Tag Archives: mentoring

Mentors do matter

Students at Lavin Entrepreneurial Action ProgramTake just a minute and ask yourself: Who’s the person who has played the most influential role in your career?  Chances are it was someone who listened to your ideas and gave you feedback—but left the real decision up to you. Or someone who encouraged you just at that point when you were about to give up on your plan. Or someone who made a few key introductions that opened a huge door for your start-up.  A mentor. And mentors REALLY matter when you’re a young entrepreneur.

The Center’s Lavin Entrepreneurial Action Program, named for Alberto Culver’s Leonard Lavin, admits freshmen to an “honors program” in entrepreneurship. No, it’s not based on the students’ GPA or SAT scores, but rather on their level of entrepreneurial drive. Many of these students started their first companies in high school, and most them are already thinking about their next start-up.

Part of the Lavin Program’s promise is matching the students with entrepreneurial mentors, and CIE’s 28-person Advisory Board volunteered to be the “first line of mentors.” At the Center’s winter board meeting, director Connie Bourassa-Shaw moderated a discussion on mentoring, which elicited comments and stories from both board members and students. The group then began “mentor speed-dating,” with 10-minute intervals for striking up new conversations.  “I’d expected the students to be a little reticent, a little shy,” said Lisa Hjorten, the founder of Informia, “but there was none of that. The Lavin students had business cards ready to hand out. And had come to the meeting knowing which of us they wanted to meet. I never could have done that as a sophomore!”

There are now 20 mentor-student pairings going forward, with more on the way. Read more about the Lavin Program.

Mentor program connects students to work world

Repurposed from a 2007 newsletter from the Certificate of International Studies in Business

CISB 2007 mentor photoFifteen Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) students received support and advice from professionals in the business world this year through the pilot Business Mentoring Connections Program. Mentors from Microsoft, Boeing, SanMar, Deloitte Consulting, KPMG, Accenture, Expeditors, Washington Mutual, Tran Law Firm, Ballard Travel and Cruise Consultants, and Lowell Elementary School shared their expertise and offered career guidance while benefiting from the chance to practice their coaching skills.

“The program does a great job of connecting education to the work world,” according to one student. Mentors were equally enthusiastic, saying, “this kind of program develops skills that are crucial to managers: listening, patience and developing the overall person rather than just focusing on their potential job”, and “we have worked a lot on professionalism, networking and communication skills; these are key aspects of transitioning successfully into the business world.”

Business School alumna Margaret Xu, ’03, will join Nishika de Rosairo in co-managing the program in 2008. CISB alumna and co-founder of BMeC, Anne Sackville-West, ‘03, will be moving to the San Francisco Bay Area and will stay involved with the program in an advisory capacity.

Associate Dean Steve Sefcik says, “we’re thrilled to have the involvement of dedicated mentors who care so much about helping our CISB students succeed.” The program will continue in 2007-2008, thanks to the support of the UW Business School Undergraduate Program office.

Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business.

Alumni mentoring

Life as a college student can be fraught with uncertainty about the future. And who better to understand the angst of a student than a former one?


It was that empathy with the mental mindset of the undergrad that prompted two former Foster students to launch a mentoring program.

“A student’s life is so brittle,” Nishika de Rosairo says. “They are at the point where even the most confident harbor insecurities about their careers and life in general. But having a mentor to aspire to, or who can just help guide them through that process, is an incredible advantage.”

With this in mind, de Rosairo and Anne Sackville-West (BA 2002) launched a mentorship program in 2006 for undergraduate students working toward the Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB). Anne has since moved away, and now Brian Wright helps Nishika run the program.

The program matches students with a young professional, someone who can still recall what it’s like to be an undergrad. “Most mentors have graduated within the past one to seven years so they’re more connected to what it’s like to be a student and enter the corporate world–a world quite different from what the students know,” says Nishika.

Each mentor takes a student under his or her wing for a year, providing counsel on career and life development. The benefits for the student are obvious: confidence, information, support, insight and more. And the mentor benefits too.

Mentoring improves leadership skills, and “today’s business world is demanding leaders who are well rounded and equipped to develop our talent of the future,” says Nishika.

