A new episode of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering podcast Field Notes dropped Sept. 19 with the goal of shedding some light on what mentors can offer students.
The impetus was the one-year anniversary of the School’s GOLD Mentoring program, which pairs interested students with alumni or industry professionals who’ve said they want to help.
For Mary Shinners, becoming a mentor was an opportunity to help someone the way professionals helped her when she was a student at Georgia Tech and working for the first time at a structural engineering firm.
Fourth-year civil engineering student Schayne Fox, left, said mentor Mary Shinners has become her go-to person for questions about everything from class schedules to preparing for the Fundamentals of Engineering exams. Schayne and Shinnners, who finished her bachelor's in civil engineering in 2014 and her master's in 2015, met this summer through the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering's GOLD Mentoring Program. (Photo: Joshua Stewart)
“When I first started, I didn’t know anything. My whole life, I was used to being good at school — as a lot Georgia Tech students are — so when I got to that point in my life where I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t know who to ask, I had people swoop in that I was working with and help me with that,” said Shinners, who finished her bachelor’s in civil engineering in 2014 and her master’s in 2015. She’s now an assistant project manager at PES Structural Engineers.
“I benefitted severely from having lots of great mentors early on in my career, and I still have a ton. So, for me, it’s like paying it forward to the next generation of engineers,” she said, “helping somebody who needs help earlier on in their career and getting them the information they need so that they’re not as lost as you know they can be.”
Her mentee for the last few months has been Schayne Fox, a fourth-year civil engineering student interested in structural engineering. Fox said she hit it off with Shinners right away.
“When you find someone that you enjoy talking to and you want to learn from — and you can learn from — there’s great benefit to that,” Fox said.
Master's student Varun Elaprolu, left, knew exactly who he wanted when he applied to the School's GOLD Mentoring Program: Skanska's Jimmy Mitchell. They'd met at the CEEatGT Career Expo in 2017, and Elaprolu knew he'd benefit from Mitchell's experience. (Photo: Jess Hunt-Ralston)
Master’s student Varun Elaprolu said even though he’d worked as an engineer for a few years in his native India before grad school, he has found mentor Jimmy Mitchell invaluable.
“I thought maybe I should have someone whom I could ask questions related to [my] career and who is well experienced in this field who could guide me,” Elaprolu said.
Mitchell has made a point of inviting Elaprolu to events where he can expand his professional network and involved him in some of Mitchell’s volunteer efforts.
“Varun’s background is not the United States, but it was fun to talk on the same page and learn about each other,” said Mitchell, a 2005 civil engineering graduate and now sustainability manager at Skanska. “I like that a lot.”
“The mentorship program is not only about asking for a job or something like that from the mentor,” Elaprolu said. “It’s about building a relationship.”