Struggles in the first week
Secret to Success in the role
Aspirational Goals

Struggles in the first week 

Providing proper mentorship is actually a tricky task for every organization, and during my first internship, I was the only intern on my team. I was tasked with working on a proof-of-concept from scratch with a meeting with my manager every week. Oftentimes, I found myself feeling lonely and discouraged when I couldn’t crack a particular problem.

I faced one such situation at aiXplain and was explaining the situation to our CEO, Hassan, over a meeting. Immediately, he recalled a discussion he had had with engineers a long time ago about the same issue I was facing. The terms and hooks that he provided me with were the basis of the solution I had constructed for the problem later on.

I was amazed at the fact that solutions can be derived from vague memories and experiences. The small tidbits of information we gain over a luncheon chat (er..Zoomcheon chat?) for instance, be it technical or non-technical, could later form the atomics of a steel framework of experience that one can rely upon in times of crisis. 

Technology, especially computer science and an empirical field such as machine learning, can be a large space for problems. Engineering large-scale systems is radically different from the projects that one might work on in an academic setting. Laboratory conditions don’t always translate into real-world scenarios in which a product, or more abstractly an idea, would be deployed.

The “tricks of the trade” are something that one must identify themselves, and because we all work on different problems in different settings, and because every person and brain is unique, each one of us discovers a unique solution. “Mentorship”, in a broader context, is the osmosis of these ideas and nuggets of information that would help an mentee identify, isolate and investigate the blocks they face through the lenses and probes of experienced engineers. 

Secret to Success in the role

Finding the right mentor is non-trivial. The most important aspect of a successful mentorship is the nature of the interaction between mentor and mentee. Some require less meeting time, and some are more hands-on. For me, I was never involved in formal mentorship programs. Rather, when I encountered someone, be it a senior at my university, professor, co-worker, a manager, or other leaders within my organization that I admired, I actively worked to learn from them. 

As a young engineer, it is often the case that one tends to miss some (or lots of!) key considerations when working on a task or project. A significant benefit of mentorship is that a mentor helps you get answers to the questions that you don’t even have in the first place, aka, help work on your blind spots. In more concrete terms, receiving technical feedback throughout my internship has helped me navigate through and adopt better design patterns and code practices in my field. While it has helped me achieve personal growth, it has also helped contribute to organizational goals excellently.

An under-rated component of mentorship in engineering roles is its impact on soft business skills. The training that a university provides their students in teamwork and company culture requirements is often inadequate to deal with scenarios at work. As a computer engineer, I left university knowing how to program systems, automate processes with scripts but wasn’t equipped with qualities like project management potential, networking, everyday negotiation skills, and so on.

In my experience, mentorship has been incredibly helpful to learn about little things like writing effective emails/text messages to juniors, logging off from work after office hours, to larger things like bringing everyone onto the same page, and delivering constructive criticism.

Aspirational Goals

Finally, mentors guide you to set healthy goals by being someone you aspire to be like. It particularly provides great insights into how a career trajectory in a given profession, or in particular, in the given company would look like. They can become your go-to person for advice about what it takes to get where they are and accomplish your goals (and are living proof that your goals are achievable!!). [1]

Providing proper mentorship is actually a tricky task for every organization. How many resources should they spend on matching every new hire with “the perfect” mentor? Research [2], [3] shows that investing time in developing a proper system that promotes mentorship is very rewarding to the organization in the long run. Increased knowledge transfer, job satisfaction, motivation for professional development, and accountability are a few of the many observed outcomes of investing in a solid in-house mentoring system.

Given the mutual benefits for both the organization and the talent they recruit, we see the enormous importance and value in investing time and energy to build a solid, scalable mentorship system. It makes us feel confident, and encourages us to experiment and achieve more, all the while delivering more value to the team.

[1] https://www.engineeringandleadership.com/the-importance-of-mentorship/
[2] https://www.brandman.edu/news-and-events/blog/benefits-of-mentoring-in-the-workplace
[3]https://www.roberthalf.com/blog/management-tips/how-mentoring-relationships-help-strengthen-your-company
[4] https://www.sap.com/insights/hr/why-mentors-matter.html

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