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Reflections from the 2021 VIC Mentoring Program Launch

"Getting the most out of life isn’t about how much you keep for yourself, but how much you pour into others” David A. Stoddard in The Heart of Mentoring

The Australian Water Association’s VIC Mentoring Program pairs young water professionals with experienced practitioners across all aspects of the water industry based on participants' preferences in several areas. It was with great excitement that the 2021 program was launched with a breakfast at the Stantec Offices in the Melbourne CBD on Thursday 25 February, the Victorian Branch’s first live event for a whole year. The excitement and energy within the room were almost as tangible as the coffee and chia pudding that were on offer.

We started the morning with a warm welcome from event organisers, Tansy Huang and Tamar Haviv, as well as a sponsor’s address from Jane La Nauze, a former mentee turned mentor, on behalf of Stantec. This was followed by an opportunity to ask questions of 2020 pair, Eamonn Kelly (General Manager, Major Program Delivery, Melbourne Water) and Saif Shaadman (Civil Engineer, Stantec). Questions were fielded from in-person attendees and those tuning in online. The examples provided by Eamonn demonstrated the strong interest that he showed in Saif’s development and commitment to their mentoring relationship. Key to the success of this pairing was Eamonn’s challenging of Saif’s assumptions to help guide him towards better outcomes.

Then came the chance for pairs to chat and find out a bit about each other. Over 40 pairs of mentors and mentees have been matched together, and these mentoring partnerships will meet regularly for the next year with mentors providing support and guidance to mentees. Pairings had been made based upon a questionnaire each participant filled out, which asked about skills and experience of mentors, and career goals and expectations of mentees. The structure of the program is flexible, and it’s up to the pair to decide how to manage their mentoring relationship. This initial meeting was an important opportunity to gain mutual agreement on objectives and to agree on how often and when to meet. It was great to see the enthusiasm with which mentees and mentors alike approached these conversations.

Having a mentor or being a mentor doesn’t have to be done through a formal process like the AWA Mentoring Program, many informal mentoring relationships exist across the industry. Mentoring and being a mentee can be daunting, so here are some tips AWA has gathered from years of running the mentoring program:

Mentees:

  • Be coordinated - set up regular catch-ups that mutually work
  • Be prepared - think about your goals, what you want to discuss, etc.
  • Be curious - ask questions about anything, take interests in other's idea
  • Be transparent - there is no judgment about what you talk about but support

Mentors:

  • Mentors should challenge their mentees assumptions (why do you think that, has anyone said anything to confirm that)
  • Follow up, check to see if the mentees have made progress or put into action what you spoke about
  • Ask questions, don’t give answers or solutions
  • Set your own boundaries, the mentor relationship doesn’t have to be all about work

Overall, it was a thoroughly engaging and positive morning and many mentor-mentee conversations continued after the event. There is a lot to look forward to with this year’s program. The program runs for one year. However, some mentoring partnerships last a lifetime!

Thanks again to our hosts, Stantec, who generously welcomed attendees and provided wonderful hospitality. Thanks to volunteers, Tansy, Tamar, Rhiannon Hildebrand-Wise, Alice Greco, Dominic Murray-Fiume, Matt Willox, Digna Nichols and Amy Gason who worked on the pairings and the committee members who volunteer on-the-day to ensure a COVIDSafe event. Well done to Tansy, Tamar and Digna for organising such an enjoyable event.

It is fantastic for so many YWPs to put themselves forward to be a part of the program and a huge thank you to our mentors for giving back to the industry.