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Women in Construction Week: Why mentorships are key in the construction industry

Ten years ago, Skanska Womens Network (SWN) launched a national mentorship program for employees interested in learning and developing professionally and personally through mentor-mentee relationships. In honor of Women in Construction (WIC Week), we’re highlighting Skanska’s mentorship program, and five pairs of mentors and mentees who have developed professionally through this program.

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In what ways have you helped one another during this program?

Wendy: Robin has been an awesome supporter since day one and continues to cheer me on as I grow with Skanska.

Robin: Wendy has given me a lot of insight into her side of the industry and a great perspective on facing the challenges in our jobs. We’ve discovered a lot of commonalities in our daily work lives and relatability through shared experiences.

How has our mentorship program helped you grow in your career?

Wendy: It has helped me grow in confidence so I can take on new challenges and opportunities.  

Robin: Connecting with both mentors and mentees in this program has developed my ability to see our business pursuits and industry from a larger, birds-eye view and understand how our different projects and offices operate amongst each other. It’s also given me a lot of perspective on the opportunities I can pursue as an individual to advance my career.

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In what ways have you helped one another during this program?

Nicole: Mac has been a great source of support and encouragement throughout the mentorship process. He has offered insight, feedback and perspective related to advancing my career.

Mac: I've shared my experiences, industry insights and practical knowledge to help Nicole navigate challenges and make informed decisions. I've provided guidance on career development options, offered feedback on Nicole’s goals and shared networking opportunities.

Our mentorship has created a collaborative space where we can both share successes, challenges and lessons learned. This open dialogue has contributed to a supportive and mutually beneficial relationship, where we celebrate achievements and address setbacks together.

What advice do you have for our employees who are considering applying for this mentorship program?

Nicole: Do it! It’s a great opportunity to make new connections, learn beyond your current scope and develop your goals.

Mac: Join the mentorship program as a catalyst for your career growth. Define your goals, and actively engage in the learning process. This program is not just about mentorship; it's a chance to cultivate meaningful connections, broaden your perspective and accelerate your professional journey.

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In what ways have you helped one another during this program?

Monet: Steve has supported and encouraged my curiosity for sustainability and preconstruction through a role change to the project planning services team.

Steve: Monet was onsite on our University of Portland project and kept me up to date as the project progressed, including facilitating several tours. She expressed interest in sustainability and preconstruction, and we have been fortunate to bring her on to the project planning team. And, as a former college athlete, she’s given me advice on the recruiting process as we attempt to navigate it with my high school son.

What is something you’ve learned while participating in this program?

Monet: Ask all the questions. Absorb as much as you can.

Steve: Mentorship works best when it’s led by the mentee responding to their specific goals and needs instead of just the mentor giving generic advice.

Why is a mentorship program helpful in the construction and development industry?

Monet: To understand all the pieces of the puzzle. It’s easy to fixate on our project or team and forget to see the big picture and all the effort that goes into it.

Steve: It’s a very complicated business and there are constantly new challenges. If you spend two years on one project, you will know a ton about that project, but perhaps little else. Mentorship opens one up to the world of construction and Skanska’s business beyond the project site and/or current assignment.

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In what ways have you helped one another during this program?

Marcela: I feel very lucky to have Erin as my mentor. We understand each other’s struggles and strengths. In our meetings, we share the challenges we’ve overcome, and she teaches me how to become a leader in the field.

Erin: With both of us being mothers, sharing how we balance motherhood with work has been a great conversation. Making sure Marcela has the proper tools at her disposal and knowing the proper individuals to contact about certain topics has been a goal of mine during this mentorship. I have also gained a friend through it all.

What is something you’ve learned while participating in this program?

Marcela: I’ve learned the importance of clear communication, listening to others and establishing our limits. Erin also introduced me to apps that facilitate communication between project managers and superintendents.

Erin: To not always ask people if they need any help, but to ask questions on how they are doing and discuss challenges they are working through to help them indirectly.

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In what ways have you helped one another during this program?

Christoper: My mentor, Dan, shared insights and experience that may not otherwise come up in discussions. Having a 1:1 conversation with my mentor allows me to pick his brain in a casual setting and sharing my perspective offers feedback for my mentor as well.

Daniel: It’s been very valuable for me to engage with Chris. We’ve had some in-depth conversations around career growth, advancement and engagement beyond Chris’ project responsibilities. Understanding his perspective and goals helps me think differently about how to support development in our future leaders and to keep an eye open for opportunities for engagement.

Why is a mentorship program helpful in the construction and development industry?

Christopher: Each project in construction and/or development is unique and does not follow a pre-determined script. Transfer of knowledge and experience fills in the gaps between workflow, work process and standard operating procedures.

Daniel: The connectivity of mentorship provides a conduit for communication and a deeper connection between the people that make up our company and, therefore, to the company itself.

What is the biggest benefit of participating in a mentorship program in the construction industry?

Christopher: Conversations and connections between mentors and mentees allow for long-term connections to form, breaking down barriers and developing the next generations of leaders.

Daniel: The open communication and deep relationship that it creates between two people. Chris knows that he can connect with me at any time in any way, and that no question is “off the table.” I feel the same way about communicating with him.