There are many types of mentors to find through SWE. As an undergraduate, you can find an upperclassman mentor, or as a soon-to-be graduate you can find a professional mentor. For me, I wanted to connect with powerful women in high leadership, but I found that meeting the accomplished CEO-type mentor to be elusive. How was I supposed to meet her? What would we have in common besides SWE? Now, after eight years in SWE, I’ve found that C-suite mentor. Here, I’ll share my experience to unravel the mystery.
I first met my mentor in Washington, DC when we both attended the SWE Hill Day training session. When she offered up her card, I took one – as simple as that. Just a few minutes later, I learned she was walking over to the reception too, and I offered to show her the way. I had walked over to our destination the day before and could easily guide us – with the perk of getting more one-on-one time.
Next, the textbook move would have been to follow up within the week. But alas, I’m human and time got away. Instead, about six months after our DC run-in, I saw her at the national SWE conference. I went to her session, and went up to reintroduce myself afterwards. She remembered me (yes!), and I got her updated business card. I told her I wanted her opinion on my job search, and she offered to chat with me sometime. This time I would not miss my opportunity to connect, I marked my calendar and followed up within two weeks. We emailed back and forth, with her sending me encouraging advice.
When I landed a job a few months later, I again reached out. I was professional and thankful for her wise words, which she returned with a friendly congratulations and multiple exclamation marks. And here is how you begin a professional mentor relation. Not someone to call every day, but someone with who you can network, ask questions, and catch up at professional meetings.
There are many amazing women in SWE, it just takes being in the right place with the opportunity to introduce yourself. Sign up for meetings, conferences, and events – you never know who you might run into!