By Tracie Zakavec, Aaron Hobbs, and Margarita Madrigal
Submitted by IBM
January 17th marks the International Day of Mentoring, which offers an opportunity to celebrate and promote the value mentoring can bring to the lives of our youth worldwide. In our roles as teacher, student and mentor with the IBM-inspired P-TECH schools, we have seen firsthand how mentoring relationships can transform both mentor and protege, expanding perspectives to help shape career pathways. Below, we share our experiences with you.
Teacher, Skyline High School – PTECH
Here at Skyline, we’ve been offering career mentoring programs for the past four years. It is a large part of our program and has created enormous benefit for our students.
When we pair our student with a professional, it opens new opportunities. Our students come from hard working families with their best interests at heart, yet some parents don’t understand the fields in which their children aspire to join.
Our career professionals mentor students on how to have a conversation with someone in their field. For instance, what questions do you ask… what topics are important… how do you navigate that professional world? I’ve seen my students sharpen their workplace vocabulary and develop the ability to have professional conversations, confidently discussing their career interests and goals.
With the onset of COVID, virtual mentoring has played a role. Whether online, virtually or over Webex, our students have to develop communication skills which will eventually help them in their careers. I hope virtual mentoring will continue long after COVID as it opens up new opportunities for my students to connect with other professionals with similar interests in another country or state.
Student, National Taipei University of Technology (Taipei Tech)
I was lucky to join IBM’s P-TECH mentoring program in my third year at school. The program provided an opportunity for me to meet face-to-face with my mentors and to understand different roles in different industries.
I wanted to learn about IT and analytics because these require professional skills and offer client-facing opportunities, yet I was apprehensive at first about the mentoring process. I was paired with two mentors at IBM: Jason, an Advisory IT Specialist, and Ada, an Application Consultant, and my worries disappeared. They described their roles and the skills I should continue to hone. They encouraged me not to be confined by existing norms and thoughts. “It doesn’t cost much to make mistakes, as you’re a student. So, never be afraid of taking up challenges,” said Ada. What she said was truly inspiring!
My mentors not only provide me with practical advice but also support and encouragement to pursue my passion. They remind me that the most important thing is to have a proactive learning attitude. Never overthink or doubt yourself before you start. With that in mind, I continue to push myself forward and polish my skills.
Client Experience Manager, IBM Mexico
Around the globe, many students haven’t stepped in a classroom since March 2019 and others are burned out from taking virtual classes. Some don’t even have the resources at home to take online classes smoothly. They may lack internet access or a personal device. I know of one student that shared the home computer with her brother. She was able to attend 100 percent of her online classes, only after he had graduated. Until then, they shared that one device to join classes every other day.
As a mentor, one thing I realized last semester was to focus on developing two skills: resilience and gratitude. Resilience provides strength for students to successfully navigate through the pandemic’s chaos. And gratitude was a way to help the students realize the silver linings – that there is always something to be grateful for – and to stay positive despite the circumstances.
As an IBMer, it has been rewarding to be able to continue mentoring my students virtually. As mentors, we can share our own experiences of working at home and juggling family, home, and job responsibilities. This approach keeps us safe and gives students the opportunity to become familiar with remote work environments. I believe students living through this pandemic will arrive to the workplace with a different – and better – understanding that people can accomplish their goals in remote and virtual environments. This resiliency will make a difference.
If you want to hear more about P-TECH from the people who make it special, please visit our Voices of P-TECH profiles on ibm.org.
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