A Sum Greater Than Its Parts: Bloomberg and Basta’s Groundbreaking Partnership

Jan 23, 2024 4:00 PM ET

Originally published on bloomberg.com

A shifting narrative

For the last fifty years, the narrative told to high schoolers and college students across America has remained unchanged. “We were telling college-bound students to just get into college and everything is going to be fine,” attests founder and CEO of Basta, Sheila Sarem. However, this simple equation falls short when applied to first-generation college students with limited social capital and access to professional networks. Herein lies the systemic problem that changemakers like Basta and Bloomberg have set their sights on.

Basta’s model is addressing that gap. “A college degree on its own does not necessarily lead to a great first job,” Sarem says. “I thought if we could create a space for employers to actually think about how to hire differently, we could really change the face of workforce leadership.”

From the beginning, Bloomberg has been a foundational partner in achieving this vision, opening pathways for first-generation students of color to join the ranks at Bloomberg and other Top 100 companies. Since 2016, 200+ Bloomberg employees have contributed over 400 volunteer hours and worked with 200 Basta fellows. And perhaps more notably, Bloomberg has hired over 50 Basta fellows into full-time roles across diverse sectors and teams. In honor of National Mentorship Month, we celebrate this long-running partnership by highlighting some of the successes we’ve achieved together.

The path to knowledge

In eight years, Basta’s vision has flourished: 81% of fellows secure full-time jobs with an average salary of $62,700. What’s behind this success? The Basta Fellows themselves, of course, and the extraordinary dedication of partner companies and their employees. “Companies like Bloomberg are a bit of a unicorn,” Sarem attests. “The willingness to think differently about hiring, the willingness to tap multiple channels for great talent.”

When ambition meets innovation, great things happen: enter the Bloomberg Mentorship program. “Every three months, we bring together a set of Bloomberg employees into one-on-one mentoring relationships with Basta fellows,” explains Sarem. Malia Simonds from Bloomberg’s Corporate Philanthropy team, whose belief in the partnership runs deep, is heading up the Bloomberg-Basta partnership. Simonds shares, “Bloomberg is committed to opening doors for students who have traditionally been underrepresented in fields where we have expertise. Those fields include technology, finance, business, and data. When we find a great partner like Basta, we love to support them in multiple ways — bringing together funders, corporations, and alumni of the program. We’ve hired people from Basta who have come through the program and are now mentoring fellows.”

A pay-it-forward mentality is the norm rather than the exception when it comes to the mentorship program. One such Basta alum-turned-Bloomberg mentor is Lynn Fernandez-Ponce, a first-generation student whose parents immigrated from Mexico. Now a Fixed Income Specialist at Bloomberg, she confesses, “As a first-gen student it was very difficult to have an insight on how to set my career forward and plan for it. I was pretty much on my own. And that’s where Basta filled this gap… the partnership between Basta and Bloomberg has really changed my life.”

Takes two

A successful mentorship relies heavily on the experience and empathy of the mentor. Take, for example, Basta mentee/mentor pair Bradley Belliard, Basta Fellow, and his mentor, Mary Abelack, Bloomberg employee and also a first-gen college graduate. “When I initially met Mary, I was definitely nervous and wanted her to see me as someone who took this seriously and was really passionate about what I do,” says Belliard. Well, his hopes were most certainly realized. When speaking about him, Abelack gives glowing reviews: “I was really impressed by how confident he was.”

Successful mentorship is also fundamental to career development. Abelack explains, “I decided to become a mentor because I had also been a first-gen college grad and I feel like the first ten years of my career were not going anywhere. I felt like I could alleviate that for someone.” So, how exactly does a mentor go about helping pave a path for a mentee such as Belliard? To Abelack, that means “giving him access to the network I’ve built here at Bloomberg,” providing a glimpse of the interview process and giving resume feedback tailored to the position he was interviewing for — perfectly embodying Basta’s mission.

The generosity of his mentor has not been lost on Belliard. “Our time together was pretty crucial to my success in the past year or so,” he says. “She gave me the confidence and the knowledge to go out there and get what I want, which was this job.” Regarding networking, Belliard can pencil in at least one first-gen superfan and advocate to his rolodex, Abelack.

Senior level support

Global Head of Bloomberg Marketing & Strategy, Brandon Harris, serves as Bloomberg’s representative on Basta’s board of directors. He is emblematic of what works in this partnership – through his board participation – he keeps one foot firmly planted in each organization and provides unique counsel on how to continue optimizing the partnership. “I decided to join the board of Basta because it really fit all the categories I was looking for in a non-profit board opportunity. The fact that Basta focuses on first-generation students was, I think, the most compelling part for me,” he says. “We take for granted the fact that we have a parent, a sibling, a cousin, a relative that can give us insights. Some people don’t have that… [they] are the very first person to go to college.”

Basta’s shared NYC roots with Bloomberg certainly help. “Basta started in our own backyard,” he adds. “And we’ve been proud to grow with them and grow beyond NYC, giving opportunities to students across the United States.”

Join a community of first-generation college students and receive the support and guidance to land a job in the field of your choice. Click here to learn more about Basta and their fellowship program.

Bloomberg’s Corporate Philanthropy program invests in a global network of nonprofit partners providing education and workforce development opportunities for individuals from historically underserved communities. Learn more about our global efforts to make careers in finance and tech more accessible and inclusive. For more information on Bloomberg careers, click here.