Mentors also learn important skills such as effective listening and questioning, and how to provide constructive feedback. “For a lot of us, the hardest thing is to learn how to manage and develop people. Mentoring gives us an opportunity to improve our people management skills,” says Margaret.

Mentoring also keeps alumni connected to Foster, a prestigious business school. It provides an opportunity to network with other young professionals with similar interests. And mentoring is a fulfilling way to give back to Foster, to help nurture the next generation of business leaders while nurturing one’s own career development.  For more information, contact CISB at cisb@uw.edu.

Leaders Fueling Leaders: The Gift of Mentorship

A cup of coffee. A conversation. Two Starbucks leaders offer their views on the value of encouragement—a veritable “she said, he said” perspective on the power of mentoring and being mentored.

Early in her career, Michelle Gass (MBA 1999), now Starbucks executive vice president of marketing and category, received validation and encouragement from Howard Behar, Foster Fritzky Chair in Leadership and Starbucks past president, to grow and flourish as a leader, support she credits with helping her identify and develop her natural leadership style. Read their conversation below:

How did Howard Behar validate you as a leader early in your career?

Gass: I had the fortune to work directly for Howard when he returned from retirement to the role of President of Starbucks North America.  I had always heard many stories about Howard and his leadership of people, but until then had not benefited from it directly.  I will always remember one of my first one-on-one meetings with him. As I was readying to give him a full report on all my business topics, he stopped me and said he would prefer to use the time to talk about me; my leadership, my aspirations, my fears.  He told me he believed in me, that I could someday rise to very senior levels of leadership in the company, and that he wanted to work with me to help me get there.  I remember being quite surprised; I had never even considered or believed that I could be a high-level executive, never mind one for one of the most revered companies and brands in the world.  But through the work we did together Howard helped me develop my own leadership agenda; how I could lead in a way that was natural to who I was, and one that could have a positive impact on both the people I was leading and the business results I was driving. Howard is known throughout Starbucks for the following saying: “People don’t care how much you know…They want to know how much you care.” He walked the talk, and I got to follow in those steps.

What’s your perspective on mentoring Michelle Gass?

Behar: Most of the time mentoring is just about encouragement….with someone like Michelle I really was never going to teach her anything about her specific job….what I could add was encouragement.  I believed in her and I always let her know that I thought she had what it took to be a great leader.  Most of what we need from mentors is just someone who believes in us and gives us the courage and support to take on greater challenges.  It is amazing what people can accomplish if they know that there is someone that they can be totally honest with and that they can trust to look out for their best interests.  Michelle had all of the innate skills so my main job was just to make sure she did not doubt herself.  I knew without a doubt that one day she would have a very senior role in the company and I let her know that almost every day……guess I was pretty clairvoyant.

How has having a good mentor helped you succeed as a leader?

Gass: It starts with someone believing in you. People can achieve results far greater than they would have thought possible if someone is there encouraging and reassuring, through the good and tough times. Howard did that for me, as have other mentors that I have worked with over the years. Mentors also impart little gems along the way that you go back to as you mature as a leader. I remember one day Howard asked me if I came to work willing to risk my job to stand up for my convictions.  I was taken aback; of course I didn’t want to lose my job!  But over the years, as I have faced dozens of complex decisions and issues, I hear Howard’s voice in the back of my head with that question, and it has never served me wrong.

How did being mentored in your career impact your mentoring others?

Behar: I had great mentors all of my life. Sometimes they found me other times I found them. I was so interested in learning that I was relentless in looking for people that could not only help me grow my business skills but more importantly my human skills. The truth is that without all of the wonderful coaches I had along the way I would not have had the opportunities that have come my way. By the way, many people think that mentors need to be older, wiser, more experienced etc then we are, but that is not true at all.  Some of the best coaching I have had has come from peers and direct reports particularly people that were younger then I was. They always had a different perspective than I had and they were always challenging my beliefs. It is so important that we learn from everyone, not just those who are in more senior positions. At the end of the day, each of has a responsibility to help others whenever we can—just like Karma—you get what you give. It is amazing how much you can learn about yourself just by coaching others.