10 December, 2016

Everyone should be a mentor

I met Marie thirteen years ago, when I was working as a researcher at a university computer science research institute. She was 22 years old and she was very very pregnant. She was looking for a supervisor for her Diplom thesis (similar to a Master's).

I was delighted she asked me to be her mentor, but felt a bit of trepidation as to whether she could meet all the challenges of the next months. Four days later, she gave birth to her daughter. A further three weeks on, she successfully wrote all her final exams. She worked hard and completed her thesis with the highest mark a few months down the line.

Marie came to work with me on the project I was working on for a few years. She was amazing: diligent, flexible, pragmatic, but with a healthy portion of fantasy and silliness. It was a joy to work with her.

Eventually, she decided to move to Denmark with her partner and daughter, so her partner could do his PhD. She was 7 months pregnant at that time.  Within weeks, she found a job working as a researcher to help support the family. (Only in Denmark do they hire pregnant women!)  She gave birth to her second daughter. Continued to work and eventually started working on her own PhD.

Marie came to me whenever she needed some advice or a technical editor for her scientific papers. There were a lot of ups and downs in her life, which occasionally made it hard for her to keep her eye on completing her thesis.

Last week, she stayed with me for a few days, so I could help her prepare the defense of her doctorate. It is hard to describe the sense of fierce pride I felt when she called me a few days later to say she has it in the bag!

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