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MBA and Undergraduate Students Serving as Mentors to Top Executives at Citi

November 25, 2014
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Pictured: Juan Carlos Lozano (left), director and Latam regional head of payments and information services at Citigroup, with student mentor Brendan Sabatelli.

A senior executive at Citi stood across from first-year MBA student Susana Parody in a banquet room at Miami’s Intercontinental Hotel and outlined his business challenge: he wanted to continue improving his communication with subordinates in Latin America. What could this student, studying for a career in finance, teach a seasoned pro like Alejandro Chazarreta, head of Citi’s Latin America CTS Implementations?

As his mentor in the School of Business’s unique reverse mentoring program with Citi, Parody told him at their first meeting: “What I can do is to help you understand them better and motivate them better, or perceive signs that they’re not fully motivated.”

Chazarreta nodded and smiled. “The next time we meet, let’s discuss ideas of things I can be doing, what I should be observing, whether there are some metrics I can gather,” he told his new mentor. “Another way you may be valuable to me is through your young network – ask them what they think, especially other Latin Americans. You can tell them this guy wants to understand how to motivate young people.”

Pictured: Alejandro Chazarreta, head of Citi’s Latin America CTS Implementations, with MBA student mentor Susana Parody.

The program, which kicks off its second year pairing select business students with senior executives from Citi’s Latin American regional office, highlights the School as a global business school while giving its millennial students the chance to share their perspective on things like social media and digital technologies.

“The placement benefits are obvious, but this also helps our students connect the dots of what they’re learning in the classroom to what’s going on out there,” said Eugene Anderson, dean of the School of Business, from which Citi has hired more than 50 graduates as so-called “Citi Canes” over the last four years. 

The world is changing fast and the traditionalist banking industry ignored these changes for far too long, said Francisco Aristeguieta, CEO of Citi Latin America. “You can help our leaders understand what you expect from a bank,” Aristeguieta told the newly anointed mentors. “You can challenge the way we think and sensitize decision-makers on where the world is going." 

Pictured: Melissa Budelman (left), director of Latin America wealth management at Citi, with student mentor Ashely Howard.

They started simply, pairing off around high-top tables with suggested icebreaker questions. Amid passed hors d’oeuvres, Citi executive Derek Gomez outlined what he hoped to learn from first-year MBA student Philip Torsiello.

As director in Citi’s Technology Infrastructure Organization, Gomez is well-versed in technology but said he needs to learn more about social media. “I want to go beyond the basic way people think about it and how it enhances your life personally and professionally to how it can help me do my job better and interact with colleagues,” he said.

And as for Chazarreta and Parody?  The senior executive took a page from the millennial playbook and sent his new mentor an E-vite for their initial lunch meeting. They’re both excited for the possibilities. “Our ease of communication through technology and our global mindset and what motivates us – it’s only something my generation is able to bring to light,” Parody said. “It’s important for us to inject new ideas into the workplace because we are the future.”

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