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Mentorship and the Developing Professional, Part V: Growth in groups

September 17, 2021

A mentorship isn’t always one mentor and one mentee. This feature looks at how one can find growth in group mentorship at Stantec.

When developing soft skills or navigating new challenges, employees often seek the advice of others. Mentorship has clear benefits to professional development—when we are connected, challenged, and engaged, we deliver our best work.

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

When Tracey Moher—managing consultant in our Water financial services team—learned of four recent hires on her team, she quickly reached out and started regular group conversations with them. Her goal was to create connections across a virtual landscape and help these young professionals realize their potential—something she’s always been passionate about. Kyle Rooker—financial analyst—is one of those four new hires. We spoke with them about their perspectives on mentorship in a group setting.

How did you establish your mentor relationship?

Tracey: When I started at Stantec, making a difference, and talking to those starting to build their career was very important to me. I want to offer my expertise and support to answer any questions new hires may have. Kyle, along with a few others, started at the beginning of 2021, so I reached out to start monthly calls.

Kyle: We’re geographically separate for the most part—I’m in Florida, Tracey is in Pennsylvania, and the rest are spread across the US—but it gives us a good opportunity to network. There have been many valuable pieces to come from this virtual setting, but the biggest piece is the interaction you can have through Teams.

Tracy Moher and Kyle Rooker.

How have you grown from having a mentor?

Kyle: It’s really helped with setting goals. My perspective has always been to start small, understand the core fundamentals of my role and position, and go beyond that when I’ve begun to master it. To me, it’s important to create relationships that facilitate the continuous learning process. Tracey is a great resource for making connections to experts within our team. Having her share information with us allows us to nurture a community of learning.

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

Kyle: Starting in a virtual environment meant going beyond my comfort zone to reach out to others. You don’t necessarily have the face-to-face interactions you would in an office setting. Having a mentor has helped facilitate that process, and Tracey has been able to point me in the right direction.

Outside of project-related tasks, being able to talk about general motivations, life goals, milestones, or even weekend plans helps create more of those connections. Talking about our experiences in a group setting with Tracey has been big for keeping mental health prioritized and making sure our work-life balance is appropriate.

Tracey: I shared with the group that when I first started at Stantec, it could be very intimidating—you’re surrounded by a lot of smart people. So, to me, it’s making sure my mentees have confidence in knowing they can say they’re busy—they feel empowered to say no to meetings or workload to keep their work/life balance in check. It is important to me to be a form of support on that end, too.

Kyle: To be honest, I never really envisioned myself in a virtual work environment, but the culture has really helped to facilitate that process. Everyone has been super friendly and open to communicating.

Has anything unexpected come out of your mentoring relationship?

Tracey: It’s still so new, but I think my goal is trying to find what the group wants to get out of the relationship. Figuring out what they want to talk about and working to gain trust has been the big driver so far.

Kyle: I’ve learned a lot more a lot faster than I would have otherwise. Working with someone versus knowing someone are two different things. When you get them in a conversation that’s not work-related, it’s a totally different relationship than just talking about a project. Having a connection and building trust really humanizes our interactions.

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

Tracey: I’ve had so many great relationships with mentors. It’s easy to question yourself and think things like: should I say something, is my idea good, or should I ask this question? One mentor told me you’re always smarter than you think you are, and your ideas are valid, so speak up because what you have to say is important. It took me several years to gain that confidence, but I got there a lot faster having that mentor provide positive reinforcement. That’s the biggest thing I want to pass on to my mentees.

Any relationship you can build is worth building and working across generations can open your mind to new ideas and ways of thinking. As a former mentee, I knew the value my mentor brought. Now, as a mentor, it's easy to see the relationship yields both ways – I can grow and learn just as much as the mentee.

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