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Posted 4/21/2017

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By Shelley Tingle
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Research Civil Engineer


The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s mentoring program is now offered across the organization for all full-time federal employees.  This powerful talent development program was designed to produce:

  • Higher employee retention and satisfaction
  • Improve employee productivity and “promotability”
  • Increase collaboration and innovation

ERDC recognizes the value mentoring can have on its talent development efforts.  The program’s goal is to impact every employee, bringing mentoring to everyone through a collaborative, learning environment.  Continuing to engage our team in meaningful collaboration and to share wisdom that only comes as the result of experience is key to a successful mentoring program.  The mentoring program has been made possible through the full commitment of ERDC leadership, and with funding through its 219 program.

Mentoring is the catalyst for talent development.  It goes beyond pointing someone in the right direction; it guides an individual’s growth through nurturing and supportive interaction that focus on personal experiences and real-world circumstances.  

Currently, there are more than 40 mentees who meet with their mentor on a regular basis, the frequency being determined by mentor and mentee.  They begin by working on an action plan with target goals and objectives that allow tangible development.

Mentors and mentees work together for one year, but the length of each partnership can vary according to the needs and interests of the team, and can extend beyond the one year if desired.  If the initial pairing is not a good match, either participant can use a “no fault termination clause” at any time, and for any reason.  All mentorships are voluntary.  However, due to the diligence of the ERDC Review Team making the pairings, the program has seen early success.

Gus Black, a mentor from the Office of Research and Technology Transfer said, “As a mentor I hope that I could provide guidance and have an impact on a person’s life.  I always have something to learn from everyone, and we also have something to teach everyone.” 

Black looks at his mentor role this way:

  • Provides guidance built on my past experiences including mistakes
  • Helps the mentee identify problems and solutions through problem solving processes
  • Offers positive, constructive feedback
  • Solicits feedback from the mentee
  • Makes an impact on someone’s life
  • Learns from the mentee on how things work at different levels and in different places in the ERDC.

Another mentor, Chad Gartrell, Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, has also seen early success through ERDC’s mentoring program.  “I joined the mentoring program because, as a new government employee 14 years ago coming from the civilian commercial industry, I realized how different the government way was, and that navigating this world can be different.”

Gartrell said that having a mentor who has been in the organization for some time can be very beneficial to help learn the “ways of the government workforce” and to better understand how a career might look in this setting.

“By talking to my mentees about the things I have done right as well as wrong, I can help them avoid the pitfalls, and it is especially rewarding to hear them ask the same questions I have asked -- only now that I can provide the answer, it feels like I can really make a difference in those cases.  Most of all, you have a chance to pass on some of your successful skills and techniques to the next person in the organization.”

Mentees have also had positive experiences; for example, Angela Stokes, now in her second year of the mentoring program, participated for several reasons.  “Since I plan on staying here at ERDC, I need and want help with my career choices.  I am in Contracting, which is a specialized field where you do not get much exposure in other areas.  I joined the program because I wanted to learn more about the ERDC, meet people, make additional contacts, and get advice pertaining to my career path.  In short, I needed a sounding board, guidance pertaining to my endeavors, and feedback, both positive and negative.  This is my second year in the program and it is definitely time well spent.  The experience has been invaluable.”

Mentoring is for everyone, not just engineers and scientists.  Angie Barnette, Contracting Office, chose mentoring to gain information for the skills, knowledge, and developmental experience offered at ERDC.  

“I was blessed with my being paired with a mentor who understands how this mentorship can affect my success, career satisfaction, and retention within the organization.”  Barnette said she “needed someone I could trust and someone to believe in me.  I got so much more than that.  My mentor inspires and motivates me to be the best I can be, and helps me grow more self-confident as I reach to achieve my goals.”

Through each success, ERDC’s mentoring program proves itself as an effective part of the organization’s talent development strategy.  Using targeted mentoring that effectively matches mentors and mentees with specific goals, then ties these initiatives back to specific talent development objectives, the mentoring program is developing leaders and strengthening ERDC’s succession pipeline.

If you want to be a part of fiscal year 18 Mentoring Program, applications will be available this summer.  To learn more about the program, visit https://insideerdc.erdc.dren.mil/Mentoring or contact Dr. Andrea Scott at Andrea.M.Scott@usace.army.mil or 601-634-2729.

ERDC ERDC Careers mentoring USACE