January is National Mentoring Month, a time to recognize connections between mentors and mentees and an opportunity to create new ones. Mentoring and being mentored is a significant part of personal and professional journeys for many, but making those connections can be difficult at first. To present a possible path to mentorship, Department of Aviation Deputy Director of Aviation-Capital Development Api Appulingam shared her experience mentoring Parisa Hosseini, a Ph.D. candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rowan University.
Appulingam and Hosseini were paired together through the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) Philadelphia, Student Chapter, Mentoring Program in 2020. Throughout the last two years, they have met regularly through virtual and in-person meetings. For one of those in-person meetings, they visited the “Seat at the Table” interactive exhibition at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. The exhibition commemorated the 19th Amendment and the progress of gender equality in the United States. It was something that they both took inspiration from to continue advocating for gender equity in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
With Capital Development's work closely tied to Hosseini’s field of study, Appulingam was able to identify an opportunity for Hosseini and her Rowan team to meaningfully contribute. The team evaluated the effectiveness of a project that Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) had constructed a few years earlier to enhance pedestrian safety on its roadways. The evaluation provided hands-on experience such as interacting with airport engineers, data collection in a facility that operates in a 24/7 environment, and presentation of results to executives.
The connection to PHL has also led to other opportunities for Hosseini. For example, in 2021, she volunteered to provide interpretation services for Afghan evacuees who came through PHL as part of Operations Allies Welcome. Hosseini shares that “as an Afghan girl born and raised in a foreign country, I always dreamed of returning to my home country, Afghanistan, to help those in need. Now with the current situation in Afghanistan, I am not sure how likely it is for me to make this dream come true. The arrival of the Afghan evacuee at Philadelphia International Airport felt like ‘Afghanistan coming to me’, making me feel so honored to be able to help my people who have left their dreams and lives behind in Afghanistan.”
Hosseini will soon graduate from her Ph.D. program and will be entering her role as an ITS Engineering Specialist at STV Inc. She shares that Appulingam was not only a fantastic mentor but also taught her how to mentor others. What started off as a seven month mentoring program has matured over time to a rapport that enriches both of their lives.
Some of Hosseini’s goals as a mentee may inspire you on your mentoring journey:
- Keep a living document of short- and long-term goals to discuss
- Set learning goals, and take an active role in identifying learning areas and opportunities
- Self-evaluate with attention to strengths, weaknesses, challenges, passions, and long-term goals
- Develop a plan to attend events and professional development opportunities
- Maintain meeting logs to review for further reflection
If you are interested in becoming a mentor or finding one, we encourage you to explore the following resources –
- WTS Philadelphia
- Big Brothers Big Sisters
- American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
- Attend conferences or professional networking events
- Your alma mater may start requesting interviewers for prospective students soon. Consider volunteering
- Reach out to coworkers or connections on LinkedIn who have your dream job