Last fall, Kate Dildy was a College senior majoring in philosophy with minors in statistics, religious studies, and data science. She was interested in bioethics and technology ethics, “trying to understand how values evolve over time, but also how we use values to grapple with new technologies.” And she was looking for a job.
Enter an email from Penn Art & Sciences Alumni Engagement, advertising the Ben Connect Formal Mentorship program. Dildy filled out the form and was matched with Kwabena Asiedu, C’08. Asiedu had been a political science major, but his career since then has included retail, management consulting, and sales. He’s now working in operations in fast-growing venture-backed tech companies.
Ben Connect was launched in the spring of 2020 to facilitate short- and long-term mentoring among College students and alums. Dildy is one of more than 500 students who were paired with a mentor in the 2020-21 academic year through the Formal Mentorship program. The initiative provides guidance and advice on career development, goals-setting, and career-related decision making for students, while mentors give insight and guidance based on their personal academic and career experience.
Asiedu, who has also been part of the alumni interview program for years, enjoys the opportunity to connect with Penn and to the younger generation. Mentoring is also a way to give back that could adapt to wherever he was and whatever he was doing. “With the pandemic, the idea of virtual mentorship is more acceptable now and I think there's a space to do it. I think that's great,” he says.
Dildy was looking for mentoring around developing career goals and a career plan. “Kwabena was great in that he wanted it to be driven by my goals—really clarifying those in the beginning,” she explains. “It was a process of fine-tuning values to use to evaluate career options and to lay the groundwork for a career plan.” During her job search, they used those values to evaluate opportunities, and Asiedu gave her interview advice. Dildy found a part-time job with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and was soon hired full-time as a data specialist for its research arm, NDWA Labs.
Dildy and Asiedu also discussed and compared data analytics resources, and she shared some leading industry tools she used in engineering classes at Penn. “While he was the mentor for sure, it also felt like a conversation about an evolving field and the role analytics can play within different technological approaches to solving different problems.”
While students and mentors are matched for one semester, many have opted to extend their mentorship beyond that time period. Dildy says, “I'm really excited to carry on the relationship and to just update him as to how things are going.”
Students and mentors are matched based on responses to registration questions and a combination of factors, including the preferences indicated by mentees and overlap in interests and backgrounds. If you are interested in being a mentor for the fall semester cohort, click here to complete the registration questions. If you are not currently a member of Ben Connect, you will need to first set up your profile, which only takes a few minutes.
Asiedu, who recently joined the Arts & Sciences Ambassador Council, says “I think what I've gotten out of mentoring is being able to see the diversity of people, and their interests and aspirations. It has taught me to be more inquisitive. It's helped me develop a style of coaching that I've been able to use professionally as well, as I've managed my teams.”
If you have any questions, please contact Kathe Archibald.