The mentee becomes the mentor becomes the mentee

Mentoring appears to have been a reoccurring theme in my professional life lately, and I wanted to share my story, and the reasons I have come to feel so passionately about mentoring and teaching. I have been both a mentee and a mentor, and these days I am both. I would say that I learn as much in either role, and that is what is so amazing about mentoring relationships.

My first experience teaching was in junior high school when I started providing math tutoring to struggling students. I continued tutoring throughout high school, and discovered that I really enjoy it. Once I stared my undergraduate studies at Stockholm University, joining the physics department’s mentoring program for underprivileged junior high school students felt very natural. The students came to the university once a month to get help with homework, and get to know different role models.

While I was doing my graduate studies, I worked part time as a teacher at the House of Science. The House of Science works with high schools in the greater Stockholm area, and designs physics experiments that high schools typically do not have the equipment or teacher skills to execute. I would conduct experiments with school classes that allowed them to determine the speed of light, or measure particle tracks in a cloud chamber.

The extracurricular teaching I was doing inspired me to get even more engaged in outreach activities. I would frequently represent my department at science and career fairs, and visit schools all over Sweden to talk about science and the research I was doing. Through the department’s collaboration with the Swedish Research Council I got hired as a part time public liaison for the Swedish Polar Secretariat and the Swedish Research council. During one of my trips to South Pole, Antarctica, I corresponded with fifteen elementary school classes in Sweden. They would mail my colleague and me weekly questions, and we published all responses on a web page.

Since mentoring was such an important part of my life and work in Sweden, I started looking into local mentoring programs as soon as I arrived in Vancouver in 2011. With one foot in science and the other foot in industry, mentoring programs that connect university students with industry mentors are of special interest to me, and the reason why I joined the UBC Computer Science Tri-Mentoring Program. The program matches industry or faculty mentors with senior undergraduate students, who are in turn matched with junior undergraduate students. I am currently mentoring my third (female) student. I am also a member of the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST) and its recently launched Make Possible mentoring program, and I have joined Fiona Charles’s and Anne-Marie Charrett’s beautiful Speak Easy initiative as a mentor.

Having studied and worked in primarily male-dominated environments my whole life, I am aware of the importance of female role models, and how hard they can be to find. I want to be a positive role model in general, but in particular for women. I am always looking for new avenues for reaching out to girls and women to talk about why I choose a career in science and technology, and how I ended up where I am today. I would like to spend more time working with elementary school children, and as a part of that process I have volunteered for the App Camp For Girls that will be held in Vancouver in July 2015.

One of the most rewarding moments to me is watching someone I mentored accomplish something they didn’t think they could do, or never would have even tried. Continuous learning and growth are my driving forces, and I want to use what I learn and experience to help others. I have been fortunate enough to have supporters and sponsors that have given me the opportunities that have taken me to where I am today, and I want to pass that on to my own mentees.


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