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Brief to students


Thank you for participating in the UCT EBE Alumni Mentoring Programme. We hope that you will have an enjoyable and rewarding mentoring relationship. 


Since 2007, first-year students in the UCT Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment have been assigned a senior engineering student who mentors them during their first year of study. However, no programme has been in place to provide senior students with mentors as they progress further into their degree.

This programme aims to:

  • provide senior students with a mentor in a similar industry of their interest in order to assist students with the transition from an academic environment to the world of work;
  • offer an opportunity for the professional development of students, networking opportunities and an exchange of ideas between experienced professionals and the next generation of leaders;
  • allow for the development of good communication, responsibility and commitment.


Goals and expectations: You will be required to have a conversation with your mentor about your goals and expectations for the relationship. Please give this some thought.  Why do you want a mentor in industry? Think about what you would like to get out of the mentoring relationship?

Engagement with the mentor: Mentors will be encouraging you to reflect on your work and career prospects. Expect thought-provoking questions aimed at helping you understand and articulate yourself, your ideas, your weaknesses, etc. Be receptive to suggestions and feedback. Maintain a professional demeanour.

Contact:  You are expected to initiate the contact with your mentor and have at least two contact times per month and only increase the contact time if this is agreed upon by your mentor. The programme is a distance mentoring one, so most conversations will be via email. However, you can explore with them if conversations can occur over the phone, via Skype, or if possible, in person, if the mentor is amenable to this. Please be considerate that the industry mentors are holding down full-time employment so may only be able to avail themselves electronically. Respect the time of the mentor. They are busy professionals who have volunteered their time and expertise. It is your responsibility to stay in contact with your mentor.

Commitment: If you no longer wish to continue the mentoring relationship please be courteous to let the mentor and the Mentoring Coordinator know.  Please note that having a mentor in industry is a privilege and it is important to work hard to take advantage of this opportunity.

Mentors are not expected to offer vacation employment, internships or any form of employment.

Evaluation: At the end of the year, both mentors and mentees will be requested to complete a brief online evaluation form which will assist in the future planning of the programme.

Please feel free to contact Nazeema Ahmed, the Mentoring Coordinator if there is a concern about the mentoring relationship.

Guidelines for your first contact with your mentor

Prior to the first email contact

  • You will be given a profile of your mentor and be required to read through it with the aim of asking relevant questions about their career and experiences.
  • You are expected to go onto LinkedIn and research your mentor so that you can form appropriate questions to him/her and have some idea of their work and experience.
  • Approach your mentor and the initial meeting as you would an interview. Be prepared to explain what you hope to learn from them and why you value his or her insights and expertise, as well as something about yourself. The initial contact is important as it lays the groundwork for the relationship.

At the first contact

  • Introduce yourself and thank the mentor for availing themselves to you.
  • Discuss a bit of your background and your career interests and goals.
  • Discuss your needs and expectations. Think about what you want out of the programme prior to each meeting.

Establish a schedule for future contacts and agree on the mode of communication (eg email, telephonic, skype, face to face)

Some suggestions of what you could ask your mentor

In the piloting of this programme we found that many students did not initiate contact and were uncertain about the types of questions they could pose to their mentor. Here are some examples of questions you may want to ask your mentor. Please note that these are merely guidelines to assist you in asking questions. Please do not bombard your mentor with all the questions but choose the most salient ones or pose different ones to them.

Job description

What does your job title entail?

What is your typical day on the job?

What percentage of each day do you spend in various work activities?

How free are you to do your work independently?

What types of problems are you likely to face during the day?

What are the most satisfying and the most frustrating parts of your work?

What is the culture of the organisation like?


Have a look at how your mentor got to the current position. Think of questions you’d like to ask about how this journey was for him/her.

What are the future trends and developments that you see affecting careers in your field?


How did you prepare for this occupation?

Did UCT prepare you for the workplace?

What preparations do you recommend for a person entering this kind of workplace?

If you could start all over again what would you do differently?


What hours do you normally work?

Is travel a factor in this job?

What are the pressures that you face?

How does this occupation affect your private life?

What is expected of you outside of working hours?

Is there a formal mentoring programme set up in your workplace for young engineers joining?


It is a process of getting to know your mentor and developing the relationship.

At the end of each month think about what you’ve learnt, what else you would like to know.

Once you have read the brief - please send Nazeema Ahmed an email confirming you have read it.