Learning from each other:
Peer mentoring programs get off the ground
Administrators and computer professionals want to provide
on-the-job assistance to their colleagues.
Wouldnt it be nice if you could ask an experienced
UCAR/NCAR staffer for help with a confusing computer program? Or get together
occasionally with your peers from other divisions to talk about common
challenges and solutions?
These are some of the goals of UCARs peer mentoring
initiative, which has been picking up momentum over the last few months.
Two groupsadministrators and computer professionalsare working
on pilot programs. In addition, Human Resources and F&As IT
group are developing an interactive database that would list the expertise
of staffers willing to serve as learning partners to help their colleagues.
NCAR director Tim Killeen, who is working on a separate
mentoring initiative for scientists, says its important for all
staffers to have the opportunity to learn from their peers. I feel
that we ought to be a learning organization, and mentoring is an aspect
of that, he explains. Everybody on all levels should feel
enabled by the organization to expand.
The mentoring initiatives began taking form last year,
when HR held a number of employee focus groups to discuss professional
development opportunities at UCAR. Staffers particularly expressed interest
in developing peer mentoring systems that would allow them to learn from
other people in the same job families. Since the computer and administrative
staffers expressed the largest interest in peer mentoring, the Presidents
Council chose them as pilot groups and asked them to set up mentoring
The administrators set up a steering group, now headed
by Barb Petruzzi (PPS). They held open meetings with mentoring experts,
including ATD director Dave Carlson and SOARS director Tom Windham. Instead
of using the term mentoring, they decided to make their learning
process a bit less formal by naming themselves Coaching Peerswhich
translates into an easy-to- remember acronym, CoPs. What we want
to do is keep this alive and not let it go by the wayside, Barb
explains. Were getting the word out. The networking in our
group is pretty incredible.
Left to right: Cheryl Cristanelli, Barb Petruzzi, and
The administrators have compiled a list of people willing
to spend time coaching their peers about budgeting, personnel management,
and other administrative issues. Theyre also planning a series of
talks by administrative experts, from both within and outside the organization.
Although no one has yet signed up for actual coaching, the administrators
already are benefiting just by spending time together and informally helping
each other with such issues as public speaking.
For their part, the computer professionals formed the Professional
Association of Computing and Technology (PACT) and are proceeding with
a two-pronged strategy. One aim is to establish a Web site that will describe
the institutions computer infrastructure, as well as staffers and
initiatives. Employees can go to one place to get an overview of
computing directions for the entire organization, explains Kristian
Woyna (F&A), who chairs the steering committee. Through our
Web site, they can find resources, identify an individual who can help
them with a specific question, or find a mentor.
The other aim is to bring together computer professionals
from each division, either for formal presentations or for informal networking.
Were a very busy profession, and it will help us to actually
visit with each other, find out what others are up to, and make the spontaneous
connections that can lead to information exchanges, Kristian says.
Both computing professionals and people who have an interest in or work
with computing are encouraged to become involved.
Both the pilot groups are collaborating with HR and IT
on the development of a skills-and-learning-exchange database listing
the specialities of staffers throughout the institution who are willing
to lend a hand to their peers. Lets say I know Excel spreadsheets
up and down, says Cheryl Cristanelli, who is overseeing the mentoring
initiative for HR. Id add my name to the Skills/Learning Exchange
as a learning partner for Excel for developing formulas. Im now
available as a resource for anyone seeking coaching or assistance in this
area. If someone is seeking assistance in this area, they could connect
with me and we can work together. The database can additionally serve
as a tool for supervisors seeking coaching for a staff member. Instead
of sitting there and trying to read through a whole manual, just go to
the database and find out if someone has skills in that area.
Cheryl expects that the database will be available within
a few months. Shes also looking forward to working with people in
additional job families who may want to create their own peer mentoring
In addition to helping individuals with their tasks, the
initiative can help the overall institution. Terry Murray of the NCAR
Library, who serves on the administrators steering group, points out that
the mentoring will bring a lot of the divisions closer because the
administrators will be working together. Well have more interdivisional
To get involved with CoPs, contact Barb (ext. 2402, firstname.lastname@example.org);
for PACT, contact Kristian (ext. 2146, email@example.com).
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