mentor connections
Getting a Lift through AMA Baltimore and SNI: My Mentor Connections Interview

When I was looking into AMA Baltimore’s Mentor Connections program, the description of the program intrigued me, and I was motivated to pursue the opportunity. However, I faced one challenge that young professionals often face: cost. Even though I thought I couldn’t personally afford the program, I received a boost from an unlikely source, my boss, Andres Lares of Shapiro Negotiations Institute. Learn why I decided to participate in the program, enlist my company’s help, and more below:


Why did you want to participate in the AMA Baltimore Chapter Mentor Connections Program?

The flexible and self-motivated structure of the program really spoke to me. I found it important to connect with a seasoned professional marketer on a one-to-one basis to ask about the early part of their career and how they got to where they are today. I am a believer in learning from experienced professionals’ narratives and asking them questions along the way to see how their answers might enlighten my own path.

I was very fortunate to have Luba Abrams, Manager of Customer Relations for BGE, as my mentor. It was amazing to learn about her career from working at Nielsen Market Research to her time at American Express. She was a wealth of knowledge and did an amazing job at pushing me to self-assess, be strategic about my future, and run ideas on how to improve my current company’s goals. It was a pleasure to speak with someone that had so much B2B marketing and sales experience.


Were you afraid of asking your company to pay for the opportunity?

Of course! It is always daunting to ask for more, especially if it is from your employer, but being in the negotiation training space, I learned “everything is negotiable.” At the time of my enrollment, my finances didn’t lend me the opportunity to simply pay for the program itself. I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to ask, but I knew I had to be strategic.

Simply put, I had to sell the value to the program and why it wouldn’t only benefit my personal growth, but how it would make sense for the company. There is no denying that exposure to the great marketing community would allow me a space to test ideas and learn from the best in the industry, but I had to showcase how this opportunity would allow me to be more productive and strategic in my current role. So, I pitched it that way. The power to sit down with another senior leader in the B2B space and talk about our business challenges pushed me to think of innovative ways to approach those challenges.

Additionally, I provided them with options. I didn’t just ask, “Can you please pay for it?” I provided them alternatives. I was willing to pay for ½  or a ¼ or create a “pay it forward” situation — SNI covers my fee, and I cover another employee in a few years. I was inclined to create a “best practices” document for SNI based on what I learned. It was important to me for my employer to understand that I valued their time and money.


Were you shocked at receiving their support?

I was shocked by their generosity in covering the cost for the entire program. It wasn’t my expectation. They could have easily gone a different direction, but I work for a company with a strong culture. Working in that type of culture motivates me to be a better employee and fires me up to help SNI grow. The partners at SNI are generous and smart because they understand what keeps an employee happy isn’t the free snacks or a ping pong table; it is listening to what your employee values, whether it be money, career advancement, or more time with their family. I am thankful they think in a holistic way, and they aren’t the only ones. Watch Gary Vaynerchuk’s video about listening to your CHO (Chief Heart Officer) and what creates a strong culture.


Why did you want to share your story?

I wanted to let other young professionals know it is ok to ask for help and to look at alternatives before limiting a potential strong professional opportunity. I hope sharing my story provides other young professionals the confidence to ask for more, whether it is attending a conference, getting more training, or simply asking to change a situation at work. If you are thoughtful in your ask, you may be surprised in the response you receive.

To learn more about the power of mentorship, check out our post: “How to Control Your Career Path with the Power of Mentorship.”

Christian Bielski serves as Secretary for AMA Baltimore. He is the Sales and Marketing Manager for SNI: Shapiro Negotiations Institute — a global provider of sales, influence, and negotiation training and consulting.