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'A quiet place to think out loud'

MIT employees participate in Mentoring 101 workshop sponsored by Human Resources and the Employee Resource Groups.
What is it like to be in a mentoring relationship? What are the benefits? How could it help my career? Could I be a mentor? These were some of the questions asked and answered at the Mentoring 101 workshop sponsored by Human Resources and the Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) last month.

David Hosmer, manager of learning and organizational development at MIT, provided an overview of mentoring and spoke about his own experience in mentoring relationships. Cheryl, one employee he mentored, felt that David was someone with whom she could talk about her career aspirations, frustrations, and goals without fear of judgment. “It’s not therapy, but a quiet place to think out loud,” David said.

Formal mentoring programs also have organizational benefits, Hosmer said. According to a study conducted by nonprofit research organization Catalyst, formal mentoring programs can “reduce turnover, enhance a company’s recruitment efforts, increase company performance and create an overall improved work environment, especially for women and people of color.”

MIT’s recent analysis of its 2012 Quality of Life Survey showed a “robust and positive correlation between adequate mentoring and job satisfaction” but found that approximately 70 percent of staff do not feel that they receive adequate mentoring, or that mentoring is applicable to them. As a result, MIT will pilot a six-month program called the Cascading Mentoring Initiative. Starting in January, the pilot will match four to five mentoring pairs and provide them with support workshops. After the pilot ends, mentors may sign up again, and “mentees” may become mentors, enabling the program to grow.

The second half of the workshop featured a panel discussion focused on real-life examples of two mentoring relationships. Kariuki Thande, financial officer in physics, and Meghan Devaney, senior financial officer in chemistry, have a peer-to-peer mentoring relationship. They spoke about the value of having a sounding board, “because MIT is not the easiest place to figure out.” Thande said that watching Devaney has helped him figure out how to handle different business situations, while he has helped her navigate some of the administrative systems. “For everything that I do for him, I get something back,” Devaney said. Despite their outward differences, Thande and Devaney said, they have formed a strong friendship based on honesty and trust.

Pam Delphenich, director of campus planning and design facilities, and Laura Tenny, senior planner in facilities, had a mentoring relationship before Laura came to MIT. “Pam has been my mentor for about five years, but I’ve only been at MIT for two,” Tenny said. The decision to come to MIT wasn’t an easy one, but Laura asked Pam to put on her mentor hat, and they had a career discussion that Tenny says “was so amazing, I’ll never forget it.” It’s been such an important relationship, Tenny says, that she tries to “pay it forward.”

Delphenich, who has several mentees, said that being a mentor “recharges my batteries.” Both agreed that although successful mentoring relationships are based on chemistry, they are built over time. “You can’t expect an instant rapport,” said Delphenich.

If you are a staff member and you are interested in mentoring or being mentored, please contact David Hosmer at Human Resources also makes available other informational resources about mentoring, including publications, newsletters, blogs, and podcasts, at

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