Sometimes the best teachers are the ones who are just a few steps ahead.
For Brianna Ipekci, a rising senior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, young professional Rebecca Vollmann is that teacher.
“When you’re in college, everything is new…and it’s a bit scary to have all of those choices resting on the shoulders of an 18–22-year-old,” Brianna said. “Being able to speak to someone who was in your shoes not so long ago, who faced the same choices and is now in your goal position, is so invaluable and incredibly important in the development of making a good future engineer.”
Rebecca, who is now 2 years into her career as a Sales and Applications Engineer at ABB/B&R Industrial Automation, is an ideal candidate to act as a mentor. Never one to shy away from a challenge or opportunity for self-enrichment, Rebecca is incredibly involved in SAE International through SAE publications, standards committees, scientific journal review, and volunteering for the Collegiate Design Series and A World In Motion. She currently serves as a leader of her SAE Florida section and speaker in the Industrial Lecture Series, and prior to her professional career she was an active student member of SAE.
As someone who recently benefitted from the offerings SAE has for students, Rebecca didn’t want to waste any time before sharing that same leg up to the current set of collegiate members.
“I recognized the importance of mentoring throughout college and wanted to give back to the engineering community,” Rebecca said. “Mentoring allows you to impart knowledge and experience onto others and provide guidance in navigating a myriad of scenarios to further yourself professionally. It also provides the opportunity to learn, grow, and connect beyond your immediate network.”
And as luck would have it, that connection for Brianna and Rebecca was instant.
“Right off the bat, I got along super well with my mentor. I remember my first ‘one hour’ introductory meeting became almost three. She’s super easy to talk to and basically in my dream position,” Brianna said.
During their chats, Brianna and Rebecca have found a host of similarities. Brianna is serving as the aerodynamics lead on her Formula SAE team—a role Rebecca had during her time as a student. Rebecca’s internship experience in the automotive industry aligned with the type of internships Brianna was actively applying for.
“Brianna set a list of goals at the beginning of our mentorship. She wanted to build out her resume, improve her interview skills, obtain and internship, and learn how to coach up within an organization,” Rebecca said.
Through their conversations, goal setting, resume critiques, and mock interviews, Brianna enhanced her job searching skills and received multiple offers for internships and co-ops that Rebecca helped her navigate. Now, Brianna’s set to work with Tesla in the spring as a cell assembly intern and Boeing in the summer as a weight engineer for commercial planes.
The mentoring program has been the ultimate jumpstart for the first-generation college student, and she’s grateful for the connections SAE International and her mentor have helped her make.
“I learned so much from Rebecca,” Brianna said. “My parents didn’t go to college, and when they came to the U.S. they started their own business, so a lot of what I’m doing—including going away to school, doing engineering, working on racecars through Formula SAE and applying to internships—is totally new to me, and I wanted someone who went through the same thing as me to provide guidance and advice and make these tasks a little less daunting. This seemed like such a great opportunity, and I’m so glad I took it.”
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