a football cake that had a 49 and a one because we couldn’t even go get a zero and a five for 50. So I started to reflect on the things that I’ve done, but also the things I’ve still wanted to do. So I took pen to paper and started jotting down a list of 50 things that would do 50 of like 50 states or visiting 50 countries. And number 23 on the list was mentoring 50 young professionals. The last one on that list is that I’ve got the book just to double check it is now present this back to you Tina is number 50 on that list is finding friends to do this challenge with. So it’s finding those to multiply this out and go in directions. But but just again started to reflect in terms of the amazing journey that I’ve had the opportunity to live and work, but and also all the opportunities that I felt like I needed to share. Um, and so that’s that’s what it started from. And so did a reflection back in terms of all of my coaching experience and, and management experiences, even before we got into the professional world, but drew that line that the 50 count started, um, essentially when we both got out of school. So 1995 is when it started. So since that date, there are 17 members on my list. So I’ve got quite the list still to go, but then get a chance to meet with you and find out what you’re doing with TERN mentoring. And it became a natural match for me to continue one of my 50 lists. So it’s kind of started well.

Tina Fox: We love the fact that you are a mentor with TERN Mentoring now, you obviously are a natural mentor. You’ve been doing this since you graduated from JMU. I’d love to say that we find a way to serve our younger selves, and we’re very equipped to do so because we’ve lived a life. We’ve had experiences like most people, but unlike you, there aren’t folks that maybe feel like they are natural to mentorship. So, what would you say to folks who have life experiences? Have work experience, have gone before, and are a little shy about this concept of becoming a mentor? Do you have any advice for those individuals?

Randall Belknap: Yeah, I mean, my personal experience is that I learned quickly kind of early on that I mean, everyone knows who Michael Jordan is, right? And so arguably one of the best basketball players ever. But most people don’t know who his coach was. It was Phil Jackson. And but you know, Phil won a championship as a player but then won ten as a coach and didn’t find myself as ever being a Michael Jordan. But I certainly find myself as a Phil Jackson. And so it’s being able to, you know, to mentor those, you know, as even still recruit. You know, folks mentioned meeting a former roommate at the Hotel Madison last week. I’ll leave his name out to protect the innocent. But, you know, even recruiting mentors, it’s giving them the confidence that you have something amazing to give back. But even what I find selfishly, is, is I get something from each one of my experiences with my mentees. And it’s just it’s amazing in terms of the the interaction you have, that how well they’re prepared, what they want to talk about, how hungry they are to make a, you know, an impact in the business world. And it’s, you know, it’s just it’s very rewarding. It’s an area where you’re not doing it because, you know, there’s a financial impact. You’re doing it because you’re giving back, but you’re also sharpening your own tools to expand in the future. So it’s really a cool experience. I wish, I wish more people would realize what they can do with it. And so like I said, I’ll recruit one at a time to continue to find, I guess, 50 mentors to go with the 50 mentees. So guess the list is already growing so well.

Tina Fox: We we love that idea. Now, some folks may not feel like they’re at Phil Jackson level, but think you you’ve created a very compelling reason as to how this can sharpen your sword. Do you have any specific examples in all of your mentoring where, you know, there’s this concept of reverse mentorship, right, in mentoring others, whether they’re peers, but there’s also an opportunity to mentor up. So sometimes we find mentees have a great impact on their mentors because they’re coming from a different space. They’re coming from a different level. They’re coming from a different time in life. So is there anything specifically that you’ve learned in all of your mentoring that you’re like, you know what, this was a great value to me as a mentor, hence why you keep doing this. Sure.

Randall Belknap: Yeah. I mean, early on in our days of of Wallace was going back and doing recruiting. And so at that point, I was really kind of in touch with what was the students or, you know, mindset, skill set, because I was barely one of them. You know, a few years later, you know, now it’s 20 plus years later. I can’t even count them. You know, it’s allowed me to be in touch with what is changed in terms of and now, especially now post pandemic, what is really changed in terms of how people interact by way of, you know, zoom as well as also, you know, in person. So it’s it’s allowed me to even help with our, our corporate recruiting because it’s, it’s understanding how different the mindset is coming out of school. Um, I think a reflection point for me was a mentee that literally mean I wanted an internship program at, at check marks. And so I set aside some funding and identified a brilliant young lady. She’s not a JMU grad, but that’s that’s okay. Don’t hold it against it to her. But she became an intern for us. But then all of a sudden realized the fact this is someone that I want to be able to, you know, mentor and bring into the company. Now, she doesn’t work directly for me. And I think that’s kind of one of the rules that I kind of set along the way is, is don’t define a mentee as someone that, you know, reports to me or I manage, if you will.

