Mentoring@work: Experiences with the TPM Graduate School’s mentoring system

Mentoring@work: Experiences with the TPM Graduate School’s mentoring system

In addition to a promotor and a daily supervisor, each TPM PhD candidate is provided with a mentor. This is a TPM staff member who is not involved in the PhD candidate’s project. Because the mentor has completed a PhD him/herself, he or she can provide the PhD candidate with objective (process-related) advice. Saba Chockalingam, a PhD candidate in the Safety and Security Science section since April 2015, reports on his experiences with the TPM Graduate School’s mentor system.

“Having a mentor is very valuable to me. I feel that it is very important to have someone by my side who has already been through the PhD journey successfully”

“My mentor is Dr. ir. Leon Hermans (Assistant Professor, Policy Analysis Section). Our first meeting was on 27th November 2015. I meet my mentor once every two months in an informal setting. We usually go for lunch during that meeting. We discussed a wide-range of topics such as teaching, assessment (grading), MSc thesis supervision, time management. He reflects on it, based on his vast experience. This allows me to get a good understanding of best practices, common pitfalls, and challenges. Of course, we discuss the current state of my PhD during every meeting. But there is also time to talk about our vacations.

Teaching skills

“This mentorship programme allowed me to discuss a wide-range of topics with my mentor in which I had limited or no experience.  The informal setting also helps me to openly discuss any topic. I am a beginner in teaching. Hence, I picked my Leon’s brain before starting my first-ever (tutorial) teaching for ‘Information Technology and Values’ course during February and March - 2016. He made some suggestion on how to get Dutch students more involved during a lecture. I am from India. I do not have any clue about what motivates Dutch students, so Leon’s advice was very valuable to me. We discussed what worked and what not. I tried it out during my (tutorial) teaching sessions and found it was effective”.

Moral support

Leon provides moral support during the PhD process and also it helps to boost my confidence. During our meeting, he is always keen to listen to the current state of my PhD (especially in terms of the process, not in terms of the content). It provides me an opportunity to reflect on my PhD process and highlight the things that are fine, issues that I face, etc. If I say that I encounter certain issues during the PhD process, he is always ready to provide suggestions that would be helpful to tackle these issues.

Mentor-Mentee relationship

Having a mentor is very valuable to me. I feel that it is very important to have someone by my side who has already been through the PhD journey successfully apart from my supervisory team. My mentor Leon is someone who always encourages me, and open to discuss a wide range of topics within and outside academia. He is always keen to listen and provide input to help me deal with difficult situations during my PhD process.

Mentorship Programme Benefits

I would highly recommend mentees to actively participate in the mentorship programme. I believe that the benefits definitely outweigh the time which you invest in this mentorship programme. Besides benefiting from the vast experience in academia of your mentor it also provides you with an opportunity to extend your network within and outside of the Faculty of TPM, through your mentor. I believe that building your professional network is crucial during your PhD. Furthermore your mentor might provide moral support especially when you encounter tough times during your PhD and might also have recommendations to handle these situations in a better way as they have already completed the PhD journey successfully.

Leon’s perspective

I enjoy being a mentor for Saba. We get along well and Saba clearly has a proactive stance about mentoring. Saba takes the initiative for our meetings when he has specific points to discuss relating to education, research and project work, but we also discuss more personal matters. First and foremost, I listen, but I also help Saba reflect and I offer my own experiences on process and organisation matters. Most supervisors are also very willing to discuss such things with their PhD candidates, but the regular time is easily spent focusing on the substance and the direct tasks at hand. Although Saba’s research topic actually interests me, as it is related to water safety, we do not discuss the contents of his research beyond the superficial.

Worthwhile experience

Mentoring is a worthwhile experience for me. Being a mentor helps me to get a better picture of what it is like to be a PhD candidate in our faculty, as well as of things going on within the organisation. Mentoring also helps me reflect on my own role as supervisor of PhD candidates and MSc students. All this makes being a mentor very rewarding.

Saba Chockalingam

Leon Hermans