Connecting ACF startup teams with their advisors(aka “super fans”) 🤝

ACF teams started meeting their virtual advisors this summer finally in person thanks to the vaccination and flexible summer break schedule among our team members.

In essence, these in person meetings brought profound benefits and impacts to our teams afterwards that we are happily obliged to share this reflection story.

Team bonding

Believe or not, ACF startup teams have met during the pandemic or right before the pandemic hence, in person time together got reduced or exists none. Managing projects and team building were not a small feat at all over the zoom but our team managed the former well using the task management tool like AirTable. However, team bonding was challenging to say the least as opposed to in person setting.

This in person team advisor visit gave the opportunity for the team members to meet face to face for the first time and got to know one another through casual boba tea gathering or donut eating in the same physical space. It is still awkward as we cannot neither hug nor shake hands but we can feel how much we are passionate about the project and how much we have been through together over the months virtually. Needless to say, this precious in person gathering with the team’s advisor is priceless and highly recommended if all the safety conditions have met and agreed(vaccination).

Live mentoring

From our observation, mentoring can happen anytime in life especially during the adolescence period when the teens are most vulnerable and awkward both emotionally and socially. Hence, meaningful and effective mentoring adds more value to our startup teams which comprise mostly middle and high school students. When we visited our advisors in San Francisco, Mrs.Bagley gave us not only direct insightful feedback to our PyroTamer team project(resource tracking tool app for the fire fighters) but she gave our team a comprehensive overview of the creative design industry and the value of good user experience. In nutshell, it was a big eye opener for our team as they were limited to virtual learning environment where every piece of information is available but not carries the authentic mentoring sentiment through eye contacts and live Q&A sessions. Moreover, she was the epitome of the true mentor by cooking gourmet brunch(egg casserole and baked potatoes) for the team and giving us the fancy stage to present using the gigantic projector screen. Also she thoughtfully planned the tour for our team in order to show how the idea flows from our imagination into real products and services. She took us from the very first floor where her industrial CNC machine and 3D printer to create the prototype to the 2nd floor where all the designs and samples were displayed all the way to the rooftop where we were lucky enough to see the clear and beautiful San Francisco sky and bay view. We learned mentoring is not a word but an action from this advisor meeting experience. Our team cannot stop talking about it even now how much fun they had and how much they learned not just about their project potential but also the entire scope of how technology works in the real world.

Building a life long relationship

ACF startup teams working on their unique topic often require external feedback from the industry experts and potential customers. With the pandemic, this only now occurs over zoom meetings. Nevertheless, our startup teams have been actively taking advantage of this pandemic situation where people are willing to connect and help one another due to trip hassle free but just hop in zoom call convenience culture. There is no guarantee that our teams will be able to continue ever lasting relationship with our advisors and mentors but meeting in person will definitely increase that chance. Emailing and texting are convenient but remembering the precious moment we shared together at the same physical location brings utmost satisfaction and deep impact. And our teams always promptly followed up with our advisors and mentors immediately upon the trip by sending thank you notes with the group pictures which now has an indelible effect on our relationships between ACF startup teams and their advisors. That’s how we encourage our startup teams bond with their mentors over long period of time with their progress and effort. One last thing to quote when we asked one of these mentors during the visit; why did you respond at first(trust me, our teams got so many cold rejections) and decide to support our project when we contacted you virtually? “I believe in saving lives and your team is doing it as high school students and that’s enough for me to support your team and your team’s project”.

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