Randall Belknap: Now, they could have been someone I used to manage that I’m now, you know, their, their, you know, point of validation have have mentees that call me going, hey I’m looking at this this job opportunity. What do you think or what do you think of this company and type of thing. And so that really happened last week. I had a guy that hadn’t, you know, you know, seen probably for years. So you know, it’s a it’s a reflection from that standpoint. That particular intern and mentee, you know, was a sociology major was moving into sales. And, and really some of our, our one on one conversations was just being able to help her reflect on some of her skill set. She really didn’t even know she had. And again, and even then she was like, you know, I can’t even get a job, if you will, you know, as a sociology major. And what she wanted to do. Well, she just hit me up last week with her, her not her resume, but her PowerPoint presentation of why she needs to be promoted into the field sales organization because she’s done such an amazing job as an entry level, you know, sales development rep.

Randall Belknap: I had to basically just kind of blown away the fact that she was like, you know, you gave me the confidence, but you also gave me the coaching that to not really, you know, you know, take, take instructions without being able to question why, but also to be able to put your best foot forward. And so so yeah, I was then challenged to put that PowerPoint, you know, an executive in the company’s hands going we have tremendous talent in this company. And here’s an example. And so I thought that was really interesting. Um, another one that this happened on in our program last year was when when I started talking about the 5050 or my 50 list was another mentor on the zoom call that reached out wanting to be a mentee to me. So so was another mentor wanting to kind of join in my, my food chain or ecosystem, which it was really kind of taken back. It’s very rewarding when the fact is people think, you know of you that that perspective. And so so that’s really kind of, you know, so so there’s a along the way, those are little rewards that you just don’t even think about until you kind of sit back and process what people say or what they, what they do.

Tina Fox: You know, that’s a full circle moment. I had no idea. Thanks for sharing that little tidbit at the end. First of all, I think it’s wonderful that you were inspiring someone’s confidence so that she then. Would build a power point and go for something that she may not have gone for had she not have had those conversations with you. So I firmly believe that part of mentorship is just communicating with another person in a very real way. That does help further build confidence in an individual, because we’re we’re always so used to being surrounded by people that we work with, you know, our bosses, our peers. If you’re a collegiate person, maybe your parents and professors, but having this extra person or professional like you to further instill that confidence, what a what a boost. I just think that’s great. But just getting back to that full circle moment, Randall, of you’ve got a mentor seeking your mentorship. So, you know, I love that concept because I too, you know, as a mentor, seek mentors because we’re all at different areas of growth in our life. And when you’re lacking something and you see somebody who, you know, may already be performing at that level, you seek out their mentorship. So it’s a never it’s a never ending process. Now, that’s something we are trying to do with TERN right is take the the collegiate set, give them an opportunity to partner with someone like yourself through that, hoping that they build the confidence, the skills. They learn something. And then when they graduate, maybe come back in as a mentor themselves to continue that cycle. I’m just curious, you’ve already been mentoring you do it so naturally. Why did you choose to then partner up with TERN mentoring? I know you said it was. It was a natural alignment, but now that you’re a part of it, other than us knowing each other for a long time, what? What is it about TERN that you might tell people?

Randall Belknap: Sure. Well, first of all, I really feel it’s almost an honor that you allow me to do it. I think that’s that’s the one of the coolest parts. But, you know, I, you know, thought about this, you know, from the standpoint is, is, you know, the a mentor program in general needs to have because I’ve been a part of several I’m part of one now, even at work, I’m mentoring a colleague overseas in the UK. And the difference the two programs, it’s very loose. It’s very unstructured. Um, in my corporate world, it’s not as effective as what I’ve, you know, I’ve found experienced with, with TERN is is the fact is having structure but having accountability. I think you know, one thing even talking to my mentee last night, she’s back off the road. She’s crazy awesome. And volleyball Jamie volleyball team I couldn’t believe who got matched up with because we love that part of my, you know, tour. As I now go to all the sporting events, not just football and basketball. So I was going to volleyball games when I had a chance to meet me at so but you know, but the one area that I really see that I think that in terms of doing a great job is, is you mentioned I’m not looking for one relationship or one mentee or even one mentor. I have multiple mentors to me who I recognize. I don’t know that I give them a business card and put a name on it and say, hi, you’re my mentor.

