A Multifaceted Approach Is the Key to Mentoring the Engineers of the Future

Jan 28, 2020 10:20 AM ET
Blog

It never ceases to amaze me how many social impact programs Keysight employees engage in worldwide. As the company’s director of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) I get a great view of much that occurs, but there are many times I hear about a program I wasn’t previously aware of. In fact, it happened just last month!

I was following up on an employee STEM volunteer effort at a local university, and Kin Chan, Keysight Laboratories Director of ASIC Technology, mentioned a university mentorship program that he has led for the last 4 years. With January being National Mentoring Month in the United States, I thought it was a great opportunity to learn more about this program. I am glad I did!

While university mentorship programs are nothing new, this program provides a particularly well-rounded approach in developing next-generation technologists while driving future innovation and business opportunities. With Kin’s permission, this post shares some of the unusual aspects of this engagement for others – inside and outside of our company – to consider.

Multifaceted mentorship model

Many companies support volunteer mentors to regularly engage university students on their studies and career approach. What is interesting about the program Kin described to me, however, is the multifaceted method that provides flexibility to meet mentee needs while offering mentors access to next-generation technologists, and potentially future colleagues, while giving back to their profession.

The program Kin leads is an annual Junior Electrical Engineer (EE) Mentorship program that is offered to about 6-8 EE students from Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, CO (local to Keysight’s Colorado offices). It is structured to work with students throughout their Junior year across 4 engagement methods.

1. Informal Mentor Sessions – Typical of mentorship programs, mentees and mentors meet virtually by phone or online to discuss topics of interest to the student. In some cases, it is classwork assistance or understanding a specific technology, in other cases it may be a deeper discussion on career choices and options.

2. On-Campus Sessions – Mentors and mentees meet in-person for three different 5-hour on-campus sessions to:

  • Delve deep into technical topics such as how specific instruments work, recent developments in software or hardware design, and new EE tools.
  • Participate in 1:1 face:face mentoring sessions, rather than just on the phone or online.
  • Engage in professional activities such as student resumes critiques or mock technical and behavioral interviews to prepare students for the job market after graduation.

3. R&D Shadow Day – One of the more unique engagement methods of the program  brings mentees into the Keysight campus in Colorado Springs. Typically held in January, and in fact happening this week for our 2019/20 program participants, this 5-hour “day in the life” experience pairs each mentee with a Keysight R&D engineer to experience exactly what an R&D EE does in a typical day.

4. Mentorship Graduation – In a final 5-hour session, usually in April and again on the Keysight Campus in Colorado Springs, the program culminates in a career talk presentation from the local Keysight leadership team, a luncheon, and final mentoring sessions for participants. Students are also presented with a parting graduation gift – typically their own personal oscilloscope to take home of course!

The end is just the beginning

In reality, though, it isn’t the end. The Junior EE Mentorship program is intended to drive long-lasting connections between mentees, mentors, CSU and Keysight. Some mentors and mentees continue to correspond throughout the students’ senior year. As graduation approaches, Keysight has a direct connection to bring the brightest new technologists into the company fold to help drive our future innovations. In addition, the mentorship builds a long-term relationship between the company and university as partners in developing successful future engineers with a local community impact.

As Kin succinctly stated, the program’s multipurpose benefits provide “mentees interaction with industry professionals, CSU a deep industry engagement, and Keysight access to the best and brightest local EEs as a pipeline of future employee talent.”

And when asked about the time and dedication of the Keysight employee mentors who volunteer for this effort, Kin said that “even though we are all busy with our day jobs, we all get a kick out of giving back and helping the next generation of EEs.”

Add the direct local community impact for future economic prosperity, and this program provides a win all-around!