From mentee to mentor: computer scientist reflects on lifetime of learning

Computer Scientist Jesús Ortiz, a recent graduate of NAVAIR’s Journey Leadership Development Program, credits mentoring with achieving his personal and professional goals. Ortiz graduated from the program in 2017. (U.S. Navy photo)

Computer Scientist Jesús Ortiz, a recent graduate of NAVAIR’s Journey Leadership Development Program, credits mentoring with achieving his personal and professional goals. Ortiz graduated from the program in 2017. (U.S. Navy photo)

Jul 10, 2017

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NAVAIR Journey Leadership Development Program (JLDP) Spotlight

NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER TRAINING SYSTEMS DIVISION (NAWCTSD), ORLANDO, Fla. — From learning to cook to discovering how to develop computer applications, Jesús Ortiz has always turned to mentors to guide the way.

It’s no surprise, then, that this recent graduate from NAVAIR’s Journey Leadership Development Program (JLDP) has continued to take the lessons he learned in the program about mentoring and pay them forward.

“I believe that knowledge that is not shared is wasted knowledge,” he said. “We all have had, at one time or another, somebody who has taught us how to do things in life. I believe I have a responsibility to share what I have learned from others and from my own experiences. The satisfaction I get from seeing others succeed as a result of my help is very rewarding.”

Foremost, Ortiz cited faith, family and goals as the core values that have driven his life.

As a child and encouraged by his mother, Ortiz memorized Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” He recalled, “It was one of the first things I learned in my faith. It was God sending people to take care of me and be my mentors.”

One such mentor, his brother-in-law, paid for his first photography class and gave him his first camera. Today, photography remains one of Ortiz’s favorite activities.

Career-wise, Ortiz’s sister encouraged him to study computers, after observing his passion for and fascination with the space program. When his sister moved to Orlando, he followed after obtaining his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Puerto Rico.

Soon after, he met a friend who worked at NASA who mentored Ortiz on how to update his resume and interview for a job. After three years of working for a credit card company, Ortiz’s dream finally came to light, and he started working for NASA as a software engineer.

“I had great opportunities,” he said. “I was living my goal and my dream.”

After several years working for NASA, another friend suggested Ortiz apply for a NAVAIR civilian job to return to his computing roots. He currently works for the Information Technology and Cyber Security Department, Applications Integration and Business Intelligence Division as a computer scientist.

His hard work has paid off. Recently, he was selected as NAWCTSD’s “Corporate Operations Employee of the Month” for his work redesigning the NAWCTSD public website.

Using skills he learned in JLDP, including leading change, time management and communication, Ortiz said he was able to engage the website’s different users, assess their needs and use those to design the new website.

“The end result of my efforts and lessons learned from JLDP is a modern and content-relevant website that my command is very proud of,” he said.

Outside of work, Ortiz has become a mentor himself, helping guide young adults through his local church and chaperoning them on mission trips.

“It’s fulfilling to share what you learned through life — what other people gave to you, you are able to give back,” he said. “I get more from them than what they get from me.”

For Ortiz, being a mentor means being a model and an example.

“You set an example by the way you treat people or the attitude with which you tackle problems,” he said. “That's why it is so important how we conduct ourselves. Your attitudes and the way you deal with situations can make you either attract or push away people.”

He said the JLDP classes stressed the importance of setting a good example and inspiring people to face situations with a positive attitude. He takes those lessons with him when he mentors.

“Empathize with people, especially if you have been in the same situation,” he advised. “Be a mentee, too — always keep learning from others, so you can gain as well from their knowledge and experience.”

The JLDP, established in 2010, helps develop future civilian and military NAVAIR leaders through training and exposure to leadership responsibilities. Participants enhance their interpersonal communication and productivity skills, gain a stronger working knowledge of command operations and develop a more robust personal network. This year, the program comprises 119 NAVAIR employees nationwide and includes leadership, wellness classes, formal mentoring and other developmental activities, such as job shadowing and senior leader interviews. More than 160 employees graduated from the program this year.

Mentoring is an essential part of the program, according to JLDP Manager Twila Kopaniasz.

“As future leaders, mentoring is an opportunity for JLDP participants to partner with senior leaders to gain knowledge and share perspectives within and outside the command,” she said. “It creates an avenue for personal growth, professional development and knowledge transfer.”

In addition to JLDP, NAVAIR offers formal and informal mentoring programs, training and an online tool to match mentors with mentees.

Find more information on NAVAIR’s employee development programs. JLDP applications will be accepted July 25 through Sept. 8, 2017.

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