International College of Economics and Finance

Matching the alumni: ICEF Mentoring Programme in action

Matching the alumni: ICEF Mentoring Programme in action

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How ICEF Mentoring Program came about

The Mentoring Programme was started in 2016 by ICEF Alumni Board. My role in it was to develop its concept and get the alumni and the students to actually cooperate. I am still in charge of the Programme, coordinating all of its initiatives.

How it actually works

The mentor-mentee pairs are set for a period of one year. The pairs work out the logistics of their relationship on their own. Their interaction revolves around topics such as career guidance, goal setting, internship opportunities, studies, and some important sides of personal growth.

Over the past few years of fruitful work, mentoring has been one of the core formats in which we provide career guidance to students. As mentors, the alumni use their own experience and that of their colleagues to illustrate the opportunities that open up at a particular professional turn, helping students to identify professional domains to suit their skills and to start preparing for the interview by their chosen company. Mentors also help mentees to understand corporate environment and whether certain jobs and companies could be the right fit for them. What mentees get is a “scenario” for achieving career success, and they get it from a person who has covered exactly the same path they have set themselves on – the path from student to specialist.

How to join

The Programme welcomes 3- and 4-year bachelor’s and master’s students. 1- and 2-year students can be accepted by way of exception, but we are working to enhance the Programme so that it could match the needs of all our students.

Maxim Bochkov
Maxim Bochkov

The role of a mentor can be assumed by any holder of bachelor's or master's degree from ICEF. The alumni welcome the opportunity with great pleasure. For them, it is a way to share advice on how to avoid mistakes, integrate into the company and enhance some of the personal qualities that can prove crucial to career success. Mentoring is also a way for the alumni to stay in contact with their alma mater and have access to candidates for internships at their companies.

What professional domains are covered

ICEF has an alumni community of more than 2,000. Most of the participating alumni are prominent specialists within a wide range of professional domains. 38% of them are in banking and finance, 31% in real economy and IT, and 19% in consulting. Mentoring is provided also by the alumni who work in business, academia, and public sector. The majority of our alumni live and work abroad, serving as valuable sources of experience of integrating into international companies and details of employment in a particular country.

Each participating student is asked to fill out the questionnaire for us to know his or her needs and be able to find a mentor with most relevant experience.

How the matching algorithm works

We combine a student’s career needs and desired topics of interaction into a profile to be used for identifying perfect match. Even though we have two iterations for the algorithm to help us quantify the “profile match”, the process is still largely manual. To make mentoring more enjoyable for the mentors, we prepare the mentees by teaching them the basics of preparing questions, getting arrangements fixed and reporting on the progress.

Mentoring Programme in figures

The Programme involved 24 alumni and 38 students in its first year (2016/2017).

The 2020/2021 membership stands at 70 alumni and 85 students.

20+ alumni continue in their role as mentors for five years.

Once the match is found, students are invited to contact their mentors and meet them personally or by video call to discuss convenient formats and platforms for communication – messengers, Zoom, apps, etc. This first meeting is designed to identify also the goals of interaction and the working methods to suit the student’s needs.

For mentor-mentee pairs to find mutual understanding and interact more effectively, we have prepared a set of instructions. We are planning to increase the level of support for the pairs, so that cases of least effective interaction could be revealed at an early stage.

How will the Programme be updated

The pair matching algorithm will soon be supported by a third iteration. Developing a universal algorithm for quality pre-selection has proved a highly challenging task, which, however, must be attained if we want to scale up.

Then, we would like the mentor-mentee interaction to be better formalized and we will be analyzing this interaction further to find ways of improving the communication and effectiveness of meetings. There is a plan to develop a user-friendly interface for couples to communicate.

Ekaterina Ivanushkina, ICEF, 3-year bachelor’s student

Ekaterina Ivanushkina, ICEF, 3-year bachelor’s student

This is my second time in the Programme. This year, I was offered as many as three mentors to be contacted and I found their backgrounds selected very competently to suit my needs. It has been interesting to talk with people who already did or are doing their PhDs. We started to communicate back in January after a Zoom meeting and I have received quite a number of productive consultations since then.

I received the answers to a great deal of questions such as universities and programmes that are best to enroll in, how to deal properly with documentation package for admission, secrets to writing a good motivational letter, increasing the chances of getting an offer, the skills I should start developing already now, and the career paths that can be there after doing a PhD.

Our communication helped me realize I am more suited for the career in academia. I hope that the information I have received from my mentors will help me in my further studies and that our contact will grow into a long-term professional collaboration.

Daniil Yershov, ICEF, 4-year bachelor’s student

Daniil Yershov, ICEF, 4-year bachelor’s student

I have participated in the Programme thrice during my undergraduate studies and I was satisfied with every mentor I was assigned. My mentors were more than attentive to my needs and queries, assisting me on the path of building my professional self.

This year, we were communicating mainly over the phone, because my mentor lives abroad. There was one time, however, when we met face to face. My mentor has been very helpful with my choice of a career track. She told me a lot about moving abroad and choosing a master’s degree. I got some useful contacts through her to find out more about the training opportunities in my target country. 

It would be, of course, wrong to expect your mentor to give you a success recipe. You rather get together to develop an action plan based on your goals and your mentor’s experience. When you have this action plan, you are able to make the most of your time and opportunities. Thanks to the mentoring program, students can learn what to expect upon graduation directly from those who have covered the path they have set themselves on.