Thanks to the world-class education they receive as students in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE), many graduates have successful careers in consulting and industry. Because of this real-world experience, ISyE alumni can provide practical insights to current students about best practices for workplace professionalism and mastering teamwork, and many of them are eager to engage with the next generation of industrial engineers.
“Students who want to have a career outside academia need to learn from people who have been there and know how it is done,” said Damon P. Williams (IE 2002), senior lecturer and director of ISyE’s Center for Academics, Success, and Equity (CASE).
Members of the ISyE advisory board also recognized this need and offered to mentor students to help them transition from college coursework and internships into their careers. Thus, with support from School Chair Edwin Romeijn, ISyE launched MentIEs — a program designed to connect current students with alumni mentors, as part of CASE, in January 2021.
“Our alumni have experiences to share and the passion to give back to our students,” Williams said. “They can teach their mentees how to exceed expectations, be on a team, and contribute to workplace culture, because they have done it themselves.”
ISyE piloted MentIEs with 20 members of its advisory board. Each mentor was paired with three undergraduate protégés for the spring semester, with the program’s curriculum structured around skills discussed in Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
John White (IE 1992) served as a mentor during the pilot and is the retired president and chief executive officer of Fortna Inc., a leading provider of supply chain solutions.
“I’ve personally seen and experienced the positive impact and the power of receiving coaching from professionals that came before me,” White said. “Their taking a personal interest in me had a huge impact, and I know that without them, I would not have been able to achieve a number of milestones in my career. I feel that I owe it to my mentors, and the young professionals that I mentor, to do my best to help them achieve their full potential.”
Groups are asked to meet monthly for one hour during the program, but White met with some of his mentees individually as well while they were navigating their last semester at Tech. He said the relationships he made with these young professionals have continued beyond the official program, and he enjoys seeing them rise to their potential, which helps keep ISyE and its graduates at the top.
“The MentIEs program offers another way for young professionals to leapfrog their peers from other universities and gain insights that they most likely would not get otherwise until they have their own experiences,” White added.
White also believes mentors are learning from their mentees.
“There are many situations in which I feel that I am the one benefiting from the mentor/mentee relationship, as I continue to learn and gain perspectives and insights from my mentees. It is an incredibly rewarding and mutually beneficial relationship,” he reflected.
Because the program began during the Covid-19 pandemic, most MentIEs meetings were held virtually. Now that many of these restrictions have been lifted, the CASE team is also offering in-person events to enhance the networking experience.
Even with the challenges of the Spring 2021 semester, the MentIEs pilot was a resounding success. “Given the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received, we are going to double if not triple the number of mentor/mentee connections in 2021-22,” said Williams.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor for the MentIEs program, contact Damon Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org