Closed Circuit

​By Sarah P.

In January, Leadership Development launched the WAPA-wide Mentoring Program, welcoming 62 participants in its first cohort. I am incredibly passionate about mentorship, personally, and have had the pleasure of being both a mentor and a mentee. Even though I’m well into my career, I still find having a mentor incredibly important. 

I’ve had mentors from both official and unofficial programs, and the outcome is the same, as they’re the same type of people: individuals who want to help and guide others to their maximum potential. They have been incredible influences on my life. They’ve written stellar recommendations for me, one of which served as a reference for my current position; found and shared incredible opportunities; provided very frank feedback when I needed it; and been my biggest cheerleaders.

They are incredible people to have in one’s life but, as we know, they are only half of the equation. A mentoring relationship can’t occur without a willing mentee. 

I was lucky enough to have mentoring programs to enroll in, and in some cases, I had to be brave enough to reach out and ask for help. There is a wealth of knowledge out there, and I’ve found that people are more than happy to share their experiences, thoughts and opinions. They can even ask you questions that you never considered before. At WAPA, I’ve never met a single person who wasn’t willing to fill me in on something. That’s part of the reason I love this organization so much. It’s so easy to reach out, ask for and receive information.

When I joined WAPA, my prior government experience was solely on the military side of the Department of Defense. I could almost argue that my jump from government to private-sector civilian life was an easier transition than into the Department of Energy civil service.

Each organization is different, but adjusting to being on a first-name basis with everyone in a government position was quite a big one. I’m still feeling out WAPA’s culture after six months. 

I can’t tell you how excited I was for the opportunity to set up and run a mentoring program here at WAPA. I learned that Desert Southwest already had a similar program, and Program and Regulatory Advisor Michelle Fink shared a wealth of information that influenced the WAPA-wide program. How appropriate that this program was established in part via a mentoring relationship.

The WAPA-wide Mentoring Program is especially important now, considering the way the pandemic changed the workplace. There isn’t much opportunity to encounter colleagues by chance, there aren’t office lunches to attend and many individuals have been hired on during the pandemic without much chance to meet their colleagues in person. The WAPA-wide Mentoring Program aims to close that gap and overcome boundaries that may be present to connect individuals to one another.

Mentoring programs create mutually beneficial partnerships that build an organization’s culture and strengthen professional networks. WAPA’s program encourages participants to reach across regions and specialties.

To find a mentor, participants must register a profile online. From there, they can match based on job, location, current and past job experience, knowledge, skills, abilities and what they’re hoping to achieve.

The program offers two types of mentoring relationships. The first is a traditional mentor-mentee relationship, in which a mentor offers professional guidance, and thus receives additional leadership experience and exposure to new and different views. The second is peer-to-peer mentoring, for those wishing to find someone to bounce ideas off of, walk through tough career choices with and more. 

Participants have a multitude of resources available during the program, such as taking Strength Finders assessments and receiving follow-on coaching with the LDP’s newly certified instructor, Program Manager Troy Steadman. The kick-off event included training on workplace mentoring, the power of vulnerability, how to create team standards and more. 

While this program has just launched, participants have already had a wealth of useful experiences and interactions. Mentors and mentees will continue to meet each month for a minimum of one hour, choosing from a variety of special monthly LDP programs, Learning Nucleus courses and other media, such as books, videos and articles. Topics include infrastructure, safety and hydropower.

Now that this program has launched, I can’t help but be thankful for the people in this organization. We had so many individuals interested that we had to waitlist a few for the next cohort, which will begin in July. 

However, that doesn’t prevent individuals reading this from seeking out mentoring relationships outside of the program. Right now there are mentors waiting to be found and mentees waiting to be adopted both inside and outside of WAPA. Don’t let your knowledge, or your quest for knowledge, go untapped. 

Connection is what makes individuals and organizations great. The LDP’s mission is to cultivate learning and leadership by developing authentic leaders who embody WAPA’s core values and leadership competencies. With the willingness or, better yet, eagerness of WAPA employees to participate in mentorship, I truly believe this program will achieve that. 

Note: The author is a leadership development specialist

Last modified on March 5th, 2024