The most rewarding thing about being a mentor is when people ask me questions because it shows me that people are comfortable talking to me. When I was younger, I was usually too scared to ask people for help and I never approached people to talk to them or ask questions. I found people older than me or more experienced than me to be intimidating. When someone asks me a question, I like to think that I am doing a good job at fostering an environment where everyone can express their thoughts and interests.
The SISTEM program is a series of talks and activities relating to STEM careers for high school students. STEM professionals from Southern Nevada share their expertise and experiences in order to increase awareness and excitement about STEM for these high school students. The program increases students’ exposure to STEM careers since a lot of students are not exposed to this in their everyday lives.
My role is SISTEM Program Manager. I am responsible for recruiting STEM professionals to speak at SISTEM, as well as recruiting and admitting high school participants. I am also in charge of program logistics such as ordering food, handling evaluation surveys, and creating schedules and icebreakers. I also supervise a small team of undergraduate students who assist during SISTEM events.
I participated in SISTEM my senior year of high school. I went to a performing arts high school, and because I wasn’t exposed to STEM related programs, I knew I couldn’t give up the opportunity to learn about STEM careers at SISTEM. This was around the time I realized that the arts were not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, so SISTEM was a way to learn more about the world that I would be stepping into. I was able to learn a lot from professionals at SISTEM even though I only went for 2 sessions as this was when Covid 19 hit. A few years later I found out that one of my coworkers, Randy, was the SISTEM program manager and I shared with him that I used to be in the program. I was later offered his position since he could no longer do it, and I gladly took the position.
I would say that I have become more open to talking about my experiences. I have been told that I am good at explaining things, but mentoring is much more than explaining things. People learn from experience, but when they do not have certain experiences, they can learn from the experiences of others. That is why I now like to talk to younger people about my academics, my major, college life, etc. I also noticed that this is what mentees are most interested in hearing.
SISTEM made me realize that STEM careers are not restrictive. Oftentimes it is easy to think that because you get a certain degree, you are restricted to getting jobs with the same title, but this is far from the truth. The STEM professionals that presented when I was in SISTEM made it clear that many careers overlap with one another as they had jobs that you would not expect them to have with the degrees they received. Take my major as an example. If I receive my computer engineering degree, I can get jobs pertaining to computer science or electrical engineering because of the overlap. Because of this realization, I was more confident in the major that I chose since both computer science and electrical engineering interest me.
My advice would be to not be afraid to show you are interested in something. There are mentors out there who are looking for people to mentor. If you show that you are passionate about a certain topic, the people around you will notice, and one of them might be willing to be a mentor. The best way to show your interests is by participating in programs like SISTEM and asking questions.
My experience in participating in SISTEM gave me an upper hand in not only landing the position of SISTEM Program Manager, but being able to take on the tasks. I already knew how the program worked, so it was a smooth transition. Moreover, by the time I attended SISTEM, In had already been accepted into UNLV, but I was still nervous about choosing to be a computer engineering major. However, SISTEM made me realize that I made the right decision in choosing STEM over the arts.