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Mentorship and the Developing Professional Part I: Mentoring New Hires

November 18, 2020

Mentorship is a two-way street. Learn how our Developing Professionals Group supports both new hires and established professionals through mentorship

Mentorship has clear benefits to professional development—when an employee is developing soft skills, navigating new challenges, or growing their career, they are likely seeking out the advice of others as they go. When an employee is connected, challenged, and engaged, they deliver their best work.

At Stantec, mentorship is promoted and supported through our Developing Professionals Group (DPG). While the details of each interaction are different, one thing is similar—these are symbiotic relationships growing careers and Stantec as a whole. Whether our teams facilitate informal connections, or establish formal mentorship programs, we look for opportunities to encourage these relationships at every turn.

Finding a mentor when new to a job, fresh out of university or college, can be key to easing successfully into the workforce. Sometimes someone is assigned, but sometimes it happens organically. This is exactly how it went for Noel Guercio, operations leader, and Taylor Ahrensdorf, civil engineer, both from our Water business line. Noel and Taylor have had a mentor/mentee relationship for more than five years, beginning when Taylor had just joined Stantec out of college. Here is their story.

Why did you seek out a mentor/mentee opportunity?

Noel: I never sought it out purposefully, it just organically happened by being in the office and surrounded by my colleagues. As a mentee myself, I’ve found mentors organically as well and have developed relationships that way.

As a mentor, I’ve always found myself checking in with people through natural conversation and mentorship opportunities presented themselves that way. Sometimes these relationships are not always long-term, sometimes they’re just five-minute conversations.

Taylor: My relationship with Noel grew on its own, it wasn’t something I was expecting when I joined Stantec. Nothing was ever formalized until Noel moved offices. He has never been my supervisor but became a person I went to for professional and personal guidance. Asking general questions is what really opened up that relationship with Noel. Someone was interested and invested in my career and was willing to have those conversations with me.

I think relationships can and should happen across hierarchies—the professional level of each person doesn’t affect the value of the advice. A quick Google shows the benefits of reverse mentorship, meaning seeking mentorship from someone with less experience; there are opportunities to learn from everyone.

How did you establish your relationship?

Taylor: Similar to what we’ve both mentioned, the relationship came organically from natural conversations. Both parties have to be invested; it doesn't just happen. As the mentor, you need to be willing to put in the time and effort to listen. As the mentee, you need to be willing to take the feedback and apply it.

How have you grown from having a mentor?

Taylor: It has completely catapulted my career. You have someone who understands how the business works and where to direct you. Mentors can help guide your goals with your best interests in mind.

It’s also pushed me to do things early in my career that I wouldn’t have imagined doing that early otherwise. One year into my professional career, Noel suggested that I present with him at the annual AZ Water Conference. My gut reaction? No way, I’m not ready for it. But with his guidance and support, it became a highlight of and massive confidence boost for my career. Now I’m getting published and presenting in front of audiences by myself, but that initial encouragement and assistance really set me up for future success.

How have you applied what you’ve learned through the mentorship relationship?

Taylor: I’ve watched Noel and taken away what he’s brought to our relationship, applying it to working with interns and new hires. It’s made me want to give back and pass along that same amazing experience I’ve had to someone else. Five years later, I’m doing the same thing with one of our water interns and working with them to submit an abstract for that same AZ Water Conference.

How have you grown by mentoring others?

Noel: Listening is key. It’s also reinforced what I’ve learned from my own mentors. I’ve learned a lot from Taylor as well. He’s given me a fresh perspective and offered constructive criticism. I think it’s up to the mentor to get past their own ego and say, ‘I have something to learn from this relationship, too.’ It’s never a one-way street.

What lessons were you able to apply as you transitioned from mentee to mentor?

Noel: I don’t think you ever transition from mentee to mentor. In most stages of your life and career you can be both. And it might not necessarily be someone who has more experience, it could be a colleague. I think it’s important to note that these relationships can also help in your personal life as well, it’s more than just for work. Listening is a skill that I’ve improved through mentoring and been able to better apply in conversations outside of work as well.

Has anything unexpected come out of your mentoring relationship?

Taylor: Everything has been unexpected. When Noel told me he was moving, I didn’t think our relationship would last. But we scheduled recurring meetings that have stayed consistent. At the beginning of the move, it was to collaborate on a client project. When the project ended, I thought that meant the end of our mentorship relationship as well. It’s taken an unwavering commitment on both our parts to keep it going. I also wasn’t expecting a friendship with someone senior to myself.

Noel: It’s been unexpected to see how much my mentor/mentee relationships have taught me in my career and in life. There’s always an opportunity to learn something in those relationships and keep an open mind. Everyone has lesson or advice to offer.

Scheduling regular time has been the most important thing to keeping our mentorship relationship going through a move. Having it on your calendar reminds you that you set aside time for this and have committed to participating.

How do you see mentorship impacting your work and/or career development?

Taylor: Mentorship is a cornerstone of my work. For the services Stantec provides, mutual respect among team members and a collaborative relationship allow you to realize everyone has something to offer the client and brings a unique perspective to the table. Mentorship has opened my eyes to seeing those perspectives and recognizing that we are always better when collaborating.

Noel: I’ve found I’m more patient because I’ve heard different things from different perspectives. It’s great to have that consistent sounding board. My career has ultimately been more rewarding because I’ve had the opportunity to mentor.

You never know where an organic connection might take you. Now, Taylor is mentoring new members of the AZ Water Young Professionals Group and passing on what he’s learned in his relationship with Noel to new industry professionals.

Mentorship is a two-way street, and there’s always something to be learned. Learn more about how Stantec’s Developing Professionals Group supports new hires and established professionals through mentor/mentee relationships.

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