The benefits of mentoring: advice from the experts

Friday 28 June 2019 by Tim O’Hanlon, Engineering Practice Academy

two women working on laptop.

Mentoring provides insights into the reality of work and the diverse career paths available to students and professionals.

In summary

  • Tim O’Hanlon is the Experience and Engagement Manager  at Swinburne's Engineering Practice Academy

According to the Foundation for Young Australians, Australians aged between 17 and 25 will likely have 17 different jobs over five careers in their lifetime.

Mentoring provides insights into the reality of work and the diverse, and often non-linear, career paths that can lead to unexpected and rewarding places. Felicity Furey, the Director of Industry Partnerships at Swinburne Engineering Practice Academy says her diverse experience now helps her provide guidance to associates at the Academy.

“By taking on new challenges and building my diverse skill set, I’ve actually come full circle and am in a position to influence and change engineering from the ground up in education at the Academy,” Ms Furey says.

“My experience mirrors that of what we are preparing the associates for, as they will be faced with even more diverse and complex challenges as they enter their careers.”

For graduates to be better equipped to navigate this diverse and challenging future world of work we have integrated industry mentoring into the Bachelors of Engineering Practice (Honours) student experience.

Felicity Furey
Felicity Furey uses her diverse experience to guide associates at Swinburne's Engineering Practice Academy. 

Personal perspectives

The benefits of mentoring aren’t just for the mentee, mentors also get a lot out of the experience as they are challenged to grow their own skills and reflect on their careers.

Adam Higgins, is a project manager at Turner & Townsend and been a mentor at Swinburne since 2018.  He says mentoring has played an important role in his career.

“I have personally benefited from having great mentors in my career. They have provided the guidance and support that has helped me get to where I am today. Mentors have also given me the perspectives and insights to think outside the square about my own future aspirations and career decisions, by sharing their own learnings - both positive and negative.”

As Mr Higgins points out, mentoring isn’t just about sharing career tips, but also real stories of success and failure. Imagine learning the realities of work from professionals in your chosen field before you even graduate from university.

Dr Elaine Saunders, Executive Chairman of Blamey Saunders Hears and Chair of Swinburne’s Innovation Precinct Advisory Board says mentoring helps us focus.

“Mentoring gives an insight to the commercial world and helps to bring focus. My own first glimpse of the commercial world was a job interview,” she says.

When asked about her motivations for joining the mentoring program, Shadack Sallehpour, a senior structural engineer at WSP, says she can give important guidance to young people who may have questions about their future.

“There are many aspiring young engineers at university who are apprehensive about their future career, but are more than capable of succeeding. As a mentor, I can show them that we all started at the same place and it’s ok not to know all the answers right away,” says Ms Sallehpour.

“There is a big leap between studying engineering at university and working as an engineer, which can be really daunting. We should all remember that we once started as graduates and not to underestimate the value you can bring to a student by simply giving an hour of your time.”

Mentoring benefits everyone

The benefits of mentoring aren’t just for the mentee, mentors gain valuable insights, and it forms an important part of professional development for leaders and future leaders.

“To be honest, I had a lot of fun,” Dr Saunders says of her mentoring experience at Swinburne’s Engineering Practice Academy.

“After one session, I understood more about the hopes and aspirations of some quite serious, young engineers, and why they chose the course. I would say you will get back more than you give. Students ask such frank questions — it encourages us to examine our ideas anew.”

Dr Elaine Saunders at the Innovation Hub.
Dr Elaine Saunders says mentoring younger students has inspired her to renew her perspective on ideas. 

Felicity Furey, Director of Industry Partnerships at the Academy, believes mentoring is key to developing work-ready graduates.

“It is great to see so many diverse representatives of the engineering industry at the Academy sharing with our students. At the Academy, we say ‘work-ready starts here’ and believe that mentoring is a key element of developing work-ready graduates.”

“We’re just getting started with mentoring at the Academy and I encourage anybody interested to reach out today and get involved. Whether you’re an engineer wanting to grow your skills, or a leader in an organisation, if you want to give your staff a chance for professional development, we would love to have you involved.”

Students of Swinburne’s Bachelor of Engineering Practice (Honours) have mentoring from industry representatives integrated into their four years of study. This degree is delivered by the Academy team with support from industry partners from across the sector.

Written by Tim O’Hanlon, Experience and Engagement Manager at Swinburne’s Engineering Practice Academy.

If you’re interested in mentoring at the Academy you can register your interest