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# Mentorship: Is it still around?8

## Mentorship: Is it still around?

(OP)
Just wanted to get other engineers' perspectives about the availability and prevalence of mentorship in the engineering profession. I can only speak for myself, but it seems that it is slowly eroding. When I first started engineering, I never really was given an real direction or advice from a senior engineer regrading the practice of engineering. Don't get me wrong I would ask questions and get answers, but it would be from various engineers in the office and it almost always seemed that I was wasting their time for asking the question. I would pick up little pieces of wisdom here and there, but I never had a mentor, a go-to person that would teach me things about the profession. I became more jaded as I got more questionable responses to my queries. For example, one day I asked my supervisor if I should design a basement wall for at-rest or active pressure and his response was "What is at-rest pressure?", after that I limited my questions and started to grow my reference library because I just stopped believing older engineers.

Besides my second job (which only lasted one year, and I learned more in that one year than any other time in my career), I have never had a mentor. From my observations at other offices, it doesn't seem that I am an outlier.

Am I just a special case or is it a real trend? What is everyone else's experience?

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

I think the word mentor has fallen out of favor, but I had an assigned mentor when i was in my first engineering job, and now, several decades later, I am the point of first contact for technical stuff for one engineer. I take that pretty seriously, his questions are my #2priority.

Cheers

Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

I was assigned as a mentor for two new graduates that were hired at the utility I worked at 5 years ago. It was standard practice for all fresh graduate, new college hires to be assigned a mentor for the first year. I think they also did that for new hires that had less than 2 or 3 years experience.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

I think that the young engineer has to seek out a mentor him/herself. Unfortunately, more senior engineers than not view these additional types of responsibilities as a waste of their time, time that they could be spending on their own work. After a short time, the young engineer can quickly gain a sense of those senior engineers who are willing to assist and those who are not. If a senior engineer seems unwilling, uninterested, or gives blunt responses, they are probably not a good candidate for a mentor. Go "mentor shopping" around the office.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

2
I've been in offices where mentors were assigned to interns but never junior engineers, however those same companies also had rotational and other formal training programs for junior engineers and senior engineers were commonly friendly enough to mentor others upon request. I was fortunate to participate in a formal development program then have two of the best possible mentors consecutively take an active interest in me. An important aspect of this IME however was that these relationships were mutually beneficial, they recognized my value not only to the company but their positions in particular so didn't mind my seemingly endless questions. Both mentors had 30+ years in engine research positions but were at the point in their careers where they were avoiding learning new software, new processes, and really wanted an occasional "go-fer." OTOH I had a modest amount of experience solid modeling and running FEA/CFD analyses so I complimented each of them and helped ease their workload. My advice for any junior engineers who want a mentor is to not only look for help, but look to help.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

I think the OP seems to think of mentorship as apprenticeship, where the master would guide and trade the apprentice in all aspects of the trade. That worked well when the "trade" was essentially a single person job.

However, in today's design environment, it's likely that the cadre of engineers in a company all have different roles, so that no one person could actually do every job.

The fact that my manager might not know how to do my job hasn't been particularly surprising, at least to me. There are analyses that I do that only one other person has even attempted, and that applies to several other types of analyses as well.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

I am unsure of what mentoring even means. If it means having someone vested in your success, I don't know if I have ever seen that.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

I would have to disagree with you IRstuff. After many years as an Engineer, the term "mentor" is a thing of a distant past when engineering departments also had paid-overtime, engineering sectaries, draftsmen, a technician available for every engineer, slide rules, T-squares, and a capital equipment budget. In the last couple companies I've work for, there is less and less division between software, hardware, and mechanical disciplines. I now find management (mechanical background) dictating software and hardware design, electrical engineers doing thermal design and making prototype mechanical parts on the Bridgeport mill, and mechanical engineers doing documentation and programming the CNC mill. I find the project software engineers doing analog (shudder!) design.

