One of the key aspects of the Foster MBA program is mentorship. Students have a myriad of opportunities to find mentors who can guide them through the MBA and beyond. This includes the MBA Mentor Program, Fritzky Fellows, Mentorship Circles as well as informal mentorship through clubs and affinity groups. We spoke to our MBA, Class of 2023, students to ask how mentorship has helped them in their first year.
A view from the top
Dharmesh told us how the Executive MBA Mentorship Program enabled him to get a sneak-peek into corporate leadership of one of the largest luxury department stores in the US. Meeting with seasoned executives, he was able to learn about corporate decision making, growth-paths into senior leadership and the importance of personal connections in a business world.
“Meeting with the entire CXO suite of a leading global brand was a great opportunity. I got a chance to learn how they approach management at such a large scale and also ask questions about their career journeys. It was inspiring to see how people had grown within the company from Store Managers to Managing Directors. While the specifics might differ from company to company, I got to learn, first-hand, what role senior management plays in the growth of an organization.”
“Moreover, what struck me the most was the importance of relationships. Talking to them, I realized that apart from the details of their businesses, they knew so much about the people who work with them. Personal connections allowed them to develop trust and create an environment where everyone feels motivated and empowered. They were leaders, who were working for the employees and not vice-versa. That was a key learning, which I hope to apply throughout my career.”
Not just about career growth
Apart from career growth, mentorship is also about taking in diverse perspectives and developing as a responsible leader. Ankit spoke about how mentorship opportunities have exposed him to new thoughts and encouraged him to think about the kind of leader he wants to become.
“Mentorship Circles was a very unique experience for me. Unlike traditional mentorship, there isn’t any Q&A or advice. Instead, there is a group of 6-8 people from diverse backgrounds who talk about their experiences on specific topics or prompts. For me, these discussions highlight how people look at the same problem with a different lens. How everyone’s lived experiences shape their actions and decisions. It reminds me that, as a leader, I will be working in similar circumstances where people might have very different perspectives. Being able to understand and appreciate them will allow me to successfully lead diverse teams.”
It might seem that these opportunities are solely during your MBA. However, that is not the case. Keenan reflected on his approach of finding mentors, talking about the importance of long-term relationships.
“Mentorships need to be about building long-term connections with people from whom you genuinely want feedback and advice. I fell prey to seeking out a mentor because they were at a company I wanted to recruit into. I was very forward about that. Needless to say, the mentor took offense and we no longer have any meaningful connection. It probably left me worse off with that company than if I had done nothing at all.”
“Instead, finding mentors to help advise me has built the most meaningful and beneficial relationships. Even in my current internship, I was able to connect with a mentor, through UW, when I was really struggling with my project. She provided some advice and suggested different approaches that I think really helped me break through to my team. It’s these types of relationships that will last for a long time and help me navigate my career.”
More than a mentor – a friend
While mentors are your guides and can help navigate difficult situations, they can also be your friends. People with whom you can talk freely and get their honest opinions. These can be your classmates, seniors, coaches, professors or anyone else. Hailey shared how she found a mentor through MBA clubs and was able to get helpful advice about academics as well as internships.
“I found a mentor through the Women in Business Club. She is a 2nd year MBA student at Foster. Aside from her just being a wonderful human being, I really appreciated having someone to talk through the highs and lows of recruiting. Also, just talk about life, the MBA and so many other things going on in the world. Later in the year, she was particularly helpful about electives and what she found to be the most helpful. This enabled me to prepare for my internship as I was able to plan my spring academic workload based on her insights.”
“Interestingly, she also took the Women at the Top class with me in the Spring quarter. It was incredibly cool to hear some of the main ideas cascading through her as a ‘sneak peek’. In turn, I felt more empowered to act as a mentor myself for the folks at my company.”
These experiences showcase how mentorship can take various forms and benefit each student in a different way. Finding the right mentors, who you can rely on for advice and help, can be a long journey. The Foster community is here to support you through that journey.