Thomas Diep is a Digital & Linear Research Executive who led an analytical team in using media research tools to create presentations geared towards client needs in a sales-supported environment. Thomas contributed to gaining new business driving maximum returns on profit. Thomas has served as an academic year-long Mentor within Executives on Campus since 2016.
Kerry: Why did you join Executives on Campus?
Thomas: With the time frame I had between getting my Undergraduate and then obtaining a Graduate Degree, I realized the learning curve in the two programs were extremely different. The prior taught me all theory while the latter incorporated practice. As a teenager entering college, all your accolades and credentials depended on high school GPA, community service, SAT scores and any Honors received. To enter Graduate School, you needed employer recommendations, Undergraduate GPA and a concrete essay focused on how the area of study corresponds to your current position. If you are lucky enough to graduate at 25 with both Degrees before entering the workforce, then you are well prepared in both theory and practice. If not, there may be more twists and turns while climbing the ladder to success. Hopefully, during your entry-level days, someone takes you under their wings to be your guide. EOC helps bridge that learning curve and closes the gap. It brings seasoned veterans to mentor driven and motivated students into a virtual classroom preparing them for the real world.
Kerry: What challenges, if any, did you encounter during your year-long mentorship with your mentee? And how did you go about handling it?
Thomas: The main challenge as with everything we do in life is TIME. I had the benefit of working with two mentees – an undergraduate and a graduate. Between the two, I saw learning curve discrepancies. The undergraduate needed hand holding while the graduate student knew how to run before learning to walk. The graduate held a full-time job in Fashion. Thus, finding a mutual time to converse was difficult since he was always on the go from meeting or flying off to various exotic destinations to plan for next year’s collections. However, he was laser focused and knew exactly the kinds of questions he wanted answered, as well as the advice and recommendations he needed to help resolve issues. Conversely, my undergraduate was a clean slate. He needed the picture on the walls. Being inexperienced with a lack of internships made him uncomfortable while around someone who was not his peer. As an upcoming Junior, I didn’t have much time to help weld the cracks to his foundation. Two years had went and two more are left to be filled with knowledge of how things worked outside the classroom windows. The phrase “help me, help you” came into play. I had to make myself accessible whenever he needed guidance. During our meetings it was not about providing a lecture, but more about quality teaching where he can actually gain resources for his everyday life.
Kerry: What are some tips you would offer to a first-time mentor?
Thomas: The most important advice that I would provide to a first time mentor is “ask yourself before you sign up, do you truly have the patience to listen and teach? If not, then this is not right for you. Being a mentor is not about putting another stamp on your list of accolades. It is about molding someone into a potential success. It is about building an ideal individual whom you want to contribute positively to the society that you and your family live in. It is about paying it forward.” The second crucial tip would be “you need to be yourself and genuine. The program is designed for leaders to create future leaders and not followers.” The last “is to be confident. Don’t pretend to know something that you do not. There is no shame in not being up-to-date with the latest fad, trends, etc. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Generation gaps will always exist. If your co-workers who are younger can teach you something you did not know, then your mentee can too. If you think less of yourself, then your mentee will also.”
Kerry: What were some of the goals set during your mentoring relationship?
Thomas: I had three requirements that I expected: show up, be talkative and challenge each other. Punctuality, promptness and the ability to fulfill obligations are keys to gaining someone’s respect that you are a reliable and serious individual. All relationships are a two-way street, all parties involved will need to communicate. There is no benefit if only one person does all the listening as the other does all the chatting. Two people can have different points of view on the same topic. Do not be afraid to “agree to disagree.” Judgement is always derived from things that people do not understand fully. Keep an open mind and both people can harness seeing things from a different angle. You might be able to learn something about yourself while you teach. At the same time your mentee may unleash hidden potential that he or she never knew was inside him or her.
Kerry: How did your mentee grow throughout the duration of your mentorship?
Thomas: During our initial meeting my undergraduate mentee was very timid. I sensed that he was anxious, nervous and intimidated. To put him at ease, I tried making him more comfortable by asking “how do you wear your pants in the morning? I put it on one leg at a time.” At that same meeting, I explained to him my expectations. When the conversation was over, I had my doubts that he heard a single word that was said. Every meet up after the first, he took initiative. As days got closer to our agreed upon date, I would receive an email reminder. With each session, he would start to express his opinions, share the process he took to resolve a problem and became more receptive in taking advice. During our last day, I asked what he took away from our partnership. He was able to recite in no particular order the kinds of advice I would give to a first time mentor, coupled with the goals that I wanted to teach him. Needless to say I was deeply impressed.
Kerry: What do you believe was attributable to his growth and transformation?
Thomas: Perception, I would say has to do with honesty and trust that I had his best interest at heart. Literally each meeting, I would listen to my undergraduate’s concerns, address options on how he should confront them and provide my own life experiences that can directly or indirectly relate. We all have stories and we all been through similar life events, sharing them with my mentee can only assist positively. In reality, the influential change I truly believe had a lot to do with himself. My undergraduate took what he learned from this program and was able to apply it constructively. As a matter of fact, he held two internships during summer of 2017 as a Social Media Marketing Researcher for A Free Bird Organization and Langalo.
Kerry: What would you say are the most effective components of the Academic Year-Long Mentoring Program?
Thomas: Unlike speed networking, students benefited most due to the slower pace. There is ample time to absorb material, apply it and receive adequate feedback from a single source of contact. With every session being spaced out, the mentee can learn knowledge in waves from his or her mentor. It is similar to taking a course with prerequisites and passing the class prior to advancing to the next level than burning the midnight oil cramming everything in just to ace an exam, but retain nothing. Next and last, in my opinion is the ability to work 1:1 through the stretch of the academic year. The student has sufficient material to provide to the mentor, while the mentor truly gets to know the mentee by name instead of a number. Genuine friendships blossom which is better.