Ep 13: Mentor-Mentee: Symbiotic relationship- Nirisha Garimella & Tien Le
Updated: Jul 18
Hello, This is Sirisha, welcome to my podcast! Sometimes we wonder how to create a symbiotic relationship with our mentor or mentee. Nirisha Garimella is an educator who has moved from academia to a tech company supporting education services across global customers. Tien Le has embarked on her engineering career and loves solving problems. Tune in to see how Nirisha and Tien are truly able to build a close relationship that will last a lifetime. Each podcast has a few takeaways and resources at the end. Check them out and leave me your feedback!!
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Below is a transcript of the episode, slightly modified for reading.
PODCAST TRANSCRIPT OVERVIEW
[01:12] - Meet Tien...Mentee [Jump to section]
[02:30] - Feeling Lost... [Jump to section]
[04:11] - Mentor... enables my success [Jump to section]
[06:46] - Meet Nirisha...Mentor [Jump to section]
[07:48] - Mentor... Being prepared as a Mentee [Jump to section]
[14:29] - Note to your 21-year-old self... [Jump to section]
Food for thought. Episode takeaways [Jump to section]
PODCAST DETAILED TRANSCRIPT
Meet Tien... Mentee [01:12]
Usha: We're still talking about mentorship in our season today. In today's episode, we're going to be talking to two professional women, Nirisha and Tien, who were able to create a wonderful mentor-mentee relationship that was truly symbiotic in nature. I'm excited because of many reasons, while one big reason is that Nirisha makes the most wonderful pizzas and I know Tien is love at karaoke. Other than that as Siri and I spoke with them, we had these nuggets of why they liked the experience, but they were not able to pinpoint and say, this is the reason we clicked. And those kinds of relationships at work are rare and I'm excited to hear it about what made them click. So with that context, I want to welcome you. Thank you, Nirisha, for joining us and thank you Tien for joining and sharing your story on our podcast
Siri, Why don't you get started?
Sirisha: Welcome Nirisha and Tien. We are really excited to have you. Tien, we are going to start with you first. We know you were in a mentee relationship, not too long ago, but before that, can you give us some idea of where you're from? What did you do before and what do you do at work and what do you really enjoy about it?
Tien: I’m from Vietnam. Currently, I'm an electrical engineer. I love the job I'm doing. I love the rewarding feeling when I successfully solve some problems.
Sirisha: That's excellent. I think problem-solving. That's what kind of gets us going for most of us, though we may be doing different jobs and you and Nirisha met through a mentorship program. So what made you really sign up for this mentorship program and what did you learn from it?
Feeling Lost... [02:30]
Tien: So, I grew up in Vietnam and I came to us when I was 18 years old for education. So I barely know anything about the US, especially the educational system. So that was my second year of college and I remember this day very vividly. I just walked out of a classroom and it was the main hall at the college. So there were so many students walking in different directions and I felt like in that sea of people, I felt like I was just floating with the crowd, not knowing what I'm doing in life.
Like, you know, I was in college, I didn't have a job, I didn't even have a plan, I didn't know anything. Like when am I going to transfer to a university? What am I going to do next? So there were so many students walking in different directions and I felt like in that sea of people, I felt like I was just floating with the crowd, not knowing what I'm doing in life. there were so many students walking in different directions and I felt like in that sea of people, I felt like I was just floating with the crowd, not knowing what I'm doing in life. Like what, what should I do? And somehow I couldn't get all my questions answered by them. That's when I saw the poster of the mentorship program. And of course, of course, I have to sign up because I have to find out what to do next and that's where I met Nirisha.
"There were many students walking toward different direction and I felt like in that sea of people, I felt like I was just floating with the crowd, not knowing what I'm doing in life."
"I learned this lesson a long time ago that it is okay to ask questions and I don't know all, so I start going around asking many people, family, teacher, classmate, advisors about, what do I do?"
Sirisha: That is such an interesting story. I really liked the expression where you said you were floating on a sea, and being carried away and to find that anchor point and reaching out to people and finding that mentorship program. So how long was your mentorship with Nirisha and what do you think worked really well for you and were some of the best tips she gave?
