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Master of Digital Media Mentorship Program Connects Students and Alumni for Career Guidance

Jul 06, 2021 By Elyse Economides

In the fall of 2019, Centre for Digital Media’s Facilities & Operations Coordinator, Kristen Pilling, with support from Dennis Chenard, CDM’s Director of Industry Relations, launched the Master of Digital Media Mentorship Program to offer support and guidance to both current MDM students and MDM alumni - an idea proposed by retiring faculty member Jeannette Kopak. Although 2020 brought some unprecedented challenges, our alumni and students remained committed to the program and continued to show what innovative problem solvers they truly are.

MDM alumni and current students were paired up based on shared skills, interests and aptitude and met regularly over a six-month period. While the mentoring discussions often leaned towards career guidance, the connections also supported students as they started their post-academic life and careers in Vancouver and around the world.

How our Master of Digital Media alumni give back

Seán Conroy, a cohort 12 alumnus who has been working near the campus at Truly Social Games, reflected on his experience as a mentor and why others should consider becoming a mentor as well.

“Hey there, I’m Seán Conroy! I’m an alumnus of the MDM programme, graduating in 2019 as part of the C12 cohort. Originally from Ireland, I had a background in motion design before coming to CDM and chose to continue my education there as I thought it would be a great opportunity to both expand my existing knowledge, as well as learn new skills and interests. I currently work at Truly Social Games Vancouver, as well as a part-time instructor at the Vancouver Film School.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to become a mentor was probably due to the enjoyment I get from helping others succeed. In addition to my regular job, I also teach part-time, so I’m regularly in a position of helping others further grow and learn. When I think back to my own experience at CDM, including looking for my workplace internship, having a mentor to bounce ideas off of would have been greatly beneficial; I’m glad that the role is now available!

As part of my mentoring experience, I had two very different mentees with highly differing skill-sets. One of them wished to be a concept artist in the games industry and the other was looking into producer roles in the industry. Being an artist myself, I definitely had an easier time giving art advice to someone looking to get into an artistic position, but I found that there were also many helpful avenues that I could provide to the other mentee, even though it’s not a position that I have much knowledge of. The biggest opportunity I shared with these mentees, aside from general feedback and advice, was introducing them to additional people within the industry who could provide additional advice and support; networking does play a pretty crucial role. Funnily enough, one of my mentees actually ended up being hired by the studio that I work at and is excelling in her role as a concept artist!

For me, the biggest advantage I had while being a mentor was creating new connections with new talent and trying to find a place where they could fit themselves within the industry. Additionally, it was a great excuse to reach out to connections whom I wouldn’t have heard from in a while (especially during the pandemic), to catch up and see how they were doing. The two mentees I had were an absolute delight to work with and I have high hopes for both of them in their future careers.

I think the biggest reason MDM alumni should consider mentoring is if they enjoy helping others to achieve their goals. It’s a truly wonderful feeling when you see the help you provided flourish into something new and exciting! Not only will the mentees be able to learn from you, but you’d be surprised at just how much you’ll learn from them too!”

The future of the MDM Mentorship Program

Dennis shared a note of thanks to our alumni in an earlier post and his comments still stand:

“The MDM Alumni network represents what is possible when good people connect and support each other, and although everyone was remote this year, they made us feel closer and connected in more ways than we could have anticipated. Our alumni can and do make amazing things happen, and despite the 2020 challenges, they collectively made our year better.”

Some of our Master of Digital Media alumni at a Toronto alumni meetup in 2019

Under Kristen’s guidance, the program is poised to enter its third year, and she took some time to share the significance of the past two years:

“Dennis and I, along with all MDM staff and faculty, take pride in our alumni and our students, and we are thrilled to see the mentorship program continue this year even stronger and with a greater sense of hope and possibility. Mentor connections in real life or online inspire us and have a positive impact on both our MDM community and the broader digital community. We look forward to the next round of mentor-mentee matches and we are excited to see the amazing and rewarding results these connections create. Thanks again to all our mentors and mentees, old and new; you continue to make the world a better place.”

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Want to get involved as a mentor or mentee? We are currently looking for MDM alumni who are interested in joining the program as mentors for our current cohort of MDM students. Contact the Master of Digital Media Mentorship Program’s coordinator, Kristen Pilling, for more details.