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Mentorship and the Developing Professional Part II: Reverse Mentoring

April 07, 2021

There’s always something to be learned from mentorship. Learn how our Developing Professionals Group supports junior and senior mentors and mentees.

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

We support mentorship at Stantec through our Developing Professionals Group (DPG), and 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 have formal mentorship programs, or facilitate informal connections, we look for opportunities to encourage and promote these relationships at every turn.

While you might picture a traditional mentorship to be someone in a senior position acting as a mentor to a junior mentee—this is not always the case; the relationship is a two-way street. Reverse mentorship describes when a senior employee learns new skills, knowledge, or understanding through the mentorship exchange with a junior employee. Estelle Mekari, communication officer and Belgium DPG lead, and Christophe Leroy, operations director in Belgium, have just that. Here, they share about how a non-traditional mentor/mentee relationship has shaped both of their careers so far.

Explain how you view your relationship as a non-traditional mentor/mentee relationship.

Estelle: Our relationship feels more like a partnership than a traditional mentor/mentee relationship. Keeping an open door and casual relationship, rather than something structured and rigid, has made it easy to work together and has opened more opportunities for me.

Christophe: Our relationship has evolved to Estelle acting more as a counterpart to me, going beyond her DPG responsibilities and translating even into meaningful activities related to operations. She’s helped me understand staff mentalities and has been a valuable sounding board as operations decisions are being made. Estelle’s perspective has been invaluable to understand our new office demographics.

How did you establish your mentor relationship?

Estelle: It started when I became the DPG lead for Belgium, but also fed into a larger office initiative where we wanted to offer meaningful activities to our growing staff. Christophe wanted to make sure all voices were represented and was very open to my opinions and ideas about how to consider those voices. Bit by bit, our relationship has grown from there.

Christophe: Our relationship grew very organically. It wasn’t based on technical expertise, but rather a partnership that grew out of a need to engage staff. As we made those connections and started having those conversations, Estelle became a great partner for bouncing ideas off of and breaking that traditional top-down management approach.

How have you grown from having a mentor?

Estelle: The best thing has been learning different management skills. I use Christophe as an example of how he manages the office and makes decisions. I’ve been able to translate how I’ve seen him manage into how I manage my DPG role and team. It’s also given me an unexpected jump in my career and has made me feel very empowered—I wasn’t expecting to make these kind of moves so early on.

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

Estelle: In general, I feel more confident in my working role as a communication lead. I feel like I can effectively teach our new interns and help them. It’s given me perspective on trying to understand their opinions as well and listening to what they want as change between employees and management.

How have you grown by mentoring others?

Christophe: It’s always a positive experience to see someone grow and make steps in their own career, to be able to insist someone has potential. Estelle has shown her growth and is positioning herself to be a future leader. It’s great to have those people in place and engaging with them in day-to-day work is rewarding.

On the opposite end, it’s taught me how to adapt my management and communication styles in my operations management role. Through feedback, Estelle has given me pointers and taught me how to adapt communication to each audience I may be speaking with.

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

Christophe: One thing I learned and established is to be very clear on expectations, objectives, and engagement with each other. If you have that in place and can ensure that your communication line is open and effective, and not a formal “one call a week” type of meeting, you can pass information and ideas back and forth while being able to listen and speak up. This should come naturally because you have the communication line open.

You need to have the ability to speak freely and voice concerns or ambitions to someone else in a working environment. Sometimes it’s natural to not do that. Speaking freely comes with the trust that the relationship has some privacy to be able to do that and receive reassurance or advice in return.

Has anything unexpected come out of your mentoring relationship?

Estelle: I was not expecting to have the responsibilities I have so soon in my career and growing so quickly in my role. It’s not just about my job in communications as I wasn’t expecting to become the DPG lead and manage a team. Mostly I wasn’t expecting to have such a casual relationship with Christophe where he is so senior, but he’s made himself very accessible and easy to talk to.

Christophe: I initially just saw DPG as a fun office activity, but now see it as an important element in staff growth and engagement. My involvement with DPG through Estelle has allowed me to adjust my management decisions accordingly.

As Christophe shares, sometimes more senior employees can find their perspectives positively shift due to collaboration and mentorship with junior staff. Estelle and Christophe’s reverse mentorship has allowed them to learn from one another by keeping the lines of communication open.

No matter what your level of seniority, there’s always something to be learned from mentorship. Learn more about how Stantec’s Developing Professionals Group supports junior and senior staff on either side of the mentor/mentee relationship.

  • Christophe Leroy

    A proven leader in the market, Christophe calls on his more than 15 years of experience in the aid donors environment to lead our international development division in Belgium.

    Contact Christophe
  • Estelle Mekari

    As a Lebanese, Estelle uses her background, knowledge and passion to support a communication project, EU Neighbours South, funded by the European Commission.

    Contact Estelle
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