Randall Belknap: Um, but the scalability of being able to do more, more than just one on one interaction, I think that’s something that I saw great value and, and what you guys are doing and oh, by the way, the affiliation with, you know, the purple and Gold school wasn’t too bad of a deal either. I mean, it’s because part of when my wife and I moved back to Harrisonburg in 2020, it was figuring out how we could get back involved in the university. And so there’s so many ways that you can do it. But the one area that really came down to the area that I wanted to be able to be involved in was with the students, um, and, well, you know, the universities quickly would be willing to, you know, take some money and be able to go do things with that. The College of Business allowed me to even shape what we donated into the interview process within the College of Business, which is kind of funny that if you do a, a, an interview virtually, there’s three rooms on the first floor of the College of Business, and those three rooms have my name, Amy’s name, and our last name. So that’s that’s how we gave back, because that’s the first exposure that. So check that out.

Tina Fox: Didn’t know. Is it is it a Hartman or an Showker?

Randall Belknap: Yeah. It’s Hart.

Tina Fox: Hartman. Okay, I’ll go check that out next time.

Randall Belknap: Um, but but again, think the work that you’ve done with your team is, is amazing in terms of the, the structure, but also the professional level of it. I mean, you could have launched out, you know, beta this and that and not be professional, but it’s very well done. So kudos to you. As a matter of fact, when I was talking to me at yesterday, I was talking about the program and how it’s out of its inception, and she was kind of blown away. She had no idea. She thought it was. That was just the way it was. That’s the way that the university that’s part of the structure. So. So you’re done good that it’s backed well.

Tina Fox: Well thank you Randall. So you talked about which is such an important thing for I think any university, JMU or otherwise, you’ve got a large alumni population that’s out there that may not necessarily like you have moved back to the hometown of the university and they’re off, you know, doing their jobs, raising their families. They might even have kids in other universities. What would you say to alumni as far as plugging back in? You’ve done an excellent job in doing that with JMU. You know, how do you how do you better plug in? Where do you think TERN could serve the alumni if they’re not in Harrisonburg or if they’re like super busy and maybe they don’t necessarily, you know, have $1 million to donate to a new wing of the building. Everybody’s got to start somewhere, right? That’s the goal is the time, talent and treasure. And as we’re all working towards the treasure part, what would be your your recommendation to alumni who want to plug back in?

Randall Belknap: You know, and this happens on a pretty regular basis, is is alumni plugging back in? They they don’t wait until your kid’s getting ready to apply to schools. And that seems to be the ones that shows up at my doorstep going, hey, can you talk to me about JMU? Or hey, can you introduce me to such and such? Or how much is it cost to, you know? And I was like, no, you can’t do that. You know, it’s you got to get in on your own merit. But, but but the but their students or their future students, they quickly come to me now going, hey, you’re the local guy here. What do you think? And if they’re that does that, you’re right. There’s 100 and some thousand, you know, active think it’s 153,000 living alumnus of JMU. And you know, very small percent have our opportunity to interact with the university. I think as I talk to, you know, former, you know, fraternity brothers, team members and stuff is they they don’t realize how little excuse me, how big of an impact they can make with how little of a touch in terms of and even within the, you know, term program it’s outlined. The fact is, is as as little as what, six sections of 30 minutes each. You know, unfortunately, my mentees don’t get that. They get a lot more.

Tina Fox: And I had no doubt.

Randall Belknap: Yeah, even Miesque she’s got a seventh section. She’s going to teach me all the rules of the volleyball games I’ve been going to. So that was that was the like I said, I’m she’s learning from me. I’m learning something from her. So, you know, that work has a very natural match. And I think that’s even when people feel, you know, skittish about donating university and they talk about, you know, every dollar is is something they didn’t have before. Every minute of time that you can give back to to university is, is is one more minute. They didn’t have before. And and so when those start to add up it becomes very powerful what you can do. And I think it’s even you know it’s kind of contagious because then you have someone else talking about it. Right. And what they what their experience was. And again get it. Not everyone had an amazing experience in college. I mean, my it took six for me to get out of school. So I think I’m a year older than you, Tina, but I graduated a year after you, so.

Tina Fox: But so how that worked. I just assumed that you were just having more fun than me. That’s why you were able to. Yeah.

Randall Belknap: That’s that’s that’s for another. Another podcast or story. Because that’s a there’s a little Air Force involved with that. The reason why it took me a little longer but but nevertheless, you know, think that’s that’s the biggest hurdle that people have to overcome is the fact is, is, you know, as small as an impact of being able to commit to a time period, it’s not even a commitment. It’s a reward, I think. But but not everyone feels that way. But there are a lot of us out there think it’s just being able to get to those and recruit them to to do so well, I.

