I was born the fourth eldest child of five, where education and learning was an integral part of our family value system. Both of my parents graduated college and pursued educational careers in some fashion. My mother taught English as a second language; my father, after years in the corporate arena, decided to pursue a career in education and became an adjunct professor at New York University. My very first exposure to mentoring was through my family. Therefore, my passion for learning—in the role of a mentor and as a student—began at an early age and continues to this day.

Like a teacher, a mentor may not ever know the impact he/she has on an individual. But it is the duty of such role models to continue thoughtful leadership even when it seems that no one may be there to appreciate it. Mentoring is what you make of it. Like most relationships, it can blossom and fade with time, but its success lies in how much you put into it as well as how much you receive in return. Mentorship does not need to be a rigid structure or plan; it does not need rules or restrictions unless you create them. And most importantly, as I have learned later in life, one should be open to mentoring from any individual who inspires you.

The individuals I have met throughout my career have shaped who I am both professionally and personally, and that is the power of a mentor. During my time at MetLife, I continue to be exposed to people who are just as much my teachers as I am a teacher to them. I have been very fortunate to have been exposed to mentors early in my life, through my parents and siblings, at the beginning of my career, and still to this day.

As my sixth-grade teacher wrote to me recently, when I contacted him after all these years, “A bricklayer builds a fireplace and can feel the warmth of the fire; a carpenter builds a cabinet and can instantly take pride in his craft; but when a teacher teaches, he never truly knows the lifelong impact he has on his students.” Be passionate about what you are doing, and seek out that guidance, encouragement and wisdom from a mentor—an individual to guide you not only through your career but also through your personal development.