Building Business Savvy
Alumni mentor Bill Hooper talks to student entrepreneurs at an Engineering School networking event.
The Columbia Engineering Entrepreneurship Mentoring program, which began last January, immediately attracted a sizable group of Engineering alumni who wanted to advise budding entrepreneurs. Nearly 45 businesssavvy Engineering alumni across the United States have volunteered to be mentors, and to date, 40 students are actively participating in the new program. Mentors are assigned not only to Engineering students but also to undergraduates, graduate students, and even young alumni from any Columbia school.
Engineering senior David Mills was a fan of the mentorship program right off the bat. Mills works on the start-up Sportaneous, a social sporting company, with its founders Omar Haroun, a graduate student at Columbia Business School and the Law School, and Reuben Doetsch, a Columbia College senior. Down the road, Mills hopes to start his own business centered on sports and hospitality—two areas that interest him the most. Having an adviser who clearly understands his business goals is key.
“I wanted advice on how to navigate corporate America before I start my own business,” says Mills, whose mentor is William Hooper BS’71, MS’73, ’74BUS. “Bill has been able to counsel me on the relationships I need to identify and build. He also helps to validate the crazy ideas I have and want to pursue. He gives me honest advice.”
Hooper, a big proponent of mentorship programs, currently mentors three Columbia students. The benefits of a solid mentor-mentee relationship are tremendous, he says, and it pays to pass on years of professional experience and life lessons to young people who are just getting started.
“There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel,” says Hooper, senior business development consultant at the Hooper Group and formerly a senior vice president at Citigroup. “Mentors help young people avoid critical mistakes that we may have made. The bottom line is that it’s an opportunity for me to help young people achieve their vision of personal success.”
The program has afforded him a chance, as well, to stay connected to Columbia and its students.
“It’s an opportunity for me to give back to the University, and as a mentor, to support these students with my 40 years of experience,” he adds. “It’s energizing to be a mentor.”
Columbia Engineering alumni mentors represent a range of industries, including finance, technology, civil engineering, health care, retail, and more. The program provides just enough structure to ensure the mentormentee’s relationship takes hold.
The outcomes from these relationships vary. In many cases they result in the launch of viable businesses that attract customers, revenues, and investors, but this is not the only measure of success. All the participants in the program, both mentor and mentee, begin to understand the real value of a life-long connection with the Columbia Alumni community.
The mentorship program is part of the Engineering School’s focus on promoting a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation in and around Columbia Engineering. To find out more about the program and how to participate, contact Christopher McGarry at firstname.lastname@example.org.