Leadership Learnings: How the DPG facilitates opportunities for advancement
November 01, 2021
November 01, 2021
A spotlight on four Stantec leaders who have also held leadership positions with our Developing Professionals Group
What makes a good leader?
There are many ideal traits one can list when it comes to leaders and several articles on highly effective leadership, but sometimes the description of a leader is not exactly typical. We can’t always define what makes a good leader by title or by expectations, as there are many ways for people outside of traditional management positions to practice leadership.
The Developing Professionals Group (DPG) at Stantec aims to foster leadership opportunities for those who may not be exposed to these opportunities at their current career milestones. We do this in a few ways. While the DPG network is made up of several leaders—national leads, regional leads, chapter leads, and more—many of our developing professionals will attest to the fact that involvement in the DPG also lends itself to opportunities for advancement within their career.
To understand how the DPG both offers leadership opportunities itself and facilitates opportunities for leadership within the Company, we spoke to four DPG leaders across our global network to profile their experiences within and outside of the DPG.
Mariah Anhalt—senior marketing specialist—first served as the chapter lead for DPG Minneapolis. This allowed her to create strong connections outside of her typical work assignments. Most recently, she earned the position of regional lead for our North Central DPG chapters and is diving deeper into strategy, connecting with more corporate leaders, and creating connections across the United States.
At the start of 2021, Pierre Robertson-Louis received the opportunity to take on the DPG lead role for the state of Western Australia. In this role, he is responsible for coordinating a local committee to deliver a range of DPG events, assist with national DPG initiatives, and incarnate a leadership voice for the developing generation of employees.
Rachel Cranford was the national lead for DPG Canada from late 2018 until the end of Q1 2021. When she took the role, the focus was to grow awareness and presence for the DPG in Canada. She helped grow a Canadian DPG leadership team that worked with Stantec regional leaders and grew the network. She also had several opportunities to participate in leadership discussions and presentations, including the opportunity to facilitate a breakout session at Stantec’s Leadership Summit.
Anna Lee is a senior designer in our Edmonton, Alberta office where she was also the chair of the local DPG chapter. By participating in the DPG, she started to feel as though she was working with the right people—people who supported her and gave her the confidence to challenge traditional thinking. When the chair position became available, Anna pushed herself to flex her leadership skills.
To Anna, being the DPG Edmonton chair was not simply an opportunity to lead—it has become a reminder that she stepped outside of her comfort zone, which gives her the confidence to take on more challenges. One of her highlights was being a panelist for our Asians@Stantec employee resource group presentation on hope over hate. Anna had thought that panelists were people who sit in the C-suite or hold multiple credentials—more traditional ideas of leadership. However, there she was, sharing the virtual stage with other leaders.
Beyond her exposure to DPG leadership, Mariah feels that name recognition is one area where the DPG has been essential. Senior leaders now know who she is, and her DPG leadership positions have helped her understand what drives people and how she can motivate them to do their best work. She also believes this exposure has helped her become the marketing account manager for four of our largest municipal clients in Minnesota.
Pierre has also gained mentorship and visibility with senior leaders, learned about the company, and gained invaluable confidence in his skills. When he took on his DPG leadership role, our Perth office had recently undergone an integration with another company, and he became integral to fostering a positive office culture to help everybody feel like they were part of the same company. Being involved with the DPG has allowed him to develop a range of soft skills that he is rarely exposed to through project work.
Rachel believes the greatest benefit to participating in the DPG is the network and team that forms around you—from creating connections with peers around the globe to having lunch with our CEO. In her current role as an operations leader, she uses the skills she developed through DPG on a regular basis. Also, through DPG connections, she has been given the opportunity to work collaboratively on a market expansion initiative. This has further expanded Rachel’s network, taught her more about other business lines, and showed her how we can work collaboratively to benefit our clients.
Overall, our four DPG leaders have learned a lot and have taken away a new perspective on leadership and opportunity at Stantec. While Pierre initially thought leadership was all about decision making, it was through his DPG role that he realized true leadership is about empowering others and giving them the opportunity to grow. He believes an amazing leader listens to and trusts others, builds them up, and puts them first wherever they can.
DPG has taught Rachel that leadership is about continuously learning about yourself and your team. By proactively challenging each other, we can turn something good into something great. As a leader, being engaged can help inspire your team and those around you to jump into the next challenge. It is about listening, learning new perspectives, and bringing our abilities together to build the strength to succeed.
Mariah leaves us with the learning that the best leaders are ones who have the courage to be vulnerable. Others may see our teams through the stereotypical lens in which society sees engineers—analytical, focused on facts, and barely dipping our toes into vulnerability—but vulnerability is an effective point of connection beneficial to creating strong teams. She has found that when we share our stories and engage with each other, the stronger our leadership skills become.
Finally, Anna shares her biggest learning that brings us full circle—leaders are not always identified by a title. Do not allow a title or credentials—or lack thereof—hold you back from learning something new. She believes we all have so much to give and even more to gain from each other if we look past the titles—the DPG offers opportunities and learning experiences that you will never get from a training manual.