IITMentor, an Online Mentoring Program


iitmentorThe IIT Madras Alumni – Student mentoring Program is an online program to facilitate a means of interaction and networking between the experienced Alumni and the students of our institute. The working of the website will be similar to the social – networking websites that we use daily but built specifically to meet the mentoring needs of the students. Each student will be assigned to an experienced alumni based on his/her career interest. Typically we expect that, these alumni will mentor the students throughout the year and help them in shaping their career. In this typically year long relationship a student can look forward to guidance, counseling and career related advice from their mentors and benefit from it. Live Mentoring sessions will also be organised from time to time where mentees can directly meet their mentors and interact.

“Mentorship refers to a developmental relationship between a more experienced professional and a less experienced protégé or mentee. The mentor is someone who has ´been there, done that´ before. Mentors inspire their mentee to follow their dreams.”

So T5E caught up with Shreyas and Poorna, the student coordinators for this initiative. This is what they had to say;

T5E : Since this initiative is student based/student centric, where does the administration come in if at all?

Shreyas & Poorna : Well this initiative, although it is student centric, involves a great deal of interaction with the Alumni. Since the format of the program is such, it was best that all the stakeholders are adequately represented. Therefore in the Core Committee for IITMentor we have both students as well as Alumni. Having said that, it should be clarified that the Institute Administration per se has a very limited role and the primary promoter of this program is the IIT Madras Alumni Association (which is a private body).

T5E : You’ve started something new. Tell us about starting something from scratch in the insti.

S & P : Well, to be honest- it wasn’t too easy; but it wasn’t hard either. We had the good fortune of having a very professional Core Committee in place which included some well-established Alumni. Having them in the fold helped us immensely – they ensured the whole process was carried out in a nice, systematic manner.

That being said, it was a very unique experience. From the birth of the idea and formation of strategies to the final implementation – everything was fresh and exciting!

On a personal note I think we were helped by the fact that we are both dual degree final years, which means that we had a considerable amount of time to spare getting the program up and running, though in the end we did have a hard time juggling things around with the 85% attendance rule and taking care of 1-2 quizzes we had.

T5E : How did you come up with a plan like this? Why implement it now?

S & P : The idea wasn’t new. However we both felt scope of ideas previously mooted at various forums was limited and we needed to look at it a afresh and make it;

1. Scalable.
2. Relevant to both the Students and the Alumni.
3. Indispensable both for Students and Alumni.

We conducted a survey over the summer and the results clearly pointed to the fact that there was a need for a mentoring program. The only thing left for us to decide on was how to deliver such a program.

We decided against adopting an ad-hoc method of getting student volunteers to create an online tool for us as we knew it would be neither professional nor scalable in future. We discussed the idea with IITMAA and they were more than happy to take on this project along with us.

“Why now?” doesn’t have an answer. Such a program has been desired by both students and successful alumni alike for many years. However with launch of IITMentor we think this desire has been partially satiated.

T5E : What exactly does this “mentor” do? and how much can they do? for example, are they expected to grant the mentees internships and stuff? How does the system work?

S & P : Let us clarify first that IITMentor should not be thought of as a job/internship exchange. If students sign up for this program with this mentality it is doomed to fail. The mentors who are a part for this program are IIT-M alumnus who have performed exceedingly well in their career and are willing to help out current students. As far as “What a mentor can do is?” is concerned you can think of it like this: The mentor is a pool of knowledge, experience and expertise. He can help you reach or at least show you the path to your desired career destination(s). In this process, it may so happen that a few students are offered jobs, given recommendations or given internships; That, however, is not the goal of this program.

The goal of the program is simple. A student has certain career goals but he doesn’t know what to do to accomplish those goals. He goes to a mentor who has expertise in the area and continuously engages with him over a period say 6 months and tries to figure out what he needs to do to accomplish his goals. The aim here is to provide career related advice.

T5E : What do the alumni who are a part of this think of this initiative? Can you name a few?

S & P : Alumni have received this initiative with great enthusiasm. They are extremely happy to see that such a initiative has been launched and are more than happy to provide their support to this program. We shall complete Mentor Registration Process very soon and the results will be there for all to see.

Mentors for this program, like we said earlier ,will be people who have been successful in their line of work and have expressed willingness to help the students. Some of the Distinguished Alumni of the Institute like Mr. Krish Gopalakrishnan (CEO Infosys), Mr B Muthuraman (Vice-Chairman Tata Steel), Mr. Prakash Damodaran (Secretary, Tamil Nadu Govt.) and several distinguished professors from universities like Stanford, MIT, NYU etc. have graciously volunteered as mentors for IITMentor.

T5E : Does this program have any long term goals?

S & P : Long term goals include provisions for group mentoring and making the process of mentoring more personal. Also we want to increase the target student group for this program. Presently it is open only for final and pre-final year students.

T5E : What is the impact you’re hoping for?

S & P : The Impact that we hope to achieve is simple. We wish to break the information barrier for the students and make relevant advice available to them readily.

T5E : Thanks a ton for giving us an interview. We really appreciate it!

S & P : You’re welcome! It was our pleasure.

Don’t forget to check out http://www.IITMentor.org for more information!

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