Croatian professionals in all fields of engineering, including civil engineering are respected all over the world. Numerous international projects and engagements of Institut IGH, which is doing business in several international locations, are a testament to this. But, as extensive as knowledge gained in college is, experience is still priceless to future civil engineers. Applying the theoretical knowledge acquired and gaining hands-on experience is the only way to acquire the material taught in college well and an actual basis for future work in a major-related field. This is why mentorship programs implemented by renowned companies such as Institut IGH are extremely important for the education of future professionals. The main goal of mentorship programs is to connect theory to actual work and provide young people with the opportunity to gain the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and a network that will enable them to better fit into the world of work and gain insight into their chosen field.
A good mentor helps their student make decisions, which, in turn, helps the student achieve career goals, while simultaneously building trust. The aim of mentorship is not for a mentor to complete tasks instead of a student, but to teach the student how to think independently and enable them to learn from their successes and mistakes. A mentor is a person who has extensive knowledge and experience in the chosen field, ready to share their resources to help his/her future colleagues achieve their professional goals. Miroslav Pauzar, a Member of the Management Board of Institut IGH, who has been sharing his invaluable experience and expertise with his younger colleagues for quite some time, fits this description perfectly.
Gaining experience under the mentorship of professionals of Institut IGH
Miroslav Pauzar has been building his career in Institut IGH since 1986-since 2013 he has been the Head of the Osijek Regional centre, and in 2021, he was appointed Member of IGH's Management Board. There are no large or small projects for him, and each project poses a particular challenge to which he dedicates himself with equal attention and interest.
“As an engineer, I have been through many projects, from infrastructure and civil engineering in general to building construction and everything in between. From road, highway, and bridge construction to post-war reconstruction in Slavonia, from constructing significant infrastructure buildings such as roads, highways, bridges and condominiums, and public buildings. But projects dealing with restoring and reconstructing cultural heritage were always somehow the most interesting. They can be the most demanding and long-lasting part of our work and the most interesting and most satisfying. These are the projects on which we see a gradual transformation of a building from its current state back to the original one. However, these projects require the cooperation of many professionals-ranging from archaeologists, restorers, conservators, to contractors, civil engineers, supervising engineers, and other professionals. They are all experts in their chosen fields and it is exactly that multidisciplinary component that makes such projects demanding, but also the most interesting.”
He also finds mentoring younger generations interesting and sees the future of his field there. Although they can learn a lot from him, Miroslav thinks they give him insight into new ways of thinking and approaching challenges, too.
“First of all, I think I've gained enough work experience and I won’t be able to keep working forever. So, through mentoring my younger colleagues on actual projects, I plan to point out everything they're doing well and everything they can improve. Ultimately, I want to give them a chance to work and make mistakes on their own and to learn from those mistakes, forming professionals that will continue to work independently and surpass even me.”
Field experience is invaluable when it comes to civil engineering projects
Creating the next generation of leaders in the civil engineering industry is one of the goals of the mentorship program of Institut IGH. Their internship program provides students with significant and challenging work experiences in various fields, ranging from safety and supervision to lab work and project management. They all have hands-on experience, that cannot be gained in an academic environment, or smaller, more specialized companies in the sector, in common.
Graduate civil engineer Bruno Bulić is one of the promising young engineers of Institut IGH, who contacted Institut IGH on his own, a little over a year ago, in search of his first job after college. After considering everything this company has to offer, he decided to gain experience in supervision.
„The biggest challenge is what I didn't know before, the fact that supervision is a very extensive field of work. Supervision includes design, work implementation, and all the laws and project participants. When I was first tasked with going to a construction site and studying the documents to prepare for leading it, I did not know where to begin. The biggest challenge is that everything related to supervision is very extensive. I got out of college, where I'd been given a good theoretical background, but college couldn't prepare me for a particular site, full of its challenges, documents, and various stakeholders involved. “
Luckily, he had the support of senior, more experienced coworkers from the Institute, who had the patience and the willingness to help him learn the ropes when it came to his new duties.
„When people ask me how is work, I always say great. I brag because they know I was eager to start working back in college. When I hear people in other companies saying it is hard or that something is wrong, I cannot even imagine what they're talking about. “
Trust and expertise – key to a mentor-student relationship
Bruno gets the most help and support from his mentor, Miroslav Pauzar, whose opinion he greatly values and who is the first person he calls when in doubt.
„Mr Pauzar recognized my problem immediately, which was crucial, in my opinion. He understood my zeal and adapted his mentoring accordingly. He tasked me with things, but also let me do them myself. He let me make my own decision, of course, those that don't impact the project's quality and safety. I feel I have learned a lot in the past year. I've also made it a habit to note down everything he tells me, i.e., any explanations or instructions, in a notebook. He tries to explain any issue or question I have simply and I've never had the feeling I had to squeeze information out of him.“
The trust mentors build with their less experienced colleagues is one of the more important factors when establishing a mentor-student relationship. But, no less important is the young professionals' desire to learn, which is lifelong in this line of work.
„I'd advise my young coworkers to find a passion while still in college and build upon it. Go to companies such as IGH for internships and take it as a learning process. Be curious and ask everything you want to know, even routine working methods. You never know when an idea will come that will advance the field. Once you graduate and get a job, find a mentor that can guide you through actual challenges in civil engineering. College gives an excellent background, mostly theoretical, but it is only through actual work that this process is completed. And, ultimately, realize that learning is lifelong, so don't settle with a certain level of knowledge, but aim for progress-always.“
The synergy of youth, energy, and experience is excellent for any project, so IGH is proud to have a mentorship program for new coworkers. Students interning precisely at the Institute get valuable experience and a chance to prove themselves in their chosen sector.