At George Mason University School of Business, countless resources are offered to prepare students and help them discover and secure fulfilling career paths. Mason Mentors, one of those valuable resources, is a free networking platform for School of Business students and recent graduates to connect with alumni.
“The Mason Mentors platform provides a chance for students and alumni to connect on a deeper level than other networking settings, as it facilitates an instant connection with the commonality of the Mason experience,” says Meg Kadrmas, experiential learning manager at the School of Business. Mandy Chahil, BS Finance ’09, MBA ’16, CERG Business Analytics ’18, had confronted many of the challenges facing current students. Inspired by the positivity of mentors in her own career, she joined the platform and became a mentor herself.
Chahil looks back at her undergraduate years and recognizes that she had a lack of direction when she began at Mason. An early mistake was thinking that she wanted to be a pharmacist and starting as a chemistry major, a subject that didn’t truly interest her. “My parents were first-generation immigrants who were working at Walmart, Home Depot, and driving shuttle buses for a car rental company at Dulles Airport,” she says. “They were not able to properly guide my sisters and me. We had to figure out our paths through trial and error.” After recognizing her disinterest in chemistry, she eventually switched to finance, an area where she was motivated to learn, apply herself, and flourish.
It was her manager, Lynne Buening, who gave Chahil her first professional experience in telecom and media as a cable/TV programming intern at RCN Corporation, sparking her data curiosity. After seeing Chahil’s hard work and potential, Buening soon recommended Chahil to Aleisha Bozin for cable/TV programming analyst, a position Chahil was interested in but thought that she didn’t qualify for. After RCN was sold, Chahil got a role as a billing/revenue assurance analyst and quickly realized that she disliked billing and wanted to get into more of a data analytics role. To pursue this new interest, Chahil went back to Mason to pursue her MBA and later her graduate certificate in business analytics. She also independently learned SQL, Tableau and Power BI, to gain job skills. After having difficulty landing a role in data analytics and almost giving up on her search, Senior Managing Directors Brian Pitkin and Steve Turner from FTI Consulting took a chance on her ambition and determination to get into data analytics. They hired her in July 2019 as a senior consultant in data and financial analytics. The FTI team guided Chahil to become a stronger data analytics professional and consultant, to a point where she was contributing value-generating ideas.
Chahil is now a manager of reporting, performance, and analytics at Cox Mobile, a new division of Cox Communications, where she continues to learn and grow. Her team is highly supportive of her involvement with Mason Mentors and participation in career and networking events at Mason, as well as development of her career. Cox’s culture highly encourages mentor relationships. For example, Chahil is currently working with mentors who are broader subject matter experts and are focused on device new product introductions in addition to finance and business planning, areas she is highly interested in given her background and aspirations.
Because Chahil initially lacked guidance, her career path was not as straight as she would have preferred. But that process of trial and error has brought her wisdom, allowing her to share with mentees the advice of what worked for her and what did not work. She joined the Mason Mentors platform in 2020, once she felt comfortable and established professionally, and began receiving mentorship requests from students. As a rule of thumb, she advises students to think about the industries that interest them and then research companies within those industries. “I have gotten requests from students who had also worked with other mentors, but my advice was different as I encouraged them to learn independently when their academic curriculum didn’t cover the particular job skills required,” she says. “They were very appreciative.” Among her mentees is Odalis Cruz, who is studying business administration. “I found this platform on Mason’s website, which gave me a list of mentors and divided them by different interests and categories,” says Cruz. “This led me to find Mandy, and she was great because she answered all my questions by providing her perspectives and experiences during our conversations. I’m happy to say I have found a mentor to help me during my career now and in the future.”
Continuing to this day, mentors have played a significant role in Chahil’s career development. They have helped her land jobs, navigate success and happiness on the job, and encouraged her to continue to grow. Having her own mentors has helped Chahil be the best mentor she can be, taking different perspectives and seeing how their guidance has impacted her career. To help Chahil better deal with stress, Steve Turner has advised her “Do your best and let the chips fall where they do.” Brian Pitkin told her during a mentorship call, “You should never put a cap on your career,” after Chahil asked him when he felt content in his career. Even as a highly successful and established professional, Pitkin told her that he still wants more and wants to further grow his practice. Chahil has shared some of his advice with fellow Mason alumni and students, particularly, “If you are ever in a toxic work environment, you need to look right away.”
One of the most active and requested members of the platform, Mandy Chahil is an ardent supporter of the Mason Mentors mission. “At Mason, it doesn’t matter what your parents do, as long as you apply yourself, you can achieve your career and life dreams,” she says. “I hope that I’m making an impact through Mason Mentors and helping students achieve their dreams.”