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Teaching leadership: An interview with mentor Terri Tierney Clark

Terri Tierney Clark

Terri Tierney Clark

Students come to the W. P. Carey Full-time MBA program to learn how to become the business leaders of tomorrow. The Executive Connections mentorship program provides students access to accomplished business executives like Terri Tierney Clark, who are passionate about helping their mentees grow.

“I see Executive Connections as a great resource for students who are about to start their careers,” Tierney Clark says. “We’re here to teach the students leadership, either through example or by highlighting skills that they can develop. By having a positive influence on a mentee’s ability to lead successfully, Executive Connections is a really valuable program.”

The W. P. Carey School spoke with Tierney Clark about the importance of leadership skills, the unique benefits of the Executive Connections program, and what it means to her to be a mentor for the next generation.

Q&A with Terri Tierney Clark

What is it that makes Executive Connections so unique and impactful? Mentors, alumni, and current students know best. This conversation with Terri Tierney Clark has been edited and condensed.

Question: What brought you to ASU and made you decide to become an Executive Connections mentor?

Answer: After moving to Arizona eight years ago, I met Amy Hillman, the dean of W. P. Carey at the time. I wanted to become more involved with the community and she suggested I become an Executive Connections mentor. I joined the program shortly afterwards and have mentored students ever since.

Q: What is it about the Executive Connections program that differentiates W. P. Carey from other MBA programs?

A: W. P. Carey is the only school that I'm aware of that has designated mentors from the professional community. There's so much added value to the students through the program. I have a financial background, but if a mentee comes to me and wants to pursue a career in supply chain, then I can reach out to some of the other mentors with supply chain backgrounds and say, “Hey, can you chat with my mentee?”

I think that the main purpose of a mentor is to give your mentee confidence and help them discover their best professional assets. They might not even realize their most compelling leadership traits. Mentors can help identify those traits and suggest the student emphasize them at work and in interview situations. We give them career direction and perspective wrought from years of experience in the professional workplace. The students gain a lot from it. As mentors, we gain a lot from it as well.

Q: What do you feel you’ve gained from being an Executive Connections mentor?

A: I enjoy helping students who are pursuing any kind of career, but I feel particularly happy to help women MBAs with leadership skills. I feel there's a lot of value in having a role model. I was an investment banker, and, at the time, there weren’t too many senior women investment bankers. It’s nice for someone to see a woman in that position and be able to say, “I can do that, I can achieve that, or if I have any questions, I have someone who I can talk to.”

In the past I have helped students understand how the investment banking industry is structured. I would draw a schematic on a whiteboard to highlight the various departments and divisions and explain their roles and how they interact with one another. The industry is complicated, and I feel good that I can help someone understand career options and how they can best use their own skillsets.

Q: What skills do you think are important for your mentees to cultivate while they’re in the MBA program?

A: Negotiating prowess is helpful daily in the workplace. And negotiating skills can help significantly when a professional is self-advocating. I think a lot of students and professionals have a hard time speaking up for themselves effectively. Negotiating skills can help with that process. Such skills are also critical in pushing one’s agenda forward. As a sponsor of a project at your company, you will need to be effective at convincing others that the project’s value is worth the company’s investment of time and resources.

Listening is another critical skill. W. P. Carey’s MBA program cultivates listening skills through its case method of teaching and emphasis on team projects. Students are rewarded by listening; they learn that their output is more valuable once they have taken in diverse input.

Q: What does leadership mean to you?

A: Being a leader means that you can create outcomes that are beneficial to your constituents, whether they are your shareholders, your professional associates, your industry or your community. If you are someone who can influence that constituency, then you are a leader.

There are a variety of different leadership competencies. No one is going to be exceptional in all of them, but true leaders will excel in some. Perhaps its strategic thinking or communication; maybe it’s another leadership trait. Great leaders embrace their strongest skills and motivate others through those skills. There’s not one mold of the ideal leader. Each of the W. P. Carey students have specific skills that will allow them to be unique leaders in their careers.