From my experience, the term "Mentorship" is long gone, and the term "discipline" as in Engineering Discipline is disappearing. Soon Engineering will have no no distinction between mechanical, electrical, software. Only those areas requiring a PE license might survive as a specialist. Everyone working in a "industry exemption" role will be reduced to being a generalist.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

(OP)
It just seems that certain aspects of engineering are disappearing, mainly the "art" (it is the best term that I can think of, combination of judgement and a fundamental understanding of engineering). The "art of engineering" is a cliche term, but it is a real thing. I always believed that it was something that was developed in younger engineers by interacting with and observing senior engineers, along with their own experience. It was something that I rarely received during my career, and it was never given, it had to be requested sometimes to the point of nagging. Shouldn't senior engineers share the knowledge with the younger ones, without it being an ordeal?

I am mainly focused on the building consulting side, as I am completely unfamiliar with the industry or manufacturing side, so I have no basis what to expect in those areas perhaps it is more typical, I wouldn't know.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

4
Many businesses try to hire "experienced" technical staff, meaning that they attempt to outsource as much of their training cost as possible. They don't remember how to integrate and train junior staff because they stopped doing it in a meaningful way a long time ago.

We tried to grow that way for a while. It was a disaster, and cost us a lot of money.

We now hire young engineers as co-op students, pick the best of those and hire them full time, and then train them on the job. We never suffer from shortages or bad fit with new hires.

Mentorship isn't formal- it's in the form of technical supervision on a sliding scale based on the difficulty of the assignment and the judged competence of the candidate. And it's not just the most senior people doing this- the people who were only hired a few years ago are helping the co-op students build their skills, and so on up the experience curve. The only way one person here is "vested" in the success of the other is via our profit sharing program- and since that is significant, people are actually willing to spend some significant time and effort building the skills of the younger generation so they can be more competent at making all of us more money and happy customers who want to do repeat business with us. And since the company a) selects people who actually want to work here by the process noted above, b) pays them well and c) gives them interesting work to do, the investment has time to pay off. Turn-over is near zero, and the payoff on that investment is enormous.

Transferring the "art" of engineering to a new generation is both necessary and difficult. The division of labour between design and construction/fabrication renders it very difficult indeed. Our own company is very fortunate in that we build or at very least install what we design. There are engineers out there who have spent a whole career in "consulting", who are doing design without ever having done any meaningful construction or manufacturing supervision/management, plant operations or the like. Some of these people were hired into "consulting" fresh out of school themselves. And some such people are training a whole new generation of engineers to generate paper drawings and specifications as a product, divorced from a meaningful knowledge of how that work is applied in the real world. It's frightening frankly.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

Every attempt to promote structured mentorship that I have been privy to has come and gone faster than an overhead charge number. This has included various "leadership" type programs, one for every new owner, all of which are disbanded when the next new owner comes around.

On a less structured level, I've seen those nearing retirement unwilling to act as mentors, because they view it as training their replacements, thus jeopardizing pensions and retirement plans.

That said, I've had a handful of very good mentors - they're in it for the betterment of the profession and because they enjoy teaching, not for personal gain or loyalty to any company.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

In most companies, mentorship would count against the bottom line, which means that you probably will not get traction for spending more than 1% of cost against what is essentially training. That would work out to 24 minutes per week allocated for training.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

My first employer assigned mentors to new engineers but that was in the 80's. I don't know what they do now but the more complex the environment, the greater the need for mentoring. Hopefully they are continuing to mentor young engineers.

The profession as a whole seems to not value mentoring any more. I'm not sure why that is but I know why I have that impression.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

As far as formal mentorship goes? Not any place I've worked at over the last 20 years. There is too much turnover these days....nor is there the amount of time to actually do it. At this point, it is pretty much trial and error.

Furthermore, we may have crossed a point of no return: there are fewer and fewer senior engineers who were mentored on their way up (I'm one of them)......they really wouldn't know how to do it even if asked. I was asked about that once (in a interview) and I told them to forget it because I really didn't know how.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

MoltenMetal,

Sounds like your company have got it right, a lesson there for many of the bigger organisations to learn from.

