Fostering Professional Development Through Mentorship
FAYE MAJEKODUNMI, PE
Learn the benefits of mentor/mentee relationships from the recent grads of Gannett Fleming’s Employee Resource Group (ERG)-led mentorship program.
Have you ever been at a career crossroads and needed a fresh perspective? Sought professional advice on how to have a difficult conversation with a colleague? Searched for a supportive professional community? Mentorship may be the answer.
Studies show that employees with mentors are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, feel their work is valued, and believe they are fairly compensated. But how do you start on your mentorship journey? We spoke with the founders and participants of Gannett Fleming’s Connected Relationships Mentoring Program, sponsored by the Connected Women at Gannett Fleming™ ERG, to explore mentorship and kick off National Mentoring Day.
Program Co-Founder and Chief Communications Officer Judy Hricak, CPSM, CiPP, shared, “When I met Catalina Echeverri, PMP, my Connected Relationships co-founder, I learned first-hand about the significant desire for more mentoring at Gannett Fleming. We looked across the organization and saw a tremendous opportunity to design a program that would fit the needs of Gannett Fleming and forge relationships across corporate business groups.”
Now in its fourth cycle, Gannett Fleming’s Connected Relationships enjoys a participant evaluation score of 4.5+ out of 5 and has graduated hundreds of employees.
“Our ERGs understand the issues that matter most to employees, and I think that’s what has made Connected Relationships successful. We saw a need and didn’t get bogged down in red tape. We were able to move quickly and make a lasting impact. And we have some pretty big ideas in development for future years,” said Echeverri.
Genuine mentoring can forge meaningful relationships, provide invaluable career opportunities, and foster a sense of belonging for both mentors and mentees. Below, learn from a few of our Connected Relationship alums on the importance of mentorship in career advancement, professional development, and the establishment of meaningful connections.
Learning from Each Other Fosters Bi-Directional Growth
Traditional thinking is that a mentor teaches their mentee throughout the course of the relationship. The more recent evolution of mentorship has shown that reverse mentoring – where information and learning flow between the two parties instead of only in one direction – is more successful and valuable.
This type of bi-directional relationship also deepens the connections and creates a more fulfilling experience.
“Our Connected Relationships Mentoring Program has been a game changer for Gannett Fleming and me. I’ve learned so much from my mentees – they’ve reinforced the value of diverse ideas because they bring such a different perspective to the workforce. It has made me a better leader,” said Bob Scaer, PE, chairman, CEO, and Connected Relationships mentor.
Eric Rensel, FLTA, vice president and Connected Relationships mentor, has also experienced the benefit of learning from each other, “I always learn so much from seeing Gannett Fleming and our profession through the eyes of young professionals. I work to change my behavior and approach incrementally as my mentee and I work together to help develop their career strategies.”
Loujin Daher, a geotechnical engineer who has been with the firm for seven years, said, “Through the Connected Relationships program, I was not only educated about leadership but also encouraged to practice it by pursuing new opportunities within Gannett Fleming and professional organizations. I was able to bring my energy and expertise to the community and build impactful, long-lasting relationships.”
A Culture of Mentorship Cultivates Deep, Unique Connections
Connected Relationships started at the beginning of 2020, prior to COVID-19. The blossoming relationships were a lifeline for many as we started to work from home. While socially distanced, mentoring helped people stay connected and allowed the Gannett Fleming work culture to continue to grow.
“The mentoring program created connections across the company during a global pandemic and helped foster a sense of community that wouldn’t have existed otherwise,” stated Scaer.
Reflecting on her mentoring relationship, Daher said, “Beyond the impacts of the pandemic, mentoring encourages connection with those you wouldn’t meet in the normal course of your work. This provides a unique chance to benefit from a fresh perspective and an outsider’s unbiased view.”
And the feeling is mutual! Daher’s mentor, Rensel, shared, “I have really enjoyed getting to know Loujin. Her participation in Gannett Fleming’s innovation contest reaffirms her commitment to amazing our clients. Through the process, Loujin and I have introduced each other to contacts, and it has deepened our friendship while connecting us to more Gannett Fleming colleagues.”
Bryan Mulqueen, PE, executive vice president and Connected Relationship mentor, shared that his past mentoring relationships have helped led him to where he is today. He reflected, “I’ve had many mentors and coaches over the years, and they’ve played a major role in my development. Many of my experiences didn’t seem fun at the time, some don’t even seem fun in hindsight, but I learned a great deal from them all.”
Mentorship Promotes Career Evolution
As the program evolves, mentees become mentors, early career professionals meet exciting new milestones, and company culture progresses.
In 2021, the Military Veterans at Gannett Fleming ERG joined as co-sponsors of the mentorship program, the monthly discussion guides evolved to include refreshed modules, and new employees joined the program.
Mulqueen shares how proud he is, as a mentor, in developing the next generation of transit and rail leaders, “I’ve had the good fortune of mentoring some strong developing leaders in our firm. I didn’t realize how fulfilling it would be for me when I first volunteered, and I now find that it’s one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.”
An important part of fostering an inclusive workplace with abundant growth opportunities is being intentional about building relationships outside of your immediate sphere, career development, and access to resources and leadership. With participation from all business groups and levels of the company, Connected Relationships has also helped deepen inclusion.
“As an immigrant and a first-generation college graduate, confidence has been my top struggle. Mentoring has made me feel more empowered and confident to take on new responsibilities within my career and amplify my voice to tackle engineering problems with innovative solutions,” said Daher.
Explore Mentorship Through a Career at Gannett Fleming
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