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The importance of mentoring

Richard Kirk

I recently came across the autobiography of the former chief technology officer of Intel, Pat Gelsinger, and as I flicked through the first few pages I was surprised to see a chapter given to the topic of mentoring.

Why would someone who has been so productive in his career dedicate an entire chapter to something that is so often considered as unproductive?

ICE exists to develop civil engineers so that everyone can benefit from what they create and maintain.

Its code of conduct states that “members shall develop their professional knowledge, skills and competence on a continuing basis and shall give all reasonable assistance to further the education, training and continuing professional development of others.”

When they join, at ­whatever grade, civil engineers commit themselves to this. For graduate members the path of professional development is tangible, as they work through the ICE initial professional development whether under Training Agreement or self-managed, with objective steps which they should take to increase their competence and become professionally qualified.

Once professionally qualified, members must continue to uphold Rule 5, but in the absence of a formal mechanism we plan and record our continuing professional development, typically on our own.

Moving from a period of focused self-reflection under a senior professional, it appears naive to believe that we can enhance our competence throughout our career without a similar level of critique and accountability. In short, we are in need of a mentor.

In his autobiography, Gelsinger writes about seeking such support. He stresses that it must be someone you can look up to and respect, someone who has capability or experience that you have yet to have.

Importantly, it should be someone who is willing and committed to investing in you, someone who is eager to see you grow and succeed.

He also encourages mentoring: seeking someone you can teach and encourage and pass on your life’s experiences to.

He speaks personally about the great joy he has in seeing the development of those whom he has mentored, even in small ways.

Finally, he calls for a peer: someone you can work alongside for both your benefit.

This should be someone who isn’t easily impressed by you, who sees you enough to observe your success and your mistakes and is ready to tell you the truth.

To help support and develop professionally qualified members in this way, ICE has established an online portal where you can register your interest in mentoring or being mentored.

It might be formal or informal, in person or online, someone in your sector or outside.

Whether they’re a potential mentor, mentee or peer just ask them to consider it; if they say yes it will certainly be productive and who knows where it will take you.

Find out more at

  • Richard Kirk is director of ICE Northern Ireland

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