ESA’s Mentorship Program Placing Young People on Inside Track

While there are no shortcuts to success, a groundbreaking industry program is placing enterprising young people on the inside track. Participants share how they were enriched by the inaugural year of ESA’s Mentorship Program.

Michele Monheim and Don Childers

How did you first learn of the program? Had you ever participated in anything similar?
Monheim: From an ESA email newsletter. I had not participated in any similar program.

Childers: I learned about it through the ESA website, and I too had never participated in anything like it.

How did you become involved and what inspired you to do so?

Monheim: I really enjoyed attending the ESX show and becoming part of the mentor/mentee program included attending ESX and other activities where I could learn more about the industry and connect with other companies.

Childers: I became involved because I felt like it was a good way for me to give back to the industry and to ESA.

Why do you believe mentoring is important?

Childers: I believe it provides professional socialization and personal support to help grow success and leadership skills in mentees for the present and future.

How did the experience mesh with your expectations?
Monheim: Connecting with my mentor exceeded my expectations. We have had conversations about so many different aspects of the security industry. Don has become a dear friend that I know I can count on to help guide me throughout my career.

Childers:It went beyond anything I could imagine. From her introductory email, I knew she was going to be great to work with. She was receptive to the timetable of events I put forward for the program, and cooperated and participated in every event.

What were the most valuable information and things you learned?
Monheim:Attending the seminars and courses throughout the program has been an overwhelming experience.

One of the most valuable things I have learned is to sit back and listen to others, and pay attention to how each person learns and communicates as an individual. Communication is key to so many things, but sometimes we need to stop trying to communicate, and start listening.

Childers: I believe I also helped Michele understand that you will fail, and likely fail often as a leader, but it is what you do with those failures.

Most people in business look at failure as a negative; I think she learned that failure is only a negative if you do not learn from it.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here for a glimpse of the team-building and trust exercises mentors and mentees participated in!

What practical “tools” did you gain to advance your career?

Monheim: I have been around the industry for 15 years, starting out in monitoring while attending college. I worked my way through the business side and although I have picked up a lot of information on the technical/service side, I have a lot to learn.

My mentor encouraged me to attend technical classes and obtain my New York state license. I have completed my ESA NTS Certified Level 1 Technician course and plan to continue to work on that goal through 2017.

Another practical “tool” I have gained is the people I have met. People of all different backgrounds have shared their expertise and experience to help others advance their own careers.

What, if anything, did you learn from your mentee?

Childers: Michele taught me to throttle back my business life and learn to enjoy the things around me. She helped me understand I could still have my professional persona, but I could enjoy life outside of work in my personal life as well.

What surprised you most about the experience?

Monheim: That I would have any influence on my mentor, a seasoned security professional. Don has been very open to listening to my ideas and not afraid to tell me why something may not work.

We have become great friends and encourage each other both personally and professionally.

Childers: We know about each other’s children, spouses, pets and our love of football. I believe that not only do we have a wonderful working relationship, but now I have a dear friend for life.

Is there an amusing or memorable incident that took place you could share?

Monheim: My favorite part of the Mentorship Program has been the encouragement and friendship. As WNYESA [Western New York Electronic Security Association] treasurer, I was asked to accept the nomination for president.

Despite my fear of public speaking, Don encouraged me to accept the nomination. We have been an inspiration to each other.

Childers: The final event in Washington State probably solidified our business and personal relationship. We took a fieldtrip to find Mount St. Helens. Not knowing what to expect, we rounded a curve and there it was.

I pulled into the lot, we walked up to the viewing area, looked at each other and did not speak for about 10 minutes. The sight of that mountain was breathtaking.

I think we both realized we would probably never see anything like that again. It was a great way to remember our time in the program.

Would you recommend it to friends or colleagues?

Monheim: I would recommend the program to anyone. I enjoyed every aspect.

Childers: I would participate in the program again and I would recommend it. The opportunity to work with and create relationships within the program is unique. To my knowledge, there is no other program quite like it.

Colin Depree and Steve Paley

How did you learn of the program?
DePree: [ESA CEO] Merlin [Guilbeau] recommended I participate after having lunch with him one day while we were discussing MNESTA’s [Minnesota Electronic Security and Technology Association] association with ESA.

Paley: I found out about it through ESA announcements.

How did you become involved and what inspired you to do so?
DePree: It was easy to make the decision to be involved as there were great mentors lined up who had years of industry knowledge and connections to pass on.
Paley: I believe strongly in giving back to the rising leaders of our industry. I was never mentored in this industry, but I have had numerous unofficial mentors throughout my career and the experience has been

It’s important to guide our future leaders as best we can and a mentorship program is an outstanding vehicle to pass on lessons and advice that really can’t be learned any other way – or at least would take a lot longer to discover.

How did the experience mesh with your expectations?

DePree: It exceeded my expectations. It was not necessarily because of the structured activities, but the connection and education I received from my mentor was invaluable. The structured events could have been more consistent.

Paley: It meshed 100%. Not only did my mentee respond positively to my advice, a bonus was the information and insight I learned from him.

It was extremely interesting and helpful to understand how a young person in our industry thinks, feels and approaches the issues we face every day in the security business.

What were the most valuable information and things you learned?

DePree: People, people, people; the importance of talent and investment in that talent is critical. I also had a great mentor who always discussed how customer-facing decisions – like pricing, margin, expenses – impact organizational performance and the bottom line.

I got great insights into management and ownership decision views rather than just customer and employee decision thought processes.

Paley: I believe my mentee also learned how best to discover and analyze the underlying issues inherent in the challenges young professionals face in their daily work. How they can tackle the bigger issues facing their companies and show their superiors they have a lot of value to bring to the table.

What surprised you the most about the experience?

DePree: How easy it was to get information from not just my mentors, but all the mentors. No one seemed hesitant to share experiences and insights.

I assumed there would be some protection as we are all in the industry and in some cases maybe competitors, but all parties just wanted to help. I also felt like I gained a friend, not just a mentor, in the process.

Paley: How enthusiastic my mentee was to absorb the advice I was giving. It was really refreshing.

Is there an amusing or memorable incident that took place you could share?

Paley: At the ESA Leadership Summit last year, having my mentee, albeit after a couple of drinks, screaming in a large crowd that I was the smartest guy in the industry. You can’t buy PR like that!

Would you recommend it to friends or colleagues?

DePree: Absolutely!

Paley: The program is terrific. I am doing it again and would definitely recommend it as an experience that helps our future leaders as well as our current senior leaders to grow personally and professionally.

ESA Mentorship Program Class of 2016

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is the marketing director for Elite Interactive Solutions. He is the former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He can be reached at

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