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E-Splash February 2014 - Vice Chair Report
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Illinois Section AWWA - E-Splash - February 2014

Mentoring and the New Frontier

Greg Swanson, Vice Chair

Our nation recently commemorated the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, our 35th president. While JFK’s life ended as a truly tragic loss, his thoughts and words inspired a generation of baby-boomers. JFK told the nation...

"we stand today on the edge of a new frontier” and told the world "that the torch has been passed to a new generation.

Today, these words seem more fitting than ever, as the baby-boomer retirement exodus continues to grow and technology continues to advance at an astonishing pace. The world of water is entering a new frontier and the torch must be passed to ensure the future of humanity. Questions like "Who will care for our water resources and infrastructure in the coming days?” and "Will the practical knowledge and life experience of retiring water professionals be lost?” must be answered. Mentoring among water professionals will help answer such questions and promote success in the water world’s new frontier.

Mentoring is an interactive relationship that can promote the development of growing water professionals (mentees), while enriching the lives of seasoned water professionals (mentors). In simple terms, a mentor is an experienced trustworthy adviser that provides support, encouragement and insight to an individual who is seeking to broaden their own knowledge and experience. The mentor is a guru of sorts, but one who is open minded and sensitive to the goals and characteristics of the mentee. Mentoring relationships can take many shapes: informal or formal; brief or lengthy; focused or open; digital or face-to-face. Mentoring relationships can occur in employment and educational settings, or they may grow as a result of professional networking or even chance encounters. It has been said that the most productive mentoring relationships occur when there is a synergistic resonance between the mentor and mentee. Additionally, cross disciplinary mentoring, such as that involving water operators and engineers or students can be particularly effective and mutually beneficial.

I suspect each reader can look at their own life experiences and readily identify mentors that have helped propel them along the path of professional growth. In my own case, I was truly blessed to have a number of mentors help me, each of whom possessed and shared their unique body of technical knowledge and life experience. This mentoring allowed me to more fully develop my own potential and accomplish more in my career. I reflect back to JFK, who paraphrased the scriptures when he said "For of those to whom much is given, much is required.” Most experienced ISAWWA water professionals have enjoyed stable rewarding careers and it seems appropriate that we should choose to pay it forward as the torch is passed. The great thing about mentoring is that it benefits all those involved. As author Ben Sweetland says "We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.”

ISAWWA has recognized the potential benefits that a mentoring program can provide to our membership. We have initiated fact-finding activities and are beginning to explore various mentoring alternatives, in an effort in identify those that best fit the needs and limitations of our association. We are interested in hearing from those of you who like to contribute to this development effort and those who may be willing to serve as mentors in our future program(s). Please feel free to contact me or Laurie Dougherty directly in that regard. We would welcome your interest and insights.

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