The Benefits of Mentoring – Two Employees Selected to Participate in the U.S. WIN Mentoring Pilot Program
Kristine Darling, Construction & Projects Management, is one of two EN employees chosen to participate in a pilot mentoring program through U.S. Women in Nuclear. (Cameron Kaseberg photo)

The Benefits of Mentoring: Two Energy Northwest employees chosen for U.S. WIN pilot

This article was written by Savannah Tranchell, Public Affairs for Energy Northwest, which operates Columbia Generating Station.

Kristine Darling wants to learn from others.

Denise Brandon wants to share what she knows with others.

Those traits made them each perfect candidates for the U.S. Women in Nuclear’s (WIN) Women’s Auxiliary Mentoring (WAM) program, which is in a pilot phase this year. But in different roles. Darling has been with Energy Northwest for four years, all in the Construction & Projects Management group. She’ll participate in WAM as a mentee, paired up with a more experienced leader from another agency.

Brandon started her career at EN in 2002 as an intern in Engineering and has since held various leadership positions. In September, she stepped into a new role as Planning, Scheduling & Outage Manager. She’ll put her knowledge to use this year as a mentor for a doctoral student studying nuclear engineering at the University of Idaho.

“I think about what I needed to know 20 years ago and how I would have liked to have someone like me that was later in their career to talk to,” Brandon said. She hopes her student will gain insight in the world of commercial nuclear. “I also hope to learn about what young ladies just getting into their nuclear careers need.”

Darling’s mentor is an assistant maintenance manager from Waterford Nuclear Generating Station in Louisiana.

“She has had a vast amount of nuclear experience compared to mine,” she said. “I’m super excited to learn from her, especially to hear about how they do things at a multi-unit site.”

Benefits of mentoring
Mentoring is an important tool for people who want to continue to grow, whether professionally or personally. A mentor can offer support, advise or just be someone to bounce ideas off. Darling sees it as an important element of her career growth. While EN encourages mentoring internally, an external mentoring relationship can provide a different perspective on the industry.

“I love to learn, I love to grow and expand my knowledge,” Darling said. “I don’t want to be someone who just says, ‘I’m satisfied.’”

Brandon and Darling are both active in EN WIN, as well as regional and national programs. In August, Brandon completed her year as a member of WIN’s Nuclear Executives of Tomorrow (NEXT) program. Darling serves as vice chair for EN WIN, as well as secretary for the regional group. She hopes she can take what she learns from WAM to enhance mentoring opportunities through EN WIN.

“This year, WIN is really focusing on professional development and how we can support that across the entire company,” Darling said.

Brandon and Darling make up two of 18 pairings of nuclear professionals and students across the nation. The pilot program runs through July 2022.