BizAcademy Sydney: My Mentoring Journey
Of all the amazing volunteering opportunities that the Foundation provides, BizAcademy (Australia) is by far my favourite. It’s a week-long program for 12 young adults to help them develop leadership and business skills, plus the confidence to define and follow their career goals. They’re thrown in the deep end to learn all about Salesforce and by the end of the week they’re presenting to an executive board with an understanding for how an organisation can transform itself into a customer company.
It takes six months of planning and over 80 salesforce.com staff, partners and customers to make BizAcademy happen – filling roles from mentors to Salesforce solution experts, skills training and ‘executives’ for the final presentation by each team. Students are nominated by our partner organisations Cerebral Palsy Alliance and WorkVentures, so we have a mix of young adults with cerebral palsy and young adults from low-income communities.
BizAcademy is designed to challenge the students, but in a supportive environment. It kicks off as the students meet their mentors on a Friday afternoon, for some fun activities and their first curveball – we ask every student to create a V2MOM with their mentor. In just 30 minutes, students define their vision and career goal, core values, their objectives for the week ahead, methods to improve and any potential obstacles to overcome.
As a mentor, I spent the week supporting a student – Sasha – and checking in every day to help her recap, apply new knowledge to their career goals, and review progress against her V2MOM. Being my second year participating in BizAcademy, I was confident about the journey ahead – Sasha and I laughed a lot during our fun Friday activities, and I felt ready to encourage her through an overwhelming week of information overload, forming teams and trying new things.
And then our Monday afternoon catch up arrived. Sure, Sasha had been a little introverted and quiet – but by the end of Day 1 it took me 20 minutes of gentle (but persistent!) conversation just to make eye contact. By Tuesday afternoon it only took five minutes. By Wednesday afternoon, she was chatting with her teammates but would rarely speak up in the larger group. Progress!
In the lead up to their final presentation, the teams spent hours rehearsing – with each round they gained more confidence, and would provide their teammates with words of encouragement, and insightful feedback.
Finally it came time for the executive or “Dragons Den” presentation – with 4 nervous mentors pacing outside the door… out came the happy team. Sasha was beaming with pride and excitement, and sheer joy for achieving something she never thought she would be capable of!
After an intensive and inspirational week, my favourite moment is always ‘Graduation Night’ – a chance for students to relax, celebrate and share their success with family and friends. Listening to the speeches and stories, it is overwhelming to see how much the students have progressed and achieved in such a short time – as individuals, in teams and as a group.
BizAcademy is an incredible and unique program – bringing the best of salesforce.com together to make a meaningful and lasting impact on the lives of young adults, and I’m honoured to be a part of it.
Melissa Apte is Senior Marketing Manager, Salesforce Australia (ANZ Market)
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