How Stantec’s mentor program enhanced the careers of three interior designers
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” These famous words from Winston Churchill aptly reflect what it means to mentor a colleague and the impact it can have on your career and life.
At Stantec, we are committed to challenging and empowering our work force to exceed their professional and life goals. Our mentoring program provides professional development, connections with peers, and exposure to projects across the firm, thereby strengthening our teams and helping individuals grow. For three members of our interior design team—Rebecca Keehner, Jen Taylor, and Christina Eddy—being a part of the mentor program was a career-enhancing experience.
When Jen joined Stantec in January 2018, she actively began looking for ways to get involved and meet new colleagues, so she turned to the Interior Design Mentorship Program.
“The program was the perfect opportunity to get to know other team members outside of my office and gain different perspectives on the company,” Jen said. “I was lucky enough to be paired with both a mentor and a mentee, which let me learn a great deal about the diversity of our projects and the different communities Stantec serves.”
At the outset of the program, Jen wanted to gain insights on other Stantec offices and the types of work they do. Her mentor, Rebecca, is based in Sacramento, Calif., more than 3,000 miles away from Jen’s office in Boston. Rebecca shared examples of her work and experience with projects that focused on workplace design.
“It’s been very interesting to compare the similarities and differences in design trends between Boston and Sacramento.,” Jen said. “I was inspired by Rebecca’s drive and passion for design. Her technical skillset has allowed her to stay involved in 3D modeling, which is not common at her level. Learning how she was able to customize her role gave me valuable insights as I work to define my own path between architecture and interior design.”
Finding a new perspective
For Rebecca, being a mentor to Jen became more than an opportunity to support a colleague, it helped her think about her profession and experience in a completely different light.
“I was surprised at how much I learned from my discussions with Jen,” Rebecca said. “In some ways, being asked, ‘How do you do this?’ made me think about my processes in greater detail. As a result, I ended up formalizing some of my day-to-day tasks that I’d previously just thought of as being intuitive.”
Rebecca said that mentoring Jen allowed her the chance to reflect on her own career and experiences. As a result, she was able to enhance her career while helping Jen develop her own. Their discussion calls would cover a broad range of topics that spanned beyond their work as designers, specifically leadership styles. Rebecca noted she felt it was important the two discuss ways to inspire teams and manage teams to optimize outcomes.
“Our calls were incredibly rewarding,” Rebecca said. “I found discussing work with someone who is as passionate about your field as you are almost therapeutic. Being able to have a conversation about processes, design and leadership often felt reenergizing and made me feel excited to go back to work.”
The mentee becomes the mentor
Like Rebecca, Jen found mentoring a colleague to be equally inspiring. Based in our office in Plano, Texas, Christina connected with Jen over an interest in learning about the projects other Stantec offices were involved in. By working with both a mentor and a mentee, Jen was able to receive double the exposure to different design projects. _q_Building connections with a mentor helps to break down some of those barriers that exist between offices and has made access to additional resources easier._q_
“Since Boston’s interiors group is larger than Plano’s, I was able to share some of our design and presentation tools that Christina could directly apply to her own projects,” Jen said. “I remember on one particular call she walked me through a presentation for a vocational school she had been working on. I really enjoyed seeing her unique and thoughtful design approach, which was specific to the site and location, but shared common themes with some of my projects as well.”
She added, “As she shared her professional goals throughout our mentor relationship, I became invested in her success and we shared in the excitement as she accomplished multiple goals over the course of a year.”
Support for young professionals
For Christina, the mentorship program gave her an opportunity not only to grow her talents as a designer but to also understand the positive impact she can have on business development.
“As a younger designer, I didn’t always see business development as something I could influence,” she said. “After my first few conversations with Jen, however, she helped me understand the importance of networking within our industry and how those relationships can generate positive outcomes for our firm.”
Like Jen, Christina also expressed interest in gaining the perspective of a designer outside her typical work group.
“I knew other offices were doing incredible design work, but before the program existed, I didn’t really have a way to access their resources or information,” Christina said. “I was eager to gain an understanding of what was going on in our firm and how different offices were handing their work processes. Having Jen as a mentor to share her experiences and help me grow as a designer was exactly what I was looking for.”
In addition to helping mentees navigate the company and their careers, mentors can serve as an invaluable source for day-to-day projects. In one case, Christina was able to use Jen’s methods to really wow a client.
“Early on, Jen shared with me her design process from a previous project that she had just completed. She explained how she liked showing clients different options of what their space could look like using design concept boards, which allowed them to feel like they were a part of the design process and made for a stronger finalized project in the end. Using Jen’s examples, I was able to re-create some of the same design concept boards to show a client several different directions that we could take the project. After presenting these to our client, they expressed appreciation for us having a more integrated design process and really valued us getting their feedback. Ultimately, it created a stronger relationship with our client and got their buy-in for the design.”
Helping colleagues find their place
At Stantec, the vast wealth of knowledge and experience within our company quite literally spans every corner of the globe. Through the mentorship program, professionals of at every level can learn from each other and build successful careers all while contributing to our firm’s success.
“Having a mentor has not only been a great avenue to getting valuable career advice but I’ve noticed how it has helped me feel more connected to our firm,” Christina said. “As a young professional, a company as big as Stantec can seem inaccessible, but building connections with a mentor helps to break down some of those barriers that exist between offices and has made access to additional resources easier. Building a relationship with a mentor has linked me to other offices and opened my eyes to understanding what we do as a company. All of which are important to growing a long-term career inside a company.”