In my organisation we don't see much in the way of formal mentorship in the electrical field, but there's a well-established graduate program which is focussed on process engineering. It would be nice to see the scheme expand to the other engineering disciplines, but I don't think my discipline is seen as much beyond a necessary evil and a hole into which money gets poured: we're not the 'the product'.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

Thanks ScottyUK- there's still plenty to b*tch about in this company- lots of room for further improvement, or perhaps more realistically, lots of attempting to hold the line against sliding further into groupthink as we grow, and lots of work defending against the uncritical aping of what other companies do as if the mere fact that others are doing something were evidence of some kind of "best practice"...But I consider setting up and running our co-op program for engineers as the single most valuable thing I've done for my company in my 21 years here. My projects have made the company a fair bit of money and I've got a fairly long list of happy customers too, but we'd be screwed- and likely half the size we are now- if I hadn't set up the co-op system, or if the rest of the organization hadn't jumped on board once I'd shown them how successful it could be.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

I have at least three mentors (all in different levels of authority above me in the company). By now in my career, I am as strong as each of them in certain areas (dare I say even possibly, slightly stronger in certain things?), but each of them have at least one or more things that are still above and beyond my experience and strength. So, even if I might be slightly stronger than one mentor in one area, a different mentor has plenty more to offer than me. I have had other mentors in the past which today I rarely ask for advice and sometimes they even ask me. There has never been a formality. I just grew to realize that this guy/gal I've been asking questions of all these years must be a mentor!

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

We try to do what moltenmetal's company does. We're of course always on the look out for "experienced" engineers, but have to be real careful to dig qualitatively into that experience. A lot of the time, they've got the years, but not the "experience", if that makes sense. They'll be 5-10 years out of school but still have the chops of someone who is like 2-5 years out of school (or, god forbid, earlier). Perhaps we just have high standards or have gotten real lucky with the people who stick around that long. At least anecdotally, I feel we've had more luck with people with no experience than we have with people with a few years' experience. Seems like we have to train both groups about the same, but one is a clean slate and doesn't think they deserve the salary of someone who has been out of school for a couple years.

For us the mentorship is not part of a formal program. Personally, I prefer it that way. Unless it's opt-in for senior staff, I feel like formal programs tend to force people into mentorship who either aren't cut out for it, don't want to do it, or both. And then when a young person is assigned a mentor they feel that's their formal mentor and they really shouldn't go elsewhere. Not like cheating on a spouse but more like going outside the chain of command. Doing it more informally allows the people who are really interested and invested in being mentors to shoulder that burden and the people who aren't don't have to. Also leaves young engineers multiple avenues for mentorship in case their normal go-to is out of the office or busy or whatever. Important part for management is for them to be aware of what's going on and make sure that the informal mentors are not being penalized for spending their time mentoring/teaching when the time comes for bonuses/raises/profit sharing. Billable hours may be lower and projects may not come in at or below the targeted hours, but that mentoring and training time is critical to the future health of the company.

Also can't be afraid to lose young engineers and avoid the training costs just because they might leave. Having untrained engineers stick around is a much worse outcome for the company than having well-trained engineers leave.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

MrHershey: our experience matches yours. Our mentorship program isn't 1:1 and isn't formal- we try to get the junior engs to work with all the senior engs at an early point in their career, so they see a bunch of different work styles and can select a hybrid that matches their own abilities and aptitudes. And from experience, we prefer the blank slate to the one which has had some ridiculous sh*t etched into it at an early, impressionable stage...fixing that is pretty nigh impossible. Regrettably, working with junior engs isn't an "opt in" thing here- by necessity, and some of our senior engs are either not interested in mentorship or are terrible at it or both. So it goes- at least that provides the junior engs with hands-on experience in dealing with difficult people!

Most companies fail to hire young people out of a fear they'll leave, rather than failing to train the young people they actually hire. And they work hard to poach young people trained by others. Fair enough- it keeps us honest. We have to pay well and offer the young engs interesting work. Of course if you're in a cut-throat low margin business, you're screwed- you can't attract competent experienced talent nor can you afford to train fresh grads- but thanks to an oversupplied market, even places like that seem to be able to find staff rather than doing what they should do- close up shop.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

No formal mentoring or training for me when I hired in out of school. Very much got the "trial by fire" approach.
Half the battle was figuring out who was the right person to even ask the question to. Most people/ other engineers we always very helpful, but I had to initiate everything and learn from trial and error who to talk to about what.

