Atkins, Mentorship programmes for architects, Salim Hussain

Atkins’ Salim Hussain discusses the importance of quality mentorship programmes

While assisting some of Atkins’ younger architects with their professional practice exams, I was asked to sign a declaration confirming that I was acting as their ‘mentor’. Assistance to colleagues is always offered, but the formal nature of this question caused me to reflect on the role a mentor plays and, for that matter, the role of a mentee.

As a mentor, I feel that my role is to share my knowledge to assist mentees with any professional challenges they may be facing. This sharing should be done in an impartial way with open and honest feedback that may challenge the mentee and their viewpoint; however, the mentee should reflect on their performance or decisions in light of this advice.

The other key aspect would be trust; mentees should act as a sounding board for ‘left-field’ ideas or concerns and not share these beyond the people involved. As John Crosby noted, a mentor should be “a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction”.

Mentorship does not involve dictating how the mentee should respond to scenarios. They need to make their own decisions and these can be informed and assisted by the mentor, but ultimately the choice and responsibility must lie with the mentee. The mentees need to be allowed to forge their own path, not follow the path that is chosen for them by the mentor.

The mentoring process is also about giving support on issues beyond technical matters. It provides both parties with benefits – the mentor is able to have a positive effect on their mentees career and in turn, the mentee gains knowledge, experience and confidence at an accelerated rate through their mentor’s coaching.

A number of companies in the UAE have mentorship programmes, which ensure time and resources are made available to support both parties.

When properly implemented, mentorship provides greater job satisfaction for all involved and ensures everyone is guided to maximise their potential.