Young Professional-Fellows Mentoring Pilot Discussion Topics

Over the course of the YP-Fellows mentoring pilot program (June 2010 to December 2010), three discussion topics were offered to pairs in order to stimulate conversation and promote dialogue. David Wishnick and I selected three topics that can be represented generally as: 1) Networking [1] 2) Ethics [2], and 3) "When mentoring goes bad" [3], each utilizing a respective publication as a center piece.


During our pilot program, networking turned out to be a key component that has allowed Young Professionals (YPs) to get involved in several aspects of AIChE as well as in their respective industries. One YP even mentioned that the only reason he attended the Fall 2010 Annual meeting was because of his involvement in the program. Deeper organization involvement also has been a culmination of a number of AIChE initiatives that have taken various monikers (e.g. the Rainbow Program, New Horizons, and Opening Doors). YPs have participated in operating council meetings, social functions, and over the course of the last few years been part of larger initiatives (e.g., Wendy Young - The Water Initiative). Therefore, I think that the topic of networking is classic and essential.


Prior to this semester, ethics was a topic that I only knew about from an "Order of the Engineer" perspective, from my professional engineer training, and through several conversations during my graduate education. I included a piece for the mentoring pilot as a discussion topic from my participation in "An Introduction to Research Ethics" SYGN502 class offered at the Colorado School of Mines, taught by Monika von Glinski and Dr. Roel Snieder. The selected reading [2], like a good graduate education course, opened my eyes to how little I know, and gave me an appreciation for an established and deeper philosophy. A brief review of the reading can be found on the Web [4].

When Mentoring Goes Bad

The final topic selected by David ("When mentoring goes bad" [3]), brings a realistic perspective that not all mentoring relationships are "good." Hopefully this topic provoked questions, such as how to handle these situations, what "good" vs. "bad" may be, and how to resolve differences without sacrificing individual goals.

During the pilot, I also read Alan Rossiter's text on professional excellence which is an excellent seasoned professional's concise take on the topic[5]. Finally, I also read a book by Debra E. Meyerson titled Tempered Radicals: How Everyday Leaders Inspire Change at Work[6], which I would also recommend to at least broaden perspective.

I hope sharing our choices of topics is helpful. We welcome all comments, and for those who participated in the pilot, we hope you enjoyed the experience! Cheers!

Cory Jensen is a PhD student at the Colorado School of Mines and an AIChE Volunteer.


[1] Thomas, K. M. Diversity Dynamics in the Workplace. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.
[2] Mitcham, C. Duval, R.S. Engineer's Toolkit: Engineering Ethics. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000.
[3] MIT Sloan Management Review, Human Resources. When Mentoring Goes Bad By Dawn E. Chandler, Lillian Eby and Stacy McManus. May 24, 2010.
[5] Rossiter, A. Professional Excellence: Beyond Technical Competence. Hoboken NJ John Wiley & Sons, 2008.
[6] Meyerson DE. Tempered radicals: How Everyday Leaders Inspire Change at Work. Harvard Business School Press Boston, MA, 2003.


May's picture

Thanks for the post and I find the topic "when mentoring goes bad" unique and refreshing to see. I think it is about open dialogue and having the courage to end the mentoring relationship if it is not what one is expected.

Cory Jensen's picture

Knowing when to say when is critical and a part of the pilot that required focus and attention from a large and experienced planning group. I really came to appreciate this topic because as I continue in my career, I have seen first hand how "poor" relationships (that can consume yrs of time) can have serious outcomes when not addressed in a fashion that preserves individual rights-goals equitably. Thank you for the comment and I hope we can get some more feedback on discussion points!

ehorahan's picture

I would be interested in the topics of work-life balance and being aware of your job situation (i.e. poisonous work environment, lack of mobility, etc.). As someone with only about 5 years work experience, it would be interesting to hear the opinions of more experienced colleagues on these subjects.

May's picture

Elizabeth - Good suggestions! Topics like worklife balance and job situation awareness (ie, when it's time to go) will generate a lot of interest. Whenever I poll employees at work, worklife balance (particularly female professionals) normally surface to the top as one of the most popular topics. Personally, I would like to the different perspectives job mobility ( what are the pros and cons of moving around?)