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Tough Love

Mike Whitaker was born into the heavy-civil and utility construction industry. His grandfather, Jim, was the founder of our great company. When he looks back on his youth, he remembers playing with his toys underneath his Mom's desk as she performed financial and clerical duties for the company. As he grew, his Dad, Bob, would take him to go work on the weekends to complete projects and paint, clean-up, and beautify a jobsite after the work had been completed. Whitaker Construction ran through every vein of his life, and, as a result, forged many important relationships that would guide and direct his outlook throughout his whole life.

In this journey of life, we all face challenges, make decisions, and strive to reach our full potential. Whether you're a student, a professional, an entrepreneur, or anyone trying to make their mark in the world, the value of having a good mentor cannot be overstated. A mentor is like a guiding light, helping us navigate the twists and turns of our varying paths. We're going to spend some time in this post talking about how Mike was tossed into the tough-love-mentorship of Delwyn Jensen and how that relationship ended up resulting in a life-long friendship for them both. We're also going to briefly mention the value that a good mentor can bring into your life.

Mike Whitaker and Delwyn Jensen, Sept. 2023
Mike Whitaker and Delwyn Jensen, Sept. 2023

Thrown Into The Fire

"It forged me, and it was a forging. None of it was easy."

These were Mike's words as he looked back on his time as a young man, working with Delwyn and other various employees throughout his upbringing in the company. With his hard work ethic and positive attitude, Mike was able to take these moments and turn them into growth-inducing opportunities, not only to grow as a Whitaker Construction employee, but to grow as a man, and later as a husband and father. It helped him to come to his own understanding of the blue-collar industry and of the skilled men and women that worked tirelessly to perform critical infrastructure jobs that would then go unnoticed by the public as the completed work would get buried and forgotten.

"As I got close to those foremen and those operators and those pipe layers and laborers, they helped raise me, and I am absolutely grateful for that. I had so many moms and dads and powerful influences in the blue-collar community. They were just salt-of-the-earth, shirt-off-their-backs, they would do anything, and I watched them do some of the most incredible, amazing things, and recognize what they were able to compel me to do. I was doing some pretty amazing, incredible things, and it just drives you in your life.

It forged me, and it was a forging. None of it was easy. I had to recognize that being an SOB (son of the boss), I needed to be okay with being the low-man on the totem pole. Whatever you needed, I expected it, and quite frankly I think that was a strength that I began to develop early on was that I know you're going to make me do a bunch of stuff that I don't want to do and you don't want to do and some of this stuff is to taunt me, and I would just say "Okay, do it."

"I brought home an issue to the house once at dinner. That was the last time I was ever allowed to do that. My Dad lit me up like a Christmas tree at dinner, and pretty much told me, "If you have a problem with someone, you go work it out with them. You don't work for me, you work for him. You got a problem with him, you go work it out." Duly noted. I was grateful for that, and what I learned from Delwyn was that he was that way to everybody, but I realized that he can't break me in that moment. He really helped me develop thick skin. Go ahead and insult me, give me the bad job, do whatever you gotta do. I'm focused. I'm not going to let you break me."

As Mike continued to work alongside Delwyn and countless others over the years, his experience growing up in the fabric of the company has shaped his perspective on life. His mentorship and friendship with Delwyn may have started out rough, but his relationship with Delwyn has proved to be nothing but advantageous for his life. This is what a good mentor has the power to be. A friend. A leader. An advice-offering coach that wants what is best for you and for you to succeed.

The quotes from this post come from the Empowering (You)th Podcast. The podcast is done by Building Utah Youth, an organization that Mike is very passionate about. He recently recorded a podcast episode about his experiences. It is definitely worth your time to listen to Mike's episode of the podcast, along with all of the other motivating and uplifting episodes!


What Can A Mentor Offer Me?


One of the most significant advantages of having a mentor is the opportunity to tap into their vast knowledge and experience. Mentors have been there, done that, and learned from their own mistakes. By learning from their experiences, you can avoid common issues and fast-track your own success. A good mentor's wisdom is invaluable.


Good mentors often have extensive networks in their industry. They can introduce you to influential people and open doors that would otherwise remain closed. Networking is a crucial element in your personal and professional growth, and having a mentor can give you a significant leg-up on your peers.


Navigating unfamiliar territory can be scary, and self-doubt can be creep into our heads. A good mentor can provide you with a sense of confidence and self-assurance. They can serve as a sounding board for your ideas and offer constructive feedback and encouragement. With their guidance, you will feel comfortable getting out of your comfort-zone and really soaking in what life has to teach you.


A good mentor will hold you accountable for your goals and commitments. Knowing that someone is there to check in on your progress can be a very powerful motivator. They can help you set realistic goals with realistic checkpoints, track your achievements, and keep you on your path to success.


A good mentor does more than just offer their professional advice. They can also help you grow personally. They can share life lessons, provide emotional support during tough times, and encourage you to develop qualities like resilience, perseverance, and patience. These qualities are valuable in every facet of your life.


For Mike, Delwyn was able to provide experienced perspectives, offering insights and ideas that he might not have considered. Although they can be challenging, these differing perspectives help you see things from different angles, leading to more innovative and effective solutions. Who doesn't want that?


A good mentor often leads to lasting relationships. Over time, your mentor can become a trusted advisor and friend. This relationship can provide ongoing support and guidance throughout your life and career. Plus, as you progress in your own journey, you may have the opportunity to become a mentor to others, continuing the cycle of learning and growth that you have been able to take part in yourself over the years.


In the great project of life, a good mentor lays down a foundation for you to build your own life on. With a good mentor, this foundation will be made of concrete and rebar. It provides a way to tackle life's challenges head-on and without fear. The qualities that you will gain will help you to Elevate Team, Value Safety, Embrace Ownership, and Be Honorable in all that you do in your life and career. Whether you work for Whitaker Construction or not, having and/or being a great mentor really will help you to Build the Best: People, Communities, Future, and that can do nothing but benefit society as a whole.

What has a mentor meant for you in your life? Drop a comment below and share your experience!

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