The Honors Alumni Mentoring Network is coming full circle now with former mentees becoming mentors and helping the next generation of Honors students. Before graduating from DMSB in 2016, Allen Meringolo, participated in the program in its inaugural year, working with Honors alumnus, Andy Cabasso (DMSB ‘09) as his mentor. Andy and Allen hit it off and have stayed in touch throughout the years! Now Allen is a mentor along with Andy and he’s formed a great relationship with his mentee this year, Sam Smucny (COE ‘22).
We spoke with Allen, Andy, Sam to hear about their experiences in the program and suggestions for other mentors and mentees.
Why did you choose to join the Honors Alumni Mentoring Network?
Andy: I’ve been happy to be a mentor, to help provide advice to students, and help them navigate their careers. I initially signed up to mentor because I wanted to be able to give advice to students that I wished I had when I was in school. I wished I had an experienced mentor working in the trenches of the industry I hoped to be in someday, to get their advice and bounce ideas off of. I had many great faculty advisors while at Northeastern, but there wasn’t really a program to pair students with professionals in the field.
Allen: I am forever grateful to the various mentors I have had throughout my life and career and want to pay it forward.
Sam: I wanted to build my network with people that I would not normally interact with, and I wanted to get advice on how I can start to look at post-graduation possibilities. The mentor program has helped me feel more comfortable in understanding what all my options are after graduation. I still don’t know what I will be doing after graduation, but the insights that I have gained from this experience so far will help me to navigate future options.
Allen and Andy, how has your relationship developed over the years?
Allen: My connection with Andy has always been and continues to be fantastic. Andy has successfully started two companies and is an entrepreneur to his core. I myself also have entrepreneurial ambitions so we have always had an incredibly good rapport.
We got matched back in Fall 2016 right before I was graduating and Andy provided both high-level career advice as well as detailed, tactical resume advice. We are still very much in touch. I semi-recently started a new job in sales and customer service with an early-stage startup company called Meetaway. I practiced my sales pitch with Andy when I was first hired and since we are both SaaS technology companies, I have picked Andy’s brain on different tools and tactics.
Andy: It’s been rewarding to see my mentees’ progress over the semesters. Allen and I have been in touch since 2016, when he was a student, and we’ve stayed in touch to this day as he is working in the field. The questions he asked me in 2016 were mostly about career opportunities, and related to his first job in a sales and marketing role and how to succeed in that role. I gave him feedback on things like sales and promotion. Over the years I have been a sounding board for his own business ideas and have shared advice on marketing strategy and tactics as he has changed roles in different companies.
Looking back to when we first started chatting, I can see how Allen has progressed and succeeded professionally from his first job to where he is today, and I hope that I have been able to contribute to that somewhat. I am not surprised that Allen is a mentor today. Allen is eager to share his knowledge. He has been able to give me feedback on many different things over the years, and I am glad to see him sharing his expertise with students.
Allen and Sam, what has your mentorship been like this year and how have you both learned from each other?
Allen: Sam comes from a science and engineering background. Coming from a heavy business background, I have really enjoyed learning about Sam’s technical skills and experiences. They are deeply fascinating as someone who does not know much about these subjects. Our first couple conversations revolved around general career discussions and learning about each other’s backgrounds. In February, we also did a mock interview as Sam prepares for this third co-op.
Since we are both passionate learners, we have done a couple of, I guess I’ll call it, mutual learning exercises. A few days before our chat, we will each choose a topic or two that we are interested in, have some solid foundational knowledge, find some relevant articles or sources for those topics, and then in a shared doc, we each link those articles and pose some discussion questions for the other person.
Sam: Because Allen and I are from different backgrounds, I feel like the conversations are very much a two way conversation. We each bring our own perspective to a topic. I think of myself as very knowledgeable about many different topics, but that knowledge is usually isolated to certain interests that I have in a topic. For example, one time we discussed blockchain technology, which is a very well known technology, but where many people have little understanding of how it actually works. Since I am more familiar with the technical foundations of the technology I was able to explain how it works to Allen so he could tie it in with his existing knowledge of its impact and mind share in the public consciousness. With each of us bringing a different perspective I always learn something from Allen’s point of view. We have discussed everything from cryptocurrencies, social media ethics, real estate, human history, and intellectual property. It is a similar experience to my current writing class which is interdisciplinary (coincidentally an honors class).
What advice would you give to potential Mentors or Mentees for fostering a successful mentoring relationship?
Andy: For mentors – When you first start meeting, learn about them – where are they in the job search process, what careers are they looking to get into, and what are they looking to learn more about. The more you ask about them, the more you can potentially help. Also, set a regular schedule to check in and discuss how things have progressed since you last spoke.
For mentees – come prepared with a list of questions. The more you prepare and think about questions and advice you’re looking to get, the better the mentor can help
Allen: I would suggest that mentors be open and vulnerable and curious about their mentee. The most valuable thing a mentee can do is show up with an idea of what they’d like to get from the mentee relationship and keep in touch with your mentor as you progress in your career and life.
Being a mentor means working to understand the goals, motivations, experiences, and challenges of your mentee and sharing knowledge, connections, and insights that you have gained to help your mentee reach their goals, clarify their motivations, frame their experience, and navigate their challenges. In a successful mentorship relationship, the mentor gains just as much as the mentee. The process of sharing knowledge, insights, and connections is a helpful and clarifying reflection exercise. Additionally, no one has a monopoly on knowledge and insights, certainly not me, so I approach every conversation with the expectation I will learn something from Sam, my mentee.
Sam: When you join the mentorship program, have an idea of what you want to get out of it and what you are able to contribute. That way you know what types of mentor/mentee pairing would best facilitate that interaction, and what activities you can do that work with that. Figure out what expectations you have for this experience so that your mentor knows what they can do to help you achieve that goal. Aside from that it is really just good communication of how things are going. If Allen or I have a suggestion to improve our conversations or other requests then we discuss them, try them out, and go from there.
What was your most meaningful experience during your time as an Honors student at Northeastern?
Andy: One year, I took an Honors seminar on Microfinance with Professor Shaughnessy, which was an incredibly formative experience for me. It was the first year the seminar ran, and the course and work was incredibly impactful. From that course, I got involved in the Social Enterprise Institute, developed a senior thesis on microfinance in the Dominican Republic that afforded me the opportunity to do field research, and helped spearhead the first trip SEI ran to the Dominican Republic, where we were able to do hands-on work consulting for a microfinance institution.
Allen: Outside of my mentorship relationship with Andy, I also enjoyed reading [Honors Professor of the Practice] Michael Patrick MacDonald’s book, All Souls, freshman year. Eighteen year old me certainly did not appreciate it at the time, but it was a really raw, powerful story that helped you better understand the history of Boston outside of the Northeastern campus bubble and the more superficial, tourist-y parts. I also have an interest in real estate development and urban planning, so understanding MacDonald’s perspective on community development and his concerns around gentrification are valuable.
Sam: I have really enjoyed the seminar courses that I have taken. They are intellectually stimulating, and they draw upon many different fields of study that most of my engineering/physics classes don’t touch on. They are some of the classes that I most often recall in my conversations with Allen because the topics we discuss in those classes are so important and widely applicable across disciplines. Even outside of just the mentorship program, I keep coming back to my experience in these classes when I have to think about ethics and multi-disciplinary topics.