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Mentor Spotlight

Honor Your Mentor!

Mentoring is a longstanding tradition of the river. Sharing your journey with a mentor may encourage others to follow your lead by walking in your footsteps or stepping up and becoming a mentor to another crew member wishing to advance. Please send personal experiences of mentoring with RiverWorks Discovery, so that we may use them in our social media Mentor Monday posts.

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Mentor Spotlight - Thomas Cagle

I started in the industry just over six years ago. I was an intern in the HR department for Associated Terminals and knew very little about the maritime world. After a few weeks, I met Thomas Cagle, while taking a Basic Safety class that he was instructing. He offered to take me out on the river to gain a better understanding of the operations of our business. While I was terrified attempting to climb gangways for the first time, Tommy explained everything from the types of cargoes we move to the regulatory bodies that govern our industry. He also gave me a personal history chronicling his career path.

Tommy left his teaching profession after Hurricane Katrina and started his Maritime career working as a deckhand on a grain elevator for Associated Terminals Grain Terminals. He progressed from there to become an operations supervisor, managing the day-to-day operations of loading at the terminal. From there, he moved into the Safety Department where he audited various facilities to ensure they were in compliance with company-set safety standards, as well as protocols set by the various regulatory bodies. He did that for several years, but was then promoted into safety management. He now serves as the Director of HSSE (Health, Safety, Security, and Environment) & Training for Associated Terminals and the fleeting operations of Turn Service. Over the years, as Tommy has grown in his career, his role and sphere of influence have continued to grow as well.

Learning about his continuous growth inspired me, as it gave me a real-world example of forging a successful and fulfilling career. When I started as an intern, it was a need I had to fulfill to graduate college. My advisors at LSU said I needed “real-world experience” before I could earn my Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Development.  This was a summer job that I never imagined would amount to what it has. Within two weeks, after working with Tommy and the rest of our amazing team at Associated Terminals, I knew I needed to find a way to stay. I knew this wasn’t going to be a summer job that I forgot about by the time graduation rolled around. I wanted to follow Tommy’s example of growth and figure out how I could make a difference and forge my own path at Associated Terminals

At the end of the summer, when my internship was theoretically supposed to end, my former boss asked if I could figure out how to stay on through my last semester of classes at LSU. I rearranged my schedule a bit to make it work and spent my time learning everything I could about Human Resources and how it functions in a maritime environment. After graduation, I was hired on full time into the Training Department as the Training Coordinator. Tommy spent hours training me on our operations, regulatory requirements, organizational needs, and how to work in a professional organization, constantly reminding me that I wasn’t at the sorority house anymore.

The Training Department and Safety Department are interconnected, and I constantly relied on Tommy for guidance and perspective. I am sure that I annoyed him greatly, but he was always there to help. After 2.5 years as the Training Coordinator, where I implemented a new learning management system, and rebuilt the majority of the Associated Terminals training content library, I was promoted to the Manager of Training Development and began grad school so that I could greater hone my skills in the areas of performance improvement and workforce development.

Tommy and the entire Associated Terminals team were amazing cheerleaders as I worked to complete course work for school and manage the Training Department simultaneously. This was definitely a challenging time that I would not have made it through without their support. They celebrated with me on my graduation day, right before I drove up to campus to accept my diploma.

Following graduation, I was promoted to the Director of Human Capital Development and Tommy was made my direct supervisor. He has been an amazing boss who has always been open to my suggestions, and has always been willing to lend a hand when needed. He has mentored me through many challenges as Associated Terminals has continued to expand, and my role has continued to grow. He encourages me to ask questions and has never made me feel dumb or inexperienced for doing so. He has challenged me to continue growing and learning, even when it isn’t convenient. I owe a great deal of my knowledge and understanding of the industry and its many moving parts to Tommy. I firmly believe that a great deal of my success is due to his knowledge, his willingness to teach me, and his continuous guidance and support.