How to Start a Mentor Program in Technology Commercialization

Undergrads rarely understand the larger picture of how research is conducted, how startups and companies fit in, and the role of sponsored research and patents. Creating a mentor program within your technology commercialization department not only can help educate people considering it as a career tract, it can also help your department with future recruitment.

Promoting from within is a great selling point to future candidates but you need to make sure you’re taking the time to develop the internal candidates. Mentor programs do that.


Tips on Starting a Successful Technology Commercialization Mentor Program


Decide What Structure Works Best for Your Technology Commercialization Department

Most people think of mentorship programs as one-on-one relationships of the more seasoned professional teaching the newbie. But there are other kinds as well such as reverse mentoring when the newbie mentors the seasoned person; there’s flash mentoring similar to the speed dating concept where someone comes with a direct question and the other has 3-5 minutes to answer before the mentee move on to the next person, and outside facilitators who function as temporary mentors or coaches. Your budget, time, department culture, and staff size will affect which of these options you choose.


Set Goals and Educate

Make sure everyone understands what you expect from the mentor program. This should not be an excuse to have someone else do the mentee’s work or keep them from thinking. Mentors are a guide. They should not be supervising work unless it is a mentor-guided project. Make sure mentees and mentors understand the time requirement involved and what they will get out of the program being sure to manage expectations.


Make Mentoring a Part of Your Culture

For your mentoring program to enjoy long-term success it needs to be more than just a meeting. Mentoring must become part of your culture. You’ll want to promote a collaborative atmosphere where the team focuses on developing itself through training. You want consistent efforts to yield consistent results. You can’t say mentoring is important and then not make time for it.

Do you have a mentoring program in your technology commercialization department? If so, please share the details in the comments.

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