With a career that spans more than three decades in the banking and business world, Jesse Tam is passing his knowledge to future entrepreneurs. The International Examiner caught up with Tam to talk about his service as a volunteer for Seattle University’s Albers Mentor Program.
Maureen Francisco: You started your career working in the mailroom of a bank back in 1975. What lessons did you learn from that experience?
Jesse Tam: My first job was in the mailroom in the basement of First Security Bank in Boise, Idaho. It was a lesson of life from the ground up. The value of understanding the true meaning of communication and connection with real people via the distribution of each individual’s mail was priceless. It is no different than in today’s world through social media. There is a real person behind each piece of mail, with each email address, and for each fact of life. We are all connected in one form or another.
Francisco: Walk us through your career.
Tam: It has been a great ride with almost 35 years of banking career from all levels and jobs in branch banking to management of commercial, international, private, corporate, and investment banking. With such a foundation, it led me to become a founder of three independent community banks in the State of Washington with offices among the Western States.
With my passion and personal background of being a true international individual, I also enjoy the establishment of my international consulting firm focusing in the Asia Pacific Region. Mega Pacific Investments was formed in 1991 providing a full range of financial strategic and investment guidance for companies and individuals in managing their financial affairs and business across national boundaries.
Francisco: On March 18, 2015, [you celebrated] 25 years as a mentor with Seattle University’s Albers School of Business. I understand you started with the mentorship program from the very beginning.
Tam: I am also very glad to [have stayed] on the program for the past 25 years and become the longest remaining mentor with the program. Since the beginning of the program, hundreds of mentors have been named and participated in the program, and thousands of students have also enjoyed the experiences and wonderful relationship with their mentors. Internship and job opportunities were developed from many of those mentor/mentee relationships.
Francisco: What do you gain from being a mentor?
Tam: [The students] keep me young with fresh thinking and knowledge. They also remind me of many fundamental principles of life that have never change.
Francisco: Why is having a mentor so critical? In the Pan Asian community, do you find that students are seeking mentors?
Tam: Mentors are important to all of us individually. It helps us to find our path through conversation and meaningful dialogue with others who have more experiences and expertise in certain areas of interest. Oftentimes, ideas are bounced around through open and honest discussion on issues. It is the same for all cultures with no boundaries. Seattle University’s program is a great example in establishing a secure and trustworthy environment to establish the mentor-mentee relationship, thereby eliminating the mismatch or misunderstanding in a relationship. I have learned that most young people are eager to receive honest guidance from people who have more experience than they do.
Francisco: You’ve mentored a lot of people. Describe your ideal person to coach.
Tam: General characteristics are mentees who are committed to finding the answer. They are not afraid to ask questions and are not willing to accept the barrier of time when everyone is really busy. They just don’t give up easily.
Francisco: How do you find a mentor?
Tam: Mentors have little to do with age and stature. They are individuals who are willing to share and to discuss the meaning of life and experiences to those who seek knowledge that’s lacking in their individual lives. Seattle University’s Albers School of Business is another resource. (Also visit http://www.seattleu.edu/albers/programs/mentor.)