Bill Collins, division director, CESD; Romy Chakraborty, Ecology Department Head; and Ali Douraghy, Strategic Initiatives and Business Development lead discuss how to create a culture that fosters career development

The EESA Mentoring Pilot Program for FY2018 kicked off with two training sessions on January 11 for individuals grouped in pairs of 43 mentors and mentees from our Area who will meet over the next nine months. Mentors learned effective mentoring skills in a morning training with breakout sessions. Mentees gathered in an afternoon training to learn what they can expect from their mentoring relationship. Geri Richmond, presidential chair in Science and professor of Chemistry at the University of Oregon, gave a presentation focused on helping mentoring program participants establish a strong foundation on which to build their relationships. Richmond has held numerous leadership positions within the national and international scientific communities and is known as a strong advocate for the advancement of early-career scientists.

Tracy Bigelow, senior Human Resources division partner for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area at Berkeley Lab, believes that the mentoring pilot program will help develop future leaders for the Area and enable the effective transfer of knowledge and expertise between senior and junior staff. “Feedback from employee surveys consistently shows that staff – whether their focus is science, technical, or administrative work – want a) more opportunities to develop skills and knowledge and b) more guidance on career development. The mentoring pilot program was designed to help meet these employee needs.”

Having a mentor to help guide a mentee in developing their career differs from the supervisor-employee relationship that is focused on job performance and working for the benefit of the organization, rather than for the benefit of an individual’s personal career development.

The EESA mentoring pilot program will be offered every other year. Registration took place during October, and participants in a mentoring committee helped match mentors and mentees before the Lab’s holiday shutdown in December. Bigelow considers the program to be of benefit to mentors and mentees alike. “Mentors are given opportunities to build leadership skills and to gain an understanding of the needs or perspectives of early-career staff.” She notes many benefits to mentees; one of the most significant is how having a mentor to help guide a mentee in developing their career differs from the supervisor-employee relationship that is focused on job performance and working for the benefit of the organization, rather than for the benefit of an individual’s personal career development.

“Mentors are given opportunities to build leadership skills and to gain an understanding of the needs or perspectives of early-career staff.”

During the training sessions, mentees seemed excited by this opportunity to have attention focused on their careers rather than on the work or projects at hand. Mentors showed enthusiasm for the opportunity mentoring gives them to get to know someone new and to empower them to develop. Richmond’s presentation encouraged the mentors to engage in active, reflective listening when meeting with their mentees. She also discussed the importance of avoiding the temptation to try to solve problems for one’s mentee, stressing that mentees are given more opportunities for growth when empowered to come up with their own solutions to challenges.