Mentoring Program Celebrates
Successful First Year

Second Stream Underway as Established APEGGA Professionals Use Their Experience to Help Others

What started as a trickle has grown to two strong and steady streams of APEGGA Mentoring Program participants. In March of 2004, APEGGA launched the program to meet a growing demand from less experienced members for guidance in their professional careers from those with more experience.

“The program’s initial focus was on the transfer of skills from the more experienced members to the less experienced members. Protégés in the workplace could enhance work-related soft skills, such as organization, teamwork and negotiation,” explains Nancy Toth, Manager of Professional Development.

“By early that summer the need emerged for a program for those who were unable to find a position in their field. That’s how we ended up with Pool A and Pool B,” she says.

Since the first month of matches at its inception, the program as a whole has grown by 400 per cent. The program’s original stream just marked its 100th pair, when Brian Kitagawa., P.Eng., was matched to his second protégé.

Mr. Kitagawa, who works for Gemini Engineering Ltd. in Calgary , first mentored an internationally educated protégé — the perfect situation for a Pool B match.

“My protégé was starting a six-month work experience placement and did not know what to expect and did not know what was expected of him,” says Mr. Kitagawa. “It was a matter of acculturation — there’s often a corporate subculture and he found he needed help to understand it, to navigate through it. We began with formal goals and then changed to meet his emerging needs.”

When the work experience placement ended, the protégé remained unemployed. But Mr. Kitagawa was still able to help.

“There seems to be a fear or an unwillingness to ask for help related to employment skills. I think people are afraid of being judged. You’ve got to encourage them.

“Now that my protégé is employed in a new job, he still has a lot of questions related to language and North American culture. Although at first I wasn’t sure I had the necessary skills, I’m very pleased I have been able to alleviate his fears,” says Mr. Kitagawa.

Does that mean his work is done with the first protégé? “We’ll continue for at least another year,” Mr. Kitagawa says.

Tom Greenwood-Madsen, P.Eng., is another of the program’s volunteer mentors. A long-time APEGGA volunteer — most recently on the Nominating Committee — he says one of the many personal benefits of being a mentor is the sense of accomplishment.

“I feel I have made a friend and it feels good to know I have made a positive difference in someone’s life. People are more important than anything and I believe in volunteering to support my profession. APEGGA’s mentoring program is a way I can combine these two beliefs.”

Protégés, on the other hand, get the benefit of learning from more experienced professionals. This may come in the form of simple project advice or even cross-cultural advice.

“My protégé was in a new country and a new culture in addition to being in a new corporate culture,” Mr. Greenwood-Madsen said. “A lot of our discussion was focused on cultural issues.”

Though Mr. Greenwood-Madsen has completed his official program with his first protégé, he is eager to mentor another.

Ms. Toth says that the program’s success has guaranteed its continuation. “Obviously we are very pleased with the program’s success,” says Ms. Toth.

She adds that the use of tools such as e-mail means those who reside outside of Alberta can still take part.

“Recently I tried to match up a protégé and mentor only to find out that the mentor, while originally from Edmonton , works out of Texas . The Texas-based mentor was more than willing to aide the protégé by e-mail, however.”

“It’s that kind of flexibility that has been built into our program. It’s what keeps it so viable.”