The advantage of teaming up
Inside the relationship of a mentor and a mentee is a powerful bond built on mutual respect, trust, a desire to help, and a willingness to listen.
Sangeeta Rao, an assistant dean who oversees Rutgers Business School’s mentoring efforts, started TeamUp in 2013 as a way of connecting undergraduate students with professionals who could provide them with useful insights about transitioning to the work world.
During the past five years, 1,300 pairs of professionals and students have been teamed up, and 85 percent of the relationships have continued beyond the duration of semester.
“There’s a high probability that if the connection is right, it creates a life time of value to the student and the mentor,” Rao said. “It’s a two-way street.”
Here are the stories of three pairs of mentors and mentees who connected through TeamUp.
"He's helped me."
It didn’t take long for Michael Beck to become a trusted sounding board for John Pizutto, a Rutgers Business School junior.
Through the TeamUp mentoring program at Rutgers Business School, Pizutto was able to pair up with Beck, a Rutgers alumnus who works as head of global supplier assurance at Barclays.
Pizutto thought a successful business professional could prepare him for the work world in a different, more candid, way than a professor or even his parents.
“He’s helped me with a lot of things,” Pizutto said. “I’ve used him as an outlet, to get his thoughts on situations I’ve faced. It’s been a definite benefit.”
Case in point: Pizutto was wrestling over whether he could juggle a 40-hour-a-week co-op at Johnson & Johnson on top of his studies in supply chain management. Beck encouraged him to do it and offered him some advice on how to manage his time so his classwork wouldn’t be neglected.
Beck offers the students he mentors a glimpse of the expectations they will face in the work world. He talks to them about corporate culture and emphasizes how important time management, communication and presentation skills will be in the real world.
Pizutto also got a better look at the corporate world when Beck invited him to visit Barclays. Pizutto soaked it up. “It’s not everyday I get to sit in business meetings,” he said.
For Beck, mentoring is a way of giving back. “There aren’t enough people committed to helping people out,” he said.
“If I can give someone advice and enrich them with my experiences,” he said, “I just really enjoy that.”
"If I can impart some wisdom, I'm happy."
Angelene Jean-Louis is not burgeoning on adulthood. She is a seasoned customer service representative and translator for Delta Air Lines, a mother, an adult already, pursuing her undergraduate degree in accounting.
Still, she was nervous – “intimidated,” she said, when she went to meet her TeamUp mentor, Mary Giordano, a veteran employee at Prudential who worked her way up to vice president of regulatory supervision.
That’s didn’t last long. “She’s very warm. She made me feel very at ease,” Jean-Louis said, recalling that initial meeting at a Barnes & Noble bookstore.
Jean-Louis decided having a mentor “would be helpful” and she wasn’t disappointed. Giordano helped her with the typical things, the resume and cover letter, helped her find career websites and she also assured Jean-Louis that she had experience and skills to tout.
“She’s showed me how to turn my experience into an advantage and that gives me more confidence,” Jean-Louis said. “She’s taught me how to market myself better. I didn’t know how to do that before I started working with Mary.”
Giordano is warm, with a bright smile and an unassuming air. She started as a staff accountant at Prudential 35 years ago and she earned her MBA at Rutgers in 1987. “If I can impart some wisdom. I’m happy to do that,” she said about her role as mentor.
Giordano has told Jean-Louis about how she juggled a career and motherhood. She’s given her advice about the importance of a company culture, what to look for and what things will provide support to her. Jean-Louise also shadowed her for a day at Prudential.
It was an eye-opening orientation for Jean-Louis. “I got to experience the corporate world, to sit in on a managers meeting. It won’t be brand new to me,” she said.
Giordano said the role of mentor gives her a chance to work with college students. “I love their enthusiasm. I love the bright future they represent,” she said.
“When I’m working as a mentor, I’m there to coach, to assist them with professional development,” she said. “I love Angelene. She has been very receptive to my feedback. She’s very motivated.”
"I think I got a mentor for life."
When Matt Schuette went to college, he didn’t have a mentor.
The first in his family to attend college, he didn’t benefit from a lot of career advice, and in hindsight, he credits his strong math skills for getting him in the door at Prudential, where he built a career in technology and information systems.
Partly because his company encourages mentoring and partly because he wishes he had known a mentor when he was younger, Schuette, now vice president of information security at Prudential, got involved in the Team Up program when it was started by Assistant Dean Sangeeta Rao at Rutgers Business School in 2013.
“I get a lot of personal pride out of it,” he said.
In the fall of 2017, he was teamed up with Parth Modi, who plans to graduate from Rutgers Business School-Newark next year with degrees in Management Information Systems and Supply Chain Management.
Modi is the first of his family to be U.S. educated. He was 13 when his parents brought him to America. Neither he or his parents spoke English. During high school, he worked in fast food restaurants, which helped him to learn English while he earned money to support his family.
Schuette has helped Modi learn about different jobs he could pursue with his degree. He invited Modi to Prudential, where Modi could speak with other executives about their work. “Getting their advice was really valuable,” Modi said.
Modi said he gained a lot of industry knowledge from Schuette and he doesn’t know where else he would have been able to learn so much about the different job opportunities in his field. Schuette also critiqued his resume, highlighting the things that will differentiate Modi against other job applicants.
“He was tough on me, but we became good friends,” Modi said. “I think I got a mentor for life who will push me to bring out the best of myself.”
“Whatever happens,” Modi said, “he’s going to be there for me.”
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