Carina Hahn: Her Life As Mentor and Mentee
Continuing our feature stories on National Mentoring Month, we conducted an interview with SWE Member Carina Hahn. Hahn hails from Region B and studied at The University of Utah. She’s been both a mentor and mentee within SWE – here’s a deeper look into her experiences with both:
HQ: How long have you been a SWE member?
CH: I joined as a Freshman in 2011.
HQ: Did you utilize any of our scholarship opportunities?
CH: My involvement in SWE has definitely helped me to receive numerous other scholarships here at my school.
HQ: How long were you a mentee?
CH: I was not a mentee in a formal mentoring program in our SWE section because the program had not been started yet, but I did look up to the upperclassmen in SWE. They encouraged me to apply for a leadership position and took me to my first conference. I started to become more confident as an engineer when I saw how successful the girls in SWE were.
HQ: What experience, as a mentee, stuck out to you most as a pivotal moment in your early-career? Was there an “Aha!” moment when you knew engineering was the right path for you?
CH: There was a great moment when I started to love going to our SWE leadership meetings because I was such great friends with everyone in SWE. It was at that point that I felt like I truly belonged in engineering because I had finally found my own community. I realized that supporting each other in engineering really makes a big difference, and it confirmed to me that engineering was the right choice for me.
HQ: As a mentee, was there an experience you found difficult that your mentor assisted you to overcome?
CH: One of my mentors helped me prepare for some of my first job interviews. It takes a lot of practice to learn how to interview well, and they gave me a great start to learning how to respond to some of the tough questions.
HQ: When did you transition to mentor?
CH: As a freshman in college I had my first mentoring experiences. Our SWE section does an event called Day in the Life, where we have high school students come shadow us for a day. That was the first time I was a role model as an engineer for someone younger. I also went back to my high school and talked to the technology classes about engineering. For younger girls, we put on a Girl Scout Night event where we have Girl Scouts come to campus and participate in hands-on activities for a night. At that event, I acted as a role model to younger girls. Those experiences were one-time mentoring experiences, and it wasn’t until I was a junior that I had a more formal mentoring relationship. When I was a junior we started our SWE Sisters Mentoring Program. I was then connected with a Freshman in my major, and I became her mentor for the year.
HQ: How long have you been a mentor within your SWE section?
CH: Formally, this is my 3rd year as a mentor.
HQ: What is the most rewarding part about being a mentor?
CH: I like that I can share things I have spent years figuring out with my mentees. I can introduce them to opportunities that I wish I had known about, people that are great to know, and resources that have been extremely helpful. When my mentee can benefit from some knowledge that I was able to pass on, it is very rewarding.
HQ: What is one moment you felt you impacted the career of a gal you were mentoring?
CH: With one of my mentees I was able to help her get started in SWE. She was able to find a leadership position that was a good fit and now she is going to regional conference with us. I can tell that she is taking ownership of her career as an engineer and becoming more confident everyday. I know she is going to go far as an engineer because I can already see her taking advantage of the great opportunities in SWE.
HQ: Do you still keep close relationships with your SWE mentees/mentors?
CH: I definitely try to keep my relationships close. As we are all progressing through school and our careers, there are always going to be new things we can learn from each other. I never know when someone in my mentoring network will be able to open up an opportunity for me.
HQ: If you were trying to convince someone to be a SWE mentor, part of a similar program like the one your section employs, what are the top 3 reasons you’d give them to do so?
1. Mentoring relationships are going to be extremely important to have throughout your career, so learning to navigate these types of relationships early will be beneficial for your career as a whole.
2. Building relationships with other women in your field will expand your network.
3. Being a mentor is a fun and rewarding way to give back to future women engineers. If we are going to make progress as women in engineering, we are going to need all the support that we can get from one another.
HQ: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
CH: To still strive for things that I think I may not achieve, because I will never know how far I can get unless I reach for it.
HQ: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever given?
CH: As students, we have so many resources and opportunities available to us at our universities. The students that learn how to take advantage of these resources and opportunities are the ones that are able to accomplish the most. They learn from each experience and build up the skills they need to be successful as engineers. You do not learn everything you need to know to be an engineer in classes, there are so many skills that need to be learned outside of the classroom as well.