AFAIK there is still no mentoring or even formal job training. Everything I learned was through asking various co-workers. There is a co-op rotational program that I think helps prepare some potential new hires better, but overall there is no formal job training or anything outside of the generic site-specific safety overviews.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

(OP)
It seems that alot of engineers experience the "trial by fire" approach that ehbadger received. Is that an efficient way to train younger engineers? Is it supposed to be a sink or swim environment where if you don't pick up things quick enough you are left to flounder? I have met engineers that have been working many years, but don't seem to have a well-rounded background. It was like they meandered from job to job, and never received any guidance, so never really gained the experience you would expect from a person who has been practicing engineering for so long.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

I think ash060's post is pretty accurate. I also think mentoring at most places as been replaced by "Lean", and everyone is so busy they don't have a lot of time to help, less their projects suffer. On top of that, as standard procedures change, documentation isn't kept current, or procedures are never recorded to begin with, and people leaving take the knowledge with them.

Having less experienced engineers makes more experienced engineers more critical to the company, and less likely to be laid off in hard times. Don't think this isn't a competition.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

"t seems that alot of engineers experience the "trial by fire" approach that ehbadger received. Is that an efficient way to train younger engineers? Is it supposed to be a sink or swim environment where if you don't pick up things quick enough you are left to flounder? "

Learning by "doing" is usually the best way to learn something for the long haul. To some degree, letting you flounder, a bit, is part of the process. There's nothing worse in the learning process than for your "mentor" to swoop in to "save the day," and depriving you of the learning. That said, it's a fine line, and there's often insufficient schedule margin for newbies to properly learn on their own. Self-sufficiency is also a learned process.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

Not to toot my own horn, but I think it worked very well for me. I struggled with initiating first contact or developing my own priorities, etc and the trial by fire forced me to do just that. If someone was constantly telling me exactly what to do or I had a "Safety net" to fall in, I know I wouldn't have stepped out and been exposed to the real issues and experiences that make me better. About 1.5 years into my first job, I was moved from supporting one process of the plant to another. Vastly different technologies, chemistries, risks, costs, and exposure. Again, it was an immediate trial by fire, and I learned right quick what was needed. Now, I am transitioning roles altogether, and I am amazing myself at how I can explain what I've done and am doing to the new guy coming behind me. I feel like no matter how much I pass over to them, I am taking a LOT of knowledge and capability with me. On the other hand, I've only been in that role 4 years.. and was as green as they come when I was thrust into the flame. So I think it worked for me. Is it best for everyone? I don't necessarily think so... some people come in and just flounder about and perform the same on Week 150 as Week 6.

Interesting discussion though!

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

A mentor in my opinion shouldn't be teaching but teaching someone how to teach themselves. Trial by fire is some of that but a good mentoring helps explain the whys so that new problems tackled efficiently. The worst kind of mentoring is this is how we do it so do it this way and an explanation is never given.

As for formal training and mentoring, the one company that I worked at that had bar none the best formal training and mentoring in the industry, happened to pay less than if I just took another job and put myself through some graduate program and a significant portion of the compensation was delayed stock that you became vested in at the 6 year mark. I suppose that is how they justify the training from a money point of view. If the person leaves before 6 years, they probably didn't lose that much money. That company was very academic, to the point sometimes it wasn't practical. At another company, I was thrown into things , trial by fire, and I think my practically improved immensely even though I struggled and honestly was part of a few bad projects.

The only thing about trial by fire that needs to be avoided is that if it is too much, you can cause someone to lose their swagger. There is nothing worse than seeing someone lose their swagger and fall back to cover your ass engineering. Trial by fire works if no one drowns.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

#### Quote:

It seems that alot of engineers experience the "trial by fire" approach that ehbadger received. Is that an efficient way to train younger engineers? Is it supposed to be a sink or swim environment where if you don't pick up things quick enough you are left to flounder? I have met engineers that have been working many years, but don't seem to have a well-rounded background. It was like they meandered from job to job, and never received any guidance, so never really gained the experience you would expect from a person who has been practicing engineering for so long.

