MHD speaks to SCLAA members and mentors, Brett McGowran, Supply Chain Deployment Director at Schneider Electric and Rakesh Bandipelli, Supply Chain Manager at La Marzocco about their experiences as mentors to newcomers and those moving within the supply chain and logistics industry. They also reveal what the SCLAA Mentorship Program entails.
The Supply Chain & Logistics Association of Australia (SCLAA) offers mentorships for those working in the industry who wish to gain expertise and progress their career, or for recent graduates or those who are looking to enter the supply chain and logistics industry.
SCLAA says the role of the mentee involves being responsible for driving the relationship and scheduling meetings with the mentor.
It adds that the benefits of the mentorship are one-on-one coaching from an experienced mentor; gaining a sharper focus on what is needed to grow professionally; that the mentorship complements ongoing formal study and/ or training and development activities; mentees receive assistance with ideas and honest feedback; and increasing their career networks.
Brett McGowran, Supply Chain Deployment Director at Schneider Electric has been mentoring up to four people every year since 2009 when he started his first senior role.
Rakesh Bandipelli, Supply Chain Manager at La Marzocco has been mentoring the same number of people for just as long.
Brett says mentees need somebody trustworthy who they can ask for advice. He recommends university students and graduates, or anyone entering the workforce for the first time, would certainly gain valuable insights from the mentoring program.
He also adds that someone who may be promoted at their current workplace, or may be changing roles or functions, or are moving over to another organisation, will benefit from a mentorship.
“People that are seeking a deeper understanding of a specialised skillset can seek out a mentor to help them,” Brett says. “And anybody who just wants to develop themselves and have the benefit of someone independent to support them on their personal development journey.”
He notes there are mutual benefits from the mentor-mentee relationship. Mentors can develop greater connections to different industries or internal departments across larger organisations, and in different functions, Brett says.
“Mentors can better understand how different generations tick,” he explains. “You often notice there’s a significant age gap between the mentor and mentee. Mentees often seek out far more experienced, more senior individuals.”
He says the difference in age enables mentors to get to know and understand younger employees better and recognise what motivates them. Additionally, he says it gives mentors an insight into the new ways younger people want to work, especially during the pandemic, and reveals what career development opportunities they’re seeking.
The younger mentee usually exposes the mentor to new digital technologies that they’re using during their day-to- day lives or at work, notes Brett.
He says it’s valuable for mentees to receive open and honest feedback. Mentors also can provide the mentee with specific knowledge and skills to support their early development and increase their visibility in an organisation as well as help them with networking.
Rakesh says SCLAA has been running its mentorship program for the past three or four years. He says it strengthens the mentee’s confidence and allows industry experts in their fields to give back. He adds that anyone who is studying supply chain or is in the industry but would like to know more, should apply for a mentorship. He says he still has a mentor although he’s been working in the supply chain industry for 10-odd years.
“It gives you technical knowledge and exposure to a different style of leadership,” Rakesh explains.
It’s important for mentees to learn about navigating a new organisation, knowing what their new job role entails, and how to deal with various workplace- related situations and different personalities, Brett explains.
He adds that it’s also important for mentors to be sounding boards and to teach mentees about devising strategies to help them manage complex workloads and manage life in an organisation.
“As I got older, I realised that I really wanted to give back,” Brett says about mentoring.
“I’m attracted to people who take initiative, especially when it comes to their own personal development,” he says about anyone who may be interested in choosing him as a mentor.
“I like to help people entering the workforce as first-time people that are early in their careers, just to help them ensure that they build good communication skills, broader networks across the business, and deeper skillsets in their immediate function that they’re employed in,” Brett explains.
“I think it’s important when you’re young to get deep competence in one or two areas before you take on promotions that really dilute your ability to remain technically involved.”
Brett says this year’s SCLAA’ program is nine-months long and involves six one-hour sessions, negotiated at a mutually suitable time between mentor and mentee.
“My experience, however, is that sometimes these relationships can last much, much longer,” Brett says. “Where I work, we try to establish a 12-month relationship. And in some cases, we see them persisting for much longer than that.
“I know people that have retired and still talk to mentees that they had 20 years ago. As a group, we have access to 100s and 1000s of industry leaders and specialists that we can draw upon.
“There’s a matching process and depending on what they’re trying to get out of it, we will seek to have a mentor that’s relevant to their immediate interests,” he says about mentees.
The meetings have been via videoconference for the past two years due to the pandemic, but this is changing and now mentees have the option once again of face-to-face meetings with their mentors.
“Some states choose to have a formal launch,” Brett notes as he comments on how the mentorships are run in different states and territories across the country.
“They have a breakfast or lunch, where the mentors and mentees come, and we launch the program formally.”
Rakesh, like Brett, says the mentoring relationship is now long term.
He says the launch event is sometimes at the end of July or early August while the closing ceremony is in March the following year. All the mentors are volunteers and have full- time work elsewhere.
He explains that from his experience over the past four years, the idea that only mentees gain from the SCLAA mentorship isn’t true.
“But they all have seen the benefits, including myself, how much value it can add, as a mentor as well, not just a mentee,” Rakesh says.
“I’ve seen all these young graduates coming from universities and working with me for six months, and the amount of energy and this new talent they’ve got. They look at things differently.”
There is also a demand by established professionals and business leaders to seek mentoring from fellow entrepreneurs and business owners. This type of mentoring allows for the sharing of key learnings in managing a business and all the successes and pitfalls that can be encountered.
Brett says the format consists of an introduction where the mentor and mentee meet and go through a scoping exercise where they identify strengths and what can be done to improve and grow the individual.
They then define a broad overview of what their career ambitions and goals are and talk about what challenges there are – depending on the industry and the target area. He says what happens after that is entirely up to the mentor and mentee.
Brett says a mentorship provides mentees with encouragement and support from an industry leader; the mentee can use the mentorship as a strategic way to deal with academic and professional challenges; and provides some valuable insights into the future of supply chain and is a fulfilling experience for them.
The Association attracts mentors from across broad industry groups and different leadership levels, from managers through to executives and seeks registrations from all who wish to gain valuable insights into accelerating their career journey or catapult into a different sector of the supply chain and logistics industry.
Applications for the SCLAA 2022 mentoring program will open in June with an official opening event launch during the week commencing July 18. The program will officially conclude with a closing event in the week beginning March 20, 2023.
For more information on the Supply Chain & Logistics Association Australia, click here.