The IEEE Young Professionals Montreal section and IEEE Montreal Industry Relations co-organized an IEEE Multi-Generation Collaboration on Thursday, November 24th, 2016 at the McConnell engineering building at McGill University. Over 60 participants, coming from different disciplines and age groups, took part in the event of three sessions with frequent networking breaks and refreshments.
Keynote Speakers from Academia and Industry
Fabrice Labeau, Chair, IEEE Montreal section, and the professor of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at McGill University welcome participants and outline the theme of the event. Prof. Labeau discussed the importance of a successful mentor-mentee relationship after which he then introduced the keynote speaker of the first session – Prof. Ke Wu, the IEEE life fellow from the Department of Electrical Engineering at École Polytechnique de Montréal, and the president of IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society (MTT-S).
Prof. Wu highlighted the main reason for student members dropping out shortly after graduation, despite their dire need for mentorship—especially in the beginning of their professional careers making IEEE a society with mostly middle age members – as the inability of Students to effectively Network. He then challenged the audience to resolve this issue by creating opportunities for young professionals by engaging them in active and rewarding mentorships. He hence introduced IEEE Collabratec as an effective tool where mentees and mentors can find each other through the IEEE mentorship program.
In the second session, Dr. Masoumeh Esfandiari from CS Canada Inc., and the chair of IEEE Young Professionals in Montreal introduced the speakers from industry. The first speaker, Dr. Linda Di Luzio, director of market insights at Bell Canada, shared her experience with mentorship. She mentioned how crucial it was for her to choose the right mentor during her PhD studies relating it to the similar situation that young professionals have to undergo when they are not able to find a good mentor that matches their needs. She encouraged young attendees not to fear to approach a mentor asking for help whilst pointing out the advantage the new generation has in forming business relationships today as the era of social media.
Mr. Marc-Antoine Ducas, founding president of Netlift, took the stand to share his experience as a mentor. He explained his method to make sure young engineers became successful in developing their ideas, understanding market needs, and defining clear objectives.
The third talk was given by Mr. Jonathan Ginter, Fleetmind’s senior director of engineering. He shared his experience of corporate life and discussed the necessity of having a mentor to help young professional successfully navigate the work environment. Mr. Ginter mentioned a number of situations where a mentor’s experience can prove crucial to a mentee such as how to manage your relationship with your boss and your peers in a work place, what to say and what not to say to your boss’s boss, and how to respond to a critical email from a business partner or a colleague. Then he also highlighted Presentation Skills as one of the key ingredients to gain success in the industries.
The final speaker, Mr. Raphael Tana, business development manager at FONEX Inc., chair for Montreal Technology and Engineering Management Society (TEMS), and vice-chair for IEEE Montreal Industrial Relations Committee (IRC) gave a presentation about a project in which he took part during his professional career. The project matched mentors with mentees. According to Mr. Tana, despite the discontinuance of the project within one year of its instigation, the relationships formed during the project carried on for many years which underlines the strength of a successful mentorship and its fruitfulness to both contributing parties. He also pointed out the fact that professionals of different age groups have different set of goals and definitions for success, therefore, can provide different perspectives on professional life as mentors. He then urged attendees to take networking very seriously as it could open many doors for them.
Dr. Kexing Liu, Chair IEEE Canada IRC’s key message was to encourage Young Professionals to extend this event into a series of similarly-themed events to create more and more opportunities for matching young mentees with potential mentors.
In the third session, a panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Masoumeh Esfandiari, took place with all the keynote speakers and Dr. Kexing Liu, as panelists. The first question from the moderator herself, Dr. Esfandiari, asked the panelists about their objectives in pursuing and building collaborations with young professionals.
The questions were as diverse as the audience with the main theme revolving around how to initiate a mentorship. The panelists responded from their vastly-diverse experiences and unique perspectives. The questions along with the answers instigated wonderfully inspiring conversations that engaged both senior and young members of the audience.
Some of the questions that piqued the interest of the audience are as follows:
Q: Finding a good mentor can prove extremely challenging; I once had this wonderful experience with a mentor from the industry who was not afraid to push boundaries and pursue ambitious and innovative approaches to doing things. However, since my internship was over, I have been struggling to find a mentor that does not insist on following the safest path which, I feel, has been crippling my potential. I tried switching universities, provinces, and even countries in search of this good mentor and still ending up without success. What do you think one should do in such a situation?
A: You can always search for mentors outside the scope of your work place or even your specialty. For instance, engineers can always look for mentors in other disciplines such as arts, philosophy, or social sciences. You will be surprised by the fresh perspective mentors from a different discipline can have on your work.
Q: The origin of the word “mentor” comes from the Odyssey where Odysseus asked his friend “Mentor” to take care of his son Telemachus, and of his wealth, when he left for the Trojan War. When the goddess Athena needed to reach Telemachus to encourage him to stand up against his suitors and go on a journey to reveal his father’s true destiny, she took on the form of Mentor to hide herself from the suitors. Since then, the word mentor became the noun, verb and symbol for guidance and help. In this story, Odysseus knew both the mentor, “Mentor”, and the mentee, his son Telemachus, and acted as the match maker for this successful mentorship. Do you believe that this is the best way to match mentees to mentors: through mentorship programs?
A: Although there are examples of successful mentorship programs, I believe that the mentee is in the best position to assess his\her needs and what he\she wants out of a mentorship. Forcing things can prove counter-productive. Usually, the overwhelming majority of mentors will be flattered by a mentee’s request for help, despite the fact that they might appear uninterested. This is usually due to the fact that no one, no matter how experienced he\she might be, will announce his\her desire to mentor young people since this might be perceived as arrogant. Personally, I am willing to contribute as much time as a mentee might needs given that I am able to see results. It is very important that I feel that you use my time to your advantage or else you will be wasting it.
After the panel ended the audience was welcomed to enjoy refreshments whilst networking and socializing with the mentors invited. The event finished at 8:45 and was able to get the invited mentors become a part of the IEEE Montreal Young Professionals website to be used by IEEE members in initiating multi-generation collaborations.
~Edited by Chetna Batra