Diverse Perspectives on the Benefits of Paying It Forward
The Value of Mentorship: The Mentee
When I graduated high school and began my college career, I had one goal in mind: I would not become an engineer. Now, I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Biomedical Engineering from San Jose State University. Like most things in life, we form plans in one direction only to find life leading us in another, but I believe we’re better for it in the end. My initial perception of being an engineer meant sitting in a cubicle, experiencing the monotony of staring at a computer all day, only to drag the computer home and continue the cycle. I’m happy to report I was completely wrong with this initial perception.
The turning point for me was the exploration of what engineering really was my first year in college at University of California, Santa Cruz. In my environmental studies class, I noticed that many of the problems biologists and environmentalists were facing were being solved by engineers, which sparked a curiosity in me. Once I gained some exposure and insight in the field, I decided to fully pursue a career path in engineering and transferred to San Jose State University. That was where I was really able to blossom as a student and, through the guidance and help of my mentors, made the decision to become a biomedical engineer.
Finding a Mentor
I truly believe that there is something to learn from everyone’s experiences, especially those who have struggled through similar situations as yourself. These mentors’ “lessons learned” are your warning signs, your words of wisdom and your personal guide. From my experiences, it wasn’t so much about looking for a mentor as much as it was that my mentors came to me when I needed help the most. Before jump-starting my career, I was looking for validation that I was on the right path, feeling unsure of myself and my abilities, and my mentors picked up on that. They were able to show me how to accept my own unique journey through my college career, which was something that originally gave me a lot of insecurity.
Feeling more secure and confident in my knowledge-base, the mentors I seek now are those who can help me navigate my career path and create a healthy work-life balance. By finding someone who understands you as a person, you are able to learn how to best use your unique qualities to succeed in new and unexpected ways.
Read more about how Meha is now paying it forward here.
The Value of Mentorship: The Mentor
After college, I was ill-prepared for the job expected of me. I was sent on the road to begin field work after receiving two months of educational training and a few hands-on projects. No one taught me how to plan travel and communicate at diverse facilities. I was placed into situations in high-volume manufacturing facilities with broken machines and angry managers yelling. I had to learn and adjust quickly to the current situation.
Being in that high-pressure environment, however, did provide some positive experiences: I learned that collaboration was key. Working with diverse people at a variety of sites, it was inevitable that we learn to solve problems together. Since my job was to troubleshoot and fix a variety of issues, I had to learn problem solving and root cause analysis skills. In addition, I also had to learn to explain things since invariably I would be asked, “How did you fix it?” This helped me develop a knack for providing guidance, communicating and helping others learn, which has transferred over to how I mentor.
It’s about putting yourself in the mentees’ shoes: you have to think about what they’re going through, what questions you had at that stage of life and what would help them the most. Based on my own struggles, and from what students today have demonstrated, there is a need to help them through decisions beyond education or career-related questions. Some of my mentees need help building their professional confidence, especially regarding work-related interactions with other employees and customers. Many don’t have experience working with cross-functional teams or with coworkers ranging from fellow interns to managers and directors.
Finding a Mentee
After my experiences of simply being ‘thrown into the work’ after college, I swore to myself that if anyone wanted to learn something, then I would take the time to show them all I knew. I continue to learn and yes, I still ask a lot of questions. Three years ago, our department began a partnership with San Jose State University, and I was one of three engineers picked to mentor a team of students on their senior projects. My situation is probably different than other mentors because I was assigned mentees rather than organically allowing a mentorship-relationship to occur. I accepted this as an opportunity to share my knowledge and help students during a formative age of their growth.
You can tell pretty quickly which mentees are serious about the opportunity – like Meha Gupta, these are the students with personality, curiosity, passion and persistence, which all play a part in building a successful learning experience. Having curiosity creates a collaborative environment where you learn from them, too. In the end, this is what helped me the most in my career: stepping out of my comfort-zone to tackle new problems and being open to working with a variety of people to solve issues together. That’s really all a mentorship program is: collaboration and cross-learning.
Read more about Mark’s tips for mentoring here.
The Value of Mentorship: Success for Everyone
A lot of good comes out of a mentorship program for the students, the mentors and the business. I’m a huge proponent of internships and mentoring opportunities because it’s how I started my career. Often, I share with our students how during college I interned at three different organizations, including NASA, and will always value the lessons learned from these experiences.
The Business Value of Mentorships
Jabil receives benefits from the partnership with San Jose State University, almost as much as the mentees themselves. Mentoring students helps with recruitment, provides a high return on investment and fosters technology talent. Working with these students over a long duration with real deliverables and deadlines is an ideal medium to empower future talent and leadership. This in turn creates a high return on investment because, in a way, we’re “Jabilizing” these students, who can become full-time employees and hit the ground running. By working with students on cutting-edge technology, it helps current employees get out of routine-thinking and explore new areas. Last, but definitely not least, it’s a way for Jabil to give back to the community and demonstrate our commitment to the young people of San Jose.
Increased Employee Engagement
Employees at Jabil’s Blue Sky facility really get involved, which gives all engineers an opportunity to collaborate and come together to organize a plan the interns can benefit from cross-functionally. This involvement is now a part of our culture and is integrated within our jobs to work with these students, communicate better and systematically plan a way to provide a successful learning experience. I also believe one of the keys to our team’s high retention rate is the Jabil Scholars program as it enables our engineers to be fully committed to these students and the new technologies that come from the relationships. It’s a great, unexpected result of the program.
It’s fun to work on a mentorship program like this. If it were tedious or ‘just work’, then no one would want to be involved, but instead, we have all volunteered our time over the last three years to make the Jabil Scholars program what it is today.
Read more of Rosa’s rewarding experiences here.