Mentor provides valuable insight into future career
It was a perfect match between mentor Jerry Onyeche and student Marina Brandt. They’ve met several times since November to work on her CV and discuss everything from buildings’ aesthetics to motivation.
“I dance away from our meetings, Jerry has so much energy and gives me an incredible confidence boost,” says Brandt.
The entrance hall at KTH Library is light and airy. Jerry Onyeche, facilities manager at Shurgard, a company that provides storage solutions, is sitting on a well-worn leather sofa. Opposite him sits Marina Brandt, a master’s student in real estate and construction management. The morning sun casts light on the large palm by the window behind them. It has been only three months since their first meeting, but it’s apparent that they enjoy each other’s company.
“We instantly hit it off,” Brandt says.
She found the mentor programme while choosing between different tracks within her master’s programme.
“I had finished my bachelor’s thesis in real estate finance and it would’ve been natural to continue down that road, but it didn’t feel right,” Brandt says. “I applied to the mentor programme looking for guidance. Eventually I chose the master’s programme track before our first meeting, but Jerry has helped me become comfortable with my choice—construction project management.”
Onyeche says that he studied in the same programme as Brandt, 20 years ago. “Some of her teachers used to be my teachers, and a few of her teachers are my former classmates,” he says.
“Feels good to make a difference”
Onyeche found the mentor programme via the KTH alumni group on LinkedIn and wanted to use his experience to support students.
“My main purpose is to help a student understand the world after graduation and the benefits of being in it. It feels good to make difference.”
In their first meeting, he says that Brandt was looking for answers about her future career. She wanted to know if Onyeche is happy with what he does.
“I love my job,” Onyeche says. “I view buildings as living creatures that I care for. If they’re injured they need people who understand a building’s anatomy to patch them up. Like Marina or me.”
The mentor programme suggests mentor and student meet at least four times over a five-month period. Onyeche and Brandt have gotten together even more frequently. Sometimes they meet at cafés. Other times, they’ve driven around and looked at buildings.
The time has proven well-spent for Brandt. “I’ve gained hands-on experience that I wouldn’t have gotten in school,” she says.
Motivation an important part of being a mentor
Onyeche thinks of his role as a motivating force. Brandt says this has helped her realise her potential and capacity.
“Jerry has taught me to identify my core values, upon which I want to build my career. I want to have fun and integrate my passions in life with those in my career,” Brandt says.
“Anyone who’s studied at KTH is desirable at the job market,” says Onyeche. “Having a mentor can help gain the confidence to realise that.”
Brandt also believes the exchanges between mentor and student has the potential of filling gaps between academia and the industry.
“During my classes, we talk a lot about circular construction, a topic that hasn’t made its way into many companies yet. Meetings like these can help bridge that gap,” she says.
Towards the end of the interview, photos are taken of the mentor pair. They’re asked to talk to each other to make the photo look natural. Something that might have felt awkward for many, but not for these two. They jump straight into a conversation about the approaching day.