By Sissi De Flaviis

Engineering graduate and mentor, George Hajecek, and Master of Aerospace Engineering candidate, Bill Parsons, reflect on their mentorship match and transitioning into the workplace

In 1993, George Hajecek found himself at Carleton University’s Admissions Office, uncertain about his next move. He had just graduated from the Faculty of Engineering and Design’s Aerospace Engineering program when he spotted a poster of a man holding a pair of skis in front of a Norwegian fjord – a long, narrow, stream of water between high cliffs. The poster promoted an international master’s degree program in Marine Technology. Without a second thought, Hajecek applied and spent the next few years abroad.

George Hajecek, Alumni Mentor

After completing his master’s, Hajecek returned to Canada and found himself in the same position: unable to find a job in his field. So, he applied for a summer position at MDS Aero Support Corporation. Two decades and many adventures later, Hajecek is now the Director of Business & Technology Development at MDS. He is also an active member of the Carleton community and is one of the longest-serving alumni mentors in Carleton’s Alumni Mentors program.

“When I first heard about the mentorship program, it brought me back to how I felt when I was finishing school and making that transition into the work world. I was terrified. I had no clue what to expect. I wish I had somebody there that could’ve helped me out,” says Hajecek, who has been an alumni mentor for five years. He has supported 8 mentees to date, taking on two students at a time in some years.

The Alumni Mentors program connects upper-year students, graduate students and recent graduates with professionally established Carleton alumni. Mentors and mentees are carefully paired by Jennifer Gray, Alumni Relations Officer and Alumni Mentors program lead.

The matching process is methodical and strategic; Gray takes into account a number of factors to successfully craft pairings, including academic and personal interests, life experiences, and professional aspirations. With years of experience leading the program, she sometimes even relies on a gut instinct that mentor-mentees would make a great fit.

This thoughtful hand-matching pairing process is critical to the program’s overall success. And Hajecek and his current mentee, Bill Parsons, happen to agree.

While Parson was skeptical about the matching process upon entering the program, both he and Hajecek credit the positive outcomes of their experience to a well-made—if not perfect—match.

Parsons, a soon-to-be graduate from the Master of Aerospace Engineering program, highlighted in his mentee application his keen interest in environmental efforts and making impactful change through engineering. Parsons’ passion for science and technology, specifically aerospace and environmental engineering, seemed to align perfectly with Hajecek’s specialties—a fact that stood out immediately to Gray during the matching process.

“What was so cool about Bill is that he came into my life around the same time I made a career jump,” says Hajecek. “So, there was this really good fit between where his interests are and where I am professionally.”

Parsons says he has had positive mentors in the past, but this particular pairing has helped ease his anxiety about transitioning into the workplace.

Bill Parsons, Alumni Mentors Program Mentee

“I’m sitting at home every day behind my computer just coding alone,” explains Parsons. “This mentorship experience has really opened up my eyes to what the industry is actually like. I’m not really stepping out into a blind world anymore.”

Hajecek and Parsons share career interests, while also coincidentally sharing neighborhoods. During their first virtual call, they realized they live 100 meters from each other, so they decided to go on a socially distanced walk.

“I could tell it was important for him to build a relationship, not just professionally, but to be comfortable with each other. Our meetings have developed to be a lot more friendly and casual, but still with a professional objective,” says Parsons.

The Halifax-born mentee says Hajecek has also helped him become self-aware and more confident in his skills and personal brand.

“It feels so invaluable to be a mentee and I’m very thankful for George,” says Parsons.

Thursday, May 27, 2021 in
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