Mentor... enables my success[04:11]
Tien: I think officially the mentorship was two semesters, but honestly I think it's going to be a lifetime cause she's still a mentor to me, even though it's been years ago. So for me, mentorship is not just about guidance, not just about the mentor giving some ideas or tips, because if that can be, people can go to Google and look at whatever question that they have, but mentorship is more for me. Nirisha is that she cares about my success. She wanted me to be successful and we just genuinely adore each other and genuinely care about each other. I think what makes it even better is that I looked up to her and I do respect her. So whatever she advised me, I really value it and I always come to meeting with a list of questions.
Of course, I had a lot of questions back then, and I always have a lot of questions she always patiently listened to what I asked and try to help me out and she go above and beyond to help me. So at that time, I wanted to transfer to University, I wanted to apply for a scholarship and Nirisha had been there, she did that so she gave me great advice. I cannot choose, which one's the best because of all of them and even later on when I started my career as an engineer and she even go out of her way, to find someone else who is also an engineer to help me out. I'm really grateful to her for doing that.
"For me mentorship is not just about guidance not just about the mentor giving some ideas or tips, because if that can be, people can go to Google and look at whatever question that they have, but mentorship is more for me. With Nirisha, is that she cares about my success. "
"I always have a lot of question and she always patiently listened to what I asked and try to help me out and she go above and beyond to help me. "
Sirisha: I think it's amazing that you guys have such a warm relationship. As you said, it's not about just really being a mentor, it's really being friends and being family. That extended family that you can reach out to. So I can understand it's not like one single tip or anything. it’s genuine caring that you were talking about.
Usha: I have a theory based on our conversation before we started the podcast, there's one thing that both of them love, they love being around people. I think that really did it, I mean, the way in that sea of people Nirisha stood out for Tien. I just think that fact that both of you love being around people may be 'it', but that's just my theory.
We'll find out in the end. So Nirisha, why don't we get started with your background, your story? How did you reach where you are now and what is it that you love about your career?
Meet Nirisha...Mentor [06:46]
Nirisha: I'm Nirisha and I grew up in India and came to the States, gosh, many years back, let’s just put it that way, for graduate school. Currently, I work in a learning technology company and I work in client relations. It's funny, you talk about me and Tien and really enjoy working with people or being around people. That's truly one of the best things of my job is getting to work with clients and really helping them problem solve with what's going on. But also, additionally, the other thing that really, really, gets me up and getting to work is the relationship I have with my team. It's lots and lots of collaboration that happens on a regular basis, so those are the things. So that's a little bit about me and what really keeps me going at work.
Usha: Some of those things just naturally lend themselves to a mentorship type of role, but more than that, was there something else that drew you into being a mentor? I'm curious if you've had experience in your life if somebody has mentored you or if you just naturally looked up to people.
Mentor... Being prepared as a Mentee [07:48]
Nirisha: Just thinking back, so a couple of different, higher education institutions I've been to, I have signed up to be a mentor. I think maybe one time during graduate school, it was a very specific career-driven mentorship program, but I think it was really throughout my life, but also throughout my educational experiences, having finding somebody like Tien mentioned, asking questions. One thing that my dad always stressed us, to me and my sister was, it’s always good to ask questions. And in fact, when you ask questions, it shows understanding rather than the lack of it, that's kind of always stuck with me. So, knowing to ask questions and asking for help, was the way we were brought up. I knew I would not have been, I wouldn't have reached where I am without the help of different key people in my life. So when I have, when there are these formal opportunities at the institutions I work, to actually be a mentor, I went ahead and signed up for it because I know sometimes you never know what role you can play in people's life, so I decided it was kind of my opportunity to give back.
"When you ask questions, it shows understanding rather than the lack of it"
"When there are these formal opportunities at the institutions I work to actually be a mentor. You never know what role you can play in people's life, so I decided it was kind of my opportunity to give back."
Usha: I know you a little bit outside of the podcast as well, Nirisha, and you come from a family of academics. So it's only fitting that you would, talk about asking questions because I've heard the phrase there are no wrong questions, they're just wrong answers. So that's, that's just a perfect fit of your background and where you come from now in terms of your experience with Tien. What did you think when Tien talked about a lot of things, from your perspective, what do you think went well?
