Currently 19 years old, Ataulla has just started his first year at Warwick University, studying Chemistry with an integrated Masters. He is enjoying it, but admits it is difficult: “The degree is challenging but nothing’s easy in life”.
He is an active student, having joined the debating society, Latin dance, as well as Thai boxing and badminton. However, he keeps a balanced view: “There are a lot [of societies] but as exams get closer you cut down on what you want to do.” He has just applied for an internship at SEO London.
Ataulla was around 14 years old when he started Mosaic mentoring, at a pivotal moment in his secondary education: “We were choosing which GCSEs to take and I got my SATs results and I didn’t do as well as the teachers predicted.” He says himself that his school was one where “not many people got very good grades”.
At this point, it was recommended to Ataulla that he become a mentee with Mosaic…
The most interesting aspect for Ataulla, other than speaking with senior professional from different sectors, was the opportunity to gain work experience and career guidance:
“You can even gain work experience through them and they can help you to decide which career path you want to choose. They would advise you on your studies, which courses to take, which subjects to take for your GCSEs or your A Levels.”
Not only was he initially impressed with the manner and articulation of the Mosaic mentors, but also he saw a long-term impact from his experience in taking part in a mentoring scheme with Mosaic:
“It wasn’t because of the content [in general], but it was the first session – how the person shared his experiences and gave advice, that’s what made me come to it more. It was because the mentors they provided were, in a sense, very intellectual. The first session, it was Khawar in fact, he told us that he studied in Cambridge, he got two degrees from there, and he did his MBA somewhere in America. Its kind of… that’s where you want to aim for. Basically if you talk to those people they can share their experiences with you and you know how to achieve your goals if you’re aiming for the same sort of work environment.”
From then on, Ataulla would meet with his mentor either one-on-one or in a small group. Ataulla found Mosaic mentoring particularly useful in helping him make some long-term decisions about studying and a future career. Other than practical advice, the life experience of mentors was something of a comfort:
“I didn’t know what I wanted to be in the future so I was, in a sense, kind of worried. The mentors kind of reassured you, everything is going to be fine, even when we were at your age we went through the same experiences, and as you grow older it’ll be more clear for you on choosing which career you want to choose, what you want to study, it’ll be more clear as you become older and more mature.”
As he approached his exams, Atualla credits his mentors with helping keeping him motivated. His mentor, Khawar, gave him advice that he still remembers: “He said, ‘Ataulla, aim for A*s and As, this or that isn’t good for you, try to aim high because if you aim high you’ll get.. you may slightly get lower but just aim for the top grades'”.
For Atualla, it was important that his mentor kept tabs on him, and would monitor how he was doing, give advice on how to revise for exams, including techniques to memorise information.
Throughout this period, Khawar and others were also helping Atualla think about and prepare for what he would do professionally. Khawar and his colleagues provided Ataulla with specific advice on the world of investment:
“Through him I met people that were in investment banks, that just came out of investment banks, they would advise me on, in a sense, which degree to choose, what kind of people they’re looking for, how they grade their applicants, how they choose their applicants so it helped me quite a lot.”
Atualla also managed to get an opportunity of work experience through his mentor, which made an enormous difference:
“The mentor that I was given when I was doing my A Levels, I got work experience through him. It was probably one of the best work experiences I’ve ever done, in terms of the work environment, I was also getting paid, and the people I met […] at the workplace, and they were giving me advice [about] my degree.”
His experience at Mosaic helped Atualla decide what he wanted to do, and how to get there. He wasn’t sure what to study, but wanted to make sure it would be a degree that wouldn’t prevent him from working in banking in the future. Again, he sought advice from his mentor and his colleagues. He chose chemistry.
“Then one of the mentors that I was assigned at Apax, he came from McKinsey and he told me that the three degrees that currently investment banks are looking for is mathematics, physics and chemistry.”
He now has a clear idea of his future trajectory, something that closely mirrors the advice he was given by his mentors. He plans to finish his degree – but to make sure he does internships while studying. He then plans to work in investment banking or a management consultancy firm; and after 4 years to study for an MBA.
According to Ataulla, the most important lessons he learnt from his mentor was not just specific advice, it was about developing a good work ethic and keeping motivated:
“Basically what the mentor told me was, just continue working hard and never give up, always give 100… You just have to keep on trying hard and you will achieve whatever you desire to achieve.”
He thinks from this he learnt:
“…we go through struggles and challenges in life, that’s what makes life more rewarding in a sense, when you achieve your goals you will value it more.”
Interestingly, Ataulla hopes to mentor others much the same way he was mentored at Mosaic because he feels that inspiration should be passed on. He says he will pass on to others the same advice that he benefited from whilst at Mosaic about a strong work ethic and perseverance, reiterating that all should endeavour to inspire future generations, even if only in a small way:
“Continue working hard and never give up, there will be times where you will struggle and times where you give up, but the strongest of us are the ones that continue working hard and never give up, and they will achieve whatever they desire in life.”
He is still in touch with Khawar every couple of months and was also invited back to Apax 6 months after his placement for a follow up.