Like many things in life, the more you put in, the more you get back, and that’s very much the case when it comes to mentoring.
Neptune Energy is one of 17 companies in the UK taking part in a mentorship programme coordinated by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) and it’s now in its sixth year.
It’s a subject close to my heart; I’m sure I wouldn’t be where I am today without having benefited from the guidance of colleagues, industry peers and senior leaders who took the time to impart advice or give me a nudge in the right direction.
Mentorship isn’t about having all the answers or handing a plan to your mentee…it’s about sharing the benefits of your experiences and helping them find and develop their own skills and talents.
When the ECITB programme was formed, it happened at a time when there was a real gap within the levels of competence among project managers in the UK oil and gas industry. Often Project Engineers were becoming project managers as a matter of course, but – in many cases – without all of the “tools” necessary.
It certainly wasn’t their fault. You can obtain certain skills, qualifications and technical competencies through a variety of means including online learning and in the classroom, but how do you develop the leadership behaviours needed for successful, professional project management?
People in the boardroom can set the direction but the project manager’s role is to knit the multitude of threads together. Here in the UK alone, how many projects have been delivered late and come in over budget?
Since its inception, 25 companies have participated with 62 mentees having successfully completed the programme, and an estimated 1,800 hours was clocked up by mentors and mentees. Those numbers, as impressive as they are, don’t measure the differences the experiences have made to raising the bar for project management profession within our industry, but I for one can say I’ve seen a tangible difference in recent years.
I have been mentoring for 15 years now and I have learned just as much from the experience and I’d like to think those I’ve mentored have learned. Interacting with others outside of my own company provides a lot of freedom for open discussion, sharing of different views, opinions and ideas, and exploring different perspectives and points of view.
Like engineering, law and accountancy, project management is a recognised discipline with a professional body and, personally, a major goal has been to help drive up standards within the profession, equip people coming into project management with the skills they need, or help those who’ve been in it for a while to become stronger.
The ECITB programme is a terrific platform for this. To remove bias, mentors review anonymised applications from prospective mentees and are then paired up, based on the experiences and skills of the mentor and the development needs and ambitions of the mentee. It’s a lot of effort for both parties and requires time and commitment, but it can also be incredibly rewarding.
The challenges of COVID-19 and the lower-for-longer commodity environment, as well as the oil and gas industry’s commitment to achieving Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050, place extraordinary importance on the successful execution of major projects.
Bringing lower cost, lower carbon production onstream safely and efficiently while making use of new technologies and new partnerships, all the while maintaining a relentless focus on professional delivery – all that requires the highest levels of professional project leadership.
Today’s mentees will be tomorrow’s mentors. I’m proud that Neptune is supporting the ECITB programme and very pleased to have the opportunity to help others learn from my own experiences.