Crafting a Purposeful Mentor Session

Hello, I am Omkar, a semifinalist of the Modeling the Future Challenge 2021-2022 and a finalist of the 2022-2023 year. Meeting your mentor for the first time can be an intimidating experience. My team and I were already nervous about the project as we were attempting to be ambitious this year. We wondered whether our preparation for the meeting was sufficient; did we have the right questions?

The mentor meeting is an important opportunity; you get the privilege to directly talk to an expert in the actuarial field.

After the winter break, my team and I were out of practice working together. The deadline for the introduction video helped organize us and get us back into line. In order to prepare, we tried to better decide our topic. 

After attending one of the FEMA & NASA Expert Webinars, we made the last-minute decision to change our topic. Our first idea was one that had been done many times before, and we couldn’t think of a valuable change that we could make to it. The last-minute change of our topic along with the upcoming deadline of the introduction video helped get my team back into the rhythm of collaborating.

The days leading up to the meeting, armed with our new topic, my team tried to collect relevant data and formulate the different ways to approach the project. We came up with some questions to ask. As we were slightly behind due to having a new topic, our focus was gaining some direction for the project.

The day of the mentor meeting, my team and I could not physically meet up. I was in the middle of a museum, a teammate had just finished an audition, and the other teammates were busy at home. Our mentor was someone we were familiar with from last year, which made the meeting easier, but we made the mistake of rushing into the project. 

We had already begun discussing different math models and methodologies without first considering the data at our disposal, in hindsight, a silly mistake. The mentor helped us realize this, and explained to us what we needed to do to make a convincing project. Their phrasing of MTFC as an argument made with data gave us direction and helped us decide our next step.

Meeting an expert in a field is scary; our first instinct was trying to impress, but it is key to remember that the mentor is someone volunteering their time to help you. They do not need to be impressed; rather, they only need to be provided with the right information. To prepare for the meeting, try to have an order of presentation based on how you would like to organize the discourse. 

Make an introduction and, if working with a team, try to have a speaking order to ensure that none of you are confused by the flow or interrupt one another. Consider what you need to complete along with the topics you struggle with and formulate a list of questions to ask. 

Look over your mentor’s experience; are there any special niches they can assist with? The whole purpose of the mentor meeting is helping you, so don’t hesitate to ask questions, even if you feel they are trivial. Test your equipment in advance to ensure no errors occur.

Once the meeting is in session, try not to be too nervous; the mentor is there to help! Do your best to prepare leading up to the meeting and maintain a respectful tone. After the meeting, reflect on the feedback from the mentor; what are the next steps you need to take?

Good luck with the meeting and moving forward with your projects!