Barrett Cieutat, Director of Business Optimization at ERM, has been volunteering as part of a mentorship scheme with the Asian University for Women (AUW) through the ERM Foundation. Here he shares his experiences as a mentor.
When I first heard about the mentorship program associated with the Asian University for Women (AUW) through the ERM Foundation, I was intrigued about how I could be involved to support its mission of educating and providing leadership development for women. Ironically, following the initial review call with university representatives, I had decided not to sign up as a mentor because it was mentioned that some AUW students can be intimidated by male mentors.
As a man, I was concerned that the gender dynamics might make it an awkward and unfulfilling experience for the mentee, and I did not want that to create an awkward dynamic for the student. Upon checking with others who were involved in the program in the past, I was told that AUW does their reconnaissance to determine the comfort level of students with respect to the gender of their mentor. As a result, I became more comfortable that it could work, so I signed up.
I had regular interactions with my mentee, Mahreen, via video conference to get to know and support her with respect to her career progression decisions. We discussed her career aspirations, areas of strength and development opportunities, career options, interview considerations and CV development. I was impressed with how talented and open Mahreen was as we discussed her future, and she asked wonderful questions about my own experiences that prompted plenty of healthy self-reflection!
Getting to know Mahreen and being a part of her journey in seeking and obtaining a job has been a really unique experience for me. The differences in our backgrounds and culture only seemed to make our discussions and engagements richer, and working through the challenges of seeking employment for her in a different country has been incredibly fulfilling. Mahreen remained positive and constructive throughout the process, constantly seeking and accepting feedback and trying to better herself by understanding how I dealt with situations throughout my business life. Knowing that this ultimately helped Mahreen to identify and secure a position within ERM as a Sustainability Consultant in the US was an unexpected and pleasant benefit of this program!
I’ve loved this opportunity with the ERM Foundation – it reminded me of how many different ways that we, as employees, can get involved in fulfilling projects that benefit our world. There are all kinds of projects to get involved in and I am so grateful to have participated in hundreds of them during my time at ERM: beach clean-ups, constructing a wetlands habitat in Spain for an endangered frog, removing invasive species in the Florida Everglades, cleaning up a creek area in a park in Boston, installing wind turbines for powering disadvantaged homes in northern Peru, and of course, the AUW mentoring program! I have always found that The ERM Foundation is as special as you’ll let it be.
Notably, the AUW mentoring program has taught me a bunch about myself. For me, ‘paying it forward’ has been incredibly rewarding through the simple process of sharing experiences and engaging in self-reflection. I have enjoyed an extraordinary and rewarding career at ERM, yet have not had many instances in which I considered my past actions or decisions in the context of how they impacted me, for good and bad. Discussing and sharing my experiences for the of benefit someone else was definitely therapeutic on many levels. But most of all, getting to know Mahreen was the highlight. She was the catalyst for making it happen. There is no question that I got as much out of this program as she did, and I truly feel like I have a friend for life.
Barrett A. Cieutat, PG, is Global Director, Business Optimization at ERM, based in Austin, Texas. He joined ERM in 1993 and served in Executive and Senior Leadership roles for ERM from 2006-2021. He has worked in more than 25 countries, representing all regions, via global leadership positions from 2009-2021 and was heavily engaged in multiple private equity transactions involving ERM and external investors/advisors. In addition, he has more than 30 years’ experience serving clients in the Oil and Gas, Mining, Chemical, Power, and Manufacturing sectors across multiple geographies. His educational background is focused in geology, hydrogeology and geochemistry.