Opening Doors and Perspectives Through Mentorships: Kristen Jackson’s Story
Kristen Jackson, water engineer and group leader, tells us about her experience with relationship-centric mentoring.
Each month in 2023, we’re focusing on one of the 10 essentials we all need for success in these fast-changing times. This month, we’re highlighting Relationship centric, which is about investing time and energy in understanding others to build collaborative trust. Becoming a mentee or mentor is one way to exchange ideas and create connections.
We talked with Kristen Jackson, a water engineer and group leader based in our Portland, Oregon office, about how relationship-centric mentoring has shaped her career.
A collection of mentors, each with different perspectives, has helped Kristen advance her career over the years. Since joining the company in 2016, the water engineer has sought out a variety of mentors – some formal and others informal. A few have facilitated technical training on her projects, others had networks she could plug into, and our new CEO Bob Pragada has expanded her view of what’s possible. Kristen joined Jacobs after returning from three years volunteering in Peru as part of the Peace Corps, an independent U.S. agency, in which she worked with locals to improve water quality and sanitation. Today, her projects involve municipal wastewater treatment and renewable energy projects such as electricity generation through combustion of digester gas. She credits her mentors (Michelle Green, Matt Noesen, Gregg Thompson, Dave Green, Dave Brunkow, Kevin Boggs and many others) for helping her navigate this journey.
“Think about the folks you go to for input, it’s like your own personal advisory board,” Kristen says. “If you’re fortunate enough to have people advocate for you, that’s huge, and can help you along the way.”
Kristen connected with Bob in 2020 after the announcement that every executive would take on two mentees as part of the Action Plan for Advancing Justice and Equality.
“I was nervous to email Bob but I summoned a bit of bravery that day,” she recalls. “My recommendation is to shoot for the stars and find the mentors who will help you go to the next level.”
They collaborated on a plan for what they wanted to achieve together and met virtually for 30 minutes once a month for a year and a half. Although the formal portion of their mentorship has ended, they connect on an as-needed basis and still have lunch whenever they’re both in the same city.
“Bob talked a lot about leadership. One of his goals was to help people like me think about goals that feel 20 or 30 years out – and make them happen sooner,” Kristen says. “I hadn’t thought about that, but I started listening into quarterly earnings updates and reading investor reports to understand what it takes to run a company like ours.”
Kristen still has an evolving list of mentors, and she has added mentees to her team as well. “The learning goes both ways,” she shares.