At DMC, we believe in full transparency and open communication. The idea of "Sharing Information" is so important that it's one of our foundational principles. We hold this core value in high regard not only with our clients, but with each other. Back when DMC had 50 employees in a single office, sharing knowledge was much simpler. If you needed advice, you could just stand up and basically ask the whole company. Now, DMC has close to 200 employees distributed over 8+ cities!
As we grow, we do our best to adapt and uphold this core value, even when we’re working remotely. We use Microsoft SharePoint sites to keep all of our project documents and standard operating procedures organized. Slack has been amazing for crowdsourcing answers from the whole company, and we’re no stranger to jumping on a quick Zoom or Teams call to talk things out. To build and maintain our quintessential DMC community when sharing knowledge with each other, we developed our Mentor Program.
DMC's Mentor Program
DMC's Mentor Program started over a decade ago as a way for employees to connect and share with each other. It’s a great way to gain exposure to new ideas and receive advice on something you’re struggling with. In our Mentor Program, there are two types of mentors: assigned mentors and ad-hoc mentors.
Every new employee is assigned two mentors when they start. These mentors reach out before the new employee's first day and follow up with them throughout their first months. They offer a veteran perspective on the mentee's various questions about starting at a new company. Whether it’s answering, "Who do I talk to about xyz?" clarifying company announcements, or just being a sounding board for projects and ideas, assigned mentors are an invaluable resource for a new employee joining DMC.
Once an employee has settled in after a few months, they can start focusing more on career-progression goals. This is when our mentor program shifts to a topic or goal-based mentorship, which we call ad-hoc mentorship. These mentors are chosen by the mentee because of their knowledge in a certain technical or professional area. By establishing a relationship with a topic expert, the mentee can learn from them, develop those skills, and help advance their career.
Each employee works with their direct personnel managers (DPM) to set goals for the next review period and discuss potential subject-expert mentors. While DPMs have a good sense of who’s an expert in what at DMC, we also have a system where ad-hoc mentors can volunteer to mentor on specific subjects. A mentor can easily add themselves to the ad-hoc mentor list for any subjects they’re open to or excited to talk about.
Quick, well-informed advice is incredibly important. A person may not even know they need mentorship until they’re in the thick of a project and since we've been working remotely, they can’t just walk over to a coworker and ask for help. Therefore, we adapted our Mentor Program to have a new kind of ad-hoc mentorship: “in-the-moment” or “mountain-top” mentoring.
Mountain-top mentors are those that have recently been in a similar situation as the mentee and climbed “the mountain." They’re at the summit and are ready to help pull the mentee up or give guidance on where to step. This is especially helpful for our engineers doing onsite commissioning during the pandemic because they are supported on every step of the project, even as they’re climbing the final steps to the top of the mountains.
Lovingly coined “Mentor Madness,” this spring DMC put a company-wide focus on the topic of mentorship. There were weekly events to explain, promote, and remind ourselves what mentorship means at DMC.
The framework of any program only works if everyone understands the part they play. Our first two presentations for Mentor Madness were on how to be a good mentor and mentee. Mentees were reminded that the program is in place to empower them to define their goals and make those goals a reality. A mentee should come to a mentor meeting prepared with topics they want to discuss, listen to the mentor’s advice on it, and then take action. The role of the mentor is to be available for advice, offer relevant personal experiences, and work through potential ways to help achieve the mentee’s goals. Whatever the circumstances, the mentor is always an advocate for the mentee.
After everyone was reminded of their roles and action items, they were encouraged to reach out and schedule time with a potential mentor. Our calendars are visible to everyone at DMC so scheduling a mentor meeting is easily done. With almost all meetings needing a virtual meeting place included, we were able to use the Microsoft Teams plug-in to simplify the scheduling process. One click and the Teams meeting room is created and accessible by all parties.
Ad-Hoc Mentor List Survey
Another tool that we reinvigorated during Mentor Madness was our ad-hoc mentor list. As stated previously, a mentor can add themselves to the ad-hoc mentor list for any subjects they’re open to or excited to talk about. We use this list when looking for subject matter experts and wanted to update it with current topics and experts. But how did we decide which topics to add to the list that mentors can sign up for? A survey of course!
We sent out a survey to all DMCers to find out what topics are people looking for mentorship in. This is a rather vague inquiry, so we focused it with timebound phrasing: “what topics would you want targeted mentoring in over the next six months?” We offered suggestions of topics categorized by project management, personnel management, sales and business development, and general.
We gathered the data from this survey and noticed patterns in what people want to talk to subject experts about. We knew that not every person would be able to schedule a one-on-one mentor meeting with every subject-matter expert (SME). Therefore, we tried something new! We crowdsourced questions and gathered the relevant SMEs together. Instead of having everyone sit and watch a presentation of someone addressing the questions, we wanted to make it more engaging for our employees. With Natalie Meeker of DMC Chicago moderating, we’ve now held four mentor panel discussions with more on the way. DMCers can jump in and out of the Teams meeting as needed, write questions in the chat, and listen to the mentors share stories and best practices.
What Mentorship Means to DMC
Our mentor program has grown and evolved over the years, but the core idea of connection and knowledge-sharing is still the same. DMC is a team and everyone on our team should feel supported and encouraged to try new things and develop their skills. We’re excited to see how this program evolves in the future and how we can continue to best support our fellow DMCers.
Read more about DMC’s company culture.