Industry Voices Reflect on Mentorship for National Mentor Day


Wed. October 27th, 2021
- by Melissa De Leon Chavez     

NORTH AMERICA - Passion and perseverance might be the lifeblood of our industry, but mentorship is the connective tissue. The ties between those that know and those hungry to know directly impact the growth potential of fresh produce. I can’t think of a better time than today, National Mentor Day, to check in with those who have received and are sharing this gift to get their words of wisdom on what mentorship has meant, and continues to mean, to them. I hope this fills your cup as well as it did mine.

Lori Taylor, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, The Produce Moms®

Lori Taylor, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, The Produce Moms®“Timeline breaks in your life are real. Those moments where before and after your life is never the same, that’s when good mentorship can sustain you. When my dad died unexpectedly in 2018, I almost gave up on The Produce Moms. I don’t remember much from the early days of grief, but I remember telling CarrieAnn Arias that my dad was the one person in my personal life who never gave me permission to quit. She told me that night she will never let me quit. She’s been pushing me forward ever since.”

Gabriela D’Arrigo, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, D’Arrigo New York

Gabriela D’Arrigo, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, D'Arrigo New York“I have never actively sought out mentors in my personal or professional life, however, I have been fortunate to have some incredible mentors cross my path. The individuals who have become unexpected mentors are some of my closest friends and confidants. Some still don’t know they are a mentor to me, and I almost prefer it that way—it feels more honest. I think there is a lot of pressure around the term ‘mentor’ and many don’t seem to be able to handle it. It becomes a chore, or worse, a selfish title. Outside of my two most influential mentors (my parents) I have found myself seeking guidance and, oftentimes, receiving that guidance without even knowing it.”

Elena Hernandez, Senior Innovation and Brand Management, Duda Farm Fresh Foods

Elena Hernandez, Senior Innovation and Brand Management, Duda Farm Fresh Foods“Over the expanse of my career, I have been fortunate to have many influential mentors a phone call, text, or email away, guiding me through important decisions and milestones. I strongly believe in the mentorship relationship for all working professionals, as both a mentor and mentee. I believe mentorship is vital for career growth. As the mentee, you have individuals helping you to achieve your highest professional and personal potential. As the mentor, you have the opportunity to motivate and support, as well as learn from others. I would not be where I am in my career today without the professional mentor relationships that have encouraged and empowered me to grow.”

Joe Nava, Vice President Sales and Business Development, West Pak Avocado

Joe Nava, Vice President of Sales and Business Development, West Pak Avocado“I have been so fortunate to have some of the greatest avocado minds take time with me, which is an amazing aspect of this industry. I had such great leaders, too many to name, from such a young age who inspired me to really pay it forward and motivated me to mentor as well. It means so much for senior leadership to take the time to sit you down and walk you through the business, to let you travel with them and not just to encourage you but let you see their lessons in action. We care so much about the industry, we just want to see it continue to grow through young talent developed, something I am an actual result of. This investment has helped me get where I am today, and now I want to see that through by paying it forward because I understand firsthand how important mentorship is to our industry’s future.”

Natalie J. Machado, National Director of Marketing, FreshSource

Natalie J. Machado, National Director of Marketing, FreshSource“Throughout my life, I’ve been very fortunate to have great mentors who were willing to take time out of their life and schedules to provide meaningful input and observations to assist in my growth, whether it was educationally during my academic years or professionally throughout my career. These mentors have not only taught me about what is important (both personally and professionally), they have also given me the vision and knowledge to grow my personal brand and exceed expectations with their support and guidance. This is what I hope to continue to provide others throughout my career at FreshSource and in the produce industry at large. The ‘relationship’ you make with mentors and mentees continues to be such a foundational value. I know I would not be in the position I am today if it were not for the influence and direction of my mentors, and I hope to continue to bring that value to others.”

David Dudley, Senior Manager of Sales and Merchandising, Produce and Floral, Sprouts Farmers Market

David Dudley, Senior Manager of Sales and Merchandising, Produce and Floral, Sprouts Farmers Market“There’s no way I’d be where I am without the mentorship that I received along the way—I’m humble enough to understand that and be grateful for those who took that time with me. I’m forever a student, constantly asking questions, which gave me the opportunity to learn from some amazing mentors who were willing to sit with me and answer those questions. Too often we take for granted that the ‘why’ in this business is obvious, forgetting that employees, especially newer ones, are afraid to come off asking the wrong questions. Should anybody ever look to me as a mentor, I will explain the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ as much as I can and invite the same questions I always wanted to ask. When you empower people with the reason, they believe in the message you are delivering, understand, and they want to help execute the vision.”


You can learn even more about all of these mentors in the making, and a handful of the voices that helped them find their way, over at thesnack.net. Please take a moment today to reach out to someone who mentored you, knowingly or unknowingly, to thank them for sharing an invaluable gift: experience.

 
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