February 23, 2021

Mentorship plays a pivotal role in professional development and career advancement. Establishing a relationship with a mentor can help young professionals gain industry knowledge and open doors for their careers. At Gresham Smith, we’re continually invested in the growth and development of our employees at all levels, and we firmly believe in growing and developing our staff to be the leaders of tomorrow.

As we continue to celebrate Engineers Week, we caught up with a few of our engineers to discuss the impact of mentorship on their career and how they’ve grown over the years.

We asked our employees:

  • Has a mentor made a big difference in your career? If so, how?
  • What message do you have for young students considering a career in engineering?
  • What advice do you have for young engineers?



Has a mentor made a big difference in your career? If so, how?

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with several mentors throughout my career, and the moments that stand out to me most have not been technical in nature; they were the soft skills I learned to become a true professional. As engineers, we’re inclined to focus on solutions to problems, formulas, technical data, and so on. But as professional engineers, we have to make sure we don’t forget about the professional part. We have a responsibility to be professional in the work we do, in what we say, in what we write, and in how we conduct ourselves.

What message do you have for young students considering a career in engineering?

As someone who considered switching majors about halfway through college, my best advice is STICK WITH IT! One of my advisors from college told me that, regardless of what I decided to do when I graduated, having an engineering degree showed a great aptitude for learning. If down the road you decide you want to change careers, an engineering degree could give you a leg up in a seemingly unrelated career. With that said, it’s hard for me to imagine doing anything other than what I am doing today. From the unique challenges to the places I’ve been, the things I’ve seen, and the people I’ve met along the way, a career in engineering has been rewarding on so many different levels.

Michael Collarin, P.E., BEMP, LEED AP
Senior Mechanical Engineer
Charlotte, NC



Has a mentor made a big difference in your career? If so, how?

I’ve had a few different mentors—both technical and non-technical—throughout my career, and every experience has been invaluable. I have two examples that stand out. When I first started in the industry, I had a mentor who really took me under his wing. He would take me to meetings so I could get exposed to people outside of my immediate work group and take the time to thoroughly answer any technical questions I had. Later in my career, I had another mentor who helped me navigate through some challenging work situations. He was always there to listen and provide guidance when needed. To this day, I consider both men mentors and friends.

What message do you have for young students considering a career in engineering?

I suggest taking some classes or trying at-home STEM projects to really explore your interest in science and math. If you have the opportunity, ask some engineers to show you what they do. Many of us like to talk about our projects and the steps needed to get from concept to design to construction. There are many different career paths for engineers, so learning more about each option can help you decide where your strengths lie. For example, I love math, puzzles and problem-solving, so my career in electrical engineering suits me perfectly! Whether I’m designing something for a client, researching the feasibility of a project, overseeing construction, performing quality-control checks, or managing the administrative side of projects, every day brings its challenges and opportunities to use my strengths.

Christina Florez, P.E.
Senior TSM&O Engineer
Baton Rouge, LA



What advice do you have for young engineers?

Work on as many different types of projects as possible. You may feel outside of your comfort zone, but that is a good thing! Pushing yourself will help build your confidence. As engineers, we should always be learning and asking questions. I firmly believe the only stupid question is the one not asked. So, ask questions as often as you have them. Even the most basic questions may help to uncover design improvements and innovations that were not being considered.

What message do you have for young students considering a career in engineering?

College will not be easy. You will see your friends going out while you are doing homework or studying for a test. But stick with it because the hard work will pay off in the end. As a civil engineer, I’ve had the opportunity to work on projects that directly impact people in a positive way. Knowing that I helped build something that people will use for many generations to come provides a real source of pride for me in my career.

Sandy Layne-Sclafani, P.E., CPESC
Senior Engineer
Nashville, TN



Has a mentor made a big different in your career? If so, how?

I credit much of my success to the mentors I’ve had over the years. They have provided encouragement, which allowed me to grow my skills, use my talents, and accomplish my goals. During challenging times throughout my career, I was able to lean on my mentors for guidance. Ultimately, I was able to advance in my career here at Gresham Smith by learning from leaders before me. Over the course of my time with the firm, many people have influenced me along the way to help me grow as a professional, as a leader and as a person.

What advice do you have for young engineers?

Building strong relationships with teammates and co-workers is invaluable. Those relationships have made a profound impact on me personally and professionally. Consulting engineering requires hard work, commitment, and isn’t a 40-hour-per-week job. You’ll spend a lot of time with your teammates and co-workers, and they will start to feel like an extended family.

Ken Stewart, P.E.
Vice President
Water + Environment
Nashville, TN