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  • 1.  Virtual Summer Internship - Advice for Mentors and/or Supervisors

    Posted 05-11-2020 10:56 AM

    My company's leaders hired a few interns this year and decided to have the summer internship experience in a virtual setting throughout the entire time. I am one of the mentors. This will be the first time for me to mentor an office intern daily in a virtual setting for at least 3 months.

    Can anyone suggest tips or share your experiences on how to provide the best experience for these interns while I am not allowed to meet these interns in-person and share our office cultures via face-to-face meetings, tours, coffee breaks, etc?

    Thank you for your contribution in advance.


    Best regards,

    Silky S. K. Wong, Ph.D., S.E., P.E., CEng MICE, LEED AP
    Civil/Structural Modular Construction & Productivity Focal Point
    Structures Expertise Area & Technical Solutions Team
    Central Engineering – Houston | Technical Expertise & Support
    1254 Enclave Parkway, Houston, TX 77077
    phone: 281.966.2077 | email: sswong@...

  • 2.  RE: Virtual Summer Internship - Advice for Mentors and/or Supervisors

    Posted 05-12-2020 02:47 PM
    I have been in these settings before and these days I think virtual meetings are actually more helpful because it takes off a lot of pressure from normal physical interactions. I would say it's a small step towards building a relationship with your subordinate and it will strengthen the relationship once the shelter-in-place is lifted. The meetings, tours and coffee breaks will probably be more smooth in person too later on.

    Oanh Le Aff.M.ASCE
    Suwanee GA

  • 3.  RE: Virtual Summer Internship - Advice for Mentors and/or Supervisors

    Posted 05-12-2020 05:53 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 05-12-2020 06:37 PM
    Good afternoon Silky,

    I hope you are staying safe and healthy during these challenging times.

    I applaud your firm for still taking on interns during these times. While it is not a situation we as an industry would have fathomed a few years ago, it is our current situation. Hopefully this still benefits your firm in developing future engineers for the firm.

    As someone who has and continues to manage individuals remotely, I have the following recommendations:
    • Try to check in daily and if possible, multiple times per day.
    • When checking in, try to make sure not to dive into office work first, but make it more personable. A lot of coffee breaks, lunches, etc. conversations are geared more towards outside of the work experience and relate more to life experiences. Getting to know your person this way may help you determine what drives the individual.
    • If you are able to, try to have virtual meetings with your cameras on. This allows you to monitor facial expressions and helps catch social queues lost in text messages, emails, and voice calls.
    • Remember that while this is going to be difficult for you, it is going to be more difficult for the intern to figure out what is going on. Try to have more patience and go the extra mile with explaining topics and work directions. Screen sharing is going to be very important.
    • When they are working on a task, check in early and often. Follow the one bite rule. If you are not familiar with the one bite rule, wait staff at restaurants always try to check in with customers after one bite of food to ensure the food meets the customers standards. Check in with the intern early on in their task to ensure they are meeting your standards as they are getting started on the task, not when they are completing the task.
    • Try to set up small virtual face-to-face meetings with others in your company, even if that individual will not work with your intern. This will allow them to get to know more individuals and learn more about the company.

    If you would like to bounce ideas and thoughts off of me in the future, feel free to reach out to me directly.

    Ken ​

    Kenneth Mika, PE M.ASCE

    Geosyntec Consultants, Inc.
    (920) 393-8484
    Green Bay, WI

  • 4.  RE: Virtual Summer Internship - Advice for Mentors and/or Supervisors

    Posted 05-13-2020 02:09 PM
    Silky you have brought up a very important issue.  I have read through the comments and agree with Ken's suggestions.  It appears that you are an experienced mentor, so you know the ropes regarding mentoring.  I have been virtually mentoring an engineer for nearly two years, and so have some experience at it.  Before I start I would make a list of the important issues that I would cover in a face-to-face situation in the beginning.  For an intern that would include:

    1. Exchanging details on each others lives/professional backgrounds (getting to know each other)
    2. Asking about the intern's career aspirations
    3. Mission and organization of the company/agency 
    4. Introductions to co-workers and supervisors
    5 .General descriptions of the intern's duties 

    From there I would play it by ear.  I would definitely use Facetime or some other virtual media so we could see each other while speaking. I would always start off each session with ice-breaking discussion.  I like Ken's idea of using visual communication media to introduce coworkers. Once a trusting bond was developed, I would be willing to share my views (not gossip) of the various strengths and weaknesses of coworkers and give suggestions on how to best work effectively with them. I would ask for the details of the intern's projects, including challenges, obstacles or other questions, and give appropriate advice. I would want the intern to know that I was open to discussion regarding any personal problems that might be developing with coworkers or supervisors and be willing to talk them through. 

