Three Questions with Alan Matsumura ’79 and Danny Arenson ’21 MS
Matsumura, a partner with Sagence, Inc., a management advisory firm, not only mentored Arenson, but through introductions to his network, helped Arenson secure his first job out of graduate school as an associate data engineer at Sagence, Inc. Find out more about the importance of networking and taking risks.
- What motivated you to join the Northwestern Network Mentorship Program?
Alan: I had two strong motivations to join the Northwestern Network. First, throughout my life, virtually every important decision that I have made well was guided or influenced through my relationship with my mentors. Understanding this made me seek channels where I might be able to offer some of my experiences or thoughts with young professionals that may be seeking different perspectives.
Second, when I attended Northwestern, I often wished that I could learn more about life after college. Like many of my peers when I attended, a college education was simply the natural next step for an 18-year-old. I did not fully appreciate the opportunities and risks that were available to me, both at Northwestern and in the job market.
I wanted to make myself available for anyone who might have the types of questions that I had when I attended Northwestern and help them understand different perspectives and contexts.
Danny: As I was finishing my master’s degree in data science, I was at a crossroads with my career aspirations. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and find a networking outlet that would allow me to make more impactful connections and learn from my peers. I was interested in finding a prospective mentor with extensive experience in my field of choice who had once been in a similar place earlier in their career. I was looking for someone I could trust to offer me their unique and genuine perspectives and help me with my personal and professional development.
- What have you gained, personally and professionally, from being part of this program?
Alan: Professionally, the greatest benefit has been that I have gained a new and valued colleague. During our initial talks, Danny said that he was eagerly seeking advice on his job search. I offered to share my ideas with him and introduce him to our recruiting staff. I felt that our recruiting director could provide the best and most immediate advice on how successful candidates present themselves. The result of this coaching was that Danny ended up joining our firm. Even though Danny has been with us for a relatively short time, he has made an impact on his projects and I know that he will be a strong contributor.
On a personal level, I have been able to make some new acquaintances and sometimes friendships. I also feel grateful to remain involved in the Northwestern community and give back in this small manner.
Danny: This program provided me with the opportunity to meet very kind and engaging people who willingly offer advice and guidance across all areas of development. Going into the program, I was expecting to simply network and meet successful alumni who share similar interests and aspirations, but the program far exceeded those expectations. I consider myself very fortunate to have met Alan right off the bat. I knew I could learn a lot from him, and he was genuinely interested in helping me succeed. I am now working at Alan's consulting firm in a dream role. Participating in this program and meeting Alan helped put me on a career trajectory that I am extremely excited about.
- What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Alan: The best career advice that I ever received was to actively invest in and develop your professional network. When I first entered the workforce, I focused almost solely on developing skills and experiences. I felt that world-class skills and knowledge would serve me well in my career.
Now, as I consider tapering off my career, I realize that most, if not all, important opportunities that I had to leverage and exploit my skills were due to my professional network. I also realized that solving really important, complex problems that are bigger than one person requires the talents and skills that you develop by creating and sustaining a professional network.
Danny: Although it may sound cliché at first, the best career advice I ever received was to be patient enough to learn but impatient enough to take risks. This was my perspective when signing up for the mentorship program. I took the time to learn from Alan and took a risk to be upfront about where I was in my career and what I was looking for. Had I chosen a different route, I can't say I would have been as fortunate.