Hertz Mentoring Program Illuminates Career Paths

December 16, 2021
Hertz Foundation

“It's the human side of the curriculum vitae.”

That’s how Derek Haseltine, the Hertz Foundation’s director of the Hertz Fellowship Program, describes the purpose, value and impact of the foundation’s new mentoring program. It brings mid-career and senior leaders in the sciences together with in-school fellows for regular online conversations about careers.

“When you look at a CV, everything looks very strategic,” he explained. “It’s so much more interesting to hear peoples’ stories because you learn about what motivated pivot points in a career. That’s the kind of real mentorship we’ve been able to offer fellows.”

Haseltine joined the foundation in January 2021 with 15 years of experience in graduate career advising and a strong history of entrepreneurial success establishing programs for PhD and postdoctoral students, predominantly in the sciences and medical professions. Most recently, he was founding director of career development at Baylor College of Medicine. There he instituted and managed a comprehensive suite of career support and mentoring programs for more than 2,100 students and postdocs.

Constantine Tzouanas

“It’s intellectually interesting to hear advice that directly translates to my own research area and career paths.”

Constantine Tzouanas Arrow Right
2020 Hertz Fellow

Graduate Student, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“We have a strong desire to deepen and broaden the experiences offered to our fellows while they are in school, thereby providing a more valuable and customized launch pad into the various career options open to them,” said Robbee Kosak, president of the Hertz Foundation. “These mentoring sessions also help expand students’ professional networks at this early stage in their careers.”

Five sessions have taken place to date:

  • Hertz Fellows Tony Pan and Max Mankin, co-founders of Modern Electron, discussed their own transition from focusing on the technical side of science to becoming leaders of a company.
  • Hertz Fellow Carolyn Seepersad, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, spoke about careers in academia.
  • Hertz Fellow Daniel Theobald, founder and CEO of Vecna Robotics, offered a personal conversation about the people who shaped his career path and how he now mentors the next generation of biotech leaders.
  • Hertz Fellow Katie Maass, a clinical pharmacology scientist at Genentech, provided an early-career perspective.
  • Sandra Glucksmann, a veteran biopharma executive, shared personal stories behind the building of successful companies.

“The small group mentoring session speakers have shared honest lessons from their own experiences, which has included both ‘big picture’ advice about choosing different paths and practical advice when pursuing a specific career,” said Hertz Fellow Sarah Hooper, an electrical engineering student at Stanford University. “It also has been great having small group discussions with Hertz Fellows from other schools and disciplines.”

Sarah Hooper

“The small group mentoring session speakers have included ‘big picture’ advice about choosing different paths and practical advice when pursuing a specific career.”

Sarah Hooper Arrow Right
2018 Hertz Fellow

Research Scientist at the National Institutes of Health

Hertz Fellow and Director Dan Goodman sees the mentoring program sessions as a natural complement to Find Your Path, his book about career trajectories in the sciences.

“Personal stories are a wonderful way to provide career guidance,” he explained. “That is the big difference from my book; the communication here is two-way.”

Haseltine agrees that the program’s success is due to the free flow of ideas and stories at each session. Mentorship is top of mind for many in-school fellows, so the sessions focus primarily on the human side of working in science, rather than on the technical aspects. And because the program is in its early stages, Haseltine views it as a great experiment in providing critical connections to fellows.

“We hope that the in-school fellows will take ownership and maintain strong relationships with the speakers in this program,” he added. “They carry the credibility of being Hertz Fellows who ask good questions and possess the curiosity to follow up.”

The fellows agree.

“It’s intellectually interesting to hear about the diverse problems tackled by Hertz Fellows across disciplines, but also to hear advice that directly translates to my own research area and career paths,” said Constantine Tzouanas, a bioengineering student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “I’ve really enjoyed contributing to these discussions and look forward to the next one!”

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