[This post is part of a series on Mentors and Heroes]
Mike Rohde is an art director and designer for Northwoods Software, a web and software design and development firm. He is well-known for his real-time sketchnotes at many events and conferences, including SXSW Interactive and An Event Apart. Follow him on Twitter @rohdesign.
Mike Rohde’s mentor is…
Juergen Strigenz, Owner, Creative Director
How long have you known each other and how did you first meet?
We’ve known each other almost 20 years, having met during my interview with Jurgen for a position at his design firm, Hare-Strigenz Design, in December 1989.
How would you describe how you relate to your mentor?
Over the last 20 years I’ve been an apprentice, associate and am now a peer to my mentor, though he is still 10 years ahead of me, meaning he’s always a mentor.
How formal or structured is the mentorship? Does Juergen know you consider him a mentor?
Our relationship was more formal while I still worked for Hare-Strigenz, though we were also good friends during my 10 years with the firm. Now it’s pretty casual, though we call each other for advice from time to time. Juergen knows he’s a mentor, though I’ve never formally told him “you’re my mentor” that I can recall. So, it’s a pretty informal relationship now.
What is one piece of advice your mentor gave you that has stuck with you the most?
Juergen always preached professionalism and learning. He taught me early in my career to focus on the task at hand as a professional and to be willing to put in the time to master my profession and maintain it by constant learning and experimentation.
What else do you want the world to know about your mentor?
Juergen is a leader who seemed to find a balance between remaining rooted and conservative in business practice while choosing where to move to the leading edge. As an example, Hare-Strigenz was one of the first design firms in Milwaukee to use mobile phones in the ’80s and one of the first to move to Macs for print design in 1990s. But by the same token, has never had to lay off staff during recessions or slow periods, because Juergen and his business partner Paula Hare maintained a small staff and didn’t spend money foolishly when times were good.
Thank you Mike for sharing your mentor with us!