WILA Interview Series: Mentorship, Part 2

image: iStock © Steve Debenport
image: iStock © Steve Debenport

The Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN)’s focus for 2015-2016 is an interview series developed around being women landscape architects, life/work balance, and mentors. The WILA PPN’s co-chairs and officers developed a set of 17 questions, then searched out willing landscape architects and began the interview process. The following is a continuation on the theme of mentorship and an in-depth look at the responses to two questions posed to our interviewees.

These questions continue the conversation about how mentors influence us professionally, specifically asking what the interviewees’ mentors provided them and how their mentor needs may or may have not changed throughout their careers. Generally, what one gets out of their mentor relationships is very personal and different for everyone, but everyone that mentioned having a mentor was definitely influenced by that individual. There was a general theme of seeing the respondents grow from being mentored to becoming a mentor over time.

Think about your current or past mentor(s). What essential lesson(s) or help did they share with you?

Depending on where you are in your career, you may or may not have a mentor in your life that is helping you progress professionally or as an individual. Sometimes we don’t even realize who our mentors are or were until we look back. The influence and lessons learned from past mentors can be a very personal thing, however the following bullets highlight a few of the common themes that emerged across most responses:

  • Key themes: encouragement and growing self-confidence.
  • Networking is key to moving up professionally. One interviewee mentions being encouraged to get involved in ASLA as one way to make new connections.
  • Fifteen percent of the respondents skipped this question, indicating they did not have any mentors.

Quotes from our interviewees:

“Introduced me to yet more people who were potential mentors. Told me to branch out and work with many different leaders at my firm.”

“Basically GO FOR IT, and ask questions! Learn from your mistakes and don’t be afraid.”

“My most memorable lesson from a mentor: sometimes you have to apply your most creative solution
to an issue that is not always just a design. Significant lessons from an (attorney) mentor in dealing with employee issues included effectively dealing with employees, showing respect for each employee and situation. She also gave me great perspective on how to focus on the big picture, and how to move past emotionally charged issues to help bring situations to a positive outcome.”

“Confidence in my abilities has been a huge one—their support and endorsement means a lot given their experience and knowledge.”

“To demand more than being a token woman on a team, to value my contributions, and to find ways to keep pursuing my personal goals.”

“Realizing that the challenges that I faced can be overcome and in most cases are short lived. ‘Tomorrow is another day.'”

“Be generous: you gain more when you give more. Give time. Give credit.”

How have your mentoring needs changed with different stages of your career?

Eighty percent of the respondents said yes, their needs have changed, in response to this question. Some even went as far to say that they found themselves being the mentor, instead of being mentored. Most importantly, these women found as their careers progressed that their mentors changed from professional mentors to life/work balance and/or business management mentors. Here is a short list of the common responses to this question:

  • Desire for more female mentors at the senior level with family.
  • Finding mentors outside the profession.
  • Mentors becoming colleagues.
  • Learning how to be a mentor and a leader.

In our next post, the final one in this interview series, we will share the final two questions and address the topic of “Advice.”

by Christa Wollenzien, ASLA, WILA PPN Co-Chair

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