A Strength

Last night, I found the business card Rhonda gave me when we met a few years ago at a Women in Economics Conference hosted at the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank.

It was a conference I was not even supposed to attend. I had been so bogged down in the weeks leading up to it that I registered late and ended up on the wait-list. My attendance was confirmed less than 24 hours before the event. Not to mention, I had just done (super) poorly on an exam in a class with a professor I so badly wanted to impress. I went to this conference expecting nothing, wallowing in self-pity, so sure that everyone else was doing much, much better than I was, but scared to tell anyone how I was actually doing.

Last weekend we hosted the opening ceremony for the IPOD Mentoring Program. Dr. Cecilia Conrad spoke, and then we moved into breakout rooms where ‘pods’ got to meet for the first time.

Looking at the (Zoom) room full of students, some older and some younger than I, and their highly accomplished new mentors, I felt excited and nervous in the same way I did when we dropped my brother off at his dorm for his freshman year of college.

“Ask for help when you need it! Everyone is here to help!” I wanted to shout. But as Associate Director and as an older sister, I am learning that you cannot force anyone to ask for help- you can support them when they do.

Something Rhonda has said that I will never forget is never to assume what someone can or cannot do for you.

The beauty of good mentorship is that it is a chance to create the type of experience that you had or wished you had. I am proud of this neat full-circle moment I have found myself in, building a program to help support individuals much like myself.

The IPOD Mentoring Program is off to a great start.

Being a first-generation college student in the US and the eldest daughter in a South Asian family, I often struggled to be vulnerable in my mentoring relationships. In retrospect, I wish I could go back and tell myself,  “you don’t have to be fine; you just have to be honest.” Asking for help is a muscle that gets stronger every time you use it. 

Like many of us, I am the beneficiary of positive mentoring relationships, and for that, I am grateful.