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Mentoring Destiny: Building Up Women in STEAM Careers

Do you have a person in your life who really shaped you? Someone you felt destined to meet?

For DeWayne Griffin, that person was his next-door neighbor. In fifth grade, he moved next to the Brindzas. These neighbors, especially Mrs. Brindza who was an English teacher, had a huge impact on his life.

The teacher inspired a lifetime love of reading and learning and actually gave him his first car. It seems DeWayne was destined to be inspired by Mrs. Brindza. If he had never moved, she would have been his English teacher at his old school.

"Mrs. Brindza was a huge role model for me. Though, no doubt, my mom was my number one role model," DeWayne shared.

For Becky Leach, the mentor she was destined to meet was DeWayne.

Becky first met DeWayne at a high school long jump pit. Even though he coached a different school, DeWayne went out of his way to help Becky get a better distance.

Their paths continued to cross. Becky studied Information Systems and became an intern at State Farm where DeWayne is a tech exec. He became her formal mentor.

“He always pushed me to be authentic and empathetic and bring my best self to whatever I did,” Becky said.

She took a full-time job with State Farm. Eventually, as destiny would have it, both she and DeWayne ended up at the company’s Atlanta Hub.

“Throughout my State Farm career, I had great roles, teams and role models,” Becky shared. “But, I came to realize in this city with so much opportunity, I only knew State Farm.”

When she made the decision to accept a tech role at another company, she wanted to tell her long-time mentor, in person.

“He was so supportive and encouraging, like always. He did say he hopes my path brings me back to State Farm one day,” Becky said. “I was nervous going into the meeting, but DeWayne helped me leave confident.”

DeWayne understands the importance of mentorship, encouragement and support. He is where he is today because of others, like Mrs. Brindza, who guided him. He believes it’s something leaders should do “no matter what.”

This servant leader philosophy is one of the many reasons Women in Technology (WIT) chose DeWayne – a man - to receive the first ever Build Her Up Award.

The Atlanta organization empowers women and girls to take charge of their science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) careers from the schoolroom to the boardroom. WIT hosts an annual awards gala celebrating female visionaries in the tech space.

“I’ve had a lot of leaders in my life. When I heard about this award, he was literally the first person who came to mind,” said Becky, a WIT member. “I can think of 100 reasons why he deserves it. Even though I’m no longer at State Farm, DeWayne continues to help me, and so many others, with our careers.”

DeWayne hopes the people he mentors will continue to pay it forward for the next generation. As destiny would have it, that generation includes his 14-year-old daughter. She’s interested in a STEAM career.