Princeton Mentorship Program for Careers in Tech
Princeton’s curriculum does a great job of teaching core Computer Science and Engineering concepts. However, we noticed a gap between what’s taught in the classroom and what appears in tech interviews. So, we created a mentorship program between underclassmen who are interested in pursuing careers in tech (mentees) and young alumni/seniors who have recruited for and have held SWE, PM, and Data Science roles. The expectation is quite small: a 1-hour mock interview. Bevin, Stephen, and I created tech recruiting guides to scale knowledge sharing and provide a skeleton for and a way to standardize the 1-hour mock interviews.
- We had 113 mentees sign up and 52 mentors sign up!
- We wrote A general guide to tech recruiting
- We wrote a guide for students interviewing for Software Engineering, Product Management, and Data Science
- We wrote a guide for mentors
- My personal mission is to expand access and break down knowledge barriers. Co-authoring the tech recruitment guides and setting up this mentorship program furthered that personal mission.
- By publishing the findings on medium, we’ve scaled our learnings from going through the recruitment process ourselves.
- Through this process, I learned about different perspectives on how to recruit for tech positions and revised my own assumptions.
- I plan on being a mentor and mentee in the future. Architecting this system and hearing feedback gave me insight into what makes a strong mentorship relationship.
- This was a one-time mentorship/interview prep matching but I still speak with some of the underclassmen I was paired with. In fact, I just prepped one for the Google APM interview. So, while not everyone created long term relationships, I was able to meet new people and maintained at least one of those relationships.
- Few opportunities exist to connect alumni 10 years out with current students.
- There’s a sizeable number of alumni in Product who did not study a technical major.
- I’ve been lucky enough to have incredible friends and mentor prep me for my interviews and I wanted to pay it forward.
- Several younger friends have asked me about recruiting. It’s not fair that the knowledge that Bevin, Stephen, and I have amassed is restricted to our networks. Can we scale that knowledge sharing?
We proposed a pretty simple timeline and process:
- Marketing: Spread the word to potential mentors and mentees.
- Ask interested mentors and mentees to fill out their information. We want to keep the form as short as possible while collecting enough relevant information.
- We do the matchmaking based on the response
- We connect mentors and mentees via email
- We ask that the student initiates
- We suggest tools like meetingbird and calendly to schedule
- We encourage the student to CC us
- We send out automatic follow up in a week to check in and see if the interview was scheduled.
- It’s on the mentor/mentee to continue the relationship, if they so wish. But it’s not a requirement.
For Mentors we ask:
- past/current companies
- past/current roles
For Mentees we ask:
- Companies role
How is this different from existing online interview prep?
- This encourages mentees to talk aloud and explain the thought process
- What % of interviews do you successfully complete the whole thing and treat like a true mock interview?
- Often, an interviewer is looking for how you approach a problem, not just your solution. This method integrates hints and social skills.
- PM prep is especially hard to do by yourself
What’s our goal?
- Quite scoped: To better prepare students for their interview. NOT to promise life-long mentorship
What can we offer people to incentivize them to get on the platform?
We realized that the motivation for mentors and mentees to sign up didn’t align with fancy titles or offering premium subscriptions. Rather, the biggest motivator was the value add of getting advice (for mentees) and being philanthropic (for mentors). However, we did consider the following ways to incentivize our mentors and mentees:
- Linkedin or social media shoutout
- Fancy title as an experience
- List this as a volunteer position
- Create a small website and publically share their bios
- List them as “Undergraduate career consultant”
- Give them a free Hackerrank account
- Give them a free calendly account
When should we run this program?
- Since it’s brand new, let’s run it in late Spring as some recruiting timelines have been pushed up to the summer.
How do we ensure the longevity of the program?
- ⅓ of the co-founders will be a senior, ⅔ of us will be new grads. Let’s partner with the CS council and the CS department, to create a broad reach and to sustain this program past our time at Princeton.
How do we recruit mentees?
- Get the COS department (Colleen) to send out our email to everyone in the COS department
- Ask Dean Bogucki to send to the BSE list serv
- E-Club list serv
- Post on the class Facebook pages
- Email the residential college listservs
- Present at the CS Council Recruitment Prep Presentation
How do we recruit mentors?
- Ask our friends
- Post in TigerNet
- Post on social media (LinkedIn, Facebook)
What are we asking of our mentors and mentees?
Thank you for signing up for the pilot of Princeton Mentorship Program for Careers in Tech (PMPCT). We have found a match for you! We’re excited to pair you with:
[insert mentor name]
[insert mentor email]
We ask that you reach out to [mentor first name] this week (by April 17th) to introduce yourself and set up a time for an hour-long call. If you’re no longer interested in being a part of the program, please let us know by replying to this email as we have a long waitlist and a limited number of mentors.
Please include the following info in the email so that your mentor can learn a bit about you beforehand:
- Major (or prospective major)
- [If applicable (for COS majors and people interested in SWE), please let them know the highest level COS class that you have taken]
- Your potential career aspirations
- Any questions that have been on your mind related to careers and interviewing
- Indicate how much interview prep you have already done (none is totally fine!)
- Times you are available for a video call
While it’s totally up to you how you want to use the time in the mentorship session, we’ve put together a document that outlines one possible format (as well as some interview prep resources!).
Looking forward to hearing how it goes :) Let us know if you have any questions.
Bevin, Ayushi, and Stephen
Thanks again for signing up for the Princeton Mentorship Program for Careers in Tech (PMPCT) program. We have found a match for you! We’re excited to pair you with:
Your mentee(s) should be reaching out to you within a week to introduce themselves and set up a time for an hour-long video call with you. (Please follow up with us if you don’t hear from them within two weeks.)
While there are no strict guidelines for the call, we’ve put together a document with some potential topics to discuss and questions to go over.
Thanks for your time and generosity!
Bevin, Ayushi, and Stephen
- Our goal was to pair mentors and mentees for a one-time, one-hour interview prep session. Per that goal, we were successful! However, we didn’t continue the program. Maybe you (the reader!) can ;)
- It’s hard to incentivize both mentors and mentees to keep up the relationship for something that was inherently limited time-wise (e.g. a relationship that seems mostly relevant only during the recruitment process). Of course, we hope that people maintain the relationships created through this program, but didn’t expect the relationship to continue beyond a one-hour phone call. We designed this program to have a low time barrier to entry for our mentors. This messaging might have framed these relationships as not having a long term expectation.
- Other than asking some mentor/mentees about their individual experiences, we didn’t do a good job of following up with our participants. When is it too late to ask for feedback on a project?
- We recruited most mentors from our personal networks (aka texting our friends to do this) and had low yield from posting on TigerNet, LinkedIn, and Facebook. How do you streamline recruiting mentors?
Big shoutout to Stephen Cornwell and Bevin Benson! Loved starting this mentorship program with them :) Big shoutout to Zoya Shoaib, Robert Liu, Ishan Sinha, Preeti Iyer, Rishi Tripathy for contributing and Kevin Feng for the logo! Inspired by the NCWIT Mentoring-in-a-Box: Technical Women at Work