Leo "Laeka" Brenninkmeyer '17 VSB and Paul Failla '99 VSB

laeka

1. What inspired you to join the VSB Mentor Program?

I have had several mentors since leaving Villanova and they have helped lay the foundation for my business today. They helped me create great habits and grounding principles for how I would evolve my business over the years; it is an honor to be able to pass some of that along.
– Paul

During my junior year, I completed a CoOp at J&J and had an incredible mentoring experience. One of the members of my team spent considerable time offering me advice, wisdom and insight on ways to grow professionally and personally. Upon returning to Villanova, it was very important to me to help others find those same mentorship experiences. It was such a gift to be paired with my own VSB mentor, Paul, and learn from him.
– Leo

2. How has your experience compared to your expectation?

I had no expectations, but my experience was a “wow.” Leo and I had conversations which raised new questions within the world of finance; we ended up exploring these areas with various folks across the industry. It was a learning experience for me, and Leo’s optimistic nature was a breath of fresh air that I looked forward to each time we spoke.
– Paul

My expectations have definitely been surpassed. Initially, I thought the relationship would only lead to professional conversations like resume prep, networking, etc., but I have been blown away by the personal development I have seen throughout my relationship with Paul. He spent considerable time early on getting to know my background and core values which has allowed him to challenge me to approach life after graduation with the right values prioritized.
– Leo

3. What makes your relationship a successful one?

There were several things that worked for us, but above all, we share similar values. Leo has a good idea of what life could look like for himself and the personal “compass” questions were a large part of his business questions – we fit well on that level. Another success point is the structure of the program; the mentorships are horizontal in nature, not vertical so Leo and I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
– Paul   

From the outset, Paul and I have been very honest with each other. This has led to both of us sharing our strengths as well as our weaknesses with one another. Early on, I shared with him that I was very risk-averse and he has helped me grow in my ability to take prudent risks. Furthermore, Paul and I have met in person on different occasions which has solidified our mentoring experience.
– Leo

4. What has been the best part about having a mentor/mentee?   

I know it sounds cliché, but it really is a joy to share in the enthusiasm and excitement of your mentee. Leo was like a shot of expresso for me every time we spoke and I am blessed to have been part of this with him. Plus, I got a good preview of what life is going to be like with my kids in another five years; in that way, I was the mentee learning what potentially is going on in the mind of my future 18-year-old. 
– Paul

Having someone I can go to with any and all questions about my career has been invaluable. I feel comfortable asking the tough questions that a lot of people internalize when beginning their careers. For example, when I received multiple job offers, Paul sat down with me and gave me very frank, but helpful advice on what each company could provide me. Due to our strong relationship, he understood what my core values were and was able to steer the conversation towards helping me make the best long-term decision for myself.
– Leo

5. Do you have a best practice to share with others in the program?

Listen. And ask a lot of questions.
– Paul

Constant communication with Paul has been vital. From the start of our mentorship, we have scheduled weekly phone meetings. This has given us the platform and time to build a very strong foundation.
– Leo