I would consider ehbadger's experience one extreme and companies that coddle their staff to the point that they end up with incompetent senior engineers the opposite extreme. Neither are good, I've been in the second organization and hope to never see either again. I'm a big fan of dithering along somewhere in between. In this case while I'm a big advocate for mentoring I also strongly believe that many engineering grads received little/no education on practical design in college, simply have no aptitude for design, or for other reasons simply are unlikely to succeed in the design office. I'll gladly help anybody willing to make the effort to build on a solid foundation but prior to that there does need to be a bit of "trial by fire" to segregate juniors who slipped through the hiring process without the basic abilities required of that position, ie for design - being able to read a print, tolerance stackups, bolted joint analyses, etc.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

The more I think about it, "trial by fire", and "sink or swim" seems more like code for lazy engineering management. For what you believe should have been learned in school, give a simple test during the interview process. For knowledge that would be unique to your company or field, and wouldn't be a common thing taught in schools, there should be documented in house practices and standard, and they should be well organized and easy to access. There should also be a documented practice, procedure, or protocol on how interdepartmental company projects will proceed, and expected deliverables and time frames for customers and vendors. A new engineer shouldn't be expected to develop these things on their own.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

"trial by fire" is in the eye of the beholder; my son feels that way about every math class he's ever had. Does that make his default curriculum lazy management?

The point of being engineers is not to do only things that we already know how to do, but to create new things. For that, we all get trials by fire, the more the better for us to grow as engineers.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

I have been the beneficiary of good mentorship many times in my career. I've been looking for ways to "pay it back", and the management support is there, but the opportunity is not available. My office hasn't hired a new person (except a manager) since I was hired 5 years ago. I have made gestures to help a number of junior engineers in the same company, but at another office in another city however it's not gained much traction. You can't "phone in" the mentorship.

Many years ago, I did have an opportunity to mentor a summer student. Mixed results. That summer I was traveling a lot; away from the office often. The student was left on his own to struggle many times before I could come back and steer him back on track. I was able to expose him to CAD in a real design environment, some practical analysis tasks, and introduce him to basic safety and efficient work practices in our prototype shop. I also realized that I didn't always have good reference materials ready for him to refer to when doing something I assigned him to do. Just handing him a copy of a textbook he'd never seen before, like Bruhn or Peery, didn't help. Lastly, we had very different personalities, and my learning style (hence my teaching style) was nothing like his.

For mentorship to succeed, the mentor and mentee should have compatible personalities.

STF

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

Create new things, but not how to schedule a manufacturing trials in a company that already has a procedure. That procedure should be communicated to new hires and followed by all departments. Likewise, if the company has establish calculations they want to be used, the new hire should be informed instead trying to develop his own theories that would require expensive experimentation to confirm. Even down to "We have a scale of the precision you need on the other side of the building, you don't need to buy a new one." kind of thing. There's unique information in every company that employees need to know, and it should be the responsibility of a manager to have a method in place to communicate it to new hires. "Trial by fire" and "sink or swim" are clearly not well defined here.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

SparWeb, in talking with local universities, one common need is mentoring of the students. Many at the Freshman and Sophomore levels struggle to determine what branch of engineering interests them most. You may want to check this opportunity out through your local technical chapter or chapter of NSPE.

Careful34, I agree that internal standards, processes (business and manufacturing), resources, etc. need to be provided to new hires. There are a lot of technical aspects that are only gained through manufacturing and/or designing certain manufacturing processes. I've match projects fail because the engineering firm had no experience in the chemical industry. Costly mistake, which made the Corporation decide to always use engineering firms with experience in what that plant makes. But, IRstuff makes a good point about our ability to create new things.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

Yes, I agreed with that.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

I got a gander at my son's first homework assignment after the midterm; it basically assigned 7 of the questions from the midterm as homework problems. This suggests that the class did pretty miserably on these problems on the midterm, and in my view, represents an epic teaching failure.

