[This post is part of a series on Mentors and Heroes]
Spencer Fry’s mentor is…
Paul Fry, English Professor at Yale University
How long have you known each other and how did you first meet?
He’s my dad, so I guess you could say that we met at my birth? But in all seriousness, if you’re going to have a mentor, it’s going to be someone’s who’s gone through a lot of experiences with you. You have to have a long relationship with someone before you can consider him or her your mentor. I don’t think you necessarily have to put a timestamp on it, but I think anything under five years is pushing it.
How would you describe how you relate to your mentor?
My dad is my peer rather than me being his protégé, apprentice or disciple. Our careers couldn’t be more distinct – he teaches English to undergraduates and graduate students, while I think if the right opportunity comes around, you should drop out of school and start your own business.
What makes our relationship so strong is that I run a lot of ideas past my dad who’s been there every step of the way through my Internet startups, and he always presents me with a well thought-out discussion on the topic. He’s also the most articulate conversationalist I know and really thinks through all aspects of a situation better than anyone I know.
How formal or structured is the mentorship? Does Paul know you consider him a mentor?
You’d have to ask him, but I think he mainly considers himself to be my father and friend first. I think any good father naturally mentors his children without thinking about it like that. They simply help guide their children down the right path as best they can.
What is one piece of advice your mentor gave you that has stuck with you the most?
I can’t think of just one thing. I think the best thing about a mentor is that it’s a relationship that lasts a long time and touches all parts of your life. You know you have a good mentor when everything you do is somehow influenced or overseen by them. I will say that the greatest thing my dad has done for me is just being there throughout my entire life with a steady demeanor. You always know that you’re going to get level-headed, straight, intellectually thought-out advice.
Thank you Spencer for sharing your mentor with us!