Remember when you were just starting out and a more experienced engineer took you under their wing, helped you navigate those first few years of your career, and always had real, from-the-field words of wisdom to share? I bet now, looking back, you can really appreciate all that they did for you, even though it was basic stuff like showing you how to properly solder or request design resources in a corporate environment or letting you shadowing them at an industry event. These people, be they formally or informally, are mentors and those of us who have had them in our lives are lucky.
Mentoring seems to be a natural instinct for engineers. Engineers see someone in need of a helping hand and step in, just like they would if a design needed help. I've been talking to a lot of people about mentoring for the last few months, in large part for a cover story on engineering the next generation of STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) professionals. They all said three things consistently:
- If you can mentor, do mentor. It's a very rewarding experience.
- You can learn as much from the mentee as they learn from you.
- And the only thing these mentors want in return is for what they passed on to the mentee to be passed on again when that mentee is able to mentor.
True, mentoring isn't without challenges. It takes time and, let's be honest, not every person out there is looking to learn (or is worth your time). So how do you find these folks to pass your own words of wisdom on to and how do you find the time? If you're new to engineering, how do you find quality people to learn from? Those are questions we at EDN and Innovation Generation are addressing at DESIGN West in late March.
We're reaching out to local universities and young professionals in the San Jose area to get the incoming generation of engineers at a DESIGN West networking event we are hosting following our "Engineering the Next Generation" panel (more info on both below). If you know of any stand-out young engineers, please pass this along. If you are a young engineer, please consider this your invitation to join us.
We invite the experienced engineer, as well. Come by and meet with the next generation of STEM, spend some time offering real world experiences and histories with them from your view in the trenches, get an idea of who will be sitting in your chair in 10, 20, or 30 years.
The networking event will be very casually structured -- no one is obligated to be a mentor or mentee. What we are doing is opening a space to allow connections to be made and for conversations to be started.
We held a similar networking event at ESC Boston in the Fall of 2011 and the young talent who attended were extremely grateful for the chance to chat with real engineers in the field, not just their professors or managers. And the experienced engineers who came down were happy to connect with next-generation engineers, some just for the hour, some making introductions that have lead to longer-term professional relationships.
Come down to this meet-up, connect for an hour or so -- maybe you'll choose to work longer term with the people you meet, maybe become a mentor or mentee, that's entirely up to you and your schedule, but do come down. Meet a diamond in the rough. Find some quality engineers that offer helping hands. Those reasons alone will be worth an hour.
You can ask any questions you have on the event in the comment field below or, as always, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope to see you there. Also be sure to see this EE Times article, Paying it forward, offering mentor and mentee perspectives.
The first 25 people to register for and attend the March 28, 2012, Engineering the Next Generation: DESIGN West meet-up will receive a free kit at the networking event from Texas Instruments! (Must be present at the event to receive the kit.)
Engineering the Next Generation: DESIGN West meet-up
Wednesday, March 28, 2:30-4pm
Blossom Hill room (3rd floor) of the Marriott Hotel, connected to the San Jose McEnery Convention Center
Register for the networking event here.
Engineering the Next Generation panel
This panel will examine what can be done about the so-called "engineering crisis" and how can we, as industry participants, can go about ensuring there are engineers to lead tomorrow's innovations.
Wednesday, March 28, 1:30-2:15pm
DESIGN West Theater
Reminder: You must be registered for at minimum a DESIGN West Expo Pass (which is free) to attend the networking event and panel. More information on DESIGN West and passes can be found here.