Hi David, could you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
I’m an Animation Director who has sought to build diverse animation teams for the purpose of creating fully rounded and surprising characters and performances.
You were a mentor in DNEG’s Mentorship Program – can you describe the program in a few words?
It was conceived to answer our industry’s need for a more diverse creative leadership. It resonated with DNEG’s leadership, particularly with Lorie Corcuera (Head of HR North America West) and Alex LoCasale (Head of Business Development). The goal was to grow leadership skills and confidence internally at DNEG.
What made you want to join the program?
I believe in the mission – creative leadership is male-dominated and the path to admission for other genders is fraught. In the spirit of improvisational theatre (impro) I often say yes, even when – or maybe especially because – the prospects aren’t straight forward and it’s absolutely the right thing to do.
How would you describe the role of a mentor? What are the main qualities required?
A mentor is a storyteller. They cite examples from their experience, that they feel will resonate with the mentee. They must be an excellent listener since the process is designed to help the mentee discover their voice, worth, confidence, and sense of belonging.
The mentor is also a coach in a non-obvious sense of only asking questions, which prompts the mentee to a verbal exploration of their goals, obstacles, and changes of thinking. The coach proposes no solutions, only questions around a problem. The mentor shares stories showing examples of cognitive change, i.e learning experiences from their career.
You were paired with Debbie Langford, CG Crowd Supervisor, can you talk about your mentee-mentor relationship, and what it was like to work together?
Debbie approached the mentorship in a focused and organized way. In our first meeting, she presented two project goals which she wanted to achieve, one of which symbolically represented the theme of the mentorship: to diversify the motion capture library at DNEG. These projects functioned as external analogies for the interior growth we were hoping she would experience. We took an indirect approach, from the outside in as it were. I was hardly aware we were doing this at the time.
My role was to encourage Debbie and to grease the wheels of exchange in any way I could, advocating for her in advance of obstacles, and fully committing to the project as a “partner in crime”. Coincidently we are both major executors of a plan, never taking no for an answer, persistent, and determined. We also took time to get to know one another, and to align ourselves in order to execute the plan. We also took time to have some fun and shoot the breeze.
What would you say was your biggest highlight during the program?
Having Debbie disclose to me that she felt driven to work at all the best companies as proof of her worth, to collect all the badges to feel accomplished. That’s a very intimate share – which we have now talked about in public at SIGGRAPH! One of Debbie’s takeaways from the mentorship was to question that way of approaching belonging, and the desire for recognition. It was quite a feeling to be present for Debbie’s cognitive leap. She discovered her inner confidence to achieve her goals within DNEG, that the impetus comes from within her, not from an external source. She just had to find it, and she did.
How would you describe David-before-the-program and David-after-doing-it?
From an innocent with good intentions to someone with some decent skills for mentoring.
What did you learn out of the program, are you/ how are you applying this learning to your day-to-day at work?
My ears and eyes are wider open. I’m listening better than ever, and I have more confidence and less fear of failure. Moreover, I don’t even think failure is a bad thing; the outcome is a new beginning.
What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a mentor?
Be flexible, open, and listen to your intuition. Do impro!
Read more about DNEG’s Global Mentorship Program here.
And if you are interested in joining our team and building your career at DNEG, check out our open positions.