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Mentorship and the Developing Professional Part III: Mentoring remotely

May 11, 2021

It doesn’t matter where you are. Learn how our Developing Professionals Group supports remote mentorships throughout and across geographies.

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

At Stantec, we support mentorship 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. Whether our teams have formal mentorship programs or facilitate informal connections, we look for opportunities to encourage and promote these relationships at every turn.

Nicola Whelan-Henderson, graduate civil engineer in Christchurch, New Zealand, and Stephanie Thompson, senior civil designer in Calgary, Alberta, are a great example of how mentorship can transcend the limitations of geography or circumstance. Working and living in different regions allows these two to exchange diverse outlooks on what’s happening in not only their project work, but also the world. Though their relationship began in a face-to-face program, Steph and Nicola shed light on how the benefits of their lasting connection continue to flourish remotely.

How did you establish your mentor relationship?

Nicola: We do a graduate program in New Zealand that includes tasks to complete throughout your first three years—one of them is to have a mentor and catch up regularly. I thought Steph would be a good person to ask; she interviewed me and seemed like a good role model.

Steph: Everyone is formally encouraged to find a mentor who is not involved in your day-to-day work. You want your mentor to be someone who has a different perspective—someone you can talk to who can give you an unbiased opinion or be a sounding board.

How has your relationship evolved since you first started the mentorship program? And how do you view it now?

Steph: We came into our mentoring relationship through a formal process, but it has evolved into a friendship as well. The more you get to know someone, the more that relationship develops into a two-way partnership. Sometimes there might not be anything work related that comes up, and sometimes there is, and I like it like that.

Nicola: Our catch ups are quite informal; if I want to ask Steph about something or vice versa then we talk about that but it’s more of a general catch up. I like having someone to ask about things who wasn't directly involved—it's nice having an outside opinion.

How have you grown from having a mentor?

Nicola: One of the big things that Steph supported me with was clarifying my direction when I switched teams. Asking Steph about what my goals should be was helpful because she has experience being a manager and had an opinion on what they should be.

How have you grown by mentoring others?

Steph: It’s helped me step back and try to guide someone without telling them what to do. In other words, trying to use my experience to help someone be the best they can in their career and take steps to make the most of it. A good example of that is Nicola moving into a completely different team. That's a courageous thing to do because a lot of people won't do that. So, it's helped me apply that to myself as well in terms of taking steps out of my comfort zone.

You can always learn something from other people; you never stop learning. And just because someone is either younger than you or has less experience doesn't mean they can't offer great insight.

Has anything unexpected come out of your mentoring relationship?

Steph: It's more two way than what I had expected and experienced in the past. So that part of it is a little bit unexpected, but welcome.

Nicola: I don't know if I had many expectations because I wasn't sure what to expect. I have another mentor through Engineering New Zealand, but this is quite different. That one is much more formal and has lots of questions and things to discuss, and this is way more relaxed and casual. I expected it to be more formal, but it has been great being informal.

A lot of what we're dealing with is adapting to our circumstances with COVID-19 affecting everyone. Has your mentorship relationship helped you in some of that adaptation?

Steph: It’s helped me in that sense—having a connection to someone. It can be pretty isolating over here given everything that's happened, so it's nice to have a familiar person to just have a chat with.

Nicola: In our last few catch ups we've been chatting about the differences between Christchurch and Canada, it’s been interesting to compare how different countries are dealing with it, even within Stantec.

As a final word to someone who may be considering becoming a mentee or mentor, why do you think someone should consider this kind of a mentorship relationship?

Nicola: It’s good to have someone to bounce your ideas off of and someone to catch up with less formally than your manager. I’ve found it beneficial. If I needed anything, I'd feel comfortable going to Steph and asking for her opinion, so I would fully recommend it.

Steph: From a mentor perspective, don't underestimate what you might get out of it for yourself. It is not a one-way street, it's a two-way conversation. Also, it's good to see someone else grow their career and feel that you may have had even just a tiny positive impact on that.

Mentoring remotely could be an ongoing reality as we continue to adapt our processes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you’re in different geographies like Steph and Nicola or working from home in the same city as your colleagues, don’t hesitate to continue seeking out mentorship opportunities—you can learn something from someone else no matter where you are or how you engage.

It doesn’t matter where you are, as there’s always something to be learned if you’re invested in the relationship. Learn more about how Stantec’s Developing Professionals Group supports mentor/mentee relationships throughout and across geographies.

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