WiSE Fall Panel 2014 Recap – Building Your Personal Board of Directors

Published: December 1st, 2014

Category: Past News

by Savanna Barry

Thank you to everyone that made this year’s panel a success – especially our panelists!


Shirley Baker, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences

Robin Boughton, Wildlife Research Section Leader, FL Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Keith Allaun, Executive Chairman, PowerHouse Energy

Corey Toler-Franklin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Computer & Information Science & Engineering

Gayle Dykeman, Manager, Florida Innovation Hub at UF, The Hatchery

Kimberly Newsom, Ph.D, MB(ASCP)CM, Senior Biological Scientist, UF Health Pathology Laboratories

We all had a great time planning and hosting this event and we hope you enjoyed it, too! We know that our members are busy and some of you might not have been able to make it to hear all the wonderful advice we got from our panelists. The following is a recap of some of the advice our panelists offered on the topic of mentorship, organized by question, so that those of you that missed the panel might get a flavor of what we discussed. Please note that the comments presented here are paraphrased and the tips and advice below are not sorted by panelist.

QUESTION 1. What advice can you offer on the subject of approaching potential mentors? How might strategies for initiating a mentoring relationship differ depending on the setting or level of familiarity?

  • Look for an overlap in interests if it is a person you do not already know and approach them with genuine curiosity about them and openness about what you are looking for
  • Ask the person for a 10-15 minute informational interview and let them know you would like to spend more time with them and find out how you can get where they are
  • Be genuine, open and honest about what you are looking for
  • Start by asking to meet for coffee
  • Draw on existing relationships because mentors can come from anywhere
  • Keep initial ties going via email (follow-up email after meeting them at an event, etc)
  • Some level of familiarity is desirable when approaching someone to be your mentor because a level of vulnerability is required in the relationship
  • Mentorship relationships often don’t start formally by asking, though they can. More commonly, they happen out of starting to use a person as a sounding board or letting a supervisor know you are interested in moving up
  • If you do not know the person, give a thorough introduction of yourself and make a good first impression

  • Formal mentorship programs offer a goal-oriented, well-defined relationship that can accelerate the process
  • You probably need more than one mentor, so identify what you need from each person and define that with them, especially if you are in a formal mentor matching program
  • Women often “wait to be asked to the party” but should try to get past that and invite themselves
  • As graduate students, we can get lucky and have great mentors in our academic advisors and this is great. However, we should not stop there because one is usually not enough
  • Look for someone who is where you want to be and find a way to approach them. Be on time for your meeting with them (don’t EVER waste a mentor’s time). Be prepared and know a few things about them to facilitate conversation and help build the relationship
  • Be clear about your expectations when meeting with the person
  • Look for common ground and approach them in an informal, low-pressure setting
  • Be cognizant about how your project yourself


QUESTION 2: Please speak on qualities that you find appealing in potential mentees and that you have found contribute to successful mentoring relationships.

  • Courage
  • Willingness to (courteously) challenge views and ask questions (shows the mentee is engaging)
  • Punctuality (said by every panelist)
  • Enthusiasm
  • Looks for ways to contribute (two-way street, mentee not the only one who can benefit)
  • Good communicator (keep your mentor in the loop because mentors do what they do because it makes them feel good to see mentee succeed)
  • Openness to growing mentorship into friendship
  • Passionate
  • Energetic (helps motivate your mentor to help you – they can feed off of your energy)
  • Enthusiasm for the work
  • Honest
  • Open

  • Willing to be vulnerable
  • Have at least a few clear goals
  • Committed to personal growth
  • Good work ethic
  • Someone who can make forward (or even sideways) progress
  • Not overcommitted
  • Consistent
  • Give lots of warning if schedule/commitment level is changing or need to cancel a meeting
  • Someone not afraid to fail and keeps trying in the face of hardship
  • Have goals and some sort of direction – if you don’t have this, you are not ready for a mentor. Try shadowing people to gain direction if you don’t have it
  • Independently motivated
  • Allow mentor to draw out what excites you in your career
  • Willingness to confront personal weakness


QUESTION 3: In your view, what are some strategies for resolving conflicts in mentoring relationships?

  • Legitimate disagreements can happen and are not necessarily a bad thing. However, if it is clear the relationship cannot continue, look for what you can learn from the person and move on
  • You can “fire” your mentor if they are not doing a good job or holding up their end (and this goes both ways)
  • Part of the role of a mentor is to push you into places that might make you uncomfortable (for your own betterment). Be open to taking tough advice and be open to growth
  • Clear communication and openness about needs and goals can sometimes fix a broken relationship
  • Becoming friends with your mentor can help stop problems before they start

  • A good dose of honesty is strong medicine for conflict
  • If you decide to part ways, it should be a mutual agreement – try very hard not to leave on a bad note
  • Have some key points written down before addressing issues because it will help keep things on track – even better if you include potential solutions to the problems you are bringing up
  • If you are feeling ignored, spread out and get more mentors
  • To ease conflicts up front: 1) have clear goals laid out for the relationship, 2) realize that mentors have different roles and know when to hold back complaints or tears, 3) realize that it’s okay to disagree
  • Know the right time to bring up an issue – the earlier the better


We will follow up this event with a workshop in the Spring with a topic of online professional networking. We surveyed panel attendees to find out what people would like to learn about most. Here are the results:



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