Win-Win: Mentors and Mentees at NYU Shanghai

Since 2015, the NYU Alumni Executive Mentorship program has paired dozens of NYU Shanghai students with NYU alumni working in Asia. The program helps students explore professional pathways, while mentors also enjoy the energy and perspectives our students bring. Here, three mentors and their students share their stories, and how it changed their career paths.

There was no doubt in Gabriela Naumnik’s mind.

“She knows what she wants,” laughs Julliet Pan, NYU Tisch ’04, founder of SHE&JUL Films Productions and Media Company, based in New York and Los Angeles. And what Gabriela Naumnik’19, majoring in Interactive Media and Business at NYU Shanghai, wanted in her sophomore year, was to work with Julliet Pan. Mentees choose three possible mentors. Gabriela chose Pan all three times.

When Pan came to Shanghai to meet Naumnik and talk about the internship, she was working on The Lane, a new drama she describes as Melrose-Place-meets-Sex-in-the-City set in Shanghai. She showed Naumnik the trailer. “I love it!” was the immediate reaction.

“I was affected by her enthusiasm,” Pan admits. She asked for Naumnik’s thoughts on lowering the characters’ ages from 23--30 to 18--23, Naumnik’s own demographic and Naumnik agreed. She also suggested making the episodes much shorter—around ten minutes—for an internet audience.

Gabriela’s  enthusiasm re-energized Pan. “I gave her twenty questions to ask expats in Shanghai. She posted the questions on Facebook and began to gather stories.” Naumnik then conducted over forty in-person interviews and brought in other NYU Shanghai students to help.

“I got so much energy from the fearlessness of these students,” says Pan. “They helped me to realize the global appeal of the project.” Pan advises her mentees to “know what they want” and “be honest about their interests with their mentors.” “Through honesty, you gain trust. Gabriela was bold and clear.”

“Pan embodied everything I was interested in,” says Naumnik. “After she told me to follow my heart, I decided to minor in producing. And I have never felt so happy about studying something.” Gabriela’s advice to future mentees? “Choose someone who not only interests you as an industry professional, but also as a person.”


Ambassadors from the “Real World”

Qingchuan (Kyle) Sang ’18 was torn his sophomore year between chemistry and engineering. He wanted to get the inside scoop on the chemical industry. He chose Mark Yang, NYU Courant '99, General Manager, Spectra Gases (Shanghai), as a possible mentor. “Mark was working on special gases, producing a reactive gas for medical usage.” Yang introduced Kyle to the chemical engineers working on the project. He took Kyle to a business conference in Beijing to meet the company leaders and give Kyle an inside look at decision-making in his industry. Kyle worked as a translator at the conference.  Kyle’s take-away? For now, he feels more comfortable in Research and Development. “I thought the business side would be easier but it’s NOT! Questions like, ‘how big should the factory be; how fireproof do the materials have to be, what should the dirt the factory is built on be composed of’ made me realize that I’m a scientist!”

“I had no mentor experience in my education,” says Mark Yang, “but at my first job at Bell Labs they assigned me a mentor. I still keep in touch with him.” Yang felt that sharing his experience was critical for students considering his field.

“There is a great leap from the academic world to the commercial world. Staying in the lab, he feels, does not give a student in the sciences the whole picture. It really helps to have a mentor prepare you for the culture of the industry and what is expected of you in that culture.”  


Culture Counts

Like Mark Yang, Danny Bao, CFA, NYU Stern MBA ’01, Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer, HJY Capital Advisors (HK) Limited, had no mentoring experience in his college years. “In my undergraduate study,  I had very limited career counseling. I had no idea of how the business world worked! Luckily, J.P. Morgan had a mentoring program.” Bao helps his mentees understand their personal strengths. “I try to move the conversation away from what the student’s parents want. I ask about their hobbies and I try to reduce the gap between the parents’ aspirations and the student’s interests.”

“It’s one thing to learn skills,” Bao says, “but these are changing every day with new technologies. Learning the culture of an industry is much harder.” Bao’s mentee, Olivia Taylor ’17, was interested in investment banking, but Bao helped her to realize her true interest in consumer products, and that this was a culture she might enjoy more. “Danny helped me with the interview process, and with an action plan.” Taylor is now in a two-year marketing and development program at L’Oreal. Participants switch roles each year. In her first year, Taylor is working in the luxury division. “For millennials, the culture is so important. The life advice I got from Danny gave me real insight into this. I’ve made friends at L’Oreal—in the end, it’s not just about the resume. It’s about the people you will be working with.”


Article by Susan Salter Reynolds


For more information about the NYU Alumni Executive Mentor program at NYU Shanghai visit