Why business school mentoring can work both ways
Zach Satlin, graduate
What my mentor offers is twofold. Jeremy has helped me navigate London, its culture and working world. It was good to have someone who went through the same experience as me — we were both American graduates of Chicago Booth School of Business and had moved to the UK. But beyond good restaurants and European travel destinations we have been focusing on professional advice: how to manage my first direct report, how to get exposure to senior leadership and how to set myself up for promotion.
Based on his advice I make sure I volunteer for projects that give me exposure to senior leadership, I have set up quarterly one-on-ones with directors and I have gotten to know them. It is really nice to have someone to talk to who is not invested in my career. Jeremy’s advice is unbiased and I get one person’s view of the whole picture.
I graduated in 2015 and moved here to work for Amazon. To be honest London was not on my radar. I imagined my MBA would be a stepping stone, but I was not thinking about moving into a new industry or country. But you go and do an MBA and you realise there are so many opportunities available. I discovered an interest in technology and did a fantastic internship with Amazon.
I am now a senior financial analyst and 18 months into a three-year finance leadership and development programme.
Before my job in London, I had never been to the UK. I arrived on a Saturday and started work on the Monday and did not know much about the city or its working environment. I thought I would need some local insight from contacts here. The idea of having a mentor had always been there, so it was the perfect opportunity.
Chicago Booth’s London campus invites you to networking events with alumni and professors every week. It was at such an event that one of the alumni recommended Booth’s mentorship programme as a good way to meet people and get some career guidance.
I was matched with Jeremy Perlman quite quickly and it works well. We do not meet too frequently. Generally we meet face-to-face and in traditional British fashion: at the pub.
I would recommend a mentor to others. Even if you are not moving abroad, it is good to have an outsider’s perspective. Someone to help navigate professional decisions is great. It is also important to know what you want to get out of the relationship with a mentor. I go to Jeremy to discuss key inflection points in my career — as I am starting to think about promotion, for example.
Booth matched us well, but the advice given by a mentor is only as good as you make it.
Jeremy Perlman, mentor
Why did I decide to become a mentor? First because someone asked me, but also because I have appreciated having people or mentors who I could bounce ideas off. I was involved with Chicago Booth’s alumni network and I thought it was not too big an ask to sit down and have a few beers with someone.
I am vice-president of sales for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Trifacta, a Silicon Valley-based data software company. I did an MBA at Booth and graduated in 2008.
After my MBA I moved to London to join a software company. I ran its EMEA business. After that I joined Apigee, recently acquired by Google, where I built its EMEA business. I am now doing something similar at Trifacta.
I decided to live in London because if things did not work out it would be easy to go back to the US. My wife is from Istanbul so being in London meant that we were closer to her family.
When you are a mentor it is different from giving advice to people who work for you. Zach, like me, was the classic story of an American coming here.
There are subtle cultural differences between things like the sarcasm and politeness. Apply that to the workplace and it becomes even more interesting. It was good for Zach to calibrate these things and also interesting for me to reflect on them.
As a mentor I try to respond rather than give advice. We talk about topics such as how to navigate a corporate environment, its associated dynamics and career advancement.
We also talk about managing people and taking different approaches with different sorts of people. If you have just moved here and suddenly you are asked to do lots of different things — work in a new function, in a new company, hiring people interculturally — it is like trying to solve a varying equation. It is hard. Getting some understanding of these variables is helpful.
I would recommend being a mentor. It is a two-way street because in some sense you can give back to the wider community. And you can look back at what you have done, how you have done it and how you can do it differently.
I have mentored before. When I was doing my MBA I mentored several students at Chicago university. It was interesting how these relationships differed: some are transactional, some have stayed in touch. But with each you have to go with the flow.
You need to find some commonality with the person to be able to help them. If there’s some reason to come back, then it will persist and some good will come of it.
This article has been amended to state that Zach is 18 months into his finance leadership and development programme, not about to start, and that it will last three years, not three months.