July 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 3 
Special Features

The power of experience

Mentors are formally and informally playing a key role in the development of Boeing employees by sharing their knowledge and expertise


The power of experienceIn Homer's The Odyssey, Mentor is the trusted guardian and teacher of Telemachus. Mentor served as a surrogate father and advisor in the absence of Telemachus's real father, Odysseus, who had been away at Troy and beyond for 20 years.

Today, Mentor's name is the standard term for wise counselor or teacher. At Boeing, mentoring is part of the culture, a responsibility for both the mentors and the people they mentor.

"Boeing reminds us constantly that leaders need to prepare leaders for the next generation," said John Tracy, vice president of Engineering at Integrated Defense Systems, who has benefited from mentoring and now mentors others. In fact, Tracy noted, experience in mentoring others is one of the most heavily weighted criteria to entering the Boeing Technical Fellowship.

"A company's performance is directly related to the quality and talent of the people in the company," said Hank Queen, vice president of Engineering and Manufacturing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "The quality of leadership in a company can either limit or leverage a team's performance, so mentoring and coaching are terrific ways to improve both the quality of the team and the company leadership."

The benefits of mentoring haven't been lost on Susan Ying, director of Engineering and Information Technology at Boeing Phantom Works.

"My mentor changed my life," she said. "If I hadn't been mentored by Thad Sandford when he was chief engineer at IDS, I wouldn't be where I am today."

Ying has a doctorate in computational fluid dynamics and said it would've been easy for Boeing to keep her working in that field. "But when I joined the aerospace industry, I wanted to work on real programs with real challenges," she said. "Then one day, Thad saw my biography in an award nomination and called me. He took time to mentor me and gave me the opportunity to work on what I always wanted to do."


"Mentoring is one of the tools that you use to help fill the skill gap and keep people involved and growing," said Jim Young, chief engineer for Naval Systems at IDS and for the St. Louis site. "We've got an aging work force, and we need to fill those skill gaps. For the company, I think mentoring is one tool that can help introduce and expand the base of the knowledge here, and help retain expertise. The mentoring programs will not only make people more valuable to Boeing, but it will make them want to stay here. It's that important."

Kay Guse, program manager for Mentoring Program Implementation in St. Louis, agreed. "The whole culture of learning and continual growth is the key. If you're not learning, then you're losing ground. That's why we're training people how to be mentors. When I went through the training I was amazed at the number of ways that people can look at mentoring and the different perceptions they have of it."

This pilot program in St. Louis is just one of the mentor training programs being developed throughout the company.

The power of experienceIn the Puget Sound region of Washington, those undergoing mentoring training might hear the phrase, "Understand the design space of your mind."

These words are among the first mentioned in the mentor training program offered by the Ed Wells Initiative and Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace-Boeing Partnership. The training allows each participant to discover the strengths and limitations of their thinking process and finding how they can make the most of their knowledge and experience.

The Ed Wells Initiative mentoring program began in 2000 with members of the Boeing Technical Fellowship. The program gave them, for the first time, proven tools to use. Through the end of 2003, the program has trained almost 450 engineers and technical employees in the Puget Sound region. More than 80 are in classes this year.

Mentors learn during eight three-hour sessions monthly or 17 one-hour sessions twice a month. The instructors are employees who are program graduates and have applied the training in a mentoring relationship at Boeing. The Ed Wells Initiative provides administrative support and delivers the training materials, much of which is online. The program's training and materials also are being used at sites in Southern California and Houston.

"Knowing how we think, how our working environment creates advantages and limits to our ability to teach others, is a critical first step in the training," said Dan Sanders, Technical Fellow in Phantom Works' Materials and Process Technology organization.

Those who are active in mentoring said it benefits all parties. By joining in a learning relationship with a fellow employee, you not only pass on your knowledge, skills and experiences to that person, you also improve the knowledge sharing and retention process at Boeing.

"With a good mentoring relationship," said John Tanner, a Technical Fellow in Commercial Airplanes Mechanical/Hydraulic Systems, "Boeing gets a trained work force and motivated employees who are in control of their own career development, and it keeps the corporate knowledge."


Knowledge sharing through mentoring makes work more rewarding for individuals and leverages a company investment for greater returns. Participants in the Ed Wells Initiative mentoring program learn how to recognize their expertise and how to communicate it and use it more effectively. To decide if mentoring is right for you and if you're right for mentoring, go to the Initiative's site on the Boeing internal Web at http://edwells.web.boeing.com/mks/Mentoring_ Home.htm

To identify what mentoring training is available in your area, contact one of these Boeing focals. (Contact information is available on the Boeing internal Web through the Blues tool http://blues.web.boeing.com)

St. Louis: Rafe Foley
Houston: William R. Haskins
Southern California: Kenneth M. Hays
Puget Sound and all other sites: April Stempniak, Brian Tillotson, Dan G. Sanders, John Tanner or Dave Paisley

Bill Haskins, Associate Technical Fellow and the mentoring focal in Houston, is delivering his fourth cycle of mentoring training. "We require that a specific skill or knowledge be transferred from the mentor to the 'mentee.'"

"We're building a mechanism to share knowledge within Boeing," said Brian Tillotson, Technical Fellow in Phantom Works. "It's a strategic move for survival in this business. If we get even modest success with this training, we'll knock our competitors out of the game."

Paul Idell, a Senior Technical Fellow at Boeing Laser and Electro Optical Systems in West Hills, Calif., was asked to create a mentoring program for the Technical Fellowship to promote Fellowship capabilities. "We want to provide a service that the company needs," Idell said. "Right now, I'm trying to identify mentoring approaches to see what the best methods are and then establish goals for the program that line up with the company's overall strategies. This is one way the Tech Fellows can have an even bigger impact on the company."


While formal programs might enhance the mentoring experience, informal mentoring also has an important place at Boeing.

IDS' Young said there have been a few people in his career who always had time to talk and acted as a sounding board of sorts. "They played a big role in my life and to the success I've had at Boeing. Although they have retired, I still talk to them on the phone often," he said.

Tracy-who was a structural engineer before Thad Sandford became his mentor and is now taking over the position of the retired Sandford-said being mentored is not just about career advancement but also about learning and teaching.

"I've had many mentors and not necessarily people higher than me on the corporate ladder. I learn a tremendous amount from people and their life lessons independent of what their job level is. When I mentor, I try to help the person find their own answers rather than giving pat answers to questions." he said.

"I often learn from those whom I am mentoring, while hopefully, they are learning from me," said Bob Krieger, president of Boeing Phantom Works. "Much of the mentoring I do consists of discussing decisions related to career paths. During these discussions I learn about what issues our work force is facing that I may be able to address. At the same time, I am providing advice on what to consider in making these career decisions."


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