Mentoring Initiates Refection, Encourages Success
For SDSU alum Jordan Evans, participating in the Aztec Mentor Program was his way of not only encouraging bright new talent in the College of Engineering, but also a way to give back to the school that gave him so much.
“I was a huge fan of SDSU, even before I was a student,” Evans said. “It’s been 21 years since I graduated and I still am a passionate Aztec. This is a way for me to share my career experiences and lessons learned with others who will soon be alumni like me.”
Evans, manager of the Mechanical Systems Division for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, commonly called JPL, has participated in the Aztec Mentor Program, or AMP, since before the program even had its official title. And for his last mentee, mechanical engineering major Jeremy Caplan, Evans’ guidance and advice could not have been more transformative.
Caplan, 22, is in his senior year and signed up for AMP to receive guidance and maybe a foot in the door for internship opportunities before he graduated.
“When I saw that Jordan worked with NASA, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I’ve gotta pick that guy as my mentor,’” Caplan said. “He really took the time to learn about what I want to do and helped me prepare for the future.”
Evans, who works in Pasadena, conducted the majority of his mentoring sessions with Caplan via Skype every Monday. The pair launched their time together by reviewing and revising Caplan’s resume and cover letter weekly and discussing how the revisions would eventually better communicate his skills to a future employer or internship coordinator — an internship that eventually materialized at JPL.
“I shadowed Jordan for the day at his job and eventually I was working in a different department, but for the same place,” Caplan said.
Delivering an internship opportunity isn’t something expected of a mentor when they participate in the program, according to SDSU Career Services, which coordinates the program. But, often, the relationship built between mentor and mentee leads to some type of hands-on career advancement opportunity.
“I couldn’t hire Jeremy directly,” Evans said. “But I could circulate his resume to my colleagues and talk about his leadership and communication skills. I was happy to see him picked up because I can’t think of anything that prepares a student better for landing their first job than having an internship.”
Caplan agreed, saying the nearly 10 weeks he spent at JPL over the summer was extremely helpful in preparing for the work world.
“It was valuable to understand how the corporate workplace operates on a daily basis,” Caplan said. “You can talk about it in the classroom, but being in the environment is really important.”
Since their time together in the Aztec Mentor Program, Caplan has launched his career search and is hopeful a job at Lockheed Martin or Boeing will be his upon graduation. Evans is now mentoring his fourth student and said he has no plans to stop participating in the AMP.
“The opportunity to impact the life of a student at San Diego State is something special and it doesn’t require much effort,” Evans said. “We spend about 15 to 17 hours together over the course of a semester and I think that’s a relatively small time commitment for a relationship that positively benefits both parties.”