"I've heard the phrase there are no wrong questions. they're just wrong answers."
Nirisha: So I mentioned to you that this was not my first round at mentorship, I had done it at another institution, but really what set this particular one apart, right from the very first meeting that Tien and I had was the fact that she came into the room with a vision for what kind of help she needed.
Most of these mentoring relationships, and mentor programs, have a booklet. Here are some things that you can do with your mentor, get to know them, ask them about the exams, and ask them about the classes. I don't think me and Tien, besides signing the form, was a requirement, I don't think we followed the booklet because it was such an organic one. It really was because, she came in with a vision that she wanted to see, how do I go to the next step? She knew that when we met was just a stepping stone to the educational degree, she wanted help as to how to get there.
"She came in with a vision that she wanted to see, how do I go to the next step? She knew that when we met was just a stepping stone to the educational degree, she wanted help as to how to get there."
I was very upfront with her. This was something new, yes, I had been in graduate school, but I had never been an undergraduate school in the US so it was a new thing that we were learning together. So that's where it was her clear goal and her genuineness, I know we were talking about genuineness about relationships, but I think for me, what stood out was her genuineness about, I have a goal I want to succeed. This is something that is important to me and that really resonated with me because she was willing to put in the work, she was willing to put in whatever needed to be done because we would walk away saying, “okay, go ahead and look at, for research, these and so that we can build on what we have learned together.” Let's learn this information together, so it was really her walking in with a goal, that really set this particular relationship apart.
"What stood out was her genuineness about, I have a goal I want to succeed. This is something that is important to me and that really resonated with me because she was willing to put in the work, she was willing to put in whatever needed to be done."
Usha: Did you find yourself preparing for these discussions because she had a clear goal? You felt you had to prepare and then put in the effort and then take her to the next level?
Nirisha: I mean, I felt I was completely invested. I was invested in getting her whatever I could get for her because I knew at the end of the day, it was what she was going to bring into the discussion for her to succeed. I was invested that's the best way I can put it, I was invested in her own success and getting to, and talking about options because I know, again, coming as you mentioned, coming from a family of academia, I had, insight as to ‘If you go into this program, this is how far you need to do’. So for instance, for engineering, I remember you and I were exploring different options, right? Biology, micro, I think it was biochemistry and engineering. So all of these different things, she knew she wanted to stay with science, so to come back to your question, I absolutely, I was going and preparing myself.
I was meeting, I was talking to students I was working with, I would go ask them, 'Hey, can you tell me more? This is what I'm trying to get answers to or where can I go find these answers?’, so I was learning alongside with her and we were sharing and learning from it.
Sirisha: I think it's very interesting, your relationship because as Usha started is such a symbiotic, very trusting, genuine, you've built a relationship for a lifetime beyond just that mentorship program that was set up for the two semesters.
The end came with clear goals, but those goals would have still been very high level. Hey, this is what I want out of it, you both working on discussing and learning. You are not from her field, your field doesn't necessarily overlap with her, and you have some experience. If you look at the broad spectrum, the experiences that you travelled from another country to the US to study, that is where you join. But it's not at the undergrad, it’s not in the same technology field or anything like that, so there were things that you had to do, that she had to do for you to meet and continue to invest in it, that you bought to put in a lot of work to build that, going and getting that information.
Nirisha: Absolutely you are right. That it was, but I can tell you from my side, it didn't seem like work. These were definitely mentor meetings that I would look forward to because the other ones that I had done previously were like, ‘Oh yes, I'm meeting with a mentor. Let me bring out what are they going to talk about today?’ What marks this one was, 'Oh, wait, I can't wait to share this with Tien and so let's see where this goes,' definitely set itself apart.
Sirisha: It was an investment of a different sort. It was more emotional and it was more the joy of meeting that you don't want to have to reschedule this meeting, there’s no reason to have to, that you you're looking forward to it. We all have some mentors and some relationship meetings we look forward to, and I will talk about this in one of the upcoming episodes, we call them a personal board of directors, who is on it, who's going to help you grow.
