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Mentorship Styles

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Mentoring is an art that can take many different forms. Mentors and mentees may interact as they wish, provided a common, generally informal, agreement. However, mentors and mentees may find it hard to establish a type of relationship that is fruitful, natural and enjoyable. To this aim, the IEEE AESS Mentorship program is providing a set of mentorship styles where both mentors and mentees can initiate their relationship. The IEEE AESS encourages mentors/mentees to follow one or more of the styles indicated below. Requests by either mentors or mentees to collaborate differently from the ones suggested below, while permissible, may be used to justify a rejection or termination of the mentorship program.  
 
1) Technical Mentorship
This type of mentorship involves a student or researcher working in a highly specialized field of AES where expertise is not widely available within his/her university, institution or local area. In such instances, the individual may benefit in discussing and exchanging technical materials with a renowned expert in that field. Typically, mentor and mentee share articles, notes, publications, or slides and may have a few phone interactions to discuss the details. The mentor may review, comment and suggest changes to a journal article or report prior to submission. In some instances, the mentor may review the technical results from the research/development effort of the mentee, and provide insights, suggestions, corrections, or constructive criticism to improve the technical depth and critical thinking of the mentee. In general, this type of mentorship can be kept confidential between mentor and mentee. AESS recommends one mentor for each mentee, but in particularly challenging cases, a mentee may request more than one technical mentor. In contrast, mentors may accept as many mentees as they can coach.
 
2) Advisor Mentorship
Similarly to a technical mentorship, advisor mentorship is specifically directed to Master or Ph.D. students in need of advice for their thesis. This type of mentorship differs from the technical one in the fact that the mentor has the moral objective of guide the mentee through his/her thesis defense. As such, the mentor must agree to a long-term technical advice. This type of mentorship is helpful to students whose background is not specific to AESS, but their thesis topic is. A typical circumstance is a student working for a company or research institution that is actively involved in the AESS field, but his/her immediate advisor may not have the required expertise in such topics, which is common, given that AESS membership is about 1% of the overall IEEE community. An advising mentor may help the student to surmount technical challenges. While not required, mentees should seek prior approval by their legal advisor to consult an AESS mentor. It is also desirable to add the AESS mentor as an official co-advisor to their Master/Ph.D. program.  
 
3) Conference Mentorship
One of the main challenges of students and young professionals going to conferences or workshops is the fact that they may know few, if any, other colleagues. The natural response of these individuals is to feel excluded and neglected by our community. This, in turn, discourages these individuals to attend other conferences, despite their interest in AESS topics. Conversely, many mentors routinely attend AESS conferences and workshops and have an extensive network of colleagues and friends. Sometimes, a simple face-to-face introduction between mentor and mentee at a conference will dramatically improve the confidence of the mentee. A further step could be the mentor introducing his/her colleagues to the new mentee. This will help the mentee to expand his/her network of people, which is typically the hardest challenge when starting a career as an engineer. In a typical framework, mentors and mentees discuss and agree to meet at a conference where both parties plan to attend. The mentor and mentee can meet cordially in an informal setting such as breakfast, bar, or coffee shop. After a warm introduction, the mentor can escort the mentee around the conference, introducing his/her colleagues who may have a technical affinity to the mentee's background.
 
4) New Area Member Mentorship
Students or young professional continuously relocate due to school programs or new job opportunities. When moving, these individuals leave friends and (young) colleague behind and face the typical social challenge of developing new friendships. While new friends can be found easily, new AESS technical colleagues are much harder to find. These newcomers need a quick rebuilding of their technical network. Typically, the local IEEE section may help in welcoming newcomers in the area, but oftentimes small sections do not have AESS chapters. Furthermore, attending a local IEEE event when not knowing anyone may be intimidating. If a mentee seeks a mentor in the local area, the two may begin introducing each other and discuss the local AESS environment. The mentor could invite the mentee to a local IEEE event. The mentor could discuss local companies or colleagues that are interested in the mentee's background. In an academic setting, the mentor/mentee can advise which university program to pick, and the intricacies related to that.
 
5) Mentoring in underrepresented regions
There exist many regions worldwide lacking a sustainable group of AES professionals. Some areas may not even have AES chapters, AES-related university programs, or AES-related companies. Individuals living is such areas will have limited chances of interacting with world-renowned AES experts. This type of mentoring is probably the noblest in nature, but it also can present several challenges that the mentor should be aware. First, students and young professionals from underserved regions will have a different cultural background, and in general, will lack English skills. In some underserved areas, students may also lack the technical skills that are customarily expected in well-established institutions. The mentor must be patient enough to overcome these difficulties. Students in underserved regions may also act more aggressive than their counterpart: this is understandable because of their lack of professional interaction and eagerness to succeed. The mentor must be understanding of their background and be forgiving of their lack of knowledge or poor communication skills. Indeed, the mentor shall advise these students or young professionals how to improve their technical language and skills.
Important note: this type of mentorship shall be technical in nature and, at most, career advising. The mentee shall not use this opportunity to find jobs, request letters of recommendation, request becoming a student or seek advice on how to migrate to a new country. 
 
6) Career Development Mentorship
Sometimes young engineers may need simple advice on whether it is worth pursuing a job opportunity or not. Some engineers may wish to know what practical skills employers are seeking so that they can spend their time in perfecting such competencies. Experienced mentors may give the mentees honest opinions on the right of career path and suggestions on courses, readings and training programs that may advance their career. Mentors could also give lifestyle advice and tips and tricks to achieve success in the technical realm. Mentors could even discuss what they did in their career to achieve the success that they currently have. This mentorship discourages mentees to ask for job opportunities or letters of recommendation specifically. 
 
7) Grant Opportunities Mentorship
Many young researchers and professors face immense difficulties in securing grants and funding. One common drawback is their lack of credential and expertise, but studies show that two critical issues are also 1) the lack of grant writing skills 2) the lack of knowledge about "where to look" for grants. Admittedly, mentors have likely spent years refining their grant-writing skills and connections to funding agencies. To achieve stability, mentors could advise mentees on how to write a proper grant proposal, or even review the documents prior to submission. Mentors could also suggest which funding agency is more appropriate for the mentees, or even introduce the mentees to program managers. If the mentors' involvement is substantial, mentees are advised to include or at least acknowledge their mentors in their proposals.  
 
8) Affinity Group Mentorship
Special groups, such as Women in Engineering, would enjoy interacting with AES-mentors who share the same background and challenges. For instance, women may prefer to ask career advice to other women. This type of mentorship will help the mentees to overcome the difficulties that they face due to their specific social groups. This mentorship style may be less technical in nature, and more inspirational: the mentor is expected to listen to the problems facing the mentees and provide an honest opinion on how to tackle them. Possibly, mentors could elaborate on their personal stories that helped them to solve similar social challenges.
 
9) Consulting Mentorship
Oftentimes, young professionals in small and large companies are faced with technical and strategic decisions that can be beyond their current expertise. For instance, a young engineer is asked by the company to develop a new radar system, but he/she doesn't have experience in trade-off analysis or CONOPS. In such circumstances, it is the spirit of IEEE to help the individual overtake the challenge, but simply relying on technical articles (which are rather academic) may not provide the right solution. Without violating IP and know-how, mentors and mentees could discuss open-literature design principles to complete the project successfully. It is desirable that the mentee acknowledges in some forms the mentor in cases where his/her involvement becomes substantial or pivotal to success.

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