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Why giving back time to the next generation of students is important

by Adam Froman.

As part of celebrating our 15th anniversary at Delvinia, I made a personal commitment to find ways to give back as an acknowledgement of what we have achieved as a company and to recognize my own journey. Giving back isn’t always about donating money to a cause or organization.  Rather, giving back can be simply giving your time to the next generation of students who are about to begin their careers.

This past fall, I became an engineering mentor to a third year Computer Science Engineering student at the University of Toronto. I graduated from the University of Toronto in Industrial Engineering back in 1988 and I remember how confused I was about where my career would take me when I was in the latter stages of getting my degree.  I thought providing my perspective and experience to someone who is looking for some guidance would be a nice way to give back my time. The experience has been so memorable.

My mentee is a bright young woman who was struggling to decide which job to pursue as part of her professional experience year, which starts in May. While she had a number of interviews, her concerns were with the job function. I asked her the question, “In 15 years, what do you think you will remember about your professional experience year?”  At that moment, she realized that it was about the experience she would have and what would make it memorable.  Needless to say, she chose the job in the San Francisco Bay area over the Toronto job.

I was also recently booked to speak at a couple of university events. It happened that the two events were both last week, and while most of my speaking engagements these days are to industry audiences, I looked at these events as an opportunity to give back. But, I didn’t realize how much I would get out of having the opportunity to meet these students face to face and to share my story and experiences.

The first event was at the Schulich School of Business, where Schulich’s Graduate Business Council held an event called ASK Schulich. ASK stands for Alumni Sharing Knowledge and the theme for the evening was FORWARD.  I had the opportunity to share my entrepreneurial journey alongside Ted Maulucci, the CIO of Tridel, and Gary D’Andrea, whose most recent position was as COO of Grand & Toy. All three of us are Schulich MBA grads from at least 18 years ago (I graduated in 1992). The purpose of our presentations was to share the story of our careers and to discuss how our MBA has impacted our career paths. The common element in all of our stories was that we are all passionate about what we do. And, although our careers have taken different turns along the way, as we reflect back, our journeys made sense for each of us.

The second event was the National Business & Technology Conference. The NBTC was started in 2001 by a diverse group of University of Toronto students with the aim of bridging the gap between business and technology.  The organizing group behind the NBTC, called Nspire, has a vision to foster Canada’s next generation of innovative CEOs, founders and leaders in the business and technology space. I was very impressed by everyone who was involved with the event.

My workshop involved sharing Delvinia’s customer-centric philosophy of helping clients understand the customer journey through the eyes of their customers, and identifying ways that digital technologies can enhance the customer experience. The workshop also challenged the students to identify ways that mobile could be integrated into a customer experience map for one of our Delvinia clients. The feedback to my session was amazing and watching the students take the workshop exercise so seriously was both rewarding and extremely enjoyable. After the session, I had a number of students come up and speak to me about their careers, business challenges, and also simply wanting to hear more about my career and company.

As we begin to celebrate the past 15 years since founding Delvinia, participating in these other give back initiatives also makes me reflect on the past 20 years since I completed my MBA and the more than 25 years since I completed my Engineering degree. While it’s a little depressing to see life pass by so quickly, speaking to the next generation of business leaders and pausing to remember what life was like when I started my career, has been a very humbling experience. Being able to share what I have learned along my career journey, both before I started Delvinia and since, while empathizing with those who are just beginning their careers was definitely worth the time I invested.

While I have been receiving numerous emails and LinkedIn invitations from the students I met to tell me how my stories and advice were very meaningful to them, I can’t help but smile and thank God that I am where I am in my career, and that I don’t have to start over again!