"A mentor has to have vulnerability"

Woodrow “Woody” Dantzler III is a respiratory sales specialist for Teva, US. A former NFL star, he explains how a career in professional football gave him the skills he needed for his current job and why mentoring and being mentored constantly helps him to grow.

I work in sales at Teva and my job is very important. Let me put it like this. If you’re walking down the street and a dog chases you and you run to get away from the dog, eventually you’ll be winded and struggling to catch your breath. Now imagine someone who has to struggle to catch their breath frequently because they have asthma. The respiratory medicines I work with treat people who struggle to breathe, and that's why my job is so important. That's why I make sure I know everything I need to about my product. Because doctors trust me to give them vital information to support the patients they work with.

My family and friends understand I do what I do because they know my heart and know what I'm truly about. My whole ethos is about trying to help people improve their quality of life, so that's why I'm in this profession, and that's why I enjoy it so much.

I’m from Orangeburg, South Carolina and I played high school football there, then played quarterback at Clemson University. From there I went into the National Football League (NFL) and played for the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons. I played professional football for about 10 years.

Being a professional football player might sound glamorous, but it’s no different from any other job. It’s an early start, about 5.30am, for a workout, then a lot of meetings during the day, as well as football practice, then another workout, and matches on weekends.

A friend mentioned that sales is a good place for athletes to go because a lot of the skillset - the discipline, drive and motivation, being a self-starter and able to work within a team - can be leveraged in the sales environment. That’s the best career advice I ever got, to help me understand and use the skills that I learned playing ball.

I’m a member of the Black Heritage Employee Resource Group (ERG) in Teva US and it’s a great opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals. My whole thing has always been building people to allow them to see their best version of themselves. Being part of the Black Heritage ERG allows me to do that and work with people, because there's a lot of experience, knowledge and wisdom there.

As long as I'm continuing to grow and evolve, the people that I'm leading are growing and evolving as well. That's why I'm always looking for people to help me and to grow in ways to be a better person myself.

I've been mentored within Teva and also outside the organization. I have some peers that I lean on and we build one another up. There's three levels of mentorship: you have to have someone that's pouring into you, you have to have someone on your level that you can walk side-by-side with, and you have to have someone that you're pouring into.

A mentor has to have vulnerability, because they need to be open about their own experiences. But the biggest thing a mentor has to do is to be able to see that thing that's in you. And to have the ability to pull it out.

When I was growing up, my dad said, "I know you've heard that experience is the best teacher but that's not true - the best teacher is other people's experiences”. We were sitting in the kitchen and he said, "You see the stove over there? If I go over there and I burn my hand on the stove, and I come back and tell you, 'Hey, don't touch the stove. It's hot’, you don't need to walk over there and touch the stove and burn your hand to find out the stove is hot. You learn from my experience.” That's why mentorship is so important, having a mentor, someone that can pour into you and share their experiences.

The biggest challenge in my life is just me, my own insecurities, and I've dealt with those challenges with the help of my friends, my mentors and my family. But the biggest thing that has helped me is I have a strong faith in Jesus. The greatest way I deal with my own insecurities and shortcomings is to be who I've been called to be.

I'm a family man. That's where I find my most enjoyment, hanging out with my wife and my two girls, sharing experiences with them, going out or just sitting the house, joking around with one another.

I’ve always had a childlike nature. My childhood was so free, I loved coming home from school, getting into my play clothes, going outside and enjoying life as a kid. That's what I remember the most, that and those random talks with my dad.

If I had to go back and give that child some advice, I’d say make sure you take the time to learn as much as you possibly can. Don't take learning for granted. But then again, maybe I’d say nothing, because if I went back and altered my life in any way, it might be catastrophic. I'm thoroughly pleased with where I am, and I know things have been ordained. So I most likely wouldn't say anything because those things I went through, those things I experienced, have shaped who I am today and I wouldn’t want to change that.

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