Dr. Jonathan U. Dougherty, director of the Corporate Knowledge Center (CKC) at James G. Davis Construction Corporation, Rockville, Md., has been a college mentor since his days teaching sophomores and seniors in The Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Architectural Engineering (AE). That experience provided the foundation for mentoring young professionals, as students would come to him for advice on anything from class scheduling to career planning. 

Currently, Dougherty serves as a guest speaker and advisor for Montgomery College’s Student Construction Association, which was named Associated Builders and Contractors’ 2014 Student Chapter of the Year. He also has worked on committees to create mentoring programs in Penn State’s AE Department and at the Penn State Wilkes-Barre Campus.

Q: How is mentoring college students incorporated into your job at DAVIS?
My experiences in academia were a natural transition to my role in creating and directing the CKC, which is essentially DAVIS’ corporate university. I have made mentoring a priority in my job throughout my eight-year tenure. 

During my academic career, I was heavily involved in planning and executing an annual career fair for engineering students, and I found that all too often, companies try to swoop in to find as many qualified candidates as they can, and then leave quickly, not to be seen again until the next career event. When I joined DAVIS, I wanted our firm to be different and started the company’s University Partnership Program to collaborate with universities where we actively recruit. This program has been instrumental in attracting high-quality summer interns and full-time candidates to our firm.

As part of our University Partnership Program and our robust summer internship program, we are mentoring the future of our profession, and it brings a great level of personal satisfaction that we are directly impacting construction students’ lives and careers. 

Q: What makes for a good mentoring relationship?
During the Penn State Wilkes-Barre mentoring program, I was paired with a student majoring in administration of justice (AOJ), not an engineering or construction student. While I think there was some apprehension about the compatibility of pairing a construction alum and an AOJ student, our mentoring relationship was very productive, and thanks to my network, I was able to help the student secure an internship with a local K-9 police unit in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The moral of the story here is that what appears to be a mismatch can actually turn into a great mentoring relationship if both parties go into the experience with an open mind and an understanding that we have more in common than just our college majors.

Mentorship at DAVIS extends beyond college students, and is an integral part of on-the-job learning and the growth of our employees. We have even seen success in reverse mentoring, where our longtime employees mentor young professionals on construction means and methods, while our young professionals mentor on topics related to technology. Mentoring excels when a mutually beneficial relationship is established and appreciated.

Q: What programs do you have planned to fill the industry’s existing knowledge and experience gap?
I joined DAVIS in 2005 to create and lead our CKC with an emphasis on professional development and lifelong learning. This is accomplished in a variety of ways, including instructor-led courses in our onsite classroom, DAVIS eCourses, external seminars and webinars, conference attendance, our intranet-based resource center and our CKC library. 

In 2013, the CKC managed 224 educational events for our employees—ranging from an in-house OSHA 30-hour program and two robust programs for teaching virtual construction to sustainability education and professional aptitude development. The vision for the CKC is to maximize the creation, discovery and dissemination of knowledge and experience, under the mantra,
“Learning: The DAVIS Way.” The knowledge and experience represented in DAVIS’ history and the loyalty of DAVIS employees are sustainable sources of our company’s competitive advantage. 

Q: Why should other companies get involved with groups such as the ABC student chapters?
Theodore Roosevelt said it best: “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” DAVIS has found great success and hired phenomenal young professionals from our active involvement with student groups and mentoring programs. Working with these groups and construction students, in general, is indeed “work worth doing” and the results of your efforts and mentoring the future of the construction profession will leave a lasting impact on your organization.

Lauren Pinch is a writer for Construction Executive. For more information, email pinch@abc.org.