It seems to me that one of the major subjects missing from school curriculum is teaching people to teach. Now, it may be that many, if not most, go through life without actually having to teach for a living, but most, if not all, do wind up having to teach something to someone at some point in their lives, and it would seem to be beneficial if everyone got a 2-unit seminar class in teaching. Certainly, my kid's professor could have benefited from a teaching class, because he basically sucks at it, and it's making this freshman class a misery to take. This instructor's approach appears to be in the "sink or swim" category, which may work for some that can figure out enough to go find the relevant material to learn on the internet, but for many others, it's many hours of struggling through material that was claimed to not need ANY math prerequisites, other than was was needed to get into this engineering school.

So, it would seem that most, if not all, apprentices from the Middle Ages, got some form of teaching, for better or worse, which they could pass on in teaching their own apprentices. In my own experience, I pretty much suck at teaching as we;;; vacant stares looking back at me, hoping for insights that I might impart to them, aren't being helped by the fact that I think the problem I'm discussing is rather trivial, and I can't even begin to understand what or why they don't understand.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

We have an official mentor program at work...but I've never seen it used.

Problem is in this industry, most of us travel, so the mentor nor mentoree are never in the office at the same time.

Another issue is we are spread very thin. So neither the mentor nor mentoree have time to teach or learn. Although the mentorees are learning by fire....

______________________________________________________________________________
This is normally the space where people post something insightful.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

My 'mentoree' is in China. I am sitting in the Australian bush watching Kookaburras. If you can't figure out how to communicate effectively with someone 8000 km away then you won't have a job for long.

Cheers

Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

Lacajun,
Good advice but the local university would laugh me off with my humble pedigree. More chance with the provincial professional organizations.
Unfortunately, one won't accept me as a member so I can't see them accepting me as a mentor.
I expect the other (to which I am a member) would have no idea how to match me with a mentee candidate, but I guess there's no harm trying.

STF

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

I know I'm on a tear now, but thinking more about the whole "Trial by fire" thing, it's just bad all around. What responsible company would allow a New unvetted employee to make any kind of serious decision without oversight?

"Oops! Our released product doesn't work right!"
"Who designed it?"
"The new guy we know nothing about."
"Did anyone check his work?"
"No, we were giving him a Trial by Fire, and seeing if he'd Sink or Swim."

Who would think this is acceptable?

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

(OP)
Probably this guy.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

What responsible company allows any employee to make significant decisions without another's review? Senior engineers screw up just as juniors do, and the mistakes are just as costly.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

"Senior engineers screw up just as juniors do"

Hmmm, I would hope that would not be the case. Whole point of being a Senior engineer is you've made mistakes that learnt from them, I thought.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

"Whole point of being a Senior engineer is you've made mistakes that learnt from them"

That does not prevent mistakes that you haven't learned from yet. Additionally, being senior, with that kind of attitude will make you complacent and actually more prone to mistakes. Moreover, unless you are a one-man shop, you are not immune to others on your team making mistakes

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

"That does not prevent mistakes that you haven't learned from yet." Perhaps, but that's hopefully not as many as a brand new engineer.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

JMO but part of being an ethical engineer is recognizing that nobody is infallible and that part of giving due diligence is simply having others review your work regardless of your position.

Getting back to "trials by fire," those that I referred to previously simply involve seniors and managers paying attention and learning juniors' existing strengths/weaknesses/skills the first few weeks on the job in a sort of "trial period" before investing too much in training.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

SparWeb, you won't know about the universities until you try.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

Pam,
Don't let my secret get out: I didn't graduate from a university! That's why they don't want me.
This subject is timely for me, because I'm already talking to ASET about mentorhip opportunities, but I haven't been matched up yet.
In their eyes, I have a very >narrow< professional discipline. Also, not a lot of aerospace grads in Alberta (not any more, that is).
Now, I do have a very multidisiplinary mindset and background, but stuff I do as a hobby, and various stuff I have learned from the Aero business, just doesn't fit into standardized forms and is difficult to add to the criteria the administration of the ASET can use to match me to a student.

