By Michael Peterson I recently graduated from Kennesaw State University’s Executive MBA program. While the 19-month program will help me advance my career, one of the most important aspects of the program was one that few MBA programs across the country offer: meeting regularly with a mentor who worked as a chief financial officer and could provide me practical, real-world career advice. I met my mentor, Mark Bachmann in August 2018. Mark is president of CEO Netweavers, a group of current and former C-suite executives in Atlanta that offer their time as mentors to MBA students. He also has an impressive resume: he’s a partner with McCracken Alliance Partners, which provides full-time or interim CFOs to companies, and has served as a chief financial officer at Zep, Inc., a $700 million chemical manufacturer. I work in the finance department at UPS and we met monthly to talk about my career goals and develop a strategy to move it forward. Nine months later, the honest advice I received from someone with a similar career path had a significant impact on my confidence and career outlook. Once Mark learned about my career aspirations, we set tangible goals for my career advancement. He also kept my expectations realistic and provided perspective on my outlook.
  • I interviewed for an internal position to give me new experience and exposure that fit my interests and short-term goals. Mark helped me to prepare for the interview and subsequently pivot/prepare next steps when I ultimately did not get the job.
  • He also reinforced the idea that I should always be learning, asking myself, “what am I learning now and how does it add value to the organization?”
  • Perhaps the most valuable result of the relationship was the ability to share information with someone that could provide me with valuable advice and not worry about hurting my career. Having Mark as a candid resource to discuss any difficult topic was extremely valuable.
Mark’s counsel had immediate impact. He advised me to approach and network with someone in the UPS finance department one level above my own. The purpose was to receive advice, leadership and guidance from someone who had been in my shoes. In effect, I would be developing a mentor within UPS that could guide me along the way. Next, we discussed a plan to understand the type of job rotations that would fit with my career aspirations. At UPS, people rotate in and out of positions every few years to gain a broad range of experience. I needed to think one step beyond the initial rotation – what was I learning, how could I apply that knowledge down the road, and how one job would help provide exposure for the next one. When the formal mentoring program concluded in May 2019, I took stock of the program and concluded the following:
  • I received solid advice from a real CFO that enabled me more easily navigate my career challenges and avoid some pitfalls;
  • The mentoring program validated information I learned in class, but it was also pragmatic. It was information I could use in the workplace.
  • Kennesaw State’s Executive MBA program, combined with the mentor experience, changed my mind set about how to achieve my career goals while enhancing my communications skills and leadership ability.
  • Gaining Mark’s confidence, and knowing what he has achieved in his career, has inspired me to aim higher.
There’s one final benefit. While my mentorship with Mark ended in May 2019, he agreed to continue to be a sounding board as I evaluate any future career opportunities. It’s an offer I plan to take advantage of. And, of course, I recommend that other Kennesaw students take advantage of this program. It’s clearly worth it.