MBA Mentorship Program Matches Georgetown Students and Alumni for More than Career Advice

MAAC Group Photo
The MBA Alumni Advisory Council, which created the MBA Mentoring Program. Photo taken pre-COVID-19.

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When the MBA Program at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business decided to pilot a mentorship program in December 2019 to connect students and alumni, they could not have imagined the importance it would have in 2020.

What started as a match of 16 students with 15 alumni a year ago now is a robust offering that has paired 130 Full-time MBA students with 130 Georgetown McDonough alumni, fostering community in a time of disconnection. 

“Our goal with the mentorship program is to connect our students with the whole-life experiences of our alumni in a way that helps them navigate the MBA program as well as what life will be like for them in the years after they graduate, including work-life balance and intergenerational relationship building,” said Maureen Carpenter, assistant dean, MBA Career Center. “Long-term, the program will enhance and strengthen our alumni and student connections across our entire community.”

The idea for the program emerged from the Mentoring Subcommittee of the MBA Alumni Advisory Council (MAAC), and its members helped launch the pilot last year. Over the summer, the MBA Career Center and Alumni Relations teams partnered to reach out to the school’s alumni to recruit mentors for the program. As a result of the enormous response from the alumni, this fall the program was able to accommodate every Full-time MBA student who requested a mentor. 

“Mentorship has been one of our priorities for some time, so I’m delighted that we have been able to launch a formal program that benefits so many of our MBA students,” said Prashant Malaviya, senior associate dean for the MBA program. “Creating something this meaningful on such a large scale is a result of the commitment and engagement of our MAAC and the generosity of the broader MBA alumni community.”

The current mentor pool includes McDonough graduates from as early as the 1970s who work in a variety of industries, most prominently financial services (30%), technology and new media (22%), and consulting (16%). They also represent consumer goods, education, energy/cleantech, entertainment, government, health care, hospitality and tourism, manufacturing, marketing/sales, nonprofit, public relations, real estate, and telecommunications.  

Energizing the McDonough Experience 

For John Bottimore (MBA’87), a member of the MAAC and vice president for international business development at BAE Systems Inc., it was important to integrate this program into the Georgetown MBA experience as a way to demonstrate care for the students in line with the school’s Jesuit values. 

“For students, having these kinds of outside relationships is a nice respite from the daily grind that helps them see the forest for the trees on what they are learning and the future application of it,” he said. “It helps give them long-term understanding and perspectives and career advice from the alumni.” 

He added that the program is designed to bring in the whole life experiences of alumni to help students explore things they don’t learn in business school, including balancing life and work and how to apply what they are learning in class. “It’s also about the non-academic things that affect your ambition and trade-offs in life,” he said. 

In the pilot, Bottimore was paired with Hannah Richards (MBA’21), who appreciated the relationship-building aspect of the program. 

“Mentorship for me means more than just having a sounding board for advice, but building a relationship with an individual who is uniquely interested in you and your development, and through the relationship, try new things, think through problems, identify challenges, and shape your personal and professional pathway,” she said. “My experience in the MBA Mentorship Program gave me all of this and more. I feel a stronger connection to the McDonough community and a better understanding of my place in it.”

She added that Bottimore’s attention to her entire MBA experience, and not just her career, was the best part of the program. 

“From helping with networking for a job prospect, to facilitating a connection for a guest speaker for a club event, to sharing stories about international experiences, he was helpful to me in the ways I needed to be successful when I needed it most,” she said. 

Bottimore sees the program as more than a way to give back to his alma mater. For him, it was an opportunity to re-experience business school and, in the process, discover a new sense of energy about his own work.  

“The mentees bring to us a fresh early career perspective that we may have lost years ago,” he said. “Serving as a mentor gave me a new energy about doing things even in my own work experience. It’s a funny analogy, but when we talk about a product life cycle, there are chances to renew a product late in the life cycle. As mentors, we have chances to renew our thinking of our career or potentially learning from a mentee, renewing our own product life cycles in a sense.” 

Building Confidence from Within

Students are encouraged to approach the program as an opportunity to build a long-term relationship — not to find an internship or a job. Catherine D’Ascoli (MBA’21), who also participated in the pilot, found her mentor helpful in navigating her direction throughout the program. 

“I was really interested in connecting with someone who had been in my position before and could listen to my interests, ideas, doubts, concerns, and help steer my path based on her experience and expertise,” she said. “It worked out to be a great experience for me.”

D’Ascoli knew she was interested in operations, but was unsure of her industry preference. With the help of her mentor, Tania Galarza (MBA’05), senior director of marketing strategy and performance at Marriott International and MAAC member, she was able to navigate this uncertainty. 

“Tania helped me focus on what I did know; she advised me to think about the ‘non-negotiables,’ meaning things that I must have in my next role. These were more values and characteristics of a company as opposed to the industry,” D’Ascoli said. “This thought exercise helped build my confidence to reach out to alumni and set up information interviews, better tell my story, and ultimately land a summer internship through connections.”

For Galarza, being a mentor in the program is a way to support the broader MBA community.

“When our subcommittee began to define what we were trying to do, it was important to reflect our Georgetown University and McDonough School of Business values,” she said. “It’s about being a community, about giving back and supporting one another. When we think about our MBA students, we’re investing in preparing leaders for tomorrow.”

Because she has forged a nontraditional path, Galarza also champions coaching and the idea of sharing experiences with others so they can see alternative options in their own career plans. Over the years, she has connected with students and professional contacts to share her professional and academic journey and her thought process throughout. 

“With the knowledge I’ve gleaned through my experiences, I have the opportunity to share  aspects of that journey to help students as they map their future” she said. “I’ve been in three very different industries and sectors, but the nature of my work has allowed me to leverage  experiences and capabilities to pivot as new opportunities presented themselves or I when I was ready for a career change.”

D’Ascoli continued to turn to Galarza as a sounding board to think through her internship offer and how to make the most of the experience, and then again halfway through to evaluate how it was going. They connected again during fall recruiting to weigh Catherine’s opportunities as well.

“At the end of the day, a mentor’s only motive is to encourage and help a mentee. I feel like I got so much helpful support and feedback from my relationship with Tania,” D’Ascoli said.