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A Sponsor’s Mentoring Experience – Valerie Freeman, BravoTECH

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Technology Ball nonprofit partner beneficiary MentorNet provides an open network for STEM students to connect with STEM Mentors across the United States, so often Mentor/Protégé relationships are cultivated across the miles.

One of our Technology Ball Sponsor Representatives, however, has had the unique experience to have TWO local MentorNet protégés! Valerie Freeman, CEO of Technology Ball Sponsor, BravoTECH shares with us her experience.

Why did you decide to become a MentorNet Mentor?

I found out about MentorNet through my involvement with the Technology Ball. I knew that women in technology needed mentors, so I volunteered to become a mentor.

How long did it take before you were paired with your first MentorNet protégé?

It happened fairly quickly!

Note: MentorNet’s system is Protégé-driven, so Mentors may experience a delay – sometimes a significant delay – in receiving a Protégé pairing. We recommend that you sign up sooner rather than later in case you are not paired immediately.

How did you learn you were paired with a student?

I received an email from the Mentee asking me to be her Mentor, and then received a follow-up confirmation from MentorNet.

Give us a brief background on your Protégés

  1. Abby Wheeler was my first Protégé pairing, and, when we were connected through the MentorNet system, I had met her in person only days before at my house during a Technology Ball Networking Reception! Abby recently graduated from UTD with a major in Information Technology and recently accepted a position at USAA as a software developer. It’s been wonderful to see her complete her undergraduate education, join an IT Group here in town, and help her build her professional network in her new role as a female IT professional!
  2. Cathy Tran is still a student in IT at UTD. She contacted me from the MentorNet database. She will graduate in 2018 and has an internship this summer in California. Her parents come from Cambodia and she helps the family by working part time as a Peer Advisor and Computer Assistant at UTD.

How did you initially connect with your Protégés and what did you discuss?

We connected by email and then set a time to meet to discuss career options, companies to work for, salaries, career progression, issues of being a female in IT that will have to be overcome, being seen as a leader, etc.

How have you guided your Protégés to help them more confidently navigate their undergraduate STEM degree?

Both of my Protégés are great students – one issue was a group project where some members were not pulling their weight, and we discussed how to be seen as a leader in these group projects.

Your Protégés are local to the Dallas Metroplex! Tell us about local IT and networking opportunities you have facilitated for your Protégés.

I have taken them to meetings of the Alliance of Technology and Women and to the InnoTech Conference. I invite them to events whenever I hear about them, or events I am attending, and they attend unless classes interfere.

How much time, on average, do you spend per week on Mentoring interactions with your Protégés? And is the time you invest more because they are local to you?

I spend about 4 hours per month on the phone, in office meetings, and attending events with them. It is really not a huge time commitment.

Note: MentorNet suggests spending at least 15 minutes per week engaged with your Protégé, with additional time at your discretion.

What are some key elements of the Mentoring experience that would inspire other members of Technology Ball to sign up to be Mentors?

The Mentees are so grateful for the Mentor experience so it is inspiring for the Mentor to see their eagerness and feel that our help will be of value in the future. My Mentees have such interesting lives and backgrounds so it is enriching for the Mentors to get to know them and have them become part of the IT network.

What have you enjoyed most about your mentoring experience?

Being able to guide the Mentees and help them make good choices for their careers.