Fermilab’s 2018 Mentoring Initiative cohort is nearing its end. Twenty-four participants make up the 12 mentoring pairs from diverse job categories and levels from across the lab. Holly Lett of the Professional Development Office sat down with mentee Kathrine Cipriano in a Q&A session to learn what her experience has been so far. To learn more about the Mentoring Initiative, please visit the mentoring website.
Mentor and mentee profiles can be submitted through Nov. 21.
“As a new employee of the lab, the mentoring program has opened my eyes to all the lab has to offer. And, through conversations with my mentor, I’ve learned ways to maximize my potential.”
—Kathrine Cipriano, mentee
HL: Why did you decide to participate in the mentoring program?
KC: My supervisor recommended it to me and several of my peers. He saw it as an opportunity to grow. After looking into it, it was an easy decision. I saw the program as a way to learn and branch out to meet others across the lab. As a relatively new employee, I viewed participating as a great opportunity for me.
HL: What surprised you most about being a mentee?
KC: That my mentor not only cared about my perspective as a new employee but was eager to learn more.
HL: What impact has mentoring had on your professional development?
KC: Through discussions with my mentor, I have learned what traits make an excellent leader, and I’ve been able to work on my own leadership skills. Earlier in the year, I had the idea to implement a hiring effort by recruiting at the Society of Women Engineers WE18 Conference. My mentor was helpful in giving guidance on how to lay out the recruitment strategy and approach. With his assistance, we were able to gain support for and make it a reality. Working with others to implement this idea gave me some experience in a leading role.
HL: What is the most meaningful advice you’ve received from your mentor?
KC: I learned that it is important to maintain a balance between my engineering work and the STEM outreach activities I like to be involved with. Earlier this year, I realized that helping with the lab’s outreach programs was taking up a lot of my time that could have been spent working on engineering tasks. While I really enjoy participating in outreach events, my role as an engineer is the top priority. I discussed this concern with my mentor during one of our meetings and we were able to find a great way for me to manage both.
HL: What part of mentoring do you value most?
KC: Being able to have someone to bounce ideas off and ask questions in a safe environment.
HL: What successes do you feel you’ve had because you participated in the mentoring?
KC: As a mentoring pair, recruiting at the Society of Women Engineers WE18 Conference was our biggest success so far. My next goal to work on with my mentor is to determine how I can improve my technical skills and become a more knowledgeable engineer.
HL: How much more confident do you feel now about your career path compared to when you first started the mentoring program?
KC: Definitely more confident. At the beginning of the mentoring session, we discussed my long-term career goals. Throughout the mentoring program, we’ve been working to break those down into smaller, more manageable goals that can be achieved within a few months. My mentor has helped me see my long-term goals as achievable milestones, not just lofty ideas.
HL: What value do you think mentoring brings to the lab?
KC: Participating in the mentoring program is an excellent idea for both new and experienced employees. It is very beneficial to hear perspectives from those you don’t normally work with. My mentor and I see things differently — I’m new to the lab, he has been here for over 20 years. I’m an engineer, he’s a physicist. Our discussions always leave me considering options that I would not have thought of earlier.
HL: What else would you like for others to know about mentoring?
KC: If you’re not very confident about your goals, or if your goals are not completely defined, talking to someone helps spark ideas. I know that when my mentoring sessions are over, I’ll continue to apply the advice I’ve received to my current and future projects.