Students pursuing the Graduate Certificate in Engineering Leadership are supported by a network of industry sponsors, academic advisors, and Gordon Mentors. Elise Sargent, an industry professional with more than four decades of industry experience in software development is a key member of the Gordon Mentor team.

Sargent has chosen to mentor young engineers at The Gordon Institute because she believes in the Institute’s mission and is reminiscent of the satisfaction she received from coaching engineers throughout her career. “The Gordon Engineering Leadership Program focuses specifically on developing leadership skills in its graduate engineering students and is paired with a highly technical curriculum. When I started mentoring, I wanted to focus more of my time on leadership development and I thought The Gordon Institute was a wonderful opportunity to continue to do that because the students work and study in a wide range of technical fields. The curriculum of the Gordon Program makes the students very open to coaching and wanting to expand what they do.”

Sargent’s impact on each of her mentee’s careers is profound because she takes the time to connect one-on-one and develop an understanding of each student’s goals. “I consider my time with the students a learning journey, and by that I mean I develop an understanding of their strengths and their opportunity to grow, which is different for each individual. I then encourage them, sometimes strongly, to use leadership skills in new ways to achieve new outcomes that seem out of reach. It’s these accomplishments that bring me tremendous satisfaction.”

Fostering mentor relationships with Northeastern Engineering students brings the advantage of gaining exposure to technical challenges at leading engineering companies. “As a mentor, each experience is unique and quite custom to the individual. For me, although my background is software engineering, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor students in many disciplines and companies across many industries. It’s been fascinating learning about the problems that companies are trying to solve and the technical challenges they face in these disciplines. It has been a great opportunity for me to gain exposure to other disciplines as well.”

Advising students studying outside of software engineering has proved to be a beneficial challenge for both Sargent and Gordon Fellow Candidates. “I absolutely enjoy working with students who are in software development but find working with students in disciplines outside of my field allows me to bring an outside perspective. I ask questions that allow them to develop new perspectives. I find this helps them with their communication skills, specifically being able to communicate really clearly and crisply.”

Facilitating the development of strong leadership skills within the engineering field is core to The Gordon Institute and a philosophy Sargent can put into practice through her mentor relationships. “I think building strong technical teams, empowering teams, having the willingness to take risks, decision making, and communicating a vision are qualities we need in our engineering leaders. It’s paramount to driving innovation and realizing the vision in an organization. I think companies will continue to be highly competitive and technologies are going to continue to be a disruptor. Leadership is more important than ever to drive companies to succeed.”

Throughout her career, Sargent has fully developed into a leader by on-the-job experiences and some informal professional leadership development. She believes The Gordon Institute is a very beneficial method of leadership training that allows engineers to accelerate their careers by learning methods that take years and years to grasp in the workplace. “What the Gordon Program does is accelerate leadership development in a very short period of time. When I see what my past students have been able to accomplish since they’ve left the program, it validates the impact that The Program is having. I’ve had mentees who’ve gone from individual contributors to being promoted to managers.”

Sargent’s industry experience is extensive and translates well into practical advice when consulting with her mentees who are in the midst of navigating their careers. “One of my students was newly joining a company, her project was researching the viability of entering an entirely new market for the company. To do this she had to quickly come to speed with what the company was doing and build relationships with company-wide leaders around the world. This was a significant challenge for her and forced her to develop new styles of influence and learning how to work across disciplines. Not only was she able to earn credibility with leadership in the organization but they were so impressed with the model she created they flew her to the company headquarters to present to their executive leadership team.”

When asked if there is a key piece of advice she likes to bestow upon all of her mentees, Sargent explains: “First and foremost I say advocate for yourself, actively manage your career by taking advantage of opportunities to learn and making your accomplishments visible. I also advise doing something that brings you satisfaction and having the courage to change when it doesn’t. The kind of transformation I have seen in the students is incredible, just becoming aware of what they’re able to achieve.”