Vince Marvin, P.E., S.E., M.ASCE, is a structural engineering supervisor at Lake Superior Consulting in Pittsburgh. And though he’s still early in his career, he’s recently taken on a mentoring role with several younger engineers. His relationship with mentee Corey Crick is featured in a new ASCE Structural Engineering Institute Mentoring Committee video.
But how did he know he was ready to mentor someone else? There’s no test you have to pass. There’s no badge you get to wear. Especially when you’re still just getting started, how can you help those around you?
With January being National Mentoring Month, Marvin recently spoke with Civil Engineering Source about his path toward leadership.
Civil Engineering Source: Who were the people who helped you along the way early in your career?
Vince Marvin: I started out of college with a commercial building consulting firm. We built hospitals, schools, any commercial or education class building. I got along with my coworkers there very well. They taught me how to be an engineer, really.
Ultimately, I ended up following one of those coworkers to a company called Matrix PDM. And honestly, I was a little bit worried. I was nervous because I knew how to design a building, but I didn't know industrial facility design.
And so my coworker who I followed, she said, “Hey, look, steel and concrete is steel and concrete. It’s not like the fundamental design principles change just because you’re in a different industry.” And I think that really helped me ease my mind a little bit.
Source: So no formal mentoring relationships but a lot of support around you.
Marvin: My old coworker at my second job, we were the only two structural engineers in our office. She was my supervisor at that point, and it was me and her as a team.
I went to her with questions and learned by example and by watching her and how she handled the day-to-day work.
I took over a project at some point that was very large for what our company usually did. So I was the project's structural engineering lead and engineer of record, and I had a team of engineers and designers that were working with me at that point.
It was kind of one of those baptism-by-fire situations where they said, “Hey, Vince, this is your project, this is your team. Run it.” That project helped me gain the knowledge base of how to lead a team of engineers and designers and work for the common goal of getting the project done.
Source: So what was it that made you feel comfortable in becoming a mentor? Through your own story, it sounds like there were different leaps and changes along the way that you weren’t always 100% confident in, but obviously, they’ve worked out. So from a confidence standpoint or knowledge standpoint, what made you finally feel like “You know what? I think I’m ready to give back to somebody else now.”?
Marvin: I did go through an official leadership development training program at my old company. The first course helped teach new supervisors how to develop the employees below you. I’ve been through that aspect of formal training, and it honestly helped a ton in terms of how to actually do the job and do the job well.
I think in running that one project at my old company, when one of the engineers had a question, they would come to me and it would be a situation where I had to determine the best solution. I was calling the shots at that point. I had to learn quickly all the technical aspects. I had more senior engineers to lean on for help, but I was the first and final decisionmaker because it was my project.
Once I knew I was confident in my technical ability, the rest is just people leadership. I think it’s just the confidence of knowing that I do know what I'm doing from the engineering side. Now I can tie that together with imparting that knowledge to younger engineers.
Source: Has taking on the mentoring role this young in your career been a good experience for you?
Marvin: Yes. With Corey, I definitely feel comfortable in the role. I think it’s helped him a lot. He was in a rough situation starting with the company at the beginning of COVID, and it was his first job out of college. I’ve seen him develop a lot in the past year to the point where now he's taking more charge of projects, and I’m giving him that latitude. He has grown and proven he is more than capable of being a great structural engineer.
Source: I guess the greatest lesson too is that there isn’t some magic moment when you’re ready to be a mentor.
Marvin: No, I feel like it’s important to note that this is not just a one-way street – that once you are acting as a mentor, you are never going to be a mentee again.
We’re all constantly learning, and it’s definitely a fluid situation. I can impart my knowledge of being in the industry for going on 13 years now to younger engineers who are early in their careers. But there are also engineers who have been around for 23 years who are imparting their knowledge to me.
So it goes both ways.
Learn more about how you can participate in ASCE Mentor Match as either a mentor or mentee or both.
Learn more about Vince Marvin's mentoring success and how you can take on the challenge too with the SEI Mentoring Committee.