EDITOR’S NOTE: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2020 Bryan Business Report magazine.
In her job as district sales manager for Volvo Group, Blanca Montilla ’06 MBA was responsible for helping truck dealerships develop their brands and increase sales. But her real passion is helping people rise to their potential.
“If you want to leave a legacy in this world, share what you know to help change a life,” she says. “When you mentor one person, they will often go on to help change the life of another. Mentoring is one of the most satisfying things you can do.”
By her count, Montilla has mentored 15 people from around the world.
“I am happy to hear of their continued successes in life as they move forward. I stay in touch with them and am often gratified to learn that they are mentoring others,” she says.
A PERSONAL PASSION
Montilla’s passion for mentoring grew out of a personal need as she started her career in logistics.
“Early in my career, I realized I needed to improve my image and my performance in a job I was fully committed to,” she says. “I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong and why I was getting less than stellar feedback about my work.”
Montilla decided she had to be honest with herself and meet her shortcomings head-on.
“I realized I had to change, but I wasn’t sure how to navigate that in the business world,” she says. “I simply asked my manager for help, and that started my journey in being mentored.”
AN IMPORTANT MENTOR AT THE BRYAN SCHOOL
Looking back, Montilla recognizes there were mentors surrounding her for her entire life.
“We often don’t know we are being mentored, especially when we are young,” she says. “But we naturally find people in our families or schools who we have an affinity for and who we look up to. These can be our first experiences in being mentored.”
Montilla considers Dr. Vidyaranya Gargeya, a professor in the Bryan School’s Department of Information Systems and Supply Chain Management, as an influential mentor.
“I enrolled for my MBA and chose supply chain management because it sounded interesting. Many people cautioned me that the curriculum would be challenging, but a good challenge keeps me going,” she says.
Dr. Gargeya helped Montilla see the career opportunities that would be open to her through the program as well as the benefits of challenging herself in a rigorous curriculum.
“I had moved here from Venezuela and was working to pay for my tuition and go to school,” she explains. “It was not easy, but with Dr. Gargeya’s encouragement and mentorship, I persisted and earned my degree.”
Once she graduated, Montilla chose to begin her career in Greensboro.
PAYING IT FORWARD
Mentoring is defined by a relationship, and mentors and mentees often form long-lasting bonds. So, on a day that Montilla joined a lunch and learn presentation at Volvo, she was pleased to see it was led by Dr. Gargeya.
“He had come to speak about the MBA mentoring program at the Bryan School and asked for people at Volvo to share their professional experiences and lessons learned with new MBA students,” she explains. “I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to help somebody at the school after all the benefits I had received from my education.”
While being involved with the school’s MBA mentoring program, Montilla has also been an instrumental part of the Women in Trucking mentoring group, which is part of Volvo’s Professional Women’s Network.
“In working with Volvo Group and with the Bryan School’s MBA mentoring program, I really just wanted to share the insight I have gained through my own journey being mentored and developing my career,” she says.
TIPS FOR MENTORS AND MENTEES
For those who are interested in finding a mentor, Montilla suggests joining organizations that align with your professional and personal interests.
“It’s important that you build a network of resources you can turn to. Then, identify a person who has the qualities you want to cultivate. Start a conversation, ask for advice or volunteer for an initiative that that person is sponsoring. You’ll begin a relationship, and after that, the mentoring comes,” she says.
Mentees should work hard to show they value their mentors’ time. Ask thoughtful questions or discuss real challenges, then report back on your progress.
“Above all, respect your mentor’s time and embrace their feedback,” Montilla says.
Montilla suggests those who are interested in mentoring others must understand they need to commit time to help develop their mentees.
“Be bold in learning about them, their passions, hurdles, and weaknesses,” she says. “Then you’ll have a firm foundation for helping to develop and advocate for them.”