We sat down with Samuel Okusaga, final year degree apprentice, to talk about his latest experiences being mentored by some really influential CEOs globally.

What was your recent meeting with John about?

The meeting with John Fallon was the last mentoring meeting of the year. The last time we met was in summer, so there were lots to catch up on regarding the changes that have been happening since we last met. We spoke about how I am now in the final year of my degree and talking about my options afterwards and he gave me some advice. We also talked about the structural changes that have taken place in my team at Pearson College and how that has given me the opportunity to manage an intern.

John spoke about some of the key updates within Pearson plc such as the launch of AIDA, a new artificially intelligent consumer product and the goals and wider purpose with the product.

Further, he was helping me with some goal-setting as it is the end of the calendar year and I gave him some goals that I want to achieve in 2020.

Photo by Estée Janssens / Unsplash

He was helping me by giving me useful contacts that I can meet to aid my achievement of these goals as well as general advice. He is really good at instantly coming up with a next step to get you closer to that goal.

For example, I might say that I would like to learn more about corporate finance, and he gives me an email address to contact to make that first step. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what the first step is and it is really great that he is so well-connected.

The other thing that we talked about was about him coming to visit the College next year to do An Evening With John Fallon which will be an interview and a panel event for students to attend.

I heard through the grapevine that you are now being mentored by the CEO of Tesco UK and ROI. How did that come about?

There is a company called Arrival Education whose aim is to improve the diversity within FTSE 100 companies all the way from entry-level to leadership and management teams. They create schemes all the way from school-leaver level to create pathways for students to access these large companies.

Arrival Education worked with Tesco to create a programme for the twelve executives of the twelve regions globally to mentor young people from low-income and working-class backgrounds. This allows CEOs to either physically or mentally represent these individuals in their powerful position. The benefit to Tesco is that their leadership team is vastly different from some of their target market audience in terms of social class. In order to be sustainable and grow, they needed to get people in to represent the whole customer base.

What happened when you were selected?

When I found out that I had been selected for the programme, I attended the launch event at Tesco HQ where I and my mentor were matched on personalities, ambition, interests and career goals. This was done through an interview process and a personality test.

What will you be getting up to with your mentor at Tesco?

The programme is a seven-month scheme, even though it can hopefully last a lifetime. During the seven month period, there will be three main meetings where we will all meet as a group. The other element of the programme is aiming to immerse the CEO in our world. This would mean me giving him a tour of the area where I grew up to give some insight into my childhood and how it impacted where I am today and the obstacles I have faced. This is not a PR thing at all, but a genuine interest to observe how others live.

In terms of the main programme structure, it can run however the mentees, like myself want it to. The mentors have been told that they need to support our development goals and we need to give our insights and opinions, telling them how to engage people from diverse backgrounds. If it does well, I think it is a really authentic thing that they are trying to create; it makes me very excited to be a part of it. While the John Fallon relationship is a lot more formal, this is quite casual and about a genuine relationship being built.
Photo by Kobu Agency / Unsplash

What are you hoping to gain in the future from having such influential mentors?

I want them to tell me their mistakes so that I don’t have to make them myself.

What advice would you give other young people looking to find mentors?

I think that it has got to start with your character. A lot of people expect things to come to them but I am a big believer in the fact that if you position yourself in an environment that cultivates learning and growth, things will land in your lap and opportunities will come.

I think that you should also surround yourself with people who are ambitious and want to achieve things, but have a positive attitude whilst doing it. A lot of people I know think that they should get a mentor for financial gain but they do not see the value of building a genuinely strong professional relationship.

I would also say go to networking events and meet people whilst simultaneously putting yourself out in the world on Linkedin. The whole Tesco mentoring scheme happened within a month and it all occurred through LinkedIn. The founder of Arrival Education had been following my active social media presence and followed my page. They saw what I was sharing and then contacted me about the opportunity.

Putting yourself out there, especially on Linkedin, is a good place to make connections and reach out to people. Being honest and stating that you do not know much but that you are eager to learn will go a long way. Everyone has to start somewhere and displaying an eagerness to learn is much more beneficial than coming across that you know everything already. With both my mentors, I can see that they enjoy helping me because they can see themselves in a young, driven individual. A lot of people are too proud to ask for help or display an eagerness to learn because they are driven by instant gratification.

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator / Unsplash

A lot of my friends say that having a mentor is great, but how is that making you money? My response is that this is not the mentality that you are meant to have with these things because the power of a genuine relationship is much more. You might not be able to leverage the relationship now, or in two years, but if an opportunity comes up, you could be the person that they think about.

To find out more about Pearson College London and our courses, visit www.pearsoncollegelondon.ac.uk