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The synergy between Nicole Balkenbusch (BSBA ’07) and Selin Yenibahar (BSBA ’20) highlights the value of investing in relationships. Despite the fact that information is more accessible than ever before, the journey to self-discovery still relies on mentors and mentees guiding one another toward the right experiences.
The Honors Cohort’s mentorship program connects current students with program alumni, facilitating relationships between those who might share interests but have different perspectives.
Balkenbusch, a member of the ninth Cohort class, and Yenibahar were paired as mentor and mentee during Yenibahar’s junior year. They both grew up in Ohio, studied accounting and finance, and each had an interest in consumer goods. After graduating from Fisher, Balkenbusch earned her MBA from Xavier University and spent 11 years on Procter & Gamble’s finance team. Two years ago, she joined Amazon as a finance manager.
Mirroring the symmetry they have shared throughout their mentorship experience, Yenibahar, a member of the 22nd Cohort class, joined Procter & Gamble this summer as a brand manager.
Balkenbusch said the timing of Yenibahar’s post-junior year internship search helped the pair to forge a strong bond.
“Her search that summer gave us something tactical to work toward together from the start,” Balkenbusch said.
They began by establishing expectations – meet weekly and scale back once an internship was secured. They also incorporated FaceTime sessions long before physical distancing became the norm.
“There was power in seeing each other as we got to know each other,” Balkenbusch explained. “It helped us focus in on the conversation.”
She was impressed with how prepared Yenibahar always was.
“As a mentor, I want to understand how I can help,” Balkenbusch said. “She was proactive in scheduling time and clear about what help might look like each time we chatted.”
By outlining questions ahead of time, Yenibahar offered Balkenbusch the opportunity to process and organize her thoughts prior to connecting.
“My approach was not to tell her exactly what to do, but instead give her the tools to choose between multiple choices,” Balkenbusch said. “I often found myself asking, ‘what is important to you?’”
She correctly sensed that Yenibahar was not looking for a direct answer, but rather assistance in looking at a decision from all angles – including where to kick off her full-time career.
“She was instrumental in helping me decide whether to continue on my investment banking track or pivot to brand management,” Yenibahar said.
With Balkenbusch’s input, Yenibahar found that she had a passion for marketing.
“I was intrigued by the cross-functional opportunities associated with brand management,” she said.
Balkenbusch pushed Yenibahar to consider the impact of the decision on her personal life as well. Given her familiarity with their corporate culture, she talked through Procter & Gamble’s emphasis on a work-life balance.
“She filled the role that my parents and professors could not, helping me negotiate with employers as I navigated the hiring process,” Yenibahar said.
The experience has been just as rewarding for Balkenbusch.
“Selin acts on the advice I give her and comes back to report on it, making me a better mentor as a result,” she said. “I had multiple mentors that invested in me and I believe in paying it forward.”
Yenibahar reconnected Balkenbusch with Fisher’s Undergraduate Business Women’s Association, an organization she was involved in as a student. Balkenbusch returned to campus and spoke at the organization multiple times last year.
Throughout their mentorship journey, the pair took time to celebrate the wins along the way.
“It is important to show mentees that you care about them personally, even when they do not necessarily need something from you,” Balkenbusch said.
Yenibahar sent Balkenbusch a thank you card after accepting her full-time offer with Procter & Gamble. That card is now pinned to Balkenbusch’s desk.
Balkenbusch and Yenibahar encourage Fisher students and alumni to not be afraid to follow up with someone you might click with. In today’s physically-distant world, it is vital to “find a personal connection point that might trigger conversation,” they said.
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