Having a mentor can provide a host of benefits for a fledgling project manager. Project canvassed APM members whose careers have benefited from the input of an older, experienced professional to find out more
“The mentoring relationship is not a subservient one”
Ross Haddow, deputy project manager – technical, Lloyd’s Register
For the past five years, I have been a project manager for a Lloyd’s Register contract dealing with inspection and documentation review for Hinkley Point C.
Since starting my role, I’ve been mentored by Simon Emeny, currently director of low carbon at Lloyd’s Register.
The nuclear industry is highly regulated and complex, and the Lloyd’s Register joint venture is answerable to both the client and the Office for Nuclear Regulation.
With this in mind, I have benefited significantly from my mentor’s experience in, and knowledge of, British and overseas nuclear projects. With his support, I’ve been able to ensure activities that I coordinate for Hinkley Point C are based on best practice and experience.
I have been able to cascade and share the knowledge learned from my mentoring relationship with other members of the project team, so that, as the team grows, we all maintain the necessary awareness of issues important to the project and deliver consistently as an organisation. Currently, I mentor new members of the project team. My mentoring approach is based on the experience and support I gained from my mentor.
The mentoring relationship is not a subservient one. Rather than just working under instruction, the mentee can share their ideas. The mentoring relationship is also an opportunity to give, receive and request feedback. An effective mentor should be able to see their support and instruction translated into activities carried out by the mentee.
“Different people bring different perspectives”
Hayley Magorian, principal sponsor (HS2), Transport for London
I applied to join an internal mentoring scheme within the first few weeks of joining the Transport for London project management graduate intake in 2015.
Applying for a mentor was one of the best decisions of my career to date. I came from a background where neither of my parents had worked for big organisations in the City. I was the first generation in our family to do so, and, as such, it was very daunting. I thought having a mentor could help guide me through this big, new and unknown world. What’s more, I’ve always been passionate about learning and self-development, and having someone you can talk with to reflect on what you’re achieving, and the situations you encounter, is hugely valuable.
Over the past few years, I have learned an incredible amount from different mentors, all of whom I am still in touch with. They have helped to develop my knowledge through sharing their experiences, which is incredibly inspiring, as well as the experiences of others. They have been able to connect me with their contacts in different areas of the business.
My mentors have often challenged me to explore ideas and interests, take a leap of faith and follow my gut instincts, where before I may have been hesitant. They are always there to listen. Their ability to provide a different perspective and to ask pertinent questions that force me to reflect has proved invaluable.
Learning from experience goes both ways. As a mentor, it’s surprising how much you can learn from a mentee. Different people bring different perspectives and experiences in life. Sharing our stories and experience allows everyone to learn.
I think there is great value to be gained from having a mentoring scheme, whether it is internal or run by an external organisation. There are many industry groups that run voluntary mentoring schemes offering fantastic opportunities for all levels of experience. They can help grow your network outside your own organisation.
“I tried to run before I could walk”
Estelle Read, product owner, Lloyds Banking Group
I benefited greatly from being mentored, and I now mentor others, including an external charity, as well as individuals within Lloyds Banking Group.
The problem with a lot of companies and individuals today is that we’re ‘too busy’ with our own day-to-day roles to squeeze an hour into our week or month to focus on development and mentoring. But once you see the benefits of having a mentoring relationship, it’s very rewarding for both the mentor and mentee.
No one knows everything, right? When I started, I definitely tried to run before I could walk. But I needed guidance from others. Having a mentor enabled this and also gave me the confidence to have a voice and to challenge certain circumstances. Another mentor supported me in setting goals and my career path. This has led to me being the person I am today – the person who plans everything, step by step.
I now advocate mentoring and love to develop myself and others. Finding the right mentor and the right sponsor is the tricky part.
Anyone, whether or not they are a project manager, could benefit from a mentoring relationship. Especially within the project management world, there are so many skills that we require. It’s not a job you learn how to do overnight. Nobody is perfect, and anyone who wants to make an impact in their career will benefit from mentoring or sponsorship.
“My mentor gives me the drive to consider my career long term”
James Pearce, project lead, project management higher apprentice, Rolls-Royce
I have had a mentor, programme manager Tom Tomlinson, for the past two years of my career, having built a relationship six months into my apprenticeship.
Having a mentor has been hugely important to me, providing me with a sounding board to bounce my ideas off, and giving me guidance and a steer on direction in the early stages of my career. As well as having a senior mentor, I was assigned a buddy from an earlier cohort of project management apprentices.
In addition to quality of work, my mentor has been able to support me with personal development. Managing my placement, university and wider training commitments requires a high level of organisation and focus.
Having a mentor has given me an objective viewpoint and overall strategic view of how to prioritise work. The greatest benefits have been the interpersonal skills and confidence I’ve been able to develop. My mentor has also given me the drive and awareness to consider my career in the longer term. Having a mentor who has a lot of experience both inside and outside the organisation has given me great insight into organisational cultures, allowing me to understand scenarios better across placements in the business.
“A mentor enables you to overcome your weaknesses”
Veleta Brown, project manager, Taylor Wimpey
I was previously an IT programme manager but switched career in summer 2017.
I decided to change my career to construction project management and completed an MSc in that area, obtaining a job with Taylor Wimpey. I was assigned a mentor with 45 years’ industry experience.
Having a mentor allows me to address and overcome any weaknesses I might have and enables one-to-one support. I’ve gained an abundance of knowledge and skills, and learned from him how to manage projects. The benefits have included being promoted from assistant project manager to project manager in 10 months. My mentor has a target of me being project director in five years. I now mentor others as part of a business start-up I run. All project managers can benefit from a mentoring relationship. It makes a noticeable difference to career development.
My mentor says he mentors others as a way of giving back to the industry. It helps him to have an impact.
“Mentors sense-check whether you are doing the right things”
Marsha Dennis, implementation consultant, PA Consulting
I have two mentors who assist me, and both of them have different strengths. It’s always good to have a sounding board for ideas, and to sense-check whether you are doing the right things. You can always bounce ideas off your mentor, based on their experience. Having a mentor is also another way to grow and learn from different perspectives. It allows you to try different tools and techniques.
I have gained knowledge and built on my experience using some of the hints and tips provided by my mentors, which has helped me to progress my career in project management. One of the benefits is flexibility. You can speak to your mentor on various topics and issues that you are facing, which can help you to remove barriers.
The beauty of this industry is that you will come across different types of project manager. Mentoring is a good way of sharing knowledge and experience from different sectors and different ways of working.