Point of Beginning

Do mentors matter?

July 3, 2002
Mentors in the land surveying profession

Ninety-four (94) percent of those who chose to respond to this poll had a mentor. So perhaps we should look at the results of this poll as the opinions of those who have had a mentor, rather than a random sampling of surveyors because, most likely, it would be inaccurate to say that 94% of all surveyors have had a mentor.

Of the 67 respondents to this poll, 65 said that person made a difference in their life or career (97 percent), whether it was to teach them how to be a good land surveyor, or how NOT to conduct surveys!

Some of the comments we received on how that mentor affected the respondents were:

“My mentor has made me a better surveyor by having me make decisions regarding the surveys we have worked on together, then listening to my reasons and offering comments, corrections and praise where needed.” Robert J. Millette, Mississippi land surveyor and engineer

“His knowledge of surveying and his leadership ability helped get me where I am today in more ways than I can count. I also plan to hold him responsible if necessary!” Michael Fondren, Arizona land surveyor

“He instilled in me the values of a professional.” Kenneth Suttles, North Carolina land surveyor

“His interest in the math and excitement at a job well done has set the tone for my entire career.” W.F. Orsine, Connecticut land surveyor

As to whether or not surveyors who’ve been mentored keep in touch with their mentors still, the results are pretty even. Thirty-seven (37) percent still keep in touch with their mentor, while 30 percent don’t and 23 percent do occasionally.

Most mentorships are informal—52 percent. Twenty-eight (28) percent were formal and 15 percent of respondents chose the “Other” category. Some of the explanations for other were “through my work” or “a family member.”

If most mentor-prot? relationships are formed informally, surveyors perhaps wish it were otherwise. A full eighty-eight (88) percent of respondents feel that there is a need for more formal mentoring opportunities in the profession. A vast majority of respondents felt that National and State organizations should be involved in coordinating a formal mentor program (93%).

Of the people who responded, again most of whom had been mentored themselves, 91 percent went on to become a mentor for someone else! And 78 percent felt that the experience was very valuable for them personally, with 67 percent stating that they felt it was also very valuable to their prot?.

What does it take to be a good mentor?

What does it take to be a good mentor? Well, it seems to be a combination of things, but mostly experience and patience. Thirty-eight (38) percent felt that experience was the most important quality for a mentor to have, while patience ranked as the most important quality with 46 percent of the votes. Interestingly, only one respondent said a high level of education was the most important quality for a mentor to have.

“A genuine care for other people and a desire to see them succeed.” Edmond G. McCorkle, Pennsylvania engineer

“It’s difficult to select just one of the above choices [experience, education, time and patience]. All are important to varying degrees. A wide variety of “good” experience is needed. Self-study and motivation are required. Higher education helps but is not a replacement for hands-on experience. Patience is a virtue that most of need to work on. A busy person seldom “finds” the time to do an extra duty—rather they “make” the time available.” Steve Parrish, Nevada land surveyor

What did you learn from your mentor? Some words of wisdom:

“If you are going to take the time…take the time to do it right.” Franklin D. Bryant, Georgia land surveyor and engineer

“To strive to do the best you can do, not just a satisfactory job.” Chuck Jones, Iowa land surveyor

“The value of patience and taking care to get a job done right the first time.” New York land surveyor

“Look at it close, check it twice (or more), do not be afraid to ask others, and lead by example” Michael Fondren, Arizona land surveyor

“Listen, think before you speak. There is always work for everyone. Do become excited. Always do your best and don’t slap things together.” Timothy K. Thomas, Pennsylvania land surveyor

“Respect for the profession and respect for the people we serve.” Kenneth Suttles, North Carolina land surveyor

“The importance of honesty and ethics.” Diane Erdahl, South Dakota land surveyor

“Land surveying is not a text book discipline. Variables almost always exist on projects and can be solved by applying a combination of legal principles, rules and regulations and common sense. Good research of records and field research are invaluable for survey solutions.” Shane Terhune, Missouri land surveyor

“Respect for those who have gone before us. The crave for that perfect survey.” Aaron Musick, Illinois land surveyor

“The importance of good common sense. Judgement in accuracy of work is very important. There is a time for high accuracy and there are times for being close and knowing the difference can make or break a job.” Rick Putek, North Carolina land surveyor