I don’t think he considered himself a mentor to me or anyone else. Certainly, at the time, I didn’t think of him as a mentor. Just my boss who I learned to have great respect for. Or maybe he was an unintentional mentor through his example. It doesn’t matter. He was my first supervisor as a new temp employee at Delta Air Lines and the person who gave me my first safety responsibility as a new team lead a few years later. That was long before I ever considered making safety a career. I remember that day in 1990. I had recently been promoted to team lead. I was getting off the employee bus when he literally yelled across the breezeway “Karol, you’re on the safety committee.” I remember thinking to myself, “If I act like I didn’t hear him, maybe he will forget.” That didn’t happen. All new team leads had an extracurricular activity and mine was employee safety.
As my boss, he taught me by example the importance of setting clear expectations and holding people accountable. He gave me responsibilities that exceeded my capabilities, but I learned and grew because he showed confidence in me and was willing to let me fail and learn. After each safety committee meeting, we debriefed and he gave me feedback. When I was promoted into the Corporate Safety department at Delta, he made sure I knew how much he appreciated my efforts. It’s not by chance that I still have the letter of appreciation he wrote to me in 1993.
I was saddened to find out that Don Rucker passed away recently. He passed away without hearing from me just how much I learned from him and the impact he had on my career and my life almost 30 years later.
Is there someone who has impacted your career or your life? Be sure to express your gratitude today!