The workforce is becoming increasingly competitive, and standing out requires more than hard work, tenacity and impressive results. It also involves building the right relationships.
Eric Ludwig, the Director of Manufacturing Strategy and Facilities at Terex, and Lydia Mamesah, a Strategic Sourcing Business Analyst at the global manufacturing company, can attest to this. Both employees agree that their mentor-mentee relationship has been an integral part of their professional development at Terex.
As Mamesah’s mentor, Ludwig describes his role as someone who can “provide feedback from a different dynamic than a direct reporting relationship.” Mamesah shares a similar sentiment, adding that “with a manager, the relationship is more focused on the traditional managerial tasks, while a mentorship is rather about providing help and guidance.”
But Ludwig and Mamesah aren’t the only ones who believe in the power of mentorship. Terex’s formal mentorship program — one initiated by the Women@Terex committee — underscores its own commitment to building valuable career relationships. Mamesah says the program “allows employees the choice to be paired for six months to a year, but so far I have continued an informal relationship with my mentors even after the end of the mentoring period.”
We recently spoke to Ludwig and Mamesah about how their mentorship has enriched their careers, the biggest difference between a manager and a mentor, and what makes them feel valued at the company. Check out their responses below.
What do you think is unique about the mentor-mentee dynamic, and how does it differ from that of manager and direct report?
Ludwig: “I was honored to be asked to be a mentor a couple of months ago, and I have served as a mentor a few times. We all get busy and it’s easy to forget how much knowledge we have and can share with each other. Currently, I’m acting as both a mentor and a mentee in separate relationships.
As a mentee, you can get feedback through a different lens and even get a different perspective on how to work better with your manager. There’s an opportunity to have a more open dialog that might not be available in the context of a manager and direct report relationship.
I did not have an official mentor early in my career, but I was given guidance by a few people in the organization. I still believe I would have benefited more from officially having a mentor. In the early stages of my career, I saw company politics in a negative way and had to learn how to navigate political situations on my own. I learned that politics are a part of many organizations and that understanding politics helps us get things done.”
Mamesah: “I have been with Terex for almost four years and each year I have had an amazing mentor from whom I have learned a lot. I typically consider what I want to learn within the year and then reach out to a mentor that possesses the related background and skills.
With a manager, the relationship is more focused on the traditional managerial tasks (prioritization, set targets, monitoring and reviewing ongoing work, appraisals, etc.), while a mentorship is rather about providing help and guidance (which is more generic and not necessarily directly linked with any ongoing projects or daily tasks). For example, a mentor can give me general advice about how to improve certain soft skills, tell me which hard skills to boost or help you build a network.
Naturally, a manager is also a mentor but from a different perspective — they provide more concrete advice and feedback on very specific tasks performed. What is refreshing about working with a mentor is that you can think in more general terms about how to develop certain skills, and there is no direct link with any ongoing daily tasks or projects, which allows you to think more ‘out of the box.’
I would say both are very valuable and key for my career development. Having a mentor from outside your very direct circle also gives you a chance to develop a connection with people you might not directly work with otherwise.”
Does your company have a formal program in place for mentorship or sponsorship, or is it more of a casual thing that happens organically?
Mamesah: “Yes! Terex has a formal mentoring program which was initiated by the Women@Terex committee. This program allows you to find experienced people (men and women) who are interested in being a mentor. However, employees can also contact people who are not yet part of the program. I personally have reached out to a person not yet registered in the program because I believed the person would be a great mentor for me. Fortunately, we ended up starting a mentor-mentee relationship.”
How has being part of a mentorship dynamic enriched your own work experience?
Mamesah: “My mentors have been a great help in my workplace. They helped me to see things from different perspectives. I think this is great, considering that nowadays we need to widen our perspective to find a great solution. Hence, listening and learning about the experiences and the point of view from credible mentors helped enlighten me to find great solutions. This quote from Doris Lessing sums it up perfectly: ‘That's what learning is. You suddenly understand something you understood all your life, but in a new way.’”
Ludwig: “Being a mentor is a rewarding way to contribute to someone else’s personal growth and development. Additionally, mentorship has allowed me to better understand what issues are occurring in different levels and areas of the organization.”
How do you feel like this experience has been reflective of your overall experience at your company?
Mamesah: “To be supported in growing professionally and socially is something that made me feel very much valued as an employee. I got a chance to network with competent mentors that have given me their valuable time to share their wisdom and know-hows. What people have forgotten is that time is the most important currency of life. Every minute people decide to spend with you, they will never get it back. Even a minute is treasured. Think about what a second can do to differentiate first and second place runners. The fact that my mentors are willing to spend their time with me to share their experiences made me feel well supported and very much valued and of course I am grateful for this.”
What’s your No. 1 tip for men who want to be allies to women at work but aren’t sure of what to do or where to start?
Ludwig: “Take a critical look at your attendee lists at your meetings. If it’s overrepresented by the people that look like you, are the same gender as you or share your opinions, then it would be better to branch out.
Also, make sure that all people in meetings have the chance to contribute. What may seem like a meeting that is inclusive and inviting to some may still be intimidating to others. And I think women — more than men — get interrupted while speaking at meetings. So, simple things like not interrupting each other in meetings can make a huge difference to the people who feel like they are the minority in the room. If everyone feels heard and valued, meetings can be that much more inclusive and productive.”
What’s the No. 1 thing you think women should know about working at your company?
Mamesah: “Despite the common thought that the manufacturing industry is mainly “overpowered” by men, there are many women in this industry, specifically at Terex. Terex continuously raises awareness of potential gender bias and successfully remains competitive through its diversity growth. They keep an eye on the numbers and they share this with us on a quarterly basis. This shows great commitment — and the fact that management supports this says a lot about where the company is heading.
On a team member level, I personally do not feel any difference between working with men or women at Terex. Some have become real friends for me and this can only be achieved if the environment truly appreciates you as a person regardless of your gender. Sometimes we can’t choose who we work with, but we can choose how we work with them. A company that strives in the cultivation of respect among its team members, is a company that I believe women (and men) should aim to work at.”
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