Like other new graduates, Vanessa Ortiz (BA ’17) is reminiscing about her years at Florida International University (FIU). But for Ortiz, a marketing major who wants a career in the beauty industry, one of the most worthwhile FIU experiences happened outside the classroom.
“Without a doubt, the mentoring opportunity I had through the College of Business was an incredible experience, the chance of a lifetime,” Ortiz said. “I am profoundly grateful to my mentor, Barbara Pestana, and everything she has done for me.”
Pestana (BBA ’02) is vice president of sales at Dermablend Professional (a L’Oreal brand) and has been a mentor for FIU students for three years.
FIU is not getting the recognition it deserves outside of South Florida. When an alum works to help prepare a student for success, that effort has an effect on everyone associated with FIU.
Both Ortiz and Pestana were speakers at an end-of-year reception for mentors and mentees held April 13, 2017 at the Rusty Pelican in Miami. Sixty-five people attended the event, an evening of mingling, socializing and networking.
Ortiz told the attendees how thrilled she was to be paired with Pestana, whom she met with on a weekly basis.
“For me, it was a perfect match,” she said. “Barbara is amazing, with so much insight, and not only taught me about her company and the industry but also helped me with my career. She gave me tips on my resume, helped build my interviewing skills and was so willing to give me advice and direction.”
Pestana said her mentee was enthusiastic about the opportunity and made getting together a priority.
“Vanessa is a delightful person, very talented and quite resolute about doing what it takes to succeed,” Pestana said. “Mentoring her has been a fulfilling experience.”
Yanyn San Luis (BA’ 10, MBA ’16), interim director of alumni relations for FIU Business and the mentoring program manager, who also spoke at the event said that matching mentors and mentees based on interests – a new feature of the program this year — proved to be worthwhile.
“We had so many compliments about the matching process,” she said. “The matches were spot-on, and almost all of our mentor-mentee matches followed through with a successful engagement. That’s very gratifying for us.”
San Luis said 201 mentors and 201 mentees participated in the 2016-17 program, nearly a 73 percent increase over last year. She said the goal for next year is to provide 500 mentors for 500 students in the College of Business.
Giving back results in … more giving back.
Pestana is a mentor for two reasons, she said, starting with wanting to give back to FIU.
“Much of the success and opportunities I have had in my career are due in part to FIU,” she said. “I want to give back to the university which did so much for me.”
Pestana also says that she feels the mentoring program extends the reach of FIU, which benefits all students and alumni.
“FIU is not getting the recognition it deserves outside of South Florida,” she said. “When an alum works to help prepare a student for success, that effort has an effect on everyone associated with FIU.”
Ortiz is sure she will be a mentor to FIU students.
“Absolutely,” she says. “To be able to help another student they way Barbara has helped me is the least I can do.”
“The mentoring program is growing as word spreads about how valuable it is in lifting our students up,” said San Luis, who points out that the program has even included mentors from outside Florida. “We need more alumni to step forward for this important effort.”