A “Smart” MDP Project

Since the end of September when we kicked off our MDP projects it has been an exciting time.  Though over the summer I had been leading our team of interns and a group of students who were working on the Buffalo Connect project, this opportunity was different because it was working with the program that had given me my start at M&T.  My boss and I were co-sponsoring the project, but I was fortunate that she was letting me take on the responsibility of overall managing the project from the sponsor side.leading-team

I had learned so much from my project sponsors within M&T Securities during the program that I wanted to make sure that I could share my experience including lessons learned, best practices, things I wish I changed, etc.  I also wanted to make sure they felt empowered to make project decisions just like my sponsors had empowered me and my group.  With the MDP project on the sponsor side you have to walk the line of being over involved and not being involved at all (both of which happen, though I wish they didn’t).  What was great about this project was it was a great way to think about the bank overall as a customer and helping the community (one of our core values).

I knew this would be my first real opportunity to test out how I could walk the line of being a mentor, peer and also a “manager”.  Since I am only a year out from the program, it is definitely important to make sure that I don’t come across as a peer when you have to make tough decisions.  But I also wanted them to be able to ask questions regarding my experience and know that things they were experiencing during the project, I had probably felt them too – after all in the grand scheme of things, outside of this project, I was their peer.

Follow the leaderI am excited to see this group present in mid-February, but know we have a long way to go until that point. We have several practice sessions with unbiased audiences to get the team prepared for the “pressure” of the final presentation.  In my opinion, all the practice sessions over the next month will really make the team feel at ease on presentation day and any question they get – they should be prepared for.

What I have learned through both coaching and leading this project from a sponsor side is that I love being a mentor (at least I think that is how I am perceived).  It has affirmed that the role I want to play in life, whether it be formal manager or in-formal mentor to those around me, is just that – providing guidance to help others through life (fitting because my mom is a high school guidance counselor).  I want to inspire others with my passion for everything I do.  At Nichols, it is teaching my players that things won’t always go your way but how you overcome the adversity will ultimately make or break you.  It is also about reminding them that outside the bubble of high school and Buffalo, people don’t necessarily care who your parents are – but your work ethic and the way you lead your life is what matters to people.

At work, it is showing people that passion is so crucial in your career.  If you aren’t passionate about what you do it will feel like work.  When you put your all into everything you do – you will ultimately be happy and things will come to you.  Just like I said in the Interviewing Game – your first job shouldn’t necessarily be for the money you are going to make, it should make you happy and gives you experiences that you will carry with you throughout your career.  Money doesn’t buy happiness, although it does buy houses, clothes, and material things.  Finding something where you realize what you do matters to at least one person, now that is something.

The Interviewing Game

As I look back over the last few posts I have written, I realized I have been headlining these posts as games.  I want to be clear, recruiting and interviewing are not games to me but if you remember during my first post in this series, I compared these new role reversals to basketball and that to me is a game and a huge part of my past and present and future.

Now, as we have been actively recruiting for positions on my team it has been exciting because I have been involved in the interviewing piece both as a former MDP and one of the members of the team.  Our group works so closely together – it important to make the right hiring decision for the team whether it is for an intern, MDP, or any other position.

interviewingWhat I find exciting about interviewing MDPs in particular is that I was just in their shoes a few years ago so the process is still fresh.  I remember the challenges, the struggles, things that were going through my head, and the highs and lows which I think really helps in the interview process.  M&T tries to be really good with the onsite MDPs by having an alumni of the program take you out to lunch (this is not an interview).  This is the time that the candidate can ask the questions they want to know about the program.  If they are smart, they are also asking questions regarding things that can be used in later interviews.  During the program, I took several candidates out to lunch or coffee to give them this time.  Now, I am on the actual interview side which is even more fun in my opinion because I get to learn about the candidate in a more formal setting.  Any interview I give I like to see how comfortable people are with the Innovation Center, the space I choose, the questions I ask which aren’t always traditional, and overall what they know about the program.

I really like getting an interview put on my calendar, because I know that the candidate is going to walk into our Center and see something totally different than what they have been seeing all day.  I also like making sure my interviews are more conversational than formal interviews like what you would see in the movies.  We have a space in the Center that is perfect for this type of interview and I use it every time.

