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Alumnus Spotlight: Aitemir Yeskenov, Moving Up at Raymond James, Credits Connections Made in Corporate Mentor Program

By Keith Morelli

Aitemir Yeskenov

TAMPA (March 28, 2019) -- Even though Aitemir Yeskenov was raised halfway around the world, he held on to a hope of one day earning success in America.

“Growing up in Kazakhstan,” he said, “I would always dream about development of my career at a big American firm for sure, but I didn’t expect myself to end up in the financial industry.”

Yeskenov came to the United States in 2014 at the young age of 18. He enrolled at USF to study business analytics because of his love for computers and technology.

“I believed that it would be great if I could combine business with technical skills in my career,” he said.

“Becoming a software developer was not something that I expected, yet I turned out to be very happy with my career choice.”

Yeskenov graduated from the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business with a degree in business analytics and information systems less than a year ago and he is tasting what success is like working for one of the largest investment and banking firms in the country, Raymond James Financial, a company he had never heard of before arriving at USF. And he’s now being groomed for bigger things, having just completed an exclusive company program that helps bright new hires build industry knowledge and accelerate their growth.

One factor in Yeskenov's success was his involvement, while still a student, in the Corporate Mentor Program, in which he was paired with an executive from Raymond James. He said this introduction helped him secure an internship, which evolved into a full-time job.

For more than 25 years, the Corporate Mentor Program has helped students explore career opportunities and develop strategies for their professional, academic and social success. Mentors provide access to opportunities for students to learn how to become leaders in the corporate world and help them develop professionally. The program nurtures the development of the underlying skills that allow students to become tomorrow's leaders. But the mentors win as well. They are on the front line of recruitment and are often able to hire the brightest talent for their companies.

 “Over my last two years at USF, I was paired with two mentors, but my first job opportunity emerged through my relationship and experience with my first mentor, Barry Papa,” Yeskenov said. “I met Barry in November 2016 at the Corporate Mentor Program breakfast. There was a big crowd of people, both mentors and mentees. On that day, we were introduced to each other and had a good conversation.”

Two months later Yeskenov went to Raymond James to meet Papa in his office.

“He showed me around and introduced me to an IT recruiter,” Yeskenov said. “He said that it would be great if I applied for their summer internship. I submitted my application. I had four rounds of interviews for that internship and got accepted.”

Papa, who has worked at Raymond James since 2006, said being a mentor to promising students is among the more rewarding aspects of his job.

“I became a mentor to give back and provide leadership to students,” he said. “Sometimes, they need someone who shows them a new perspective and ultimately gives them more confidence. These students are smart and sometimes all they need is a little encouragement and advice.

“When I met Aitemir, I knew he was brilliant as soon as he started to talk.”

Papa said Yeskenov was a good fit because he was conscientious, disciplined and very bright. “He has grit,” Papa said, and the two have become good friends.

That Yeskenov is from Kazakhstan makes his story even more remarkable, Papa said.

“Imagine traveling across the world, learning a new language and getting an advanced degree in information systems,” he said. “He is brave and adventurous.”

Yeskenov completed the 10-week summer internship program, working on user interface development of a client-facing application with another intern.

“After I finished the internship, Raymond James Human Resources reached out to me, sending me a job offer to join the exclusive six-month-long Accelerated Development Program,” he said. “The track that I was assigned to is Application Development in Java. As an ADP IT associate, I learned many different technologies. I graduated from ADP in January. I’m now applying my skills to real-world projects.”

He now works full time at the Raymond James headquarters in St. Petersburg.

“My goals for the future,” he said, “include mastering development skills, growing as a professional, networking with people and hopefully ending up in management at an IT firm, or any firm with a big and innovative department for information technology.”

As his star rises at Raymond James, Yeskenov said that the relationship he formed with Papa remains strong.

“Despite the fact that I was Barry's mentee only for one year, we are still connected,” Yeskenov said. “We became good friends and I am always happy to share my experiences with him. I truly thank him for introducing Raymond James to me.”

Yeskenov said he would, one day, want to give back to the Corporate Mentor Program and perhaps become a mentor himself.