Mentor of the Year


Editor’s Note: This article and several others on mentoring in this month’s Professional Development section were compiled from interviews and research provided by Nancy Toth, APEGGA Manager of Professional Development.

Mentoring in Action

Mentoring in Action
Mentoring builds the professions, one match at a time - with tools provided by APEGGA.

“I’m looking for a protégé.” These were the first words Doug Straus, P.Eng., told staff in a phone call when APEGGA’s mentoring program officially began.

“I reminded him that he was already matched with a protégé,” says Nancy Toth, Manager of Professional Development. “After a few questions, I realized he was simply thorough in his mentoring. So I happily matched him again.”

Mr. Straus’s mentoring relationships, formal and informal, had settled into a pattern. “I felt I had capacity for another person,” says Mr. Straus.

Some months later, he wanted a third protégé. “I suggested we let the second one settle in first,” says Ms. Toth.

That level of dedication has earned Mr. Straus APEGGA’s first-ever Mentor of the Year award. The award is a celebration of this stellar mentor and volunteer, and also of the program itself, which is now one year old and still growing in popularity.

Mr. Straus, a Calgary oil-and-gas consulting engineer with his own busy practice, had already mentored two engineers, prior to the program’s official launch. Both were internationally educated grads, one from Egypt and the other from Trinidad.

“Mentoring them was an informal arrangement. I just helped them become established in their new country. Both men had graduate degrees and years of experience, and they simply needed assistance in presenting themselves for new positions.”

Mr. Straus, an APEGGA member for 30 years, was eager to guide as many engineers as he could, and became one of the APEGGA program’s first volunteers. Why? Partly because the program offers benefits to mentors as well as protégés. In fact mentoring actually makes Mr. Straus a better professional, he says.

“If I’m talking the talk with these people, I'd better be walking the walk in my professional life too. It is one thing to have great ideas, but you also need to put them into practice. The youth and vitality of protégés keeps me motivated, focused and refreshed.”

The program is divided into two pools, and Mr. Straus volunteers in both. Pool A focuses on workplace soft skills, and Pool B on employment and career skills.

Mr. Straus says mentors are a resource for career advice but also a sounding board for less career-oriented questions. He also likes to drive home the need for a balance between work life and family life.

“My protégés usually have a stated objective of simply wanting to have a resource available for them to go to with questions, issues and self-development needs,” Mr. Straus explains. “They are looking for somebody to get advice from and bounce ideas off of. I’m available to them by phone if they want discussions regarding tough people, or situational or ethical questions.”

As the mentoring program operates on a confidential basis, Mr. Straus’s protégés cannot be named here. However, both offered their congratulations and said he is truly deserving. Mr. Straus continues his contact with both.

Says one of the protégés: “As a result of Doug’s coaching I have increased self-confidence and better time management skills. I work more effectively with people who are different from me and I’m more innovative. The end-result has been greater satisfaction with my career.”

She also notes that Mr. Straus is always available to meet at her convenience.

Says the second protégé: “I found Doug to be very understanding and patient. He offered constructive suggestions on how I could proceed with issues. Doug is truly a caring and humanitarian person. I look forward to growing our relationship for many years.”

Hints of that personable and caring side run deep. In Grade 12, Mr. Straus won an award for the second highest physics marks in the province. His guidance counsellor gave him the results of his aptitude test and said, “We know you’re a first-class scientist, but we didn’t expect this!”

“The test marks,” says Mr. Straus, “showed I had the makings of a social worker. So there you are — I totally enjoy mentoring people. I have taken some counselling courses and at one time considered being a counsellor. I thought APEGGA’s mentoring program would be a good use of my skills.”

Mr. Straus, clearly proud of his protégés, says that the mentoring program has rewarded him, and that he has no intentions of leaving the program anytime soon.

“I am proud to be a professional engineer and I am proud to be a member of APEGGA. The mentoring program gives me an opportunity to pass the torch to a group of very bright and highly motivated professionals.”

In recognition of his being selected as Mentor of the Year, Mr. Straus receives a complimentary registration in the fall PD session of his choice.

more information


See Page 6 of this month's PEGG for related stories, or click on the links below to view them online.

Contact Nancy Toth, MA, Manager of Professional Development
(780) 426-3990, ext. 2811

Visit www.apegga.org/members/Mentoring/toc.html