UTEP News Service / Lisa Y. Garibay
Before enrolling in the M.B.A. program at The University of Texas at El Paso, Sandro Quintero worked as an engineer for a German company, where he saw how his German counterparts had built their careers from an early age, including an apprenticeship phase under experienced professionals. Seeing how effective this approach was, Quintero sought a comparable opportunity offered by UTEP after enrolling.
Luckily, the College of Business Administration (COBA) had just launched a mentorship program tailored to students like Quintero. This initiative by COBA offers a select group of business and corporate leaders the opportunity to participate in the continued development of current M.B.A. students and new alumni. Mentees receive a real-world perspective of the fast-paced and highly competitive business marketplace.
Launched in September 2013, the pilot program took place throughout the semester. Seven pairs of mentees and mentors were matched up.
“Two of the mentees were offered further internships from their mentor during or after the program and four out of the seven pairs decided to continue their mentor/mentee relationship independently after the semester for the program officially ended,” said Krista L. Snow from COBA’s alumni and external relations office.
The next semester, the number of applicants tripled. The second round was launched with 10 new pairs in keeping with the program’s goal to grow slowly so as to allow for high quality and ensure its sustainability for the long run.
After the 2013-14 program year, Snow and her team spent the summer restructuring and making changes based on the feedback received during the first semesters. The revamp launched in early September 2014 with 22 pairs, including Quintero. While mainly focused on M.B.A. students, both full-time and accelerated, three economics master’s students and three recent alumni participated as well.
“We could not be more pleased with the early successes of our mentorship program and we look forward to its future as this college and UTEP change the face and the pace of business student education and student development,” said Robert Nachtmann, D.B.A., dean of the College of Business Administration.
The COBA Alumni Chapter, which is managed by Snow and the chapter’s Board of Directors, kicked off the program. Bob Wingo – president and CEO of Sanders\Wingo Advertising and a COBA Gold Nugget Award recipient – also is very supportive of the program.
The first in his family to earn a college degree (a B.B.A. in marketing from UTEP in 1973), Wingo is a strong role model, one who is driven by the philosophy that it’s important to give back at this stage in his career.
“I tell all the students I work with, ‘Once you establish yourself, reach back and help someone else,’” Wingo said. “I’m looking for you to be part of that chain of continuous momentum to ensure that our student body is getting opportunities that they need and they understand how to take advantage of those.”
When he was approached for the mentorship program, Wingo dove in and assembled what he called “The Plan,” which is now a 50-page document outlining tips for everything from interview techniques and mock interview scenarios to instructions on how to research companies and personnel at those businesses when students seek jobs.
Most important to Wingo was all the advice he included on engagement and networking.
“The three most critical things in this whole process are relationships, relationships and relationships,” he said.
Today, mentorships last an entire year and slots also are available for economics graduate students due to the related expertise of new mentors. Forthcoming is the introduction of an informal curriculum with content for mentors to check off during their yearlong commitment. Future growth of the program includes the possibility of opening it up to undergraduates.
Wingo hired his first mentee as an intern; she is now an associate brand manager at Helen of Troy. Another mentee is also gainfully employed and Wingo is currently guiding a third student through the program.
The M.B.A. Mentorship program has given this kind of invaluable experience to 39 students.
Mentee applicants must be M.B.A. or master’s economics students or recent alumni. Interested parties must submit a professional resume along with the completed online application and be in good academic standing if they are still students.
If accepted, participants must commit to fulfill responsibilities including initiating contact with and meeting no less than five times in-person with their mentor throughout the program. Professionals interested in mentoring may apply here.
Patrice Hills is another graduate student in COBA who believed the smartest thing to do was apply for and take advantage of the mentorship program.
“I believe that in addition to the education I am receiving, it is imperative to have a strong network to help me grow in my career,” she said.
Hills was paired with Jorge Vielledent of AXA Advisors’ Synergy Planning Group. Their monthly get-togethers include business meetings with Vielledent’s partners and colleagues.
Vielledent is a COBA graduate himself who committed to the program a year ago.
“Mentorships are necessary within my profession due to misconceptions of what financial planning is all about,” he said. “It’s an unknown subject by most professions.”
For Hills, one of the most valuable pieces of advice she has extracted thus far is to maintain a work-life balance.
“As an M.B.A. student, I am driven to focus intently on my career and business goals,” she said. “My mentor encourages me to make time for friends and family and to make time to take up hobbies and leisure activities, no matter how challenging it may be.”
She is now more confident, a result that makes the whole process worthwhile when the organizers of the program witness it in each participating student.
“I have learned that I am more knowledgeable than I give myself credit for,” Hills said. “Additionally, my mentor is encouraging and insightful. When we discuss situations that I may view as an obstacle in obtaining my career goals, he provides evidence or a strategy to turn that obstacle into a strength.”