    It would be important for me to speak at least 2-3 times a week, maybe even daily in the beginning or in difficult circumstances. 

    As always, I would be effusive with praise when the intern performed well in any task.

    That's my two cents.

    Bevin Beaudet P.E., M.ASCE
    Bevin A. Beaudet, P.E., LLC.
    West Palm Beach FL

  • 5.  RE: Virtual Summer Internship - Advice for Mentors and/or Supervisors

    Posted 05-12-2020 09:34 PM
    Dr. Wong,

    The advice from the others is good. Still, I will add my two cents in a difference vane.

    I suggest you spend a little time thinking about what is missed by not being in the same spatial and temporal place. Connection? Familiarity? Nuance? Then what are the goals of having the students in the program? You will be interested in productivity, but what are they interested in?

    So, start by: 
    • Defining your relationship with them. Are you Dr. Wong? Ms. Wong? Silky? What is your organizational relationship to them? Supervisor? Mentor? Warden?
    • Find out what their goals are in "coming to work" and what would make this experience a positive one for all involved. I suspect this is more than just getting money, but maybe not. Do they want to see what civil (?) engineering is like? What it is like to be in a company like Dow?
    • What other work experiences have they had? Consulting? Government? Is this they type of company they see themselves working for in the future, after they graduate? What are their career goals and aspiration?
    In this way, you will get a handle on the motivations and apprehensions of the interns. You must deal with both or you may find yourself with management and mentoring problems.

    One you have a rapport foundation, it is important to set goals with them that are consistent with their goals and expectations:
    • Express your expectations and those of the company.
    • How will they be evaluated and how frequently?
    • What does having a deadline mean? What should they do if they can't make it?
    • Are they to ask questions, or find their own answers?
    • What policies, procedures, guides, manuals, references are they to use?
    • Are YOU a resource, or are you judge and jury?
    Next, as was suggested, set up a schedule. Frequent meetings can be good, particularly in the beginning of mentoring. These can be relaxed as the need for them is reduced. Make them "face-to-face" using virtual meeting software. You can surely find video materials to do a virtual tour, or facetime them and go for a walk (if you are in the plant, of course). If the culture is to share coffee breaks, then share them. Many of the YMFs in ASCE have been hosting virtual happy hour (I am not recommending that for this mentoring relationship) so 15 minute coffee break at the beginning or end of a work session is an option and you don't have to buy the coffee. In other words, give them a chance to give you feedback, ask questions, and learn from you. This is a mentoring relationship. So, mentor. Yes, getting the work done is important, but so is the mentor-mentee relationship.

    Lastly, have fun with it. Yes, this is long term interview time for a prospective employee. But this is also a young pre-professional. Share your experience with them. Why did YOU get the SE and the PE. What does it mean to have licensure in more than one country, and how has the benefited you? What is it like to be a woman in this profession, this organizational unit, in ASCE? What role does ASCE play in your professional life? What do you do for fun?

    Yes, again, I hope you have fun with this. You are educating young engineers as a mentor. This is important, but done right, you will get so much more from it than they will.

    I hope this helps you start a really great summer intern experience for you and them,

    Good luck, and best regards.


    Dennis Truax Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE, F.ASCE
    2021 ASCE Pres.-Elect Candidate MState White End. Chair, Dept. Head, & Profess
    Mississippi State University
    Starkville MS

  • 6.  RE: Virtual Summer Internship - Advice for Mentors and/or Supervisors

    Posted 05-27-2020 04:03 PM
    Hi @Silky Wong

    Thank you for starting this thread on a great topic. It is such a great topic, that we decided to explore it more during this week's Thursday @ 3. Please join us on Thursday, May 28 to discuss Mentoring and Experiential Learning in a Virtual Environment.. Register here. Thank you again for starting this conversation. I look forward to continuing it on Thursday! 

    Tirza Austin
    Manager, Online Community
    American Society of Civil Engineers
    1801 Alexander Bell Drive
    Reston, VA 20191

  • 7.  RE: Virtual Summer Internship - Advice for Mentors and/or Supervisors

    Posted 01-19-2021 05:15 PM
    Hi @Silky Wong,

    Thank you for starting this discussion. We will be talking about mentoring during this week's Thursdays @ 3 virtual roundtable on Thursday, January 21 at 3pm ET. I hope you can join us! You can register here. ​​

    Tirza Austin
    Manager, Online Community
    American Society of Civil Engineers
    1801 Alexander Bell Drive
    Reston, VA 20191