STF

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

SparWeb, my lips are sealed!

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

Thanks. I know I can trust you. :)
Not getting any responses from ASET, nor any replies to emails I sent to the new hires at the company either. You can only go so far, then it becomes obvious that they are not interested.

So the thing with mentorship is that BOTH parties need to be interested.

STF

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

SparWeb, I liken all relationships to an AND gate in that both parties have to be a 1 to yield a 1. Some men have been angered by that, which I don't understand as the principle seems obvious. Ya' just never know...

P.S. Those were not men interested in me at all either.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

Like SparWeb I have also benefitted greatly from mentorship. When I started as an engineering co-op back in the 70's I worked with many 'old-timers' who showed me the ropes about materials, especially the things that don't necessary appear in the textbooks. The mentorship was informal but the chief engineer took me under his wing and showed me many things and encouraged me to make decisions and be unafraid in my work. Now that I am considered an 'old-timer' myself, I also find a lack of opportunities to mentor young engineers within my company. I don't plan to work forever so it would be nice to pass on what I learned to the younger engineers.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

The most irritating part, is that I work *at* a company that has mentor-ships, but because I don't work *for* the company, I'm not eligible for such things.
Dumbass contractors will stay dumbass contractors. They must.
I can single out senior engineers and ask them questions, but like someone above said, you always feel like you are taking up their valuable time.
At 36years old, I'm a career contractor now, just because I like to "eat".
I had a job interview *for* the company a couple weeks ago w/ a very senior guy. I didn't get past his phone interview and felt it was bs, that I would've done just fine if I'd had the opportunity for some kind of mentoring over the last 3.5 years.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

That's the tradeoff with being a contractor. Why would a company spend resources educating someone who has less likelihood of a long term future with the company? Why train your competitor's future workforce?

Cheers

Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

ManifoldDesigner,
That's a raw deal you've been given. For whatever reason the company has offered you employment but not under conditions that would encourage your loyalty. Make sure you reciprocate with your own loyalty.
I cannot see the point of guaranteeing that your workforce can show no long-term commitment to the company. It only makes sense if you assume management has already decided that the company need not be viable in about 10 years.

BTW,
Just an update for those waiting in eager suspense: my offer to ASET to mentor junior engineers has been met with silence.

STF

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

I don't know about the Automotive business.....but in what I do (consulting/working with EPC outfits) there isn't much difference between contract employees (aka "shoppers") and direct employees (except maybe 2 weeks notice for the layoff).

I would think (at 36) you would have picked up all you need to know without mentorship (but again: I don't know that much about the automotive biz). I worked a lot of contract jobs early on in my career......and I came out technically stronger than a lot of people who worked directly for some of the firms I was at. It's all about how much you can get exposed to and how quickly.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

Here's what contractors get: $X per hour Here's what permies get:$Y per week
Overtime if approved
A pension scheme
Employer contribution to that scheme
Training
4 weeks annual leave
10 paid public holidays
1 week per year long service leave
Lease car
Career progression
A reasonable income protection insurance scheme

Here's what old permies get:

1.5 sick days a month that accrues to a maximum of 120 days
a defined benefit pension scheme aka the golden handcuff

I've been both a contractor and a permie at this company, at the time I was happy enough with the hourly rate, but in my only attempt at negotiation on pay I was taken on staff at almost the equivalent rate.

Cheers

Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

#### Quote (WARose)

I would think (at 36) you would have picked up all you need to know without mentorship...

You would hope so, but probably not true in many industries. I work with a number of "juniors" but the knowledge and skill displayed by some recent grads is equal to that shown by some guys 10 years older. The latter may have worked under very cloistered conditions before arriving in our group. By the time I was 36 I was juggling multiple aircraft modification projects simultaneously, sometimes on my own for several days/weeks without supervision except the final reports. Now I work around some 40-year-olds who can't spec a bolt. What makes it tolerable are the energetic ones who soak in everything you tell them.

