Launched in 2005, the MBA Mentorship program has been an incredible asset for the students, who can benefit from the guidance of CEOs, top executives, and successful entrepreneurs.
An interview between a graduate, Christine Barrett (MBA), and her mentor, Franco de Togni (Senior Product Line Manager Teamsport Licensed Apparel, Puma), on what each gains from the relationship.
- What initiated the mentor-mentee relationship initially for you?
Christine: At IUM’s Annual Business Days Event I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Franco. Naturally I was a bit nervous as I haven’t had an interview for some time. Straight away I felt at ease and comfortable in Franco’s presence. He was very peaceful, interactive and welcoming. We were able to share an instant professional connection due to our backgrounds in apparel product development and love for sport. At IUM you can select a mentor from a list to invite to be your mentor or you can bring someone else forward that agreed to be your mentor. Without even thinking I asked Franco if he would consider being my mentor, and if so, if he would consider being my mentor. And that was the beginning of a very successful collaboration.
Franco: Christine displayed excellent preparation and timing skills in the setting up of our mentorship collaboration together. She first contacted me to connect on LinkedIn, actually ahead of the IUM’s Business Days, which lead me right away to appreciate her excellent professional attitude, a trademark of hers, as I noticed all the way onwards since then. She was very much on time for our chat after the PUMA presentation, prepared about the topics she wanted to discuss, focused on her objectives, polite and at ease in the conversation and eventually quite clear and open whilst explaining her motivation to improve, yet still staying humble and true to herself.
- Why has the relationship been so successful?
Christine: Personally, I believe I’ve made a great friend whom I have a tremendous amount of respect for and that has been an inspiration for me. I am able to share my personal and professional goals with Franco without any doubts; he treats me like a colleague and friend, I am very thankful for that. Doing an MBA is mentally and physically challenging, at times I needed someone that could remind me of what is important to achieve my goals. It’s good to have an outsider’s perspective in an unbiased why. We’ve shared knowledge, interesting industry reads and experience. I think the success has a great deal to do with our constant communication and openness for each others’ opinions and the respect we have for each other. We both have very busy schedules and lives but we try to at least be in contact once a week. More importantly we adapt to each others’ schedules changes and don’t take rescheduling personally. There should be dedication from both sides for the program to be successful.
Franco: Christine is extremely mature as a person, who wants to expand the scope of her life at large, and ambitious as a professional, who wants to be involved in a business organization that operates on a much larger scale. She is calm whilst expressing her thoughts, she works very hard and is able to keep me very much updated and informed about her projects, and about the ups and downs of the challenging schedule she’s going through at the MBA. This works very well because we are always in synchrony when getting back in touch with each other, amongst all the deadlines we are facing in our daily routines, respectively, and consistently well and smoothly over the course of several weeks and months now. We share the passion and the curiosity for the textile industry and the constant traveling, but beyond that there is a bond that lies in the fact that we are lucky enough to have met a very unique friend, who listens from far away. I feel particularly fortunate to be in the MBA Mentorship Program with Christine, even more because she took the initiative of coming over to PUMA HQ during the MBA break, and luckily her commitment and dedication were praised with the opportunity to meet with both Sport and Sourcing Partners of the Company, who were visiting and meeting with me at that same time, therefore contributing furthermore to her deeper understanding of the business stakes.
- What would you consider the benefits of the MBA Mentorship Program?
Christine: Apart from sharing experience and knowledge, the MBA Mentorship Program has exposed me to industry professionals and networking opportunities. It is not mandatory for a mentor to do this; it is up to the individual how much they are involved in each others’ lives. Also, it’s good to have an outsiders’ perspective and guidance that helps you make professional decisions. Personally, I believe Franco and I will be friends in future too. In short, I will take away courage, self-esteem, friendship and extensive industry knowledge.
Franco: Whilst following Christine’s flow of projects, I got a clear sense of the intensity, and the variety of topics she’s been exposed to, which led me to stay very much motivated to try matching with equal focus and resilience with all the information I could exchange to support all that from my behalf and – especially – with a constant push to stay informed, to look up for new things, and to share my opinion and advice about the topics that Christine keenly brought up in the conversation. This mentorship collaboration with Christine has opened for me a freshly new channel of thinking and ultimately a genuine friendship with her.
- What have you added to this experience?
Christine: Wow, that is a difficult question when you don’t like to boast about yourself. I believe that I gave Franco insight on new academic research and techniques that he could possibly use in the industry. I feel that I am able to give Franco a fresh outlook on ideas and different point of view. Perhaps I am able to give him insight on my culture and personal history.
Franco: I believe that all that Christine has since the very first moment looked for was a truly dedicated person, who’d carefully think through what she’d be interested in discussing, and one who’d do that for the good sake of developing a fruitfully professional cooperation, one to rely on throughout the rest of her MBA and to cherish afterwards in the new business life and well beyond the end of the timeframe of this program. I felt quite inspired by this and let this guiding me in this respect.
- Would you recommend a mentor program to others?
Christine: Yes, definitely. If you are dedicated and can be objective it will work for you. It is a remarkable experience and adds value to your personal and professional life. What is important is that you as a mentee respect and appreciate that a professional with a busy schedule takes time and effort to be your mentor. It’s not about getting a promotion or job. It’s about learning from each other. My mentorship with Franco has been a happy and natural one.
Franco: I certainly recommend anyone, either a student or a seasoned professional, to participate in a mentorship program, to think about this as something that should be aiming at building upon a humanly strong and fair collaboration, where one stands for the other one, from far away and dealing with possibly different businesses, and yet being willing to stay inspired by common principles and to be guided by a shared intent to support each other, and therefore growing together. Ideally, it’s a (professional, at the highest level of ambition matched by ethics) life-long lasting partnership.
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