When I registered to be an IBM mentor almost a year ago, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. More than 100 ninth-grade students were about to become the inaugural class of the Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, in Brooklyn, New York. IBM developed P-TECH in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education, The City University of New York, and the New York City College of Technology. The grades nine through 14 school would focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and the goal was for students to graduate with an associate’s degree that would enable them either to secure entry-level positions in the Information Technology industry, or continue their studies at a four-year institution.
I saw mentoring not just as an opportunity for P-TECH’s ninth graders, but for me too. It would be a way to put into perspective the many personal and professional changes I had gone through since becoming an IBMer as the result of an acquisition in 2010. As I moved into a new role with my new company, I received a lot of support from my management team, colleagues, friends and family. It was because I had received such valuable support that becoming a mentor was important to me. Those who had mentored and coached me had helped me renew my faith in myself, and had allowed me to explore new opportunities and find success. Becoming an IBM mentor seemed like just the right opportunity for me to give back to a younger generation as they moved through life’s unexpected, challenging and very exciting changes. I wanted to help young people see these changes as opportunities for growth and success.
The P-TECH students who are now finishing ninth grade will be the school’s first graduates. So on June 1st, my fellow mentors and I joined our protégés to celebrate our first year together. I was especially happy to reunite with my protégé Cierra. Since our first face-to-face meeting last October, Cierra and I have worked on numerous online and in-person projects together. Cierra is a strong and willful young lady with dreams to make it big in life, and I was initially apprehensive about being able to meet her expectations. Throughout the past year, I have tried in my own way to make a difference to Cierra, and along the way I’ve learned from her too. I’m glad that Cierra will continue to have the backing of this great program for the next five years, after which she’ll be ready either to enter the workforce or continue her education.
Someday, I’ll have a ninth-grader at home, and the past year has helped me learn to recognize their anxieties and fears, and appreciate their focus, energy and enthusiasm. I will always be thankful to IBM for creating this program and enabling this mutually beneficial relationship. I see a little bit of myself in Cierra, and hope that by answering her questions and sharing my life experiences with her that she will gain a perspective that will help her navigate life more successfully. Young people like Cierra have an immense potential to create their own future. All they need to do is stay focused in this innovative program that’s helping them follow a recipe for success.
Cierra is preparing for her upcoming regional and state exams, and I am looking forward to my next term as a P-TECH mentor. For me, this past year has only been the beginning of a lifelong commitment to the development of our community at large. And to know that my company was instrumental in founding this program has made me proud to be an IBMer!
A Journey to Knowing Cierra
Things were different when I was your age
loving hearts and minds helped me see and think
opportunities lay low and dreams deep below
until I learned to gather knowledge from others
And from their works and thoughts, I learned my way
Thank you for the opportunity to share with you
the journey I set on with you the past year
to talk about everything from work and life,
what inspires and motivates you and me
to walk through life’s experiences
And for that, I need you
Thank you for giving me the joy
of honing your skills in some little way
to help you find your faith and confidence
those will pave your path to success
to live your dreams and conquer tomorrow
And for that, I praise you
Thank you for being ever eager to learn new ways
and feel the excitement in simple tasks we do
those allow you to test your ever evolving thoughts
to change the way the world looks at you and me
together it’s a spirit of learning, a way to find your vision
And for that, I admire you
Thank you sharing your favorite books and life’s inspirations
knowledge can be found in many ways
it’s the effort we make to live through life’s new ways,
and with the very relationship that we share
it’s a gift to grow and know that you are there
And for that, I will always cherish you, my little friend
Thank you IBM, Thank you P-TECH
we enjoyed the past year and in our hearts we know
we may meet new people next year
we ought to learn and share with others too
for now, it seems magical and true
this is our way to give back to a world we know
the future of today is tomorrow
with this experience, we know we can see a better tomorrow
And for that, we thank you!
Shilpa Menezes is a Release Manager / Project Manager with the Project Management Operations team of IBM’s Business-to-Business & Commerce group. She also has a background as an Advisory Learning Specialist and Senior Learning & Organization Development Manager.