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“I know what an engineer is Miss”

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Through the wonderful organisation Girls Out Loud, I have just completed a year as a mentor to a 13 year old girl. This wasn’t part of the plan, when asked, my inner voice screamed “Noooo!”, but having done it, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Not for the warm fuzzy feelings we associate with doing good for a youngster, but for the massive impact it had on me.

Mentoring a teenager came with the expected; “I can’t put my hand up in class, I’ll get laughed at”; “I can’t be the lead in the school show, all the good people will be in it”, and whilst its easy to write these off as “usual teenage angst”; are any of us really so different? How many of us must be persuaded (read “told”) to take to the stage and speak at the local roadshow or coerced to step up and take the lead in this initiative or that working group? Whilst we justify it as “being too busy”, or having “too much on”; can we honestly say our motives for seeking to avoid being in the limelight are fundamentally different?

Mentoring becomes a process of putting things into context (if you stick your hand up and ask, really what’s the worst that can happen?), identifying and challenging the persons own limiting beliefs (why are you not good enough, what makes you say that?); exploring issues to understand the bigger picture and context in which the mentee see’s it, versus what is actually going on. But in doing so, you form habits; habits that then reflect into your own thoughts and your own actions.

And so, in the year of mentoring I have broken down some of my own limiting beliefs; I know I can run a half marathon because I did (though never again!). I am acknowledging and accepting my skills and using them ‘putting my hand up in class’ as an Advisory Board member for Girls Out Loud and as part of the Industrial Panel for UCLAN’s Civil Engineering Dept. I have ‘taken the lead part in the show’; speaking in front of 80 ladies at a charity lunch about my experiences of being a female civil engineer and most recently, I have left the comfort zone of the Highways Sector and taken a leap into Natural Resources to continue to develop and grow, not afraid (well maybe a little bit!), but more excited to meet new people and experience new things.

Shiona MacDonald

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