Doing and teaching: Mentoring future business leaders



There is a saying that I find highly unfair to us in the teaching profession: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Countless teachers spend their working lives teaching so that we can learn to do what we are capable of doing. There are also teachers who, having acquired wisdom through experience, whether in the government or in the corporate sector, now share their wisdom with others. And there are also people who, while continuing to practice their chosen profession, serve as teachers and mentors to young people, their subordinates and peers.

I spent the past week visiting several partner companies of De La Salle University in the internship program of the Applied Corporate Management (ACM) degree. Our ACM degree is unique in that it requires students to undergo three terms of internship in different companies. This is to develop their skills and acquire the six Expected Lasallian Graduate Attributes (ELGAs): critical and creative thinking, effective communication, lifelong learning, service excellence, technical competence and working in teams. Our partner companies are industry leaders with a proven track record in their particular fields of endeavor, such as banking and financial services, health and wellness, consumer products manufacturing and communications, among others.

As a faculty adviser to our interns, part of my job is to meet with company officials who serve as supervisors and mentors (or supermentors) to our students. The task requires a delicate balancing act—although there is no employer-employee relationship between the company and the student, the supermentor should treat interns as though they were regular company employees. There are, however, certain limitations to such treatment: Interns are not supposed to render overtime (except in very urgent situations, and they may offset the extra hours worked when they need to attend school functions during the week), they cannot handle company funds and they should not be asked to meet sales quotas or similar requirements. The supermentors also have to continue doing their regular work while supervising and mentoring the interns assigned to them.

There are times when relationships between supermentors and students become strained. Sometimes a supermentor focuses on the supervising part and forgets the mentoring part, which could leave an intern feeling intimidated. Sometimes an intern does not know how to approach his/her supermentor to ask questions or get feedback about the assigned tasks, which could lead to communication breakdown. And there are instances where there is simply no rapport between supermentor and intern, which results in misunderstanding and conflict. When these things happen, the faculty adviser acts as go-between to settle the issues between the parties and to ensure the successful conclusion of the internship.

Perhaps the most fulfilling time for all parties concerned is the culminating activity. Here, the intern makes a presentation before his/her supermentor and faculty adviser about what s/he has learned during the 3-month internship, and how this learning translates to the development of the ELGAs in the intern. This is also a time of giving and receiving feedback about the internship experience in the company, which translates to inputs on how everyone concerned may improve the internship experience for the next batch of interns.

Every company should join forces with universities and participate in internship programs. It should be part of their corporate social responsibility to give guidance to the next generation of business leaders, nurture what is best in them and help them develop a sound work ethic and the moral strength to do what is right, not just what is convenient for company growth or profit. May they accept this challenge and this responsibility.

Frances Jeanne L. Sarmiento is a fulltime faculty member of the Management and Organization Department, Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business. She may be reached at The author’s views do not necessarily reflect those of the University.


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