In honor of National Mentoring Month, we’ve shared several interviews throughout the month that highlighted Hyder employees whose career growth has been directly impacted by mentors.

The final interview of the series is our General Superintendent, Rene Robledo. Rene has been with Hyder for 27 years, his first and only construction company. He was hired as a laborer, then worked his way up through Labor Foreman, Carpenter, Assistant Superintendent, Superintendent, Senior Superintendent, and now General Superintendent. Before joining Hyder, Rene was in the United States Army for 8 years and had two combat deployments.

Thanks for your time, Rene!

An Interview With General Superintendent, Rene Robledo

Dana: How has being mentored been a part of your career here at Hyder?

Rene: Being mentored has been a great part of my development and has had a major impact on my career at Hyder. Without it I doubt that I would be where I am today. Mentorship was very different in my early years as superintendent, even up until just a few years ago. We did not have the actual plans and strategies we have now have of a formal “mentorship program.” Mentorship was more informal back then. If you didn’t keep your eyes and ears open and were willing to learn you surely were going to lose an opportunity. It seemed that no one had time to teach, coach or mentor.

I don’t mean to sound like it was everyone for himself but the fact is we did not have the investments or opportunities such as mentorship programs, one-to-one meetings, or any of the strategies that have been offered these past years. That is probably one reason I preach so much on mentorship, although I feel I sometimes don’t do enough of it myself.

Dana: I think it’s okay to tell people that there is an ideal that we’re striving for. It’s okay to tell people, “I myself need to be better about it too. I’m not sitting here as the expert saying, I’ve got it all figured out, and this is what we’re doing.” Sometimes people respect you more when you just admit, “Hey, I get it. I need to be better at this, too. That doesn’t mean that we can’t all strive to do this together.”

Rene: I totally agree. It’s not easy to take the role of a mentor or mentee but as long as there is a start and continuity and a mutual agreement between the two then that is a win in itself.

Dana: It sounds like you had to be proactive early in your career here…

Rene: I think you have to be persistent in learning. You have to insert yourself in the process or the perception may be, “You’re not interested or it’s not worth spending my time and energy mentoring you.”  It’s changing the mentality of the mentee, especially from the craft labor side. One of my pet peeves is hearing someone say “I’m just a labor or carpenter.” If that’s the case then the opportunity for mentorship goes out the window as well as development.

Dana: And I think that brings up such a good point that a lot of it is our language, because if we use the right language, eventually we change our thoughts. And sometimes we have to say it first before we really believe it.

Rene: Exactly. That’s a really good way to put it. You have to believe it and accept the mentorship. Alex and Gustavo are the newest guys I have talked to about mentorship and how this can benefit their development and I can see this gets their attention. They have shared that they did not have these opportunities where they worked before. In fact, I know they look forward to mentorship because both have asked me more about it.

Dana: From the perspective of a mentee, what do you feel like your responsibility is in getting a mentor?

Rene: My responsibility in getting a mentor I think is where my career started…being open minded to different type mentors and learning, hopefully, the best they can offer or that I can observe and ultimately build my knowledge and experience. If I want to continue to better myself then of course accepting a mentor is only going to help my knowledge and experiences.

Dana: How do you think mentors can affect their mentees?

Rene: I think a mentor has great influence on a mentee and this could be both negative or positive. I say this because I have had the privilege to work with a lot of people in my career and not all of them have been great role models or good mentors. But at the end of the day I have to be the one that chooses what kind of mentor I want to become. The right mentor could be life changing for a mentee. I don’t say this lightly because there are mentors in my life here at Hyder that have had a major impact in my life. As a mentor, you really have to be careful how you want to mentor your mentee, whoever that ends up being, because that has a lot of influence in how they’re going to develop.

For example, I used to think safety and schedule could not go hand-in-hand because I used to listen to superintendents that had this mentality…then I learned from the positive mentors that in fact yes it can be done and I truly believe it can.

Dana: And I think that’s a really good point, too, what kind of mentor you want to follow. Speaking of safety, I feel like it’s made such a difference having Keshawn here. He’s so respectful, and he knows what he’s talking about. He really understands the importance of safety, and that it is his job to make sure that we all see it as a priority as well.

Rene: Keshawn is a great example of a good mentor and leader specially when it comes to safety. Those are the type mentors you want to follow.

Dana: Final thoughts…obviously your career with Hyder has been over 20 years, but who do you feel are the people that have been the most instrumental in helping you grow in your career?

Rene: There have been a lot of great people that I have worked with but without a doubt the ones that have been instrumental are Doug and Scott. Without them believing in me I would never be where I’m at. For one, first and foremost is Doug Thompson for sure, because he is the one that hired me. So I’ll forever be grateful to him for that decision. Did he think it was going to last that long? Probably not. Did I think I was going to be here this long? Not even in my wildest dreams would I have thought I could have this opportunity. In fact, I tell Scott, “If I knew back in the day what I know now, I would’ve worked a lot harder.” He was like, “Man, you couldn’t work harder anymore. You did already. People were watching.” That’s where the mentorship comes in. You can help them clear the path and stand there next to them, so you can view their development.