BIMBeing: The Journey #37
#37 – A helping hand…
Photograph by Akil Mazumder from Pexels.
Role models are an essential part of our lives and our careers, they’re an aspect of progression that is often overlooked. When I say role model I do not for a single second mean the Kardashians, or any of those Instagram ‘influencers’ that are trying to sell you lip ruiners and vegan skipping ropes; I’m talking about professional mentors. Without an experienced, competent and dependable guiding hand, can we really progress towards excellence?
This is a topic I feel very strongly about, because it’s great mentoring that has taken me from student to successful professional (maybe I’m not all of the way there yet, but I’d like to think that I’m on the right path). My very first job as an undergraduate, as I’ve previously discussed in posts #7 and #19 (among others), was an incredibly valuable experience almost entirely because of the two people I was fortunate enough to be working with. In a tiny office of 3, myself included, I was working with two senior engineers that taught me more in the first 6 months of being there than I ever could have learnt in an infinite number of years of education. The learning curve was steep, but it was more valuable than I could ever possibly explain; every day spent in that office was providing me with new knowledge, another experience and a bit more responsibility that really set me on the right path from the word go. I often think, even now, that the two individuals in question are probably still unaware of the impact they really had; they’ve left an ever-lasting impression on me, providing a foundation of knowledge that continues to serve me incredibly well.
Fast forward from that job to the next (which remains my current positon after several years) and again it’s a great mentor that continues to fuel my progression. Working with an industry leading, experienced BIM Lead that is committed to supporting my career, providing new opportunities and expanding my level of responsibility is undoubtedly one of the reasons that I can continue to climb the career ladder. Obviously, my progression is not solely the result of mentoring and nor is it anybody else’s responsibility; I too must put in the work and apply myself, but at least with the expert guidance I receive I know that I’m putting that work in the right place.
What the industry needs, are more mentors. We cannot encourage more people to join this industry if we cannot collectively provide an environment in which they can thrive; that environment must include mentors. It’s actually a big ask, because a good mentor needs two distinct qualities:
- An excellent level of competency in their field, in this instance BIM
- The desire and ability to teach/coach/support and enable others
The first issue is that level of competency. How many in the field of BIM are genuinely competent? I’m not look for academics or Twitter heroes, I’m talking about real knowledge and capability in the field of BIM. This is something that is still incredibly rare and again, linking back to the previous post (#36), what does good look like anyway? We still don’t have the universal definition of BIM competency, so not only is it hard to find, it’s impossible to assess. Hurdle number one in the quest to find BIM mentors is a tricky one indeed.
Problem 2, of the small group of individuals that we may or may not be able to identify as competent and suitably experienced, how many of them are up to the task? We’ve probably all been in the situation where somebody has asked us to look after a graduate or work-experience student for half a day and we’ve responded with a huff. We’re all busy, we all have deadlines and targets to meet and work to get done, so it’s often difficult to set aside the time to support others (and be enthused in the process). Combine this with the fact that the very few competent BIM Leaders we have are likely to be some of the busiest, hurdle number 2 starts looking just as difficult as number 1. Furthermore, this second hurdle is actually two-fold. The desire to teach and support others is the first stage, the nature and ability to do it successfully is another thing altogether. Some people have a natural ability to teach and impart knowledge, the patience to help someone over the line when it would have been quicker to do it themselves and also the comfort to relinquishing their own responsibility in order to give somebody else the opportunity. Others are the opposite in all of the above. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, a lot of these things are simply nature and instinct; some people have the inherent ability to teach, others are simply not naturally made for such things.
To summarise, we are looking for an army of experienced, competent, industry leading BIM individuals with both the desire to teach and the ability to do so in order to train the next generation of BIM’ers. I’ve made these people sound as if they’re unicorns and that the search is over before it’s even begun, but the situation is not as bad as it may seem. I’m very fortunate to have had managers throughout my career that have been mentors rather than simply bosses; they exist, and hopefully some of them are reading this right now. Mentoring is an incredibly important process; it’s how we really upskill this industry now and in the future. The hope would be that those willing and able to mentor right now can do so and that the mentees, having experienced the benefit of a truly guiding hand early on in their careers, can evolve to be the next wave of mentors to a future generation.
“Those that can’t do, teach” – I absolutely despise this quotation and find that it is particularly irrelevant when we consider mentors as teachers. The reality is that those that do it incredibly well are by far the best teachers of them all. Teaching is in no way a lesser ability than ‘doing’, in many ways it’s a rarer skill with a greater worth and wider-reaching impact. If you have the ability to do so, impart your knowledge with those around you, especially with those early on in their careers; for them, your helping hand may be the difference between success and failure.
In the meantime, I refer back to the previous post #36; We must define a universal level of competency for BIM. Without this, we cannot asses the quality of our mentors, we cannot plan the path for our mentees and we cannot assess the progression of any individual.