Whenever I am interviewing someone I like to learn about them, what they know about the company and the program.  There isn’t a lot of information out there on the MDP program, except for my blog and a few articles put out by the Buffalo News, a few postings on Glassdoor.  If you are going to interview for this program, I would at least do a google search about it or find an alumni to talk to from your college.  If you are reading this, you have already done that so congratulations.  I decided when I accepted my MDP offer that I would write about my experience through the program to help others who were considering joining the company know more.  interviewing checklist

The candidate who I am so excited to have start in our area of the bank for the 2016 class told me she had learned about the program through my blog, and that made me realize that what I am writing helps.  She isn’t the first one either, companies are learning now that organic blogs, if you can find a champion to write them, can go a long way.  I am not paid to write my experience, I am not paid to write good things, I purely write my opinion about my life in Buffalo, my experience in my first full time role (that I wasn’t also attending school during but I have also been transparent with the company that I would be writing this blog. The tone I use in my blog, is the same tone and word choice I would use if you asked me a question on the street.

Interviewing candidates is not about the number of people you talk to or the background that they come from. It is not about filling a quota or filling a spot just to have a body in it.  I look at interviewing as a challenge to find the best person who can meet/exceed my expectations and I have high ones because I know what I accomplished during the program.  That is why I am so excited about our candidate who is coming in – because I know she will be amazing!  When the candidate was weighing her decisions between offers, I told her I was happy to talk with her again and be honest, after all I was in her shoes 2 years ago.

individual-interviewIf you constantly put on the face of sunshine and rainbows, your company will get the reputation of being fake and people will leave extremely early especially people who are experiencing their first job.  We had an honest conversation about the pros and cons, the good and bad, the challenges and rewards. No job is going to be perfect and I think it is important to find the candidate who thinks the challenges are worth it and exciting to overcome, who feels the pros far outweigh the cons, and the good days will out weigh the rough ones – because at the end of the day you have to find a job that you are like and an experience that is exciting to you.  Not everyone invests that much time into a candidate but to me it is important, especially when you find one who is worth it.

My interview style plays right into my mentor, leadership and managerial style. I want anyone who is a part of my team to succeed but I want to make sure that we have the right people in place to make us successful.  It is just like my coaching philosophy, I would rather have 7 active and dedicated players, than seven girls who are engaged and 2 who are just distracting the rest of the team (but that is a whole different post that is coming very soon).

Stay tuned for my last post about leading an MDP Project team!

Excited to Return to the Game

Nichols logoWell it has been about 7 months since the conclusion of my basketball playing career but I am excited to announce that I will be the assistant JV girl’s basketball coach at Nichols in Buffalo.  Nichols is a private co-ed school right around the corner from my house which will be convenient through the always questionable weather of the winter period.

I am very fortunate that I have been able to continue playing the sport I love through pick-up games with the work crew and now will be able to work with younger girls to help foster their passion for the game I love.  I never want to be that coach that takes away the passion or makes their team hate the game the whole season. It has happened to me in the past and my goal as a coach will be to never let that happen.  There were times based simply on my coaching staff that I wanted to walk away from the game I love but thankfully I didn’t because I never would have been able to have some of the amazing coaches I had over the course of my playing career or play with the teammates I got to share the court with.

Coaching and MentoringI also recognize how lucky I am that I have chosen to work for a company that truly believes in work-life balance because otherwise this would not be possible.  I am so grateful to M&T to be so flexible to allow me to grow in my professional corporate career and also in my coaching career.  It may mean long days but that will not stop me from enjoying every minute of it.

The JV level though I only played during my 8th grade year is one that allows for girls to start forming their skills.  It is where girls are on the verge of playing because they love the game, I do not know if you can have a true passion for the game until you have played that first longer season (JV) but there are always exceptions.  The girls are also very young and impressionable and I think at that level it is about being a role model who has walked through their shoes.

I am very excited to start on November 10th and work with the head JV coach throughout the season.

Nichols School Athletics