Audrey Burke, Innovation Strategist, USPS
A strong sense of curiosity and a desire for self-discovery provide the direction of Audrey Burke’s career path. A student of management as an undergrad who pursued marketing for her MBA, she got into market research in a very organic way. “I was always hiring market researchers, and I was really interested in what they did,” she says. “So when an opportunity arose for me to try market research, I took it!”
Exploration seems to be a career theme for you.
I have a lot of interests, and I’ve learned how to follow my curiosity. I am something of a searcher. That’s what makes me quirky. I’ve also realized that you can’t do everything at one time. You’ve got to pick and choose. And from that pursuit of a variety of interests, it is possible to create a whole.
Have you mentored before becoming involved with AMADC’s program?
Yes. Over the years, I’ve participated in both formal initiatives as well as informal ones. Most recently, I was involved with StreetWise Partners, a workforce development nonprofit that allows mentors to work one-on-one with trainees, and before that, with a group called Empowered Women International, helping immigrant women start a business.
What drew you to AMADC?
Really, the structure and the programming: there’s something in it for the mentor, as well: learning, developing, networking. I like that mix.
Have you had mentors in your career?
Absolutely. I have been a part of structured programs and I have also sought out individuals I believed I could learn from either personally or professionally.
How do you mentor?
I try to help my mentee develop in the way he/she chooses. I ask: “tell me your goal.” Then I work with him/her on focusing. If they’re wavering or if they are unsure, for instance, we discuss what is distracting them. Is it fear, or is it a reassessment of the goal? My job is to ping back—if the goal is to be a doctor, then great! Pursue it – and let’s figure out how – or not. We might discover that, as well. I give what I desire: the support, the feedback, the encouragement. We all need support. So just being that voice. For me, any part I can play to get my mentee on the path to the goal is super energizing and rewarding.
Any advice to protégés? And for would-be mentors?
For the protégés, I say, stay vigilant! Learn as much as you can. Seek out complimentary skills to become well-rounded in the field. Do what you like and create a path that is authentic to who you are.
Mentors: listen and seek to understand the person you are mentoring. Remind your mentee of his or her progress often. Be honest, flexible and creative in how you help her or him to reach their goals. Finally, have fun!
One word –noun, adjective, adverb – that describes a Mentor’s role.