In May 2021, 20 ISRI members joined ISRI’s Women in Recycling Council’s (WIR) new mentorship program as part of its first cohort. As the mentorship program’s first year comes to an end, WIR leadership and program participants have found it an overwhelming success.
“As we enter into the second year of our mentorship program, we look forward to welcoming not only new participants, but also returning mentors and mentees,” says Paula Summers Murphy, WIR co-chair. “There has always been unofficial mentoring within the ISRI community. The program enables us to formalize that experience for ISRI members.”
The WIR mentorship program taps into existing knowledge, skills, and experiences of high-performing individuals and connects them with other ISRI members who want to expand their knowledge and develop their skills to advance their career. WIR leadership match participants together after thorough evaluation and review of questionnaires answered by mentors and mentees. Partnered together for one year, mentors and mentees meet once per month to discuss important issues for them and their business. WIR provides monthly discussion topics to help kickstart the conversations.
As one of the mentors in the first cohort group, Brian Shine, ISRI past chair and CEO of Lancaster, N.Y.-based Manitoba Corp., found the experience a great opportunity to give back. “In this industry it’s critically important for younger people to connect with mentors as they launch their career because there’s so much to learn,” he says.
When Katie Ilecki began meeting with her mentor, Nidhi Turakhia, the two realized how easily the conversation flowed. Turakhia provided helpful support as Ilecki navigated her role as assistant general manager at Metalico Rochester. “Nidhi helped me focus on some of the bigger picture issues and through some of the ‘firsts’ of everything I’m experiencing because I’m constantly being introduced to new day-to-day problems,” Ilecki says. “Her tenure with her job is helping me get through my growth spurts.”
The benefits of the mentor program include:
- An outside perspective on you and your business
- Someone to listen, confidentially, to the things that concern you about your business
- Friendly, unbiased support and encouragement
- Honest and constructive feedback
- A sounding board for ideas
- Contacts and networks to further your personal and business development
- Strategizing advancement within your company and ISRI
These are benefits for mentors and mentees alike. Early in their conversations, Turakhia suggested to Ilecki they become co-mentors. “On a professional level, I felt like she was more of a peer than someone I needed to mentor or coach,” Turakhia recalls. Ilecki became a sounding board for Turakhia to discuss various work concerns. “We can share things that typically I don’t think I’d be able to if it was a mentor-mentee relationship,” she adds.
Though coming from the equipment side of the industry, Melissa Tally, marketing manager at Gold Hill, Ore.-based machinery supplier SWEED, became co-mentors with her program match, Jordan Vexler of San Antonio-based Monterrey Iron and Metal. “Going into the program, I didn’t even consider the possibility of being a co-mentor,” she recalls. “I thought ‘I’m the one who’s green, I need to learn more about the industry.’ But the takeaways have been great. We’re both in leadership roles in our respective companies and have a lot of commonalities.”
Sandy Pierce, co-chair of WIR with Murphy, is encouraged by the long-term friendships and continuous learning between the pairs in the first cohort. “I look forward to seeing the program continue to grow and thrive for both the mentors and mentees,” she says. “I expect to see more lives changed and touched by this program.”
Recyclers, regardless of their gender or age, have a common interest and need to have the skills to make it in a tough, ever-changing industry, Murphy says. “WIR is about building future industry leaders. The program is all about supporting mentors and mentees, furthering their knowledge, and connecting likeminded individuals who want to grow in the industry.”