Deacon Spotlight Archives

  • Blake Harrison ('14)

    Blake Harrison (BS 2014, Health and Exercise Science with a minor in Health Policy and Administration)

    Project Manager at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NCBlake Harrison headshot

     

     

    Describe your current job role.

    I work as a Project Manager in the Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO) at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (WFBMC).  The EPMO team works on high risk, high revenue, high cost, and executive sponsored projects and programs that impact the medical center.  As a project manager, I am assigned to a project and manage the work stream(s) associated with the project from inception to completion.

    The most important skills I use daily are communication and organization.  In my short career experience, these two skills truly impact whether you will have a success or unsuccessful project. As a Project Manager, I constantly have to be aware of issues that arise in a project, communicate those issues to the appropriate parties, and follow-up to make sure that the issues are resolved.

    Tell us about an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    Since I recently started this new role as a Project Manager at WFBMC in October 2015, my bandwidth of projects has been limited; however, I was able to help manage portions of the ICD-10 Implementation and Stabilization Initiative.  ICD-10 is a medical classification list by the World Health Organization that contains codes for medical conditions.  In short, if the hospital doesn’t code correctly, you won’t get properly reimbursed by third party payers, which can lead to serious financial issues for a hospital.   Working on helping the Medical Center move from the ICD-9 to ICD-10 coding system was an interesting experience because if we failed to properly manage the program and mediate as many risks as possible, then we could potentially harm the medical center’s financial future.  Projects like this truly stress the importance of proper planning and opening communication lines.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    No one has all the answers.  No matter what stage you are in your career, there is always something new to learn and you should always have a student mentality.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    Besides the typical skills of multitasking, organization, effective communication, etc., Wake Forest truly prepared me for the world of work by teaching me the importance of doing what you love.  At Wake Forest, I thrived in the classes and organizations that I loved, and I performed adequately in the areas that didn’t necessarily peak my interest. Life is too short to stay in a field of work that doesn’t make you happy.  All the money, awards, and prestige mean nothing if you don’t feel good about what you are doing.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    Two things:

    1) At the start of your career, don’t let location stop you from taking a great opportunity.  Even though location is important, a good opportunity will help you acquire invaluable experiences and professional growth, which will get you where you truly want to be both professionally and geographically.

    2) No matter how small the task, own it and do your best.  Yes, the big assignments are important, but people notice how well you perform on the smaller assignments and tasks.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    I have been pretty fortunate to always have a mentor in my internships and post-graduate professional experiences. All of my mentors have been generally unfiltered and willing to invest in my professional growth and development.  My mentor’s commitment to my career has helped me improve in all aspects of my career and has also helped me become a stronger team player.

  • Zach Garbiso ('14)

    Zach Garbiso (BA 2014, Psychology with minors in English and Spanish)

    Assistant Media Planner at Neo@Ogilvy (Ogilvy & Mather) in New York, NY

    Describe your current work role.Zach Garbiso headshot

     

     

    I just started a new job as Assistant Media Planner for Neo@Ogilvy, Ogilvy & Mather’s digital branch, I assist the team in developing media recommendations on behalf of the client, work on paid social, and am working on various digital display campaigns. Our team handles the digital display advertising campaigns for our client.  That means we help traffic and plan campaigns for any promoted content from social to banner ads on a website.  We also do a lot of work with programmatic, which is a real-time bidding concept of advertising, allowing advertisers to optimize their ads.

    Describe an interesting project you’ve worked on since starting your new position.

    Recently, I had the opportunity to lead the development of a rich media unit.  Rich media ads are those placements on a website that when you roll over the ad, it expands and allows you to interact with the content inside the unit.  I acted as the liaison between the publisher of the unit, our internal account team, and the creative department within Ogilvy.  I also had the opportunity to provide my own feedback on the look and feel of the unit, allowing me to voice my own opinions on the creative.  This is just one example of how media planning allows someone to really learn about – and interact with – each of the moving parts within the advertising industry.

    What education or experiences did you have leading up to your current role?

    Last year, I worked as the Wake Forest Fellow in the Office of Personal and Career Development (OPCD) in the areas of Marketing and Communication and Leadership Development. In my Fellow role, I managed the social media platforms for the office, aided in the traditional marketing efforts to promote office-related events and programs, and also helped coordinate various programs through Leadership Development.

    While a student at Wake Forest, I was fortunate enough to serve as the Editor-in-Chief of the Howler for three years, exposing me to student media.  I went on to become the Chