Women’s History Month Feature: MBAchic Mentorship with Laura Gallardo and Nayeli Perez
Here at MBAchic, every month is #WomensHistoryMonth. As a community designed for MBAs and professionals who want to make investing in education and careers more accessible, MBAchic works to shed light on the power of uplifting other women, 365 days a year. If you’re an ambitious professional who shares the belief that education, inspiration, and connection allows us to grow into our best selves, you’ve found your people.
In our ongoing commitment to build community and uplift women and other underrepresented groups, the MBAchic team is thrilled to continue offering our very own Mentorship Program for MBAs and applicants. By combining monthly one-on-one mentoring sessions with workshops and programming coordinated and produced by the MBAchic team, participants are thoughtfully matched and able to fully customize their experiences. MBAchic is excited to share the stories from our talented mentorship Cohort #1, recently Marina Napoletano and Bre Thomas shared their insights as did Kene Ezeoke and Roshni Patel. To wrap up Women’s History Month, we are honored to feature yet another inspiring duo bound to encourage the upcoming group of women rising within our community. But don’t worry – we plan to continue sharing honest, raw, personal experiences and breaking business news year round.
Meet the mentorship duo
Mentor Laura Gallardo and mentee Nayeli Perez sat down with MBAchic to share their unique mentorship program experiences and offer insight to anyone interested in getting matched with their perfect partner.
Laura Gallardo, a 2021 graduate of The University of Texas McCombs School of Business (catch her second #MBAchictakeover here!), is an external communications and media relations professional with IBM. A lifelong communicator, Laura started her people-centric career journey in journalism before making the transition into corporate communications in 2014. On the flipside of the industry, she takes pride in pitching stories to the media and reading the published content. When she’s not busy developing media and public relations strategies, she’s spending time with her husband, seven-year-old twins, and cat named Pancakes.
Nayeli Perez, a 2022 University of Dallas MBA, is a first-generation student who currently works at Dallas based Mi Escuelita as a family advocate. With a strong passion for helping others guiding her professional social services pursuits, she often volunteers in her spare time to assist local community members who are dealing with food insecurity. Outside of working and volunteering, she enjoys reading, gardening, and relaxing with her animals.
MBAchic: The MBAchic mentorship program provides a safe space for mentees and mentors to connect and support one another. Can you describe your experience being a part of this program as a mentee, how do you feel this opportunity broadened your network?
Laura: It was an amazing opportunity. I’ve always loved having mentor/ mentee type of relationships with other women. This was really a great opportunity for me to connect with an early MBA student. The first cohort came about as I was finishing up my MBA journey, and it was a great opportunity to connect with someone who was in my shoes, where I was two years prior, and just make sure that they felt like they had this under their belt along the way. I really struggled the first semester with my insecurity, it was very challenging. It was my first time taking very math and STEM-heavy courses, quantitative courses, and I struggled. That led to more insecurity about, oh my God, am I going to finish this? Am I going to be able to graduate? Am I going to pass this class? Sometimes you just need someone to tell you, ‘Hey, it’s gonna be okay. Just do your work, keep your head up. Don’t let this difficult point in the journey discourage you. Sometimes all you need is the cheerleader. I think Jen did a wonderful job at making these connections between mentors and mentees because she paired me with Nayeli and all she needed along the way was just some encouragement because she felt the same way that I felt early on in my MBA program. So, it was a great opportunity to just really encourage Nayeli and make sure that she just [knew] I always told her, eyes on the prize Nayeli, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Sometimes that’s all you need, just someone who believes in you, someone who’s been there, someone who was the first in their family also to undergo the same journey and tell you it’s going to be okay.
Nayeli: Honestly, it was the best program I think I could have gotten. I kind of just went in because I saw more girls that look like me on the MBAchic site. It felt more friendly compared to other groups I had heard of. Meeting Laura, she was a sister. Right off the bat she was like, I got you. If you need anything, just let me know. If you have any questions, let me know. She would check on me, she would text me, I think twice a week, and then once a month. But if I needed her, she was a text away. If I send needed her, she was always accessible to me. She was always very flexible. She was that big sister I needed while in the program, to answer questions about certain topics.
MBAchic: What role does mentorship play in the success of modern businesswomen?
Laura: Mentorship can be very beneficial as women attain leadership roles that are typically dominated by men. Oftentimes it just helps to have that cheerleader, that person who really sees the good in you, someone who keeps it real with you, too.
[Someone who] tells you, ‘yes, you’re great at X, Y, Z, but you also need to develop these other areas.’ For me, it was the business acumen, I lacked it. I didn’t even prioritize it before my MBA and it just took someone bringing it to my attention that I really needed that business understanding in order to connect how my work impacts the performance of a business. Mentorship sometimes really helps you see the best in your potential, but also it can show you any blind spots that you may be unaware [of], areas of growth. I have mentors in my life, and now when I’m given the opportunity, I absolutely try to serve as a mentor because it’s really just a safe space for you to grow.
Nayeli: Just having that mentorship and saying, ‘Hey, you’re supposed to be here. You deserve to be here.’ It’s just a whole different support system compared to just being there alone, and having someone to reach out to.
MBAchic: Nayeli, can you describe an obstacle you faced and how your mentorship relationship helped you to overcome?
Nayeli: Honestly I wanted to drop right in the middle of my MBA. I was really tired, I was really frustrated. I just kind of wanted to give up because I didn’t see the value of the MBA, it was just too much. It was work, school, and home. It was just way too much to the point where I asked for a whole entire week off from work because I was like, I can’t do this, I’m losing my mind! This is not possible. What did I get myself into? But I spoke to [Laura] and she just pretty much talked to me about how she did it, saying we all go through the struggle. She was like, you were meant to do it. That’s why you feel like you can’t do it. She just kept pushing forward, pushing forward. I stuck to it and in the end, I was just so grateful for it.
MBAchic: Laura, if you were to get your MBA all over again, what would you do differently and why?
Laura: You’re really encouraged to take the GMAT test as your entrance exam but as I understand, the GMAT is more for folks with a quantitative background, and the GRE is more for folks with non-quantitative backgrounds like myself. So I would’ve saved myself a big headache, and a lot of heartache, and just taken the GRE. I think it would’ve just made my application process a lot smoother if I had taken the GRE, it would’ve been a better fit for me and most MBA programs accept the GRE.
I [also] just wish I would’ve gone into my MBA program more secure and confident in myself. I think it really showed that I was not [confident] in my first and second semesters. I really grew into myself during my second year, but that first year I kept my head down and was just really insecure about things. I just wish I would’ve believed in myself a little more that first semester. That was really tough, but ultimately I came out on the other side just fine.
MBAchic: Nayeli, there are many styles of feedback. What’s your preferred style and what areas of school / life / career do you seek the most guidance from your mentors / those you trust and respect?
Nayeli: Whenever I met with Laura she was like, ‘Hey, how do you want to be talked to? How do you prefer me talking to you? What do you see in this relationship?’ And I was like, ‘just be blunt with me. Be honest. Don’t beat around the bush just tell me improve this, improve that, call me out.’ I know sometimes we get into our mindset and we blow everything off without really seeing the value in it. So she would ask hey, how’s your week? How’s the class going? How’s, how’s just, you know, making time for friends, family or time to breathe and school and work. And I would tell her and she would give me ideas of how to juggle things around. That was helpful because I could understand that she knew what I was talking about compared to if I told my family.
Before I started the mentorship with Laura, I didn’t really talk to anybody. I really didn’t know how to ask for help. Asking for help was the last resort. It was something that I’ve never done. Being the oldest child of a single mother, I have always tried to do it on my own to not call attention, and not look helpless or weak. The mentorship helped me see there are other people going through the same thing. There are other people who have lived this. She just made communication seem so vivid, it could make such a change that I don’t have to go through it alone. I started reaching out to other people, I started being a little bit more open and I got to build great relationships and great friendships that I never would have if I would’ve never gone through this mentorship program.
It kind of sounds absurd now [reflecting back], why didn’t I ask for help before? [But] it was because I was never taught, I never saw it. My mom always seemed so strong to us that there was no challenge she couldn’t conquer. So that was a whole different perspective for me.
MBAchic: Laura, what’s your top advice for prospective mentors?
Laura: Just be an open book. Don’t be shy to share the good and the bad about your MBA program. It just helps bring a new perspective to someone who’s exploring the MBA or very early in their program. So with Nayeli, I’ve been very open about the good and the bad, I’ve let her know that I was in her shoes very early on in my program, struggling internally and really trying to find my voice, trying to find myself, be confident. So just be open to being vulnerable. This is a good safe space to be vulnerable about your challenges, about how you’ve overcome them. We’re all learning from each other, and you might learn a thing or two from your own mentee. I think we’re just all a community of women who want to see each other succeed.
MBAchic: Nayeli, what’s your top advice for prospective mentees?
Nayeli: Find someone you can rely on, count on, someone who is going to show you a different perspective that’s not available to [you] or not taught to [you]. I believe if they’re there, take the opportunity and just be very honest with them. Just be like, ‘Hey, I’m new to this whole thing, but I hear wonderful news. I will take the opportunity.’ Be flexible and just let them know you’re new to this. Sometimes we go into a new possibility and we try to seem [so] strong that we give up on the opportunity itself. Be honest, be excited about it and just embrace all the knowledge and help you can get. Sometimes it leads to better opportunities that are mind-opening.
Become a part of MBAchic’s mentorship program
Whether you’re seeking guidance or you’re ready to share your career wisdom and create a space you wish you had earlier on in your professional journey, the opportunity to learn more about our program is currently open. Sign up to receive first notice to join the second Cohort of our flagship program, launching soon.
The MBAchic community is rooted in the belief that we are stronger together. The more accessible we can make education, the more women we can help propel into business school, the C-suite and positions of leadership. Through our dynamic and carefully curated mentorship program, mentees can learn more about the vital parts of a strong MBA application, how to make the most of the time in business school, and how to pave a successful professional path and life. Mentors have the rewarding chance to act as sounding boards and provide fresh perspectives, guidance, and support to women who are navigating the challenges of business school and ambitious careers that follow.
In addition to lifetime membership in a private group and forum with the entire Cohort, participants gain exclusive access to workshops and guest speakers on topics such as:
- applying to business school
- making the most of your time in business school
- funding business school and life beyond
- interviewing for new jobs and the MBA
- salary negotiation
- career development and coaching
- advocating for yourself in your job search
- branding and online persona development
- and more — including networking and recruiting opportunities, teambuilding, events and more as they launch
So, what are you waiting for? Gain the knowledge, skills and network you need to thrive — in business school and beyond. Learn more about joining Cohort #2 of our mentorship program here.
About the author
Torri is a mom, creative writer, communications specialist, and professional journalist. She has nearly a decade of experience working in print and TV newsrooms as an on-air reporter and anchor independently researching, writing, interviewing, filming, and editing her own content. Whether she is interviewing the Speaker of the House about hot button issues, or a small student group about a local grassroots campaign, her commitment and focus remain the same: to bring the story she is telling to life. As an amateur watercolorist, she is passionate about the arts, promoting women's empowerment through writing, and investing time in her family.
She lives outside of Manhattan with her husband, baby boy, and rescue dog, Jax.