The value of mentorship and sponsorship cannot be underestimated. MBA students striving for competitive tech internships and STEM careers benefit greatly from the advice and experience of industry role models who advise them outside the classroom.
The Easton Technology Management Center’s Industry Mentor Program pairs current students with accomplished alumni, executives and other industry professionals who coach and support future tech entrepreneurs and managers with priceless insights.
The mentoring experience results in career development and investment for both mentor and mentee. UCLA alumna Pandora Ovanessian got to know Anderson student Ronak Rahimi (EMBA ’18) by mentoring her through Easton’s program. When Ovanessian became CIO of Easy Dial Inc. and needed to build a team, she brought Rahimi on board because of her experience and the relationship they had built. We would like to share some insights from Pandora and Ronak with you.
- Please provide some background information about yourself.
Pandora: My career started working in IT Healthcare Consulting with one of the big Public Accounting firms, expertise in healthcare, manufacturing and distribution. I got into tech to due to the opportunity to help drive innovation, improvements and make businesses more efficient. Served as CIO in diverse industries such as NASA JPL, Golden State Foods and Thermo Fisher Scientific.
Ronak: My Ph.D. focused on semiconductor devices including organic solar cells, organic LEDs, and sensors. My next venture was at Intel Corporation with a focus on design and fabrication of microprocessors. After a few years at Intel Corporation, I began to pursue my Executive MBA at UCLA. I currently work in the biomedical industry.
- Why did you join the Easton Industry Mentor Program?
Pandora: I am passionate about education and supporting UCLA. The combination of knowledge and education provides opportunities, and as a UCLA alumni I know the quality of the education here. Being able to give back to the community and support future IT leaders is important. The power of networking is huge, and the opportunity to start in an MBA program and create a networking chain is even bigger. Being part of the Anderson community and being able to have someone support you as a mentor is very valuable and students can really use it as leverage. A perfect example is Ronak, it’s amazing the power of having that when you just start your MBA program.
Throughout anyone’s career and lifetime it’s always great to have a mentor to coach you and bounce ideas off of. I still look at mentors for myself, in the workplace and in my personal life. I have had some incredible mentors, and it’s not necessary for them to have big titles, everyone has a talent and a skill set. Being able to connect with individuals who have the strength you want to get or can brainstorm ideas with you make a big difference. Gleaning off of someone’s experience can only accelerate your own growth.
Ronak: Throughout my education and career, particularly at Intel Corporation, I always benefited significantly from excellent mentorship. Joining the Easton Industry Mentor Program was a very easy decision to make. After speaking with Pandora for the first time, I knew I was assigned to the right person that could guide me through my career shift.
- Ronak – What value do you think the mentor program provided you? How has the relationship you’ve built with Pandora helped you as an Anderson student?
It gave me a true opportunity to network with and learn from successful leaders who have a proven track record in technology and business. This relationship has given me an opportunity to observe and learn from leaders such as Pandora. Specifically, it has given me a platform to apply the leadership concepts taught at Anderson in a real-life startup company.
- Pandora – Do you have any advice for women wanting to work in tech?
I think instead of thinking about it as “women in tech,” people should focus on what they want to get from being in the tech industry. It’s certainly not a good idea to have barriers and limitations for yourself, and when you start putting yourself in a category, like a woman in tech, it creates limitations. You just need to keep in mind what you need to do at full speed without looking at any of the other categories that you or other people may put you in. I never see myself as a woman in tech, but as an individual who wants tech to helpful in my industry, making a difference. So stay focused on where you want to make that difference and where you can add value and make a true impact.
- What challenges do you think women face when working in, or trying to work in the tech industry?
Ronak: Thankfully, these challenges are the topic of heated discussion in the media in recent months, and we are seeing a healthy debate in society and media, which would hopefully be the beginning of change for women in the tech industry. To name a few: gender gap in terms of women having a “glass ceilings” in a male dominated field, unequal recognition for similar quality work, and lack of support to maintain a work-life balance particularly for those of us who are mothers. I believe this change can be more efficient and long lasting if we promote and support young women to peruse (pursue) a career in STEM in the earlier stage of their education. This is the reason that I work with society of women engineers (SWE) as a mentor, committee chair and university counselor.