In our world of diminishing crew sizes and heavy on-board workloads, opportunities to form mentoring relationships have become fewer and fewer. This is a shame not only because of the fact that mentoring is a valued and ancient maritime tradition, but also because now, more than ever, the industry needs mechanisms to nurture the next generation of mariners and land-based maritime workers. To this end, a group of volunteers have created the International Maritime Mentoring Community at www.MaritimeMentors.com - a free on-line community where anyone in the industry (or considering a career in the industry) can find a maritime mentor to help navigate those difficult career choices.
We spoke with Murray Goldberg, the technical author of the website about on-line mentoring in the maritime industry.
MarEx: Tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your background.
MG: I started out as a faculty member in the department of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia. There, in 1995, I was doing research on the effectiveness of web-based learning. This research caused me to develop some software, called WebCT, to ease the creation of on-line courses. There turned out to be a large demand among universities to use WebCT, so I left UBC to start a company (WebCT) which eventually grew to 350 employees serving 14 million students in 80 countries. I later sold that company and have continued to work in eLearning. Although I volunteer as the technical maintainer of the Maritime Mentoring site (www.MaritimeMentors.com), my day job is as the CEO of Marine Learning Systems, the maker of a learning management system specifically for the maritime industry.
MarEx: Is there anyone you look up to or that has inspired you in your professional career?
MG: Indeed. There are many, but if I had to pick one, I'd say it is Maria Klawe. Maria hired me as a faculty member at UBC . She later went on to be the dean of engineering at Princeton and is now the president of Harvey Mudd College. Maria is an amazing scientist and human being who acts as though she does not know the meaning of the word "barrier". Her energy, imagination and drive to change the world for the better are inspiring. She's also the kind of leader who creates growth opportunities for everyone who has the fortune of working with her.
MarEx: Tell our readers what Maritime Mentors does.
MG: The "International Maritime Mentoring Community" (www.MaritimeMentors.com) as we like to call it, is an on-line community to help establish and maintain mentoring relationships in the maritime industry. It is a site where hundreds of deeply experienced maritime experts from every part of the industry freely share their wisdom and lessons learned from their collective 4,000+ years of industry experience. The community is 100% volunteer. It is free to join and no one gets paid. Protégés (prospective, new or advancing maritime workers) can find and establish mentoring relationships with these mentors to obtain personal career guidance.
MarEX: What were you doing before you began Maritime Mentors?
MG: My background is eLearning and specifically learning management systems. I did, and still do, run a company called Marine Learning Systems which builds and sells a sophisticated learning management system specifically for the maritime industry. The company is young, but seems to have hit a chord in the industry. It seems the industry is eager to understand and apply modern learning technologies to solve existing training problems - which I am very thankful for and excited about.
MarEx: What sparked the idea?
MG: I am a recent newcomer to this industry (7 years). It became clear to me early on that mentoring was such an important and traditional activity in this industry, and that it is needed now, more than ever, to help attract and keep outstanding mariners for the betterment of the industry. At the same time, shrinking crew sizes and busier schedules while on-board have conspired to reduce the opportunity for mentorship. For me, building a site where protégés could find mentors was easy, and we already have the hardware infrastructure to run the site. So I thought - why not?
MarEx: Where did you begin?
MG: I began by sending out a note on LinkedIn offering to create the mentoring site if I could find a few people who would be the first volunteer mentors. I thought, "if I can find 10 or 20 mentors, then it will be worth it". To my shock and amazement, roughly 200 incredible maritime industry experts stepped up to volunteer their time and expertise. I was blown away. This is an incredible industry filled with people who want to make a difference. I just wanted to give them a venue to make that difference.
MarEx: Describe qualities your ideal volunteer/mentor or “protégés” would possess.
MG: The perfect mentor is someone with 10 or more years of experience (many of our mentors have 40 or more) in any part of the maritime industry anywhere in the world. They are personable, friendly, and willing to help nurture the next generations of mariners and shore-side workers.
The perfect protégé is anyone considering a career in the industry, or who is working in the industry and is building a career and needs the wise council of someone who has "been there and done that".
MarEx: What is the most satisfying part of your job?
MG: I am always excited whenever I can build something that helps people. The mentoring community certainly has that potential. In fact, I am sure it is already doing so.
MarEx: What's next for Maritime Mentors?
MG: The maritime mentoring community will be as valuable to the maritime industry as there are members there. In other words, the more people that know about it, the more it will benefit the maritime industry. So although I can't do nearly as much as I would like to in this regard, the goal now is to tell the world about the existence of this community. So here goes:
Are you an experience maritime worker? If so - consider giving back to this wonderful industry by volunteering to be a mentor. There is no commitment, and it is both easy and satisfying.
Are you considering a career in the industry or advancing through the ranks? A mentor can help you navigate those tough career choices. You can find one at the maritime mentoring community. There are hundreds there waiting for you at this very moment.
Most importantly, you can find the community at www.MaritimeMentors.com.
MarEx: Lastly, what do you like to do in your free time?
MG: I don't have a lot of free time, but I serve on a number of industry and educational institution boards, and I am a very frequent lecturer on the eLearning revolution - having seen it from all sides. I live in Vancouver, Canada, so you'll find me, my lovely wife and beautiful girls out on our boat whenever the opportunity is available.