How do you build a sustainable, professional relationship? You have to meet a need.
In my first engineering job I was assigned a mentor who was also my peer. Most people would think that it’s a good approach but in this case my mentor was an awesome engineer but also a LONE WOLF. He had built up a defense system and there was no way anyone would break through it. So I reengineered my relationship with him.
Instead of going to him to learn more about the job, I befriended the operators which in turn they gave me a plant floor perspective. By leaning on the operators, I learned more about the “real” challenges. I was able to leverage my learning experiences to solve some significant problems. It was through this collaboration I gained the respect of my mentor.
It ended up being one of the best career relationships I have ever had. I was also able to lighten his workload because I had built a solid foundation with troubleshooting the equipment. We did some impressive work while we were partnered together and the key learning for me was “meet a need”. He was overloaded and needed additional maintenance and reliability engineering help so he could focus more on projects. It took me some time to understand this complex situation and to not shutdown but in the midst of a bad situation I figured out an alternative solution...flip the script. Instead asking him for help, I met a need.