Mar 17, 2017
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. — For more than 22 years, Mark Meno has been affecting lives through his contributions as a chemical engineer. However, recently it’s the work of shaping professionals that is making an impact on the Naval Air Enterprise.
During 2016, Meno, AIR-4.0 Research and Engineering Group head, mentored at least 14 Naval Air Systems Command employees, across a few competencies, and supported enterprise mentoring initiatives while filling the roles of Fleet Readiness Center East’s senior civilian and group head, concurrently.
“Despite his added responsibilities and rigorous schedule, he would find whatever 30 minutes he had in order to maintain our monthly mentor meetings,” said Lauren White, systems engineer of the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division Orlando, who has been mentored by Meno since 2009.
The NAVAIR Mentor of the Year for Cherry Point honor bestowed upon Meno in January confirmed what several around the enterprise have known for a while.
“Mark is one of the most positive role models I know. He is an excellent communicator and leader. It is clear to me that he truly cares for every member of his team and their well-being. He is an excellent choice for Mentor of the Year,” said William Sherrill, AV-8 and F-35 Aircraft Strength Branch head.
Though the formal mentorship for Erin West with Meno is less than a few months old, she said she has been a watchful copycat for nearly a decade.
“While he wasn’t officially my mentor, I have tried to emulate some of the traits I have observed in him through the years,” she said, explaining that she was impressed by his demeanor, professionalism and expertise from the numerous professional exchanges they have had through the years. “I’ve always respected Mark and held him in high regard. He has always been helpful and respectful with all his employees. He provides unbiased and logically sound advice. He conducts himself in an extremely professional manner and never allows emotion to drive him and his decision making.”
Ramsey Davis, AV-8 Fleet Support Team mechanical systems engineer, sought out Meno as a mentor after realizing the executive leader’s successes in different departments in NAVAIR.
“I strongly believed that he would have a very wide knowledge of the work place,” said Davis, adding that Meno was the senior civilian during a volatile period at FRC East. “Even though he was under extreme pressure he made time for me and answered any of my questions to the best of his ability. This is what first struck me as most special about his personality. A person that stops everything they are doing in order to give all focus to another person’s interest is a very unique characteristic in today’s very fast-paced world.”
Eric Santure, aerospace engineer with Airframe Technology Branch, said accepting a blanket offer of mentorship from Meno has been “one of the best things” he’s done in his short time at FRC East.
“Even though I’m still early on in my career, he treats me with the respect of a seasoned employee,” said Santure, who is also a fellow alumnus of Meno’s alma mater Virginia Tech. “I think overall he’s a great mentor because he genuinely wants to see me succeed in not only my career, but in my life.”
And while Meno’s mentees could “gush” for days about his character and personality, they had as much to say of the invaluable advice he’s imparted that’s bolstered them along their career paths.
White recalled seeking his advice in making a few crucial career moves. She remembered him being a pillar of wisdom when she wrestled with the decision to relocate. She said he was sound with his advisory to her to pursue higher education. And she said he was beyond supportive when she fell into a professional and emotional lull, confused about the way ahead.
“I wasn’t sure what I was looking for personally and professionally,” said White. “He helped me work through my confusion. He advised me to give myself time in my job and in the town: 'Get involved in things socially … Give it time and reevaluate and then make a decision.' Either way, he said he would support me.”
Davis said Meno’s thoughtful guidance regarding his personal and professional attributes has given him motivation for his career.
“His advice coupled with his experiences has allowed me to stay focused on a career path that reveals my personal strengths and leads to individual success,” said Davis, further emphasizing that such focus nets a comprehensive payoff for the enterprise. “Individual successes lead to team successes.”
Meno has been a fount of knowledge for Nick Petteway, aerospace engineer with the Tactical Aircraft Strength Branch, providing answers in areas ranging from data-driven technical solutions to work-life balance to strategies for professional development and continuing growth.
“No matter the subject, he always has useful input and often offers not just sound advice, but also an alternate perspective from which to view the problems,” said Petteway. ”He’s definitely a ‘teach-to-fish’ rather than a ‘fish-for-you’ kind of mentor, which is much more valuable in my opinion.”
Additionally to his mentees, Meno has been a professional confidant, offering perspective and standing at the ready to lend counsel or act, if necessary.
“Our mentoring relationship allowed everything to be discussed in confidence,” said Tim Dillinger, H-1 electronics engineer. “There have been a couple of difficult decisions that I’ve had to make in my time here and Mark was extremely helpful in talking through my options and getting me to see the issues from multiple sides. His mentoring has been extremely beneficial.”
Though no two mentoring sessions are the same with Meno, his counsel from one mentee to the next is consistent. He advises the mentees to look for and take opportunities to grow, “affect change” where possible, and “stand behind their technical conscience.”
Meno, who currently serves as the Research and Engineering Group head, began his career at FRC East in 1994 as a materials engineer. He moved into management after completion of an executive leadership development program in 2000, heading up a branch for analytical chemistry and composite materials, afterwards transitioning to head up the Research and Engineering Sciences department. He was selected to head the Air Vehicle Engineering Department in 2007, a position he held for seven years.
FRCE Public Affairs