ASPIRE is a mentoring initiative to connect students with staff volunteer mentors. While all staff and students can participate in ASPIRE, the scheme particularly encourages staff and students of colour to apply. Business School student Marley Ahmed (BSc Business and Management Studies) speaks to us about the ASPIRE mentoring scheme, how he’s found it helpful, and why you should get involved.
Hi Marley, thank you for speaking with us about your mentoring experience. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and something people might not know about you?
My name’s Marley Ahmed, I study Business and Management, and I have just started my placement year at the Sussex Innovation centre. I recently completed a summer internship with the Home Office and will be returning to the Business School for my final year in September 2021.
I set up a mentoring alumni project at my old secondary school based in South London that provides coaching, soft skill training and educational opportunities to 14-16-year-olds. Mentoring and supporting them is something I take a lot of pride in.
It’s great to hear about your work as a mentor for young people. So, how did you find out about the ASPIRE mentoring scheme?
I like to think I am good with emails, the majority of time! I saw an email about the Business School providing extra support to students of colour, due to the awarding gap at universities across the UK. As someone who mentors others and has two other mentors in London, I was already aware of the benefits this scheme was likely to offer.
Sounds like you have a wealth of experience already! What made you choose to sign up to the ASPIRE mentoring scheme in particular?
Being a first-generation student from a working-class background is difficult at times, from academia, to managing part time work, volunteering and social life. I decided to sign up for a few reasons. Firstly, to get support with my course to ensure I receive a 2:1 minimum (a target I set myself at the start of university). Secondly, to get support with placement, internships and summer school. Lastly, to have a clear and obvious support system at university.
Some clear goals there. So when it comes to the sessions with your mentor, how have you found them, and what have you gained from the mentoring relationship?
We agreed a weekly catch up in the Jubilee Café, but we have since adapted well to Zoom calls. I look up to my mentor in terms of how organised she is. She sends me a summary of our discussions and next steps after each session, something I am very grateful for and due to implement into my own life. I’ve become more organised – even though it’s still a skill I’m constantly working on.
The day before my placement interview, we practiced some mock interview questions and did some extra research on the company. A week later I secured it. I know the support I received helped me to secure the placement and I am thankful for that. I was also selected for a summer school scholarship (unfortunately cancelled due to Covid19) but my mentor provided advice for securing my summer internship. Every opportunity I’ve received that is career-related, the support received from my mentor went a long way in helping.
Congratulations on securing some fantastic work opportunities! It sounds like you’ve found the scheme very beneficial, but what did you find most surprising about the scheme and your mentor?
The most surprising thing about the scheme is how formal and informal it is at the same time. It all depends on you and your mentor, of course, but we formed a great bond quite quickly. Having conversations about life, general things and university related things makes the sessions even better for me personally. My mentor’s interpersonal and listening skills surprised me. Her communication skills and how she listened to my ideas, what I was doing and so on, encouraged me to practise my own listening skills more and allowed me to see the value of being a great listener in all aspects of life.
So, having been involved in the ASPIRE mentoring scheme for a year now, would you recommend the scheme to other students in the Business School?
I would 100% recommend the scheme to all Business School students. I can’t guarantee you’ll get a placement year, internship and summer school opportunity solely from having a mentor, but their support and advice will make it so much easier, if that’s one of your goals. I have developed so much as an individual over the year due to my relationship with my mentor. It shows there really are people at the University who want the best for you and will go the extra mile to support you.
I strongly feel the ASPIRE mentoring scheme can help you make the best out of your university experience. I highly recommend it and I am sure you will benefit greatly whether it be skills you develop, opportunities you receive, or another connection being formed at the Business School.
A big shoutout to my mentor, Jess, for the constant support and advice, it doesn’t go unnoticed to me. Thanks.
Interested to know how having a mentor in the Business School can help you improve your confidence, self-belief and motivation? Please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.