ASA Section on
Quality and Productivity (Q&P)
Quality & Productivity (Q&P) Section Initiates Mentoring Program for its members. The Program is based on a blueprint created by the Committee on Applied Statisticians.
The goal of this initiative is to help members further enrich and enhance their professional experience through achieving personal and professional goals. The program’s specific goals are to connect those wanting mentoring with those wanting to mentor and to facilitate those interactions.
Sharing knowledge, expertise, and experience can be mutually rewarding. A constructive mentorship relationship can take many forms and may occur at any career stage. Benefits for mentors and mentees include building connections and networks, passing on knowledge, and bridging the gaps among generations. It also matures the statistics profession, identifies emerging talents, and enhances professional relationships.
Interested mentees are matched with senior leaders who have strong professional and training credentials in the application of statistical thinking and tools. To be involved in a mentoring relationship is a privilege for both mentees and mentors. As a result, it is important to understand each other’s role. Below describes the key roles of the mentor and mentee.
The mentor listens to his/her mentee’s professional priorities and goals, and offers suggestions and advice on how those goals may be achieved. The mentor’s suggestions are not intended to be prescriptive, but rather to facilitate the development of an action plan by the mentee that best suits his/her needs. The mentor acts by:
- Teaching: sharing knowledge and experience. This is meant to focus on professional/career issues. The mentor may also give technical research advice, but he/she is not intended to act as a statistical consultant.
- Problem solving: identifying resources and suggesting alternative approaches/actions. The mentor should act as an advisor (suggests course of action and supports the mentee’s decision), rather than direct mediator in work-related situations.
- Motivating: encouraging and supporting the mentee’s professional development.
- Guiding: facilitating the mentee’s goal- setting and action plan.
- Coaching: offering positive and constructive feedback.
The mentee communicates his professional interests, priorities, and goals to the mentor and listens to the mentor’s suggestions and advice. The mentor’s advice is not intended to be prescriptive, and the final decision and responsibility for its implementation rests with the mentee. The mentee will be faced with:
Goal setting: setting challenging goals that further his/her professional development
- Learning: developing new skills and abilities.
- Decision making: taking charge of his/her professional development.
- Initiating: exploring new challenges.
- Risk taking: willing to possibly fail and then recover.
Once the Q&P Mentoring Committee communicates a matching to both mentor and mentee, both individuals are expected to become familiar with the other’s professional trajectory and current status. We recommend the mentee and mentor exchange CVs / résumés. If the match meets with approval by both sides, the mentor/mentee pair will be confirmed.
Prior to any interaction, the mentee is responsible for considering the following:
- Skills and interests, including skills that the mentee feels are current strengths and skills that he/she wishes to develop. The two lists need not be long (e.g., 3-5 items each) and may include both methodological/technical and more general professional skills (e.g., analysis of big data, communicating with non-statistical clients, etc.).
- Work/professional goals, including strategic long-term goals (e.g., having a fully sustainable consulting practice within 6-8 years, attaining promotion and/or tenure), as well as more immediate goals (e.g., how to advertise for new clients, milestones to long-term goals).
Ideally, the mentee will communicate a brief summary of her/his thoughts on these issues to the mentor (e.g., a page, possibly in bullet-point format). For those mentee & mentor pairs who will both attend the Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM), having this communication complete a week before JSM will allow time for consideration before meeting at JSM. Otherwise, the Mentoring Committee would like mentee & mentor pairs not attending JSM to have these communication in place by the middle of August.
At JSM, mentor and mentee are expected to meet; please plan at least 1 hour. The Mentoring Committee will strive to facilitate these meetings. The structure of the meeting is flexible and adaptable to the needs and preferences of both individuals. The most effective mentoring interaction is one that works well for both mentor and mentee. The following are only suggestions:
- Establish rapport (10-15 minutes). Discuss professional and life trajectories and find common ground.
- Discuss expectations from the mentoring interaction (10-15 minutes). Is this focused on a very specific issue or potentially more long-term? What will be the end product?
- Discuss goals and develop action plan (40-60 minutes). First, discuss the mentee’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as his/her professional goals (based on the write-up delivered prior to the meeting). Then, for each goal, consider and discuss possible actions and associated timelines. Be as specific as possible. Discuss feasibility, appropriateness, and impact. Explore variations and alternatives. At the end of this interaction, it is desirable to draw up a list of 3-5 actionable items.
If the mentee is satisfied that his/her needs have been met after this initial interaction (or within a few weeks), he/she communicates with the mentor to indicate that no further interaction is necessary. However, if there is a need or desire for further contact, mentor and mentee discuss the expectations and parameters for it, including frequency (effort/time) and mode of contact.
During such subsequent contacts, the mentee’s action plan is reviewed, with specific attention paid to the actionable items and their timelines. Progress towards the stated goals is assessed. Goals and action plan are discussed and adapted as necessary—it is important to be concrete and realistic.
Finally, circumstances may change, and either the mentor or the mentee may feel that the interaction is not productive any more. This should be communicated explicitly and clearly to avoid misunderstandings and unjustified expectations. The Mentoring Committee will assist if asked.
The Mentoring Committee will periodically be in touch with mentor and mentee to assess the progress of the interaction and to obtain brief evaluations for the program.
We hope that both mentors and mentees will find these interactions fulfilling and productive. Please do not hesitate to contact Daksha Chokshi at firstname.lastname@example.org or Reid Landes at email@example.com with questions or comments.