That's what you both have going here., so maybe you should really call it that rather than just a mentor-and-mentee relationship.
"We all have some mentors and some relationship meetings we look forward to, and I will talk about this in one of the upcoming episodes, we call them a personal board of directors, 'who is on it, who's going to help you grow.'"
Note to your 21-year-old self... [14:29]
Usha: So we always ask our guests, if you were to write a letter to your 18-year-old self, it's usually 21-year-old, but you're not too far from there ‘So we're going to say if you edit out to letter to your 18-year-old self on one quality that would help you get through those years of college and to be where you are today’.
Tien: I think that I couldn't be here today just because of me. So there are many people that helped me along the way. Just like, Nirisha, the quality that I would tell myself over and over again is to ask questions because I believe that everyone has something that you can learn from. So that would be great if you are not afraid to ask questions and also besides asking questions. I have the ability to do critical thinking because you can not because I'm the type of person, if I have one question, I'm going to ask a bunch of people and then get different answers. Then at the end of the day, I would sit down and see, okay. which advice match my situation, and my personality, you cannot just blindly apply some advice from someone else, because you know, everyone's different.
So never be afraid to ask questions and critically thinking. I think those two, still today are going to get me far away.
"So never afraid to ask questions and critical thinking. I think those two, still today is going to get me far away. "
Usha: That's great advice for people at any stage of their career, and Nirisha, we're going to ask you the same question, but we're going to go with that, anode that you would write to your 21-year-old self. You're not too far from there too, but we'll go with 21.
Nirisha: I thought about this when you asked me, I'll have to say one thing. I'm a very different person now, I'm a little farther away from 21 than Tien is, so when I look in the rearview mirror, one of the things I think I would have told my 21-year-old self to have the courage to stand up and speak up for myself and it's okay to make mistakes. Tell her to continue and be very confident about asking for help and asking questions. Be sure of yourself and stand up for yourself.
"I'm a very different person now. Have the courage to stand up and speak up for myself and it's okay to make mistakes. Tell her to continue and be very confident about asking for help and asking questions. Be sure of yourself and stand up for yourself. "
Usha: Both of you have the same point to make, but you also show how it is okay to take some time. You don't necessarily have to get there, Tien probably got there earlier, and then you took your time to get there and both of them are okay, thank you so much.
Sirisha: This was such a joy, both to being able to stand up and believe in yourself. Those are all key points that I took away. To your point, Nirisha, it's a journey as you evolve. You're not the same person. as when you were 21 and we can do things differently. So if I was looking at a mentor or mentee, a personal board of directors, let's just go calling it that, you can ask questions, talk to people and like you said, put the critical lens on and see what the right decision for you is at that point in time, because it may be different later on and pull all those pieces together, but just reach out.
I think in the end, it's all about reaching out and gathering and being okay with it. So I want to say thanks to both of you. It was a lot of fun.
"Able to stand up and believe in yourself. It's a journey as you evolve. You're not the same person. as when you were 21 and we can do things differently."
Usha: Thank you from my side as well. Tien, Nirisha.
Nirisha: Thank you. This was a pleasure connecting with Tien again on this talking about our relationship and seeing it from all these different perspectives and really appreciate your insights, both Usha and Sirisha.
Food for thought. Episode takeaways
Here is today's food for thought,
It is okay to ask questions, never be afraid to ask questions and think critically. Those two are going to get you far. When you ask questions, it shows understanding rather than the lack of it.
Mentorship is not just about guidance, not just about the mentor giving some ideas or tips, because if that is so, people can go to Google and look at whatever question that they have, but mentorship is when the mentor is invested in your success.
Come in with a vision and next steps to your mentor so you can get the most out of your relationship.
Take the opportunity to be a mentor, you never know what role you can play in people's life, it is an opportunity to give back.
We all have some mentors and relationship meetings we look forward to. We will talk about a personal board of advisors or directors who are invested in your success, in an upcoming episode, check out Episode 15.
Have the courage to stand up and speak up and it's okay to make mistakes. Be very confident about asking for help and asking questions. Be sure of yourself and stand up for yourself.
Guest: Nirisha Garimella
Guest: Tien Le
Guest Host: Usha
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