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Career advice: Mentoring can unlock your true potential

As a professional mentor – and someone who has benefitted from being mentored myself quite recently (proving that you are never too old to learn!) – I know first-hand that mentoring matters. So, I was delighted to represent WSP, in its capacity as a platinum sponsor, at the Young Railway Professional’s (YRP) Annual Dinner last Thursday, where I had the honour of presenting its very first Mentor of the Year award.


Developing the potential of emerging professionals is something industry simply has to get better at if it wants to build a skilled workforce that can deliver the transformational projects that will take UK rail to the next level.

This sentiment was soundly endorsed by guest speaker Michele Dix, MD of Crossrail 2, who explained that developing a pipeline of talent is a challenge for the successful delivery of major projects, such as Crossrail 2, and for the future of the railway industry in general. Michele’s words were well-received by an audience that seemed truly passionate about being part of that pipeline.

And this is precisely where mentoring can make a huge difference, inspiring young rail professionals to reach their true potential and supporting them in achieving their professional goals and qualifications. 

Personally, I find that helping colleagues to develop the confidence and skills they need to reach the next level in their career, and knowing I have played a part in that process, is very satisfying. But mentoring is a two-way process that has taught me a great deal about how to listen and communicate more effectively with others, essential skills in all walks of life. 

I was really inspired by the stories presented by each nominator on the shortlist for this award and impressed by the evidence presented of the difference that each mentor had made to the personal and professional development of their mentee. The winner, Andrew Pankhurst from Alstom, demonstrated outstanding commitment in successfully developing and implementing training programmes in Alstom, while promoting science and engineering as a STEM ambassador.

With the growing support for YRP, evidenced by an excellent turn out of engaged emerging professionals, together with the enthusiasm and skills on show, I came away from the event confident that our industry is in good shape to meet the challenge.

Ian Johnson, Head of Profession, Rail at WSP