Volunteer to be a Mentor in 2012

As we move into the new year, think back on when you were in high school or college. Does hearing your favorite song on the radio bring back memories of hanging out with friends, cheering on your team, or a time when you had fewer responsibilities and commitments? Especially at this time of year, watching bowl games and seeing your college play their long-time rivals brings back fond memories of fun times in the stadium’s student section. What can be easy to forget, is what it was like as a teenager and young adult to have no idea of what you wanted to be when you ‘grew up,” or what it would be like to work in a professional field.

Many young adults have developed a general sense of what they are interested in such as biology, medicine, art, or engineering. But, without any real world job experience in those fields, many don’t know what the opportunities are within those areas of interest. In particular, engineering is such a broad term that many students interested in math and science have heard about engineering but aren’t really sure what it means to be an engineer or what an engineer really does.

I recently had the opportunity to volunteer as a mentor for the University of Washington (UW) Bothell Engineering Mentor Night sponsored by the UW Bothell and the Puget Sound Engineering Council. Paul Grant of PanGeo served as coordinator for over 35 volunteer mentors for the night. The volunteers represented a wide range of engineering disciplines, including industrial, electrical, structural, civil, geotechnical, and software engineering.

The night was a tremendous success, attracting over 130 interested students (and some interested parents) from as far away as Puyallup and Burlington. Interacting with the students was refreshing and fun. Some students were pretty shy and not sure what to ask, and others were full of questions: What do you do each day? Do you get out of the office? Do you work in teams? Do you work with machines? What’s it like to be a woman in the engineering field? What exactly does a civil engineer do?  What is the difference between a civil and a geotechnical engineer? Why did you choose to go into your specialty in waterfront engineering?

With work and family commitments, it is hard to find time to devote to an ongoing mentoring program. Volunteering for an event such as the UW Bothell Engineering Mentoring Night is a great way to inspire over a hundred potential engineers in just a few hours of time. I encourage everyone to volunteer for mentor events.  Not only will you inspire a few young adults, but you will also be reminded of the excitement you had in starting out in your brand new career and the reasons you choose it.