by Rachel Ella
I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the In2science Leaders to take part in Mentor Leaders Program in 2021, an In2science initiative generously supported by Toyota Community Trust. This program was designed to give In2science mentors who have had demonstrated exceptional leadership and mentoring skills, the opportunity to be matched with STEM Professional Mentors and become In2science Leaders. The STEM Professional Mentors provide mentorship to the In2science Leaders enabling them to gain insight into STEM career pathways and life after university. The matched pairs met at least four times over a three-month period to discuss pathways from university into industry, career values, leadership, motivation, success and failure, planning and time management amongst many other topics.
I was, and still am, on the pathway to becoming a secondary school science and maths teacher. The team at In2science did a great job of matching me with an amazing STEM Professional Mentor who had already walked the path I am on. As well has being able to share her experience in the world of education, my mentor is also a mother, so many of our conversations revolved around time management, boundaries, self-care, setting goals for the day, week, month, or year and celebrating your wins, no matter how small. We have continued our relationship since the completion of the program which has included assistance with job applications and modernising my CV. I truly value the connection we made and the support she provided and continues to provide me.
Due to the state of the world last year and all of us having to negotiate lockdowns, home learning and isolation, most mentoring sessions occurred online. Fortunately, we all adapted to the situation and made it work. A few of us were able to meet with our mentor face-to-face at least once towards the end of the program but many had their first in-person interactions at our wrap up event at Toyota headquarters in Port Melbourne. Even with these challenges, the program was a great success.
Sixteen mentor/mentee pairs completed the program. The feedback provided was outstanding, with In2science mentors reporting improvements in the leadership and professional skills because of their participation. Importantly, STEM Professional mentors also experienced significant benefit from their participation with 100% of survey respondents reporting that they felt better equipped to mentor their junior colleagues. This is reflected in the net promoter score of 83 and the 14 STEM Professional mentors returning for 2022.
This year, I have transitioned from being a participant in the MLP to coordinating the Mentor Leaders Program. This has been an enjoyable progression and I have been able to provide a unique perspective on the MLP from a participant’s viewpoint.
A review of the 2021 MLP was undertaken, and a few improvements were made. The biggest was extending the MLP to run over 8 months instead of 3, with at least 8 meetings to take place during that time. This change was crucial to allow a deeper relationship to develop between the In2science Leader and their STEM Professional Mentor. The 2022 program was launched in late April and several initial meetings have already taken place, in-person and online, with the feedback being that everyone is looking forward to developing their personal and professional skills and their relationships with their mentors/mentees.
In second semester we will be running the second part of the MLP – Small Group STEM Careers Sessions. In collaboration with their host classroom teacher, our In2science Leaders will work with a small group of students in their class and engage them in meaningful career discussions. They will ask the students to discuss their own interests, hobbies, and skills and who inspires them before using those answers to reflect on how science and maths relates to these. Overall, we are looking forward to the launching this part of the program and inspiring the next generation of STEM Professionals.