Mentoring is a triple-win partnership, as mentees gain valuable knowledge and support, mentors develop communication skills and give back to others, and companies develop internal talent and corporate knowledge. DesignInc initiated a mentoring program in August 2017 that has seen both mentors and mentees develop professionally and personally.
There are a great deal of benefits that develop from the sharing of knowledge through the mentor relationship: job satisfaction, career progression, motivation, leadership, confidence and personal growth. The DesignInc team have experienced these benefits, plus more, through the DesignInc Sydney mentoring program established in August 2017. Approximately 60 per cent of employees took part in the first intake of the program, and that number increased to 66 per cent for the second intake in March 2018 with participants across all levels from graduates to company directors.
DesignInc initiated the program after team feedback suggested employees wanted to better share and benefit from the knowledge and experience of professionals in the practice. Participants can sign up as a mentor, mentee or both, and are matched with a colleague based on interests, expectations, expertise and/or area(s) of development. The mentor and mentee set their own goals and objectives and discuss a flexible schedule on how to achieve them over the six-month period.
“DesignInc’s mentoring program allows participants to shape their relationship and interactions the way it works best for them. There is no structured meeting requirements or topics to discuss. Each pair is able to set their goals and objectives and my role is to support the participants with resources and guidance to make the most of their mentoring relationship,” says Human Resources Manager Shumaila Ali.
Shumaila provides participants with guides to kickstart the program, including “conversation starters” and templates for setting up the first meeting, and sends a bi-monthly newsletter with mentoring tips and resources throughout the program.
Senior Architect Mike Lodge participated as a mentor, having appreciated the experience of having a reliable, trusted role model early in his career. “I think all employees need a trustworthy advocate in the workplace. We spend a lot of time working together, and we’re constantly presented with challenging situations. With experience, the way in which you manage difficult scenarios becomes increasingly clear. It’s essential that people share their skills and knowledge, allowing others to develop personally and professionally,” Mike says.
“Mentorship is in the first instance an opportunity to develop a better relationship with members of the team. It is an opportunity to share your knowledge and experience and it is also an opportunity to learn from the mentee – a two-way street for knowledge transfer,” says Director Ian Armstrong, who is a mentor to an early-career architect. They meet monthly to discuss the business side of architecture, such as preparing fee letters, negotiating with clients and soft skills of communication.
Mentoring is not only for early-career professionals but can be beneficial at any stage. Senior Architect Karen du Toit participated in the program as both a mentor and mentee. “I decided to be a mentor to help mentees based on my previous 10 years’ experience. However, even though I have that experience, I was new to Australia and felt I could benefit from being a mentee to focus my attention on the new environment,” Karen says. “It was rewarding to have someone appreciate my advice, and it was of value to have my objectives and paths validated by someone else.”
DesignInc surveyed participants at the end of the first intake and the results confirmed that both mentees and mentors benefited equally from the program. Mentors have the opportunity to share experiences and contribute towards the development of future talent (50 per cent of mentors continued their mentoring sessions into the second intake), and mentees have the opportunity to learn form more experienced professionals and develop business attributes and technical knowledge.
Senior Designer Tim Garry, who was the mentee of a DesignInc director, participated in the program to gain a broad perspective of the working world beyond the office walls. “I joined to gain experienced insight into all aspects of life, not just work – to improve how I think and be more aware of my actions and how they can assist with an efficiency of the working world,” says Tim. Tim met with his mentor every three weeks over the six-month period. “It has been a fantastic experience to sit down in a casual manner with someone who has experience as an architect and business manager and to understand his approach, his process, and what considerations are made to be both managerial whilst assisting and working in a team environment, which is a difficult balance,” Tim explains.
Mentors also found it helpful to gain varied perspectives and insights into different approaches to managing a challenging situation. “Mentees are a source of knowledge and support for mentors. My mentee has extensive practical experience in a particular architectural field and has shared critical knowledge that has assisted me with my own project work,” Mike says.
There is also the benefit of building an increasingly positive and supportive team and workplace culture. “I hoped the experience would help to build close relationships in an office environment. I also wanted to assist others in what is a fast paced, demanding work place,” says Mike. “For me, I think the program has succeeded in achieving both. I’ve really enjoyed the process, and I’ve found a couple of great friends. Karen, who also joined the program to meet new people, likewise agrees: “I would say another benefit of the program is the personal touch in an otherwise professional environment. I found the program acted as a bridge between professional and social.”
The third DesignInc mentoring program intake will begin later this year. “I would strongly recommend anyone to take part in a program of this nature to learn about themselves and to improve both professionally and personally,” says Tim.