STF

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

#### Quote:

Here's what contractors get: $X per hour Here's what permies get:$Y per week
Overtime if approved
A pension scheme
Employer contribution to that scheme
Training
4 weeks annual leave
10 paid public holidays
1 week per year long service leave
Lease car
Career progression
A reasonable income protection insurance scheme

Here's what old permies get:

1.5 sick days a month that accrues to a maximum of 120 days
a defined benefit pension scheme aka the golden handcuff

I've been both a contractor and a permie at this company, at the time I was happy enough with the hourly rate, but in my only attempt at negotiation on pay I was taken on staff at almost the equivalent rate.

At some of the jobs I've had....."X" was so much greater than "Y", it balanced out the bennies. (This is not to mention the fact a lot of shops offer paid vacation and holidays themselves.)

Prior to the crash (in 2008), it was about 3 straight years of calls from shops offering as much as 3 figures per hour. Sometimes I wish I had gone that route, because all my loyalty got me canned in 2009 anyway. But being a shopper means being on the road a lot and i don't want to do that (all the time).

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

So what ratio can be tolerated long-term, of permanent employees to contract employees in a typical engineering department?
I admit that's a very rhetorical question there - but can we at least agree that a high proportion of contract employees can lead to very unpredictable events?

STF

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

We typically hire contractors for specific jobs that they're supposed to be qualified for. And, we hire contractors only when there is no long-term assurance of continued work. Under these constraints, what would be the point of training from which we expect no future benefits?

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

#### Quote:

So what ratio can be tolerated long-term, of permanent employees to contract employees in a typical engineering department?

All depends on who is deciding what is "tolerable" (and what "long-term" actually is). I worked at one place where everyone in the mechanical department was contract (including the department head).....and nobody seemed to take note of it (or care). In fact, only about a quarter of the office I worked in were direct.

#### Quote:

I admit that's a very rhetorical question there - but can we at least agree that a high proportion of contract employees can lead to very unpredictable events?

Unquestionably. But I'm not making the rules.....just trying to live with 'em. The only time I get mad is when someone who plays by those rules tries to pitch me a bunch of BS as if they are different. I interviewed with a outfit here in town (one of the largest EPC outfits in the country) some years back and the guy starts giving it to me that I've worked as a contractor. Well, I reminded him that they are the layoff kings of the engineering world with tons of shoppers working for them and I didn't want to hear it. (To my surprise, I still got an offer....but he didn't like that little refresher.)

Guy must have thought I've been walking around this town the last 20 years without talking to anyone else.

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

Our drafting shop was largely contract, 20 years ago. For reasons unknown to me that gently morphed into mostly staff. On the engineering side I vaguely remember a figure of 40% contractors as being containable. We are running so many programs with so many J1 dates that the flow of work is essentially constant, that I can see. In the good old days we had months where we were just waiting for the next phase of prototypes, so we could do all sorts of mad investigative projects - in my department we had a fleet of \$1 cars that were used for mad experiments. Sadly that doesn't happen any more, so technically we don't do a whole lot of development.

Cheers

Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

### RE: Mentorship: Is it still around?

#### Quote:

I would think (at 36) you would have picked up all you need to know without mentorship (but again: I don't know that much about the automotive biz).

Thats somewhat of a common misconception by other engineers, not really about automotive but about general ME product design as a whole. Within the auto industry for example, many bounce from engines to transmissions to body structures to other fringe areas, which is kinda like bouncing from residential structures to bridges to geotech in the CE world - a bit of a leap at times. Some moves are easy for a decent engineer with common carryover skills, but there's often a ton of tribal knowledge you won't learn without a decent mentor.

As for on-site contractor vs regular employee, I've always been the later but have been very close to going contract on several occasions. I haven't noticed much difference in the way each are treated by the regular employer, probably bc the same employees go back-forth between the two regularly, however IME contract houses tend to hold their employees to pretty strict hours vs having the usual fairly flexible schedule. I dont know what the going pay-rate for contract employees is, only the contracted rates, but I've never had a contract house flinch when I've told them 30% above my current rate and all I've dealt with offered some semblance of basic benefits. Personally, the only reason I havent gone contract is simply bc I prefer stability to cash. One of my siblings has done extremely well in software programming as a contract employee.

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