New Program Gives Young Professionals Lessons for Leadership Success
This summer, 20 diverse young professionals from around the country were chosen to take part in NSPE’s Emerging Leaders Program. The unique enterprise is an intensive seven-month experience for promising early-career professionals who are just beginning to lead and think strategically in the profession and their careers. The program offers participants with 5–8 years of professional experience an opportunity for growth in areas paramount to leadership success.
Based in reality, the program gives participants tangible, practical training and application of the important principles needed to be a leader. Professionally facilitated and focused, the curriculum teaches the core skills necessary to think strategically, build effective teams, deliver great service to their most valued clients, and lead successfully.
The program kicked off August 5 (Professional Engineers Day) and runs through Engineers Week at the end of February. Each month, participants take part in a 90-minute leadership training session, asynchronous learning discussions, a cumulative small-group project, and mentoring. Topics include ownership, team development, communication skills, giving and receiving feedback, and presentation skills.
Participants enjoy networking opportunities with peers and national NSPE leaders, presentation skills training and experience via a presentation to the NSPE Board of Directors, and project-based team building and leadership training.
Steven Jeter, P.E., a civil and structural engineer from Rego Park, New York, says he applied for the Emerging Leaders program in part because he wants to help increase diversity within the profession. “Specifically, more Black Americans, as our percentage in engineering—civil and structural—is disproportionate compared to national demographics,” he says. “I was looking for a way to build myself up to become a stronger leader/influencer…so I can invest in others. This program allows me to build those skills and apply them within the engineering industry and at my current job.”
Jeter finds that the program’s required readings and discussion forums foster enlightening reflection and spur new ideas. In addition to improving soft skills, he says, the program builds self-confidence and pride in one’s abilities.
Program participant Danielle Yoon, P.E., is a civil engineer from Grand Rapids, Michigan, with seven years of experience. She works in municipal engineering and wants to focus on grant writing and helping communities navigate the fundraising process to complete infrastructure projects. Helping a city or county to solve an infrastructure problem is immensely satisfying, she says. “One reason I applied to the Emerging Leaders program is that this isn’t a traditional path of civil engineering, so any training I can get is really important.”
She was thrilled to be accepted into the program, she says. The first full training session in September focused on taking ownership and responsibility of a problem or project.
“It was an ‘aha moment’ for a lot of us. We realized we tend to blame or complain more than we’d like to admit,” Yoon says. “Insight and passion are at the core of being a leader. We are finding out what qualities or characteristics are under the umbrellas of those terms and what activities influence them.”
The program examines policy and how grants are created, which is crucial for Yoon. Setting specific measurable goals and being accountable to those goals is also emphasized. Yoon feels honing these soft skills early in one’s career is invaluable for engineers. “It will help us be better leaders,” she says.
The mentorship aspect of the program is a major benefit, Yoon adds. “We get to hear different perspectives. The mentors are so lauded in their profession and committed to NSPE and to helping us develop this project. It’s such an honor and feels less forced than other mentorships have in the past.”