When Thanh Tran joined EXP in 2016 as an electrical engineer-in-training, he wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. He was new to the industry and eager to make connections at our London office. He survived the steep learning curve with the help of his team, but he knew he would need some dedicated help to truly thrive.
One of Thanh’s first projects was to collaborate with a team from one of our US offices on an arc flash study, evaluating facilities to determine and mitigate the hazards and risks associated with electrical systems. When he needed support, he found it in Arka Mukherjee, his new senior electrical manager.
To Arka, being a mentor is different from being a boss. The role and responsibilities of managing the local mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) disciplines reach far beyond traditional concepts of hierarchy. Managing work and managing people are different skills that need to be balanced for long-term success.
Arka believes that the ability to build rapport with the people you work with will often determine the path you take within any given organization, and he feels he has become a keen observer and adept at assessing the character and potential of the people he meets.
In fact, it was in a professional development lighting seminar that the light bulb came on for Thanh.
“We were doing introductions, and Thanh said that he was a junior engineer, and I was his manager,” remembers Arka. “I had to correct the record. I told them that I was not his boss, I was his mentor.”
“That’s when I knew it was official,” recalls Thanh. “I had always regarded him as my mentor, but when I heard him say it, I knew it was reciprocated and it filled me with pride.”
In Thanh, he saw a raw talent and a willingness to learn and take on greater responsibility that would define their relationship. Thanh took every opportunity to solicit Arka’s opinions, ask him questions, listen to his concerns and think about his advice. Over time, Arka watched Thanh handle an array of difficult assignments, often working remotely, across borders and time zones and complete them with admirable professionalism.
For Thanh, Arka’s openness to questions and calm demeanor resonates with him. Arka can lead and think through problems or situations with a collaborative and collegial style. Thanh attributes much of his success to simply following Arka’s example.
“He always exhibits a positive attitude and a strong work ethic,” says Thanh. “His curiosity allows me to explore new approaches to our work, or new technologies to broaden our expertise.”
After three years, they are still working together on challenging projects, including a recent replacement of four high-voltage generators at a water treatment facility servicing Sarnia and surrounding municipalities. The core challenge will be to ensure continuous service as they conduct the upgrades and work within the constraints of existing structures. The sheer scale of the project is unlike any other either of them have worked on in the past, providing them both with opportunities to learn and grow.
“The more I get into it, the more confidence I have,” says Thanh. “Arka tells me to look for the challenges, and this is definitely a project that comes around only once or twice in a career. I’d say it’s much like my mentor.”
Mentor: Arka Mukherjee, P.Eng. | Manager, MEP Services | London, ON
Mentee: Thanh Tran | Engineering Designer | London, ON
*Originally published in EXP’s Expresso: Mentorship