Written by Angie Sommer
The SE3 Committee held its inaugural mentorship event on Thursday, August 3, 2017 at Thornton Tomasetti’s San Francisco office. The event sold out quickly, with huge interest from both mentors and mentees in the local community. At 6pm, the event began with a welcome address from Angie Sommer, the committee co-chair, followed by instructions for the evening from Faith Silva and Neelima Tapata, the committee’s Mentorship Task Group leaders.
The format of the event was “speed mentoring,” whereby mentees were placed into six groups of four or five, and mentors were paired up, typically matching two engineers with different backgrounds together. Most mentees were very early in their careers; some were summer interns. Six conference rooms were set up to host two mentors and one group of mentees at a time. Every 12 minutes event administrators would alert the mentee groups to rotate to the next room.
The atmosphere was convivial, but focused—mentees were sent prep materials beforehand, including sample questions to ask mentors, and everyone generally arrived prepared to gather as much information from the mentors as possible. While each session was quick, mentees asked intriguing questions, and mentors responses were thoughtful, interesting, and varied.
One young engineer who is working at a summer internship asked how to prepare to lead your first project. In response, Gina Carlson, a senior associate at Tipping Engineers, described the process of entry-level engineers being eased into project management by first attending project meetings, participating in discussions, and doing behind-the-scenes work to learn how a project is run before having to do it themselves.
Another young engineer posed a question about how to achieve work-life balance. Maryann Phipps, president and owner at Estructure, responded by noting that you can't have everything. She explained that one can choose to put more energy into one’s professional life or into one’s personal life (and those ratios can change over time), and that both of these choices are good, but they have different outcomes. She emphasized that each person needs to choose what’s right for them, and to set reasonable expectations.
The session ended with a short survey to gather feedback on the event, which was generally found to be positive. One mentee noted, “It is a relief to hear the same worries and challenges having come about for now successful engineers.” Another commented on the good organization and high value of the event, also noting that, “the diversity of mentors helped bring different perspectives to my questions.” The mentors had similarly positive feedback, expressing how much they enjoyed the event and working with the mentees. One common suggestion for improvement included leaving more time for discussions among each group; 12 minutes per session was generally felt to be too quick of a pace.
The SE3 Committee is very pleased with the results of its first mentorship event, and plans to host more events in the future that may be focused on different experience levels of mentees. The committee is very grateful for the enthusiastic participation of such an incredible group of mentors at this event; thank you for reaching out to, and connecting with, the next generation of engineers. Thanks also to everyone who signed up as mentees and arrived with such thoughtful, interesting, relevant questions. SE3 looks forward to continued success in its mentorship program to continue to engage and connect engineers in the local community.
To learn or help plan upcoming events, join us at our next meeting on September 20 at SGH in San Francisco! We welcome new members and contributors.
For more information about the SE3 Committee, or to read the SE3 2016 Survey Report that discusses detailed findings from the 2016 nationwide survey, visit SE3project.org. To learn more about the newly formed NCSEA SE3 Committee, please visit ncsea.com/committees/equity or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have questions or would like to join the SE3 Committee, please email email@example.com.