Following are the interview questions we asked IMA board of directors member Brenda McIntosh and her responses.
1. What about mentoring inspires you?
I am inspired by mentoring because it gives me the opportunity to invest in others’ personal and professional growth and to make a positive difference in their lives.
2. How, and when, did you get into the mentoring field?
I entered in the mentoring field in 2001 while employed as a human resource director for the MTA New York City Transit (NYCT). At that time, I was charged with researching how to develop and administer a mentoring program for the NYCT professional and managerial workforce. As result of my research, the Transit-wide Mentoring Program was launched in 2003.
3. What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
I am now aware of various resources, organizations, universities, and companies that have information on how to successfully establish and implement mentoring programs. When I embarked on my mentoring research journey, the method was “trial and error.”
4. Other than being an IMA board member, what is your role now, and how does it contribute to the mentoring field?
I have been a member of the Women in Transportation Seminar (WTS) since 2003 and was the co-chair of the WTS Greater New York Mentoring Program from 2005–2010. I retired from NYCT in 2008 and continued as WTS co-chair until 2010. I am now associated on a consultant basis as needed. In addition, I obtained certification in Executive/Organizational Coaching from New York University in 2007 and now have a coaching service that focuses on mentoring and coaching in the workplace (http://www.positivetranzitionssite.com).
5. Describe a specific success story and how it occurred.
I received the WTS Greater New York “Rosa Parks” Diversity Award for my dedication to the success of the WTS Mentoring Program.
6. Describe a specific challenge in your work as a mentoring leader and how you addressed it.
Part of my role as the director of the Transit-wide Mentoring program (TWMP) was to engage stakeholders (specifically, the supervisors and managers of the participants) to allow the mentees from their departments to have release time during their tour of duty to meet with their mentors. There were times that the mentees advised me that their supervisors or managers were not releasing them to participate in the program. To eliminate this problem, I wrote a letter to be sent to all supervisors and managers describing the TWMP in detail and the return of their investment (i.e., the release of the mentee to participate) that they could expect to receive. Once the supervisors and managers had a better understanding of the program, this problem became minimal. In retrospect, the letter of information should have been sent out prior to the initiation of the program.
7. What mentoring program models have you experienced, and what seems to work best and in what conditions?
My experience in mentoring is based on the formal mentoring program model. The one-on-one mentor–mentee partnership has worked best for me in a workplace mentoring program. This model is structured and enables the mentees to receive individual help. Issues can be discussed that may be uncomfortable if shared in a group. One-on-one partnerships present the opportunity for establishing trust, goal setting, developmental plans, and a time line of completion.
8. What are the top challenges faced by mentoring programs, and what advice do you have for overcoming those challenges?
Some of the top challenges of mentoring programs are maintaining an ample number of mentors, arranging for reassignment of mentors to mentees when partnerships for some reason don’t gel. Another challenge for mentoring programs is obtaining buy-in of stakeholders. Also, another challenge is sometimes obtaining funding for mentoring programs. It is imperative to establish a mentoring committee to work through all challenges. It is also imperative to anticipate challenges that may be experienced and, along with the committee, put into place initial responses prior to beginning the mentoring program.
9. How do you respond to people who think formal mentoring programs are unnecessary?
I let them know that there are options for models of mentoring programs to choose from and, at the same time, give them the positive attributes of a formal mentoring program, including some of the attributes previously described.
10. What needs to happen to further develop the field and profession of mentoring?
I believe that a “Mentoring Code of Ethics” should be developed similar to the International Coaching Federation (ICF) Code of Ethics, especially for the IMA mentoring program accreditation and consultant endeavor.
11. Where would you like to see the mentoring field in 20 years, and why?
I would like to see mentoring as a unified process that includes a mentoring code of ethics. I believe this would present mentoring as a natural and recognized process in all venues of mentoring.