In many mentoring programs, travel funding is a big issue. Mentors and mentees working at great distances often want to attend a professional conference together at some point in their relationship. Conferences are an excellent way to maintain and improve professional knowledge and networks. Also, after being encouraged by the mentor, the mentee may want to raise his or her visibility by seeking a speaking engagement, accepting an invitation to join a conference panel, or to present a workshop or poster.
An example: Four of the 2011 mentees in the U.S. State Department's TechWomen program for women in the Middle East and Africa wanted to give a panel together at the 2012 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Katy Dickinson (now MentorCloud Vice President) was invited to be the moderator. Once the “Technical Women in the Arab Region: Challenges vs. Aspirations” panel submission was accepted for GHC-12 presentation in Baltimore, Maryland USA, funds had to be found for the panelists to travel from Algeria, Palestine, Egypt, and Lebanon. Visas also had to be secured. The travel funding and arrangements took a great deal of time and effort but with support by three organizations, the panel was a success.
If travel funding for a conference is a concern for you, here are some suggestions to consider:
- Ask your boss for a grant or travel support (full or partial). With your boss' permission, ask several places inside your company or organization, since different leaders may have each have a little to contribute. Offer to represent the company or organization - after finding out if there is a conference exhibitor hall or similar.
- Research if the conference itself or the conference organizers offer scholarships (advertised or not, full or partial). Travel scholarships can be very competitive, so apply early.
- Hold a fundraising party or ask a friend to do so for you. Ask friends and family each to support you with a little contribution.
- If you are a writer or photographer, contact news sources in your area. Offer to write up the conference or take pictures in exchange for an up-front contribution. They may even offer you a good camera to take along to get better images.
- Ask your university or alumni association for support - they may also be interested in pictures and stories for their alumni magazine or web pages.
- Securing your visa and travel permissions may be as difficult as getting funding - start work on both early. Letters of permission from your home company or organization, and of invitation from the conference may help in getting travel papers.
- Think about the professional travel you plan for the whole year - distribute funding requests to different sources so that no one gets tired of your asking.
- This will take time and trouble - Persistence counts!
Best wishes for your professional travels!
Images Copyright 2011-2012 by Katy Dickinson