How Can Teams Prepare to Meet with Their Mentors?

Hello, my name is Omkar, and I was a semifinalist in the 2022 Modelling the Future Challenge.

Meeting our mentor for the first time was very nerve-wracking. My team and I were worried about whether the questions we had prepared were adequate, whether we picked the right mentor for us, and how the advice from the mentor meeting would shape our project. 

The mentor meeting was a key opportunity. After winter break, my team and I had fallen out of practice with meeting and working on the project regularly. The upcoming deadline helped pull us together and got us back on schedule. We tried to research specific data sources and more general methods of treating the data. This way we could conduct the project as we had stated in the proposal, but still have plenty of doors open. 

In the days before our mentor meeting, we met up to discuss how we would conduct ourselves. We came up with questions we could ask. We were relatively inexperienced with different methods of math modeling then, so that was a focus of ours. 

When the day of the meeting was upon us, we awoke in a hurry, the meeting was held during a time we all generally slept. At first, we were all hesitant and only one of us was asking questions. Once our mentor answered some of our questions, we started to feel more comfortable and asked our next questions more actively.

As we had already divided up the project into our individual specialties, we asked specific questions pertaining to those topics. I was in charge of math modeling, so I made sure to inquire about different strategies we could use and which would be the most appropriate. While our mentor meeting started out tense and awkward, we all relaxed more as the direction we would drive the project became clearer. 

The first mentor meeting can be an uncomfortable prospect; however, it is key to recognize it as another tool in your arsenal to help with your project. To prepare for the meeting:

  • Imagine how you will organize the discourse.
  • Try to keep track of introduction and preliminary questions, so that neither your mentor nor you get interrupted or confused by the flow of the meeting.
  • Consider what does your project need right now? What are topics that you struggle with?
  • Look over your mentor’s experience, is there any specific advice they might be able to give you?
  • Try to ensure that no technological error occurs by checking all your equipment and software. 

These questions may seem simple, but finding answers to them can be a great assistance to your project. Do not feel afraid to ask the mentor questions, even if you feel they are trivial.

Once the meeting is in session, try not to be too nervous. Your mentor is your ally, not someone that you have to fear. Make sure to follow the appropriate etiquette, a casual tone is likely not the tone you want to approach the meeting with. Try to gather interesting and relevant information and good luck with your projects!