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Mentoring Experience Spotlight: A Week in My Mentor’s Shoes

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The 2015/2016 WIP Mentoring Program kicked off during the summer as mentors and mentees sought different ways of reaching out to each other. Some methods of connecting included scheduling phone calls, emailing, and even sitting down at tradeshow conferences.

One particular mentor/mentee pair decided to make an interesting introduction via an in-person field training. In an effort to help her mentee learn the many facets of the parking business, Sue Keenan, a Senior Manager at Standard Parking, invited her mentee Tiffany Yu, Marketing Specialist at Scheidt & Bachmann, to spend a week at her campus operations in Houston, TX. This creative hands-on method of mentorship evolved into an exceptional educational experience. Read about Tiffany and Sue’s week together and the things they learned about each other.

You both dove right into making the most of your mentor/mentee relationship by committing to a full week of job shadowing. How did you come up with this idea as a method of mentoring?

TY: Sue and I were originally introduced by another WIP member who recommended Sue as a great contact for helping me build my marketing research on understanding customer needs. I was recommended to spend a week to learn firsthand the pains from our target customers and how the types of solutions that parking access and revenue control systems (PARCS) providers can offer to alleviate the issues. It worked out that Sue and I were paired up for the WIP Mentoring Program, which made the introduction much easier.

Sue, what made you so willing to open your doors for Tiffany to shadow you for a week even before getting to know each other?

SK: I think it’s important to share what little knowledge I have about the parking industry. I enjoy learning, self-development and passing it along to others. I welcome Tiffany’s curiosity to learn about the parking business even if it is outside of her direct scope of responsibilities. I am a hands-on learner myself.

Tiffany, you must have jumped at the chance to job shadow. What were your goals for the mentoring?

TY: I absolutely jumped at the chance. After all, it’s not every day that someone will open their business doors to let you observe their natural work environment! One of my initial goals when we started our mentorship was to build on my knowledge about the parking world whether it related directly to my business or not. Fortunately, there was a direct connection between Sue’s background in operations and the equipment and software business that I come from.

Sue, did you have any goals for the week?

Ultimately, my focus was to help Tiffany and to provide her as much information as possible.

And was your company supportive of you spending a full week at Sue’s parking operations?

TY: My manager actually came from parking operations background himself and so he understood the value of understanding of operations in order to better assist our customers’ needs. He was very appreciative of Sue allowing me to see firsthand for myself what it is like in the life of a parking operator.

What did you do during the week?

TY: Sue allowed me to shadow different functional departments within her operations from facility managers to porter staff and even bookkeeping. At the end of each day though, I got to sit down with Sue to debrief about my findings and we would further the discussion about the business of parking operations. In true mentor fashion, Sue was very patient with all of my questions. By the end of the week, I had a solid understanding of the parking staff, the different responsibilities, and each member’s level of interaction in relation to parking equipment.

What was it like working in operations?

TY: It’s hard work, that’s all I can say!

SK: You can view it like almost owning your own business.

What was the highlight of your week?

TY: I found it particularly interesting when Sue allowed me to sit with her intercom attendant in the command center to observe how they address customer issues via the intercom. It was a pivotal moment when I got to see the interaction with the end customer because as vendors, we do not always come in contact with the end customer.

SK: For me, I enjoyed bringing Tiffany to tour other competitor parking facilities because that took her learning process a step further.

Sue, had you had mentoring experience in the past?

SK: I have been a manager for 17 years, so I coach and mentor my employees on a daily basis. I have also worked with other males and females over the years who have served as mentors to me. However, I have not been in a formal mentoring relationship like this one.

What did you learn about each other through this process?

SK: I learned that mentoring in this type of arrangement is not easy and it is not the same as mentoring an employee. I realized that I may not have all of the answers that my mentee needs.

TY: I used to think that to be a mentor you have to be the one with the answers. However, that’s not the case as Sue proved. As a good mentor, you not only have advice to offer but that you also have good questions to ask of your mentee. Sue is someone who not only has the parking knowledge to share, but she also did an excellent job at probing and challenging me to think about parking in a different light. That’s quite important for me to be able to do in my marketing role. Sue did an excellent job at making me reflect not only through a business sense but also on a personal level.

What advice would you offer to other mentor/mentee relationships?

SK: I hate to quote a cliché but “you will only get out of it what you put into it”.

TY: Perfectly put, Sue. As a mentee, I would advise others to make the most out of meeting with their mentors if you are going to accept someone’s valuable time. Make the learning experience worthwhile for both you and them because mentoring is truly a commitment on both sides. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

What plans do you have for the rest of the year in your mentor/mentee program?

SK: I am open to schedule a time that is best for my mentee to talk on a monthly or quarterly basis. I hope we will be able to discuss what we learned after we each read the recommended book Nice Girls don’t get the Corner Office.

TY: I look forward to it too!

About the Mentor: Sue Keenan

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Sue is the Senior Manager for SP+ Parking in Houston, TX. Sue has managed parking garages since 1998 and currently manages 13 parking facilities at the Brookfield Properties downtown Houston Campus with over 12,000 spaces and gross revenue in excess of $30 million. Sue has been a member of WIP since 2014.

About the Mentee: Tiffany Yu

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Tiffany is the Marketing Specialist for Scheidt & Bachmann and has been a member of Women In Parking since her start in the parking industry. She currently serves as Secretary on the WIP Leadership Board. Tiffany is also involved in the Partnership Committee for the Green Parking Council and was recently recognized as National Parking Association’s Top 40 Under 40 Parking professionals.