The Gravitational Pull of Mentorship

Often, employees work for years, or even decades, without having a mentor to guide them through their career path and professional goals. This can hinder career advancement, especially if they are not aware of how to approach the work and learn from the opportunities they are given.

To avoid this pitfall and set his career on track, Derek Chan, who had been an engineer-in-training (EIT) for five years decided to approach Ben Weiss, a senior engineer on our Earth and Environment team. He explains, “I am set on achieving my professional designation (P.Eng.) and needed a role model to show me the ropes.”

As a senior project manager, Ben has several decades of experience in the industry and a vast knowledge of all aspects of geotechnical engineering. Derek saw this as a great opportunity to cultivate his skillset as a junior engineer as he worked toward obtaining his professional designation in the coming year. Ben realized that Derek had a lot of potential to grow into a larger role at the firm, and together they looked for opportunities to get out to site, see a project firsthand, and meet the people involved.

“I was just on site yesterday,” says Derek. “Through talking to the contractor, I learned about a new app that could show how much torque was being applied through a helical pile – from my phone, in real time! You don’t always get that kind of knowhow in the office. In the end, it’s all about communication.”

Ben and Derek developed an open exchange of constructive criticism and feedback that has helped Derek realize where he needs to improve. “To me, it’s an effective way to recognize where I can make adjustments,” says Derek. “When you’re honest about your shortcomings, you have a chance to make a positive change. To have such a seasoned professional help guide me through my career is invaluable.”

For Ben, it’s all about taking the initiative, showing a willingness to improve their performance and broadening their knowledge. “Derek is a very motivated individual,” Ben states. “He communicates well. If he sees a problem, he calls it out right away and works with the team to find solutions. That’s what we like to see.”

As with any relationship, sharing knowledge is often a two-way street. People with different skillsets have a lot to offer to the other, sometimes in unexpected ways.

“Ben came into the lunchroom pondering his wrist,” recalls Derek. “His wife had bought him a new smartwatch, one of those complicated ones with more features than anyone can use. Fortunately, having one myself, I was able to turn the tables for once and offer my advice. With my help, he can now see the solar system from his watch. It was great.”

There are times where individuals go decade long careers without realizing that they can have a mentor beside them, supporting their growth and cultivating opportunities to excel. However, this was not the case for Derek. For him, within six months of his mentorship with Ben, he received invaluable support and advice to become well-equipped for obtaining his professional engineering designation. At other times, he was able to return the favor and share his knowledge with his mentor, to configure the vastness of the solar system from his watch.

The space between their current positions may have been far, but their willingness to learn from each other was constantly in orbit with one another.

Mentor: Ben Weiss, P.Eng. | Senior Engineer, Earth + Environment, Geotechnical | Burnaby, BC
Mentee: Derek Chan, B.A.SC., EIT | Engineer-in-Training, Earth + Environment, Geotechnical | Burnaby, BC

*Originally published in EXP’s Expresso: Mentorship