Tina Fox: Hope to I hope to find more. Randall Belknaps like I told you, I said working with the app developer developers. I told them we have to have a Randall section because although we do 1 to 1 mentoring, where, you know, the mentor only receives one mentee at a time for those six sessions, Randall is ready to, you know, offer more time to more people at the same time. And so we are in active development of the Randall portion of so. So thank you. Thank you for that, Randall.

Randall Belknap: I’ll have to I’ll have to share that with with my daughter Carly. She graduated JMU 20 and 22. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree because even now she has a corporate job doing computer programming. She is giving back. She is teaching and mentoring future musicians and the things that she does. And so and she’s got, you know, these big, large drumlines drum cores flying all over the country to be able to work with, you know, young musicians and stuff. So her her story is amazing within itself. But but at the same time, I think she just saw the way that, you know, that I work. My wife Amy, what she does and what she gives back to our community, that just it becomes really kind of infectious that you want to do more with it.

Tina Fox: Well, we’ll have to bring your daughter into the fold, too, because one of the things I’ve learned is that the students love to meet with folks along any timeline. After college, you know, sometimes the folks that have just recently graduated have more relative experience to what they’re getting ready to enter into than some of us that have been out for a few decades. So having that continuum is really important. So we’ll get her on board as a mentor at some point.

Randall Belknap: Absolutely.

Tina Fox: That being said, I wanted to close with one last thing, and we try to always ask our mentors or our mentees. They’ve provided us with amazing mentorship moments. So with that, is there something that you’ve heard or maybe that you say to your mentees that you want to share with our audience as to a mentorship moment that could be memorable for them to hang on to?

Randall Belknap: You know, I think I mentioned a little bit earlier in terms of the experience of what what a mentee communicates to me of what it means to them. I think it’s incredibly important. And I realize it’s kind of early on, even in my kind of management days, is, is, is it doesn’t it’s not a mentor to mentee relationship. It becomes a partnership in terms of, of of their experience, their success, but also your experience and success. And like I said, I’m I’m selfishly mentoring at this point because I’m trying to make myself better for the next experience that I have or the next company I work for. And even then, you know, younger mentee can be somewhat intimidated by the fact. Like if they go look at your LinkedIn profile and see, oh, wow, you know, Randall’s been in business for whatever, you know, three decades, sudden they’re intimidated. You know, it’s important to be able to put them at ease very early on. Um, but but it’s also being able to make sure you give them great guidance. You know, I think some of the feedback I’ve gotten is, is this, you know, tell real life stories. I tell them, you know, how it was or what happened. And but then I, you know, I challenged them to what do they think and get them what their, what their experience was. And we got down the path of talking about parking tickets one day.

Randall Belknap: And that’s just the fact is it was, you know, the eternal challenge of parking on campus at JMU. But, um, but I think that’s, you know, the key point is, is and I think the, the fruit of the labor will be is, is does that mentee carry that torch forward? Do they become a mentor of the future or even something different? And I kind of thought about this. Preparing for today – do they seek out other mentors and think about the fact is and I think, you know you know I’ve talked about this before is, you know, don’t have a single mentor. I have mentors plural and have every element in my, in my life, whether it’s, you know, it’s health and fitness, uh, a social mentor, you know, professional mentor. And, you know, and I think that’s really important that you’re constantly looking for, you know, kind of guidance, if you will, from, from those that are around you. They don’t always have to have a label, don’t have to have a business card that says mentor. But it’s just an overall concept. I think that you’re brought into it. It really works. Well, I mean, it’s just the way I really don’t know any different, actually. It’s kind of strange to think that way, but.

Tina Fox: Well, you have a great curiosity and an even greater appetite to learn and to support, and we cannot thank you enough for being a mentor here at TERN Mentoring, for anybody who is interested in following in Randall’s footsteps and maybe doing their own nifty 50, um, please, by all means contact us at info at TERN mentoring.com and it’s spelled t e r n mentoring.com. Or you can check us out on the web at TERN mentoring.com. We are currently at JMU supporting the JMU students and the JMU alumni. But of course we’re bringing in folks from all different universities too who believe in mentorship. They want to be plugged into a cool platform. So we’ve got folks from UCLA, UCLA, Michigan State, Harvard, Clemson, Georgetown that are all participating with us, and we hope to get you connected not only with an awesome mentee, but also in our mentors forum. So thank you again, Randall. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you today. And I’m Tina Fox with TERN Mentoring. We’ll see you on the next zoom cast. Take care. Thanks.