New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA

Mentor Story

John Young: 16 Years After BTE, A Surprise Call

Written By: John Young, Senior Manager, J&J Design Program Management Office and Bridge to Employment Mentor

Sometimes gratification comes 16 years after.

In 2002, I was voluntold (volunteered by someone else in a way you can’t say no) by my colleague Maria:  “John, there’s a Johnson & Johnson (J&J) program called Bridge to Employment (BTE). You’re in it.”

BTE is part of the broader J&J Talent for Good strategy that activates our company’s 140,000 employees from across the globe to grow personally and professionally, enabling them to apply their time, skills and resources to build healthier communities around the world.  Through BTE, J&J employees help nurture their mentees’ interest in a future in STEM or healthcare, while also preparing them for key stages of their life: college, and eventually their careers. We have the privilege to support students through a three-year journey of trust and growth that includes everything from interview preparation to problem solving workshops, and J&J campus tours to practice college entrance exams.

For my current BTE group, graduation season is finally here. Several weeks ago, we hosted our BTE Closing Ceremony, where students and mentors reflected on our journey, achievements and memories together. When I look at the pictures I collected for the Closing Ceremony, I see the faces of future scientific innovators, and healthcare workers.

For me, mentorship is personal. I grew up in Staten Island in a poor immigrant family.  My parents didn’t speak English when we first arrived in the United States; I learned the language while playing with my neighborhood friends. My parents  instilled a strong work ethic within me, which helped me muscle through some of life’s challenges. But like many other children growing up in immigrant families, I didn’t have the playbook for common life events that the average American adolescent experiences — like drafting a resume, submitting an internship application, or participating in a job interview. My first exposure to these experiences were all accompanied with a feeling of being unprepared or left behind. How did everyone else know how to apply to internships or find a summer job? Why didn’t anyone tell me? I hated feeling this way.

“Being a mentor and helping someone be prepared for life’s milestones is therapeutic for me, as it’s my way of going back in time and slowly erasing my feelings of being unprepared at those milestones.”

I also have my own mentor, Kim. In addition to helping me feel more prepared for what’s to come later in my life, Kim has also helped me become a better mentor for my own students. Julio, one of my recent mentees recently told me, “The advice I received will always stick with me and I’ll make sure if someone needs help, I will provide the same help as my mentor once did.”

Julio’s comment reminds me of the power of mentorship — good mentors like Kim have the power to start a domino effect, encouraging their mentees to be better mentors. In turn, it’s my hope that I’ve prepared Julio and my other mentees not only for their lives, but also to give back and become great mentors on their own accord too.

Jalisa is another mentee whose experience demonstrates the power of mentorship, and another example I come back to when I encourage others to take the step to become mentors for the next generation.  Jalisa and I met in 2003 as student and mentor, but after she graduated from high school, we always stayed in touch.  Imagine my shock and happiness when I got a call from her 16 years later, in 2019, to tell me she had landed a job at J&J as a Preclinical Project Coordinator!

Poet William Butler Yeats once wrote, “In dreams begin responsibility.” Participate in a mentorship program. Start one of your own. And voluntell a few of your colleagues to join you on your mission. I have a strong feeling your company and your colleagues will support you.  Just remember, true gratification may take 16 years.

About the Johnson & Johnson Employee Engagement Strategy ‘Talent for Good’

The Johnson & Johnson Talent for Good strategy aspires to activate Johnson & Johnson’s nearly 140,000 employees from across the globe to grow personally and professionally by applying their time, skills and resources to build healthier communities around the world. From donations to fully immersive assignments with NGO partners, Talent for Good creates opportunities for employees at all stages of their career to play their part in creating positive and meaningful change. Follow #TalentForGood to read other inspiring stories about how J&J employees and partners are collaborating to build a healthier, more equitable world.