A Conversation on Mentoring

With: AT&T Aspire International Champion Ruth Agyei, Specialist, Business Administration
Oct 13, 2016 1:30 PM ET

Q: What early influences motivated you to become involved with Aspire?

A: My first job was as a teacher. I think most teachers have a passion for giving back. I am no exception. Clearly, that passion influenced my decision to take on the role of AT&T Aspire Mentoring Academy in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia (EMEA) Regional Champion. 

Mentoring is an essential part of everyone’s career and life. I myself have benefited greatly from informal mentors who have held me accountable to my objectives. They kept me motivated, introduced me to what was possible, and encouraged me to excel in everything I do. 

Q: What does your role as Regional Champion entail?  

A: As the EMEA Regional Champion, I work with our Program Sponsor to encourage cross-functional employee participation in all of our locations. This involves recruiting and training volunteers, as well as creating work plans for the academic year. I also develop relationships with the third-party educational organizations that are fundamental to the success of this program. Among these are Young Enterprise (In Europe), Junior Achievement and Ahead Partnership. 

I also work to obtain funding from the Company. I oversee interim budget reviews and work to ensure that the program operates within our budget and according to our Company’s philanthropic guidelines. 

Q: When was the Aspire Mentoring Academy established in EMEA, and how would you define its mission? 

A: The program was established in 2012. Our goals were twofold. First, consistent with our Chairman Randall Stephenson’s original vision, we wanted to drive student engagement in higher education, reduce school dropout rates, and help students develop business and technology skills that will make them more attractive in the workplace. Second, we wanted to encourage more employees across the region to volunteer their time and expertise, and make AT&T more of an integral partner in the communities we serve. 

A lot of work has gone into building the program over the last several years. Early on, we grew slowly, one success at a time. Here is one example: 

Although our London office is situated in a business district, it happens to be located across the street from a local school. The school bus stop is directly in front of our office building. One day, I approached the head teacher at the bus stop and asked about mentoring opportunities at his school. He pulled out his business card and handed it to me. Thanks to that teacher, we soon had our first partner school. We have continued to build upon that one small success ever since.  

Q: What EMEA office locations currently participate in the program? 

A: We currently have 12 locations. These include London, Redditch and Havant in England, Böblingen in Germany, and Bratislava in Slovakia. Our other locations are in the Czech Republic, India, Israel, Belgium, France and Denmark. Our ambition is to be borderless. As we see it, our only limitation is the number of volunteers we can attract. We have plans to expand into Frankfurt, Germany and AsiaPac in the coming months. 

Q: What is unique about the AT&T Aspire approach around the world? 

A: Overall the EMEA Aspire approach is similar to the program in the US. We collaborate with local student bodies to provide programs to suit local educational environments.  We partner with a not for profit educational charity (Junior Achievement) for local country support.  We build relationships with secondary (high) schools in close proximity to major AT&T work centers. We partner with the schools to design and deliver workshops, Work Experience, JA entrepreneurial programs and/or mentoring opportunities. And we seek Business Unit support for summer interns who have graduated from Aspire-associated secondary schools. 

Q: Are you planning to introduce any new programs this year? 

A: New and exciting for 2016 is AT&T’s sponsorship of a multi-country entrepreneurial convention sponsored by Junior Achievement.  

Of course, we hope we will continue to grow our involvement throughout this year, as well as to continue to increase the number of mentors. 

We are always on the lookout for new mentors and would like to encourage staff to join the mentoring team.  As we like to say… Be Remarkable… Be Memorable…. Be a Mentor.