Damien Savage is a 2009 graduate of Southern University in Louisiana. He moved to Washington after college graduation and began a career as a staffer on Capitol Hill. Today, he is a Congressional Sales Lead for Bloomberg Government. In 2015, Damien became a CPE mentor to Chaz, a high school sophomore attending Woodrow Wilson High School. We caught up with Damien to ask him how his mentoring experience is going so far.
How did you wind up in Washington D.C.?
I came to D.C. after college graduation, it was December 2009. Not a good time to be looking for a job. But I was able to leverage my network of college and fraternity friends to help me land a position on a Congressional staff, even though I had no prior Hill experience.
What motivated you to become a mentor with CPE?
My fiancé forwarded me an e-mail about mentoring to see if I wanted to volunteer. The e-mail made me reflect on how mentors have helped me at different points in my life. Growing up, my home life was difficult and at times lonely. My youth pastor made a particularly strong impression on me. He was cool, smart, and did things that most folks in my family were not doing. The mentors in my life were extremely valuable to my development as a person. When presented with the opportunity to become a mentor, it was now my turn to reach back and be the person so many mentors were to me.
How has your relationship with Chaz developed?
When I was in high school, I was just like Chaz, a smart teenager just trying to fit in and find my place. I didn’t need another parent, just a trusted ear to take advice from. I was a little surprised at how quiet and shy Chaz was at first. I guess he had to feel me out. Luckily, CPE prepared me that it would take some time for our relationship to take root. Now, Chaz seems very excited when I call, and he often reaches out on his own. It is getting better, but I know we still have a long way to go. I consider him to be part of my family now. He is even coming to my wedding in Costa Rica in March!
Does anything about your relationship stand out?
Chaz and I talk every Monday night at 8 p.m. and we get together in person several times a month. Chaz has a lot of distractions at home and in school, and he could easily fall into the wrong crowd. We always talk about making good decisions. We have something like a mantra, I say “decisions” and he replies “they have to be good.” I am starting to feel that Chaz views me as a safe haven outside of his home, an advocate for him.
How is Chaz preparing for college?
Chaz is strong academically, but he needs to work on staying focused and doing the work. He is learning that it is OK to be smart. I often tell him that getting a B when you know you can get an A is not going to cut it for getting into his dream school, UCLA. We are also trying to get him to stop saying “I am not good at something” and focus instead on saying “I can do it, but I need to make an extra effort.”
Do you ever discuss careers with Chaz?
All the time. This past summer, Chaz was able to land an internship with Microsoft in their game design center. I helped him put together a resume and prepare for the interview. We are now working on his LinkedIn profile together and researching opportunities on Indeed. He was recently nominated to be in the high school chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. Chaz is a talented visual artist and loves video games. We are talking about him majoring in engineering. Chaz has the talent, he just needs the push.
How have you gotten CPE involved with Bloomberg?
Bloomberg has a program called Bloomberg StartUp, which helps employees give back by helping local students explore career paths. CPE is the first local non-profit working with Bloomberg StartUp in Washington, D.C., and just last week we had 15 CPE students come to our offices to learn about careers such as supply chain management and human resources. For many of them, it was their first time in an office. I am also recruiting my colleagues to become CPE mentors.
What is one piece of advice you would give to folks who are considering becoming a mentor?
Don’t let it scare you. It is so enriching to me, looking at the world from different perspectives, and passing down advice based on my own personal successes and failures. It makes me feel good to help someone else, especially when I get to say “you can do it, I believe in you.”