During the academic year of 2020-2021, North Hennepin Community College is piloting a new program for women who are ‘one of few’ in the fields of Computer Science, Construction Management, and Pre-Engineering, and Criminal Justice:
Be Bold Break the Mold: NHCC Women Succeed in Nontraditional Career Fields
Be Bold – Break the Mold’s Mission is to support women students who have made a conscious choice to enter a career field that is challenging, engaging, in-demand/high wage, and not typical for their gender. To celebrate that decision, NHCC has made a conscious choice to empower, support, and uplift their futures.
Three members of SPS Tech stepped up to the call to participate in this program as Mentors- Alicia Struble, Jenna Truong, and Megan Tischler. We asked them some questions to learn more about the program, what they took away from their participation, and what they hoped to share with their mentees over the year.
How was the mentorship set up? What was required of you as a mentor?
- JT: NHCC matched mentors with mentees going into a similar field. They asked for a commitment of monthly meetings with the mentees in addition to four large-group learning sessions.
Why did you feel compelled to participate in this program?
- JT: The Be Bold Break the Mold program has a mission to “support women students who have made a conscious choice to enter a career field that is challenging, engaging, in-demand/high wage, and not typical for their gender. To celebrate that decision, NHCC has made a conscious choice to empower, support, and uplift their futures.” I wanted to work with this program because they support a diverse group of students entering into non-traditional fields and are not through the more prominent colleges that might typically receive more recruiting focus.
- MT: I felt this opportunity would fit right into SPS Women in Tech’s mission of “inspiring, encouraging, and supporting the future of women in technology, both at SPS and in our greater community”. North Hennepin Community College is located in Brooklyn Park, MN, where I am also a resident. The Be Bold - Break the Mold program gave me an opportunity to engage in both my neighborhood and work industry networks.
- AS: I know how helpful it has been for me to have people in my life to guide me when I have been new at something, so I want to continue to give that experience to others.
- Chris Rehm-Zola (mentee): I wanted to participate because it’s so common for women in technology to attend events where there are just a handful of other women in the room. This program offered a great opportunity to bring together students pursuing careers that would typically be considered nontraditional for women and build a community of empowerment and support.
What did your mentee want to learn from the program? How did you help them reach that goal?
- JT: My mentee wanted to learn more about Digital Forensics and connect with others in the engineering fields. I was able to introduce her to a connection in her desired field and invite her to several learning and networking opportunities.
- MT: My mentee is very eager to learn about everything in the Technology industry. I was able to invite her to many learning opportunities hosted by SPS Women in Tech, along with enabling her to connect with others at SPS working in the Product and Technology departments.
- AS: My mentee wanted help learning what she didn’t know - filling in her blind spots and getting better situated to start her career. To help her, I shared my experiences and the experiences of others I know with her, as well as various learning materials such as articles and videos.
What advice do you have for someone considering becoming a mentor?
- JT: You don’t have to know everything - but you can be there to support your mentee and help them to make connections in any areas that you aren’t an expert.
- MT: You will likely gain just as much value from the relationship as the mentee.
- AS: If you’re thinking about it, just do it. It’s definitely worth it, and it will benefit you as well as your mentee.
What advice do you have for someone considering finding a mentor?
CR-Z: Whatever point you are at in your career, either just beginning or doing a career transition, mentors are beneficial to have. Plan ahead, be sure to think about what kinds of topics you would like your mentor’s feedback on beforehand. Mentors can be found everywhere - find someone who has skill in some area that you would like to emulate, or who has charted a career path that is similar to what you want to do, and ask them for an informational chat over coffee or tea.
How would you summarize the impact this experience had on you?
- JT: Its pushed me out of my comfort zone while also giving me an opportunity to support others the way so many have supported me on my career journey.
- MT: This experience has allowed me to connect with Maria Vivtonne, the organizer of the program. Maria has invited SPS Commerce and myself to participate in a few speaking engagements about our experience together. She has been a positive addition to my network, and I have enjoyed the engagement with the college in the community in which I live.
- AS: I have learned a lot from my mentee, and from doing some research to help her, as well as from meeting with Jenna and Megan, who I otherwise would not get to interact with on a regular basis.
- CR-Z: It has been a wonderful experience! It’s great to be able to get perspective and insight from another woman working in technology who can act as a sounding board, answer questions, and offer advice. Everyone has a different path in their career journey, so there are always things you can learn from others’ journeys.