The EMBA platform to cultivate new mentor relationships
When Priyanka Narasimhan decided it was time to take her career down a different path, she knew that she needed to draw on the experience of others.
"I was working in pharmaceuticals, in research and development," says Priyanka, a 36-year-old biologist who lives and works near Cambridge, England.
"What I wanted to do was move away from research and towards the commercialisation of products. While preparing for the career change I quickly realised that I had several gaps in my skills – business skills was one of them."
"I remember trying to prepare an important presentation. Because I am a scientist, I was immersed in data, that's all I could see. I was wondering how to make my point in a way that stuck. Those around me, who worked in the luxury sector, looked at the data and could see a story."
Priyanka's colleagues, who would become her mentors as her EMBA studies progressed, helped her to create presentations that engaged others and brought them around to her point of view.
"I think the mentoring I received from my more experienced colleagues at HEC Paris helped me more effectively make my case when presenting to different departments and stakeholders."
Priyanka is not alone in seeing these benefits. Studies show that career professionals, regardless of their career level, benefit extraordinarily from having mentors – people whom they can consult with and seek advice from regularly.
Research conducted in 2006 for Sun Microsystems found that career professionals within their organisation who had a mentor were five times more likely to be promoted than their peers without one. Furthermore, both mentees and mentors were 20 percent more likely to have received a raise than their peers.
It's not just mid-level career professionals who benefit: According to a survey by the Harvard Business Review in 2015, 84 percent of CEOs questioned felt that their mentors had helped them avoid costly mistakes and that they had become proficient in their roles faster. Another 69 percent stated that their mentors helped them make better decisions.
The classmates who would become her mentors would provide concrete support not only during her Executive MBA, but as she began a new role as a program manager for Novartis.
"When I was preparing for interviews, for example, I practised with more senior and experienced colleagues. They were there to give input. The skills that they passed on will be valuable throughout my life."
"Whenever I have doubts, even now I can ping an email and tell them that I have a problem that I need help with.
"When I started the new role I reached out to (a mentor) and told them I was preparing to map all my stakeholders as part of a 90-day plan. I asked them how they would go about it, and they gave me some very valuable ideas.
"I think mentors can really help guide you through undertaking new and challenging roles. They help me understand the functions and priorities of different departments.
"Another perspective is, I'm a first-generation immigrant. I'm a female. I need to see people like me in leadership roles, and I need to connect with them and understand how they navigate through the corporate world."
Many of the mentors that Privanka still draws upon are part of the HEC Paris EMBA alumni networks; she sees a wealth of industries and levels of experience represented both within the alumni cohort and faculty.
"My EMBA was such a great platform to cultivate mentor relationships. You're thrown into a world that is so different from your own industry. You are constantly presented with fresh perspectives and a wealth of prior experience.
"I have a few degrees and I've been to several universities, but HEC Paris was different because I was constantly learning, not only from my teachers but those around me.
"I continue to access my network, with mentors that come in different shapes and forms. They are my teachers and classmates. I have an established rapport with them. I'm comfortable discussing where my career is at with them."
Priyanka's future not only involves an exciting new career at Novartis, but exciting possibilities developed during her EMBA project. One innovative project involves the creation of artificial devices to test chemicals and cosmetics ethically. As she does, she will be offering advice to those in her footsteps.
"I will be making myself available to those seeking a mentor, looking for advice. You don't want to surround yourself only with people like you. You need a good balance.
"You want to have people who challenge you in terms of skillset and culture, as well as those you can already relate to.
"I look forward to being a part of that."
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