Hello GradSWE Community!
My name is Genevieve Kane – and I’m proud to be your GMC-Elect this year! For my first blog post, I wanted to talk to you about one of the ideas that I am spearheading and hoping to develop for the GradSWE Community – a mentoring program!
Mentoring can come in many different forms, which is something that I’ve personally learned and experienced throughout my academic career. I remember the first time I was exposed to the idea of having a mentor was when I participated in Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a pre-engineering program offered through my high school. In this program, we had a class called Engineering Design and Development (EDD), which allowed a team of high school engineers to find something they thought was a problem, and come up with a unique, technical solution to that problem (that has never been used or patented). Every group was assigned a mentor, who was there to guide the team to a successful end to their project. I remember struggling with this concept – not knowing what questions I COULD ask, SHOULD ask, or what I should really discuss when I met with this very wise, professional engineer. Thankfully, over the years I have been fortunate enough to keep in contact with this wise mentor, and many others, as I became a mentor myself in PLTW, overseeing EDD projects.
Even though I wasn’t comfortable with asking questions and seeking advice in high school, there came a time in my undergraduate education where I didn’t have a choice anymore. I think we have all experienced that point in our career where we reach a point that we hit some barrier – be it academic, personal, etc. In my case, it was a specific professor who spent an entire lecture discussing why girls weren’t good at science. At that point, I had no other undergraduate females in my STEM major, and no one to really talk to about how that made me feel. So, I walked upstairs and I showed up at the office door of one of my female professors. I must have waited ten minutes in the hallway before I had the courage to knock, but when I did, she welcomed me into her office with open arms, ready and willing to listen to what happened to me, and express her distaste that these situations were still happening in schools. I remember that she told me it wasn’t anything I did wrong – and that I was a perfectly fine student who just needed to keep going to the finish. I did, and on occasion, I would stop by and chat with her to discuss my progress, or ask advice about things like careers, graduate school, or how to deal with some issues that came up that might be unique to women.
Thankfully, by graduate school, I became more comfortable with the idea of asking for guidance and help. I’ve attended two graduate schools, and in both I’ve received amazing guidance from professors that have helped me along the way. I’ve found a plethora of good mentor relationships, including my very supportive and amazing advisor who always seems to know what to say when I need it, and even some graduate students who have gone through programs before me that continue to provide me with support and guidance along the way. I feel very happy to say that I’ve even been able to dole out some sage advice to newer graduate students, professionals, and young engineering students alike, and maintain contacts with many of these people over time.
So – what’s the point? My story is not so uncommon, it seems. It takes time to become comfortable in your own skin, and to build relationships with your colleagues. I’ve been approached by a lot of students over time, that have said they wished they had someone to talk to for guidance, and didn’t know who to turn to, or what type of relationship they even wanted to establish. Just that they really wanted to have some guidance in their lives, and that it would be great if there was some way to help them make those contact.
My hope is that, by starting a mentoring program for graduate students, we can do something about this in our own SWE community. In SWE, graduate students are everywhere – they exist as collegiate members, sometimes they have their own GradSWE groups, and half of graduate student members are part of the professional sections! SWE has a lot of opportunity to offer mentorship to graduate students, with many potential matches available. We, as graduate student, can also help mentor others, since we have had different experiences in life than some professionals who may be looking to head back to graduate school, undergraduates who might want someone to look up to, or even our graduate peers.
How do we start? We are hoping to start by finding interested graduate students and professionals members in our community. If you’re interested, consider filling out this survey:
Once we have figured out the interest in different mentoring pairs, we will send out a specific application to those individuals so that we can assign good mentoring pairs. Not all people will want the same experience or relationship with a mentor – some people may just want someone to contact by email if they have questions about their job hunt, or school hunt! Others might want to meet in person, or work towards specific, set goals that their mentor can help them with. We will do our best to match people up based on their interest level, and whether they prefer a local mentor, or someone that they can reach out to in another SWE region. Our hope is that we can get pairs set up for WE ’16, so that a meeting can be arranged!
Thank you all for reading – and if you have any questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! Hope you are having a productive, and fun summer!