This classic story of mentorship is one deeply rooted in our heritage. At EXP, mentorship reengineers the future for generations to come.
In our Chicago office, Vinod Patel, a humble department manager for bridges and structures, sits with a profound passion for transportation projects. Bringing over 30 years of experience to his projects, Vinod has been recognized for successfully managing them without hesitation by their size, location or complexity. After years as an engineer, it was a natural transition to move into project management, leading teams to achieve major transportation milestones and accomplishments. He has been recognized and awarded for his innovation and design excellence on major Illinois Tollway and Illinois Department of Transportation projects, as well as numerous others. In his dual capacity, he manages the lifecycle of projects, as well as the people – a common theme at EXP.
Sitting nearby is a senior structural engineer with great respect for Vinod’s expertise, project management style and generosity to share his time and experience. Kamlesh Kumar, who is also a known technical expert on transportation projects, has worked with Vinod for over 13 years. Calling Vinod his “go-to-person for daily operations,” Kamlesh has valued Vinod’s work ethos, decision-making skills and professionalism as something to learn from and follow.
He says, “Vinod became my mentor through osmosis, where he comes as an experience-rich professional, and I as a curious individual always looking to learn. We worked together on multiple projects where he served as a sounding board for my ideas and approaches to solving problems. Such symbiotic interactions helped me develop confidence in my technical and people skills, which he often acknowledges and appreciates.”
In a company of over 3,000 people, mentorship plays a vital role in an employee’s growth. This held true from 2015-2017 when Vinod and Kamlesh were working on a large masterplan project for the Illinois Tollway, a multidisciplinary project with multiple stakeholders. Vinod’s management style is to meet, then surpass, requirements to deliver award-winning projects. For this project, Vinod was the overall structural lead and coordinated efforts between EXP and other firms, while Kamlesh was serving as the lead structural engineer.
As the project progressed, Vinod noticed Kamlesh’s desire and ability to provide technical and tactical directions to the large team. He would slowly let the meetings be organized and led by Kamlesh and supplement his input when needed. Vinod entrusted Kamlesh to undertake independent tasks and manage teams on his own while still making himself available to teach and nurture Kamlesh’s ambition to take on project management. While interacting with clients, he brings the same clarity in communications and thoroughness in his work as he observes in Vinod. Kamlesh now leads his own team to serve the client’s interests, which he attributes to Vinod’s mentorship and management style.
Today, Vinod continues to mentor Kamlesh and young engineers. As for himself, he is tremendously grateful for the experience of being someone’s informal mentor. When asked what he gains from being a mentor, he humbly replies, “It’s very rewarding to give guidance to younger generations. It is important to share knowledge and instill the right way to manage projects, budgets and communication skills. This will benefit them later. I am happy to pass down what I’ve learned and I hope the next generation applies it well.”
Mentor: Vinod Patel, SE, PE | Department Manager, Bridges + Structures | Chicago, IL
Mentee: Kamlesh Kumar, SE, PE | Senior Structural Engineer | Chicago, IL
*Originally published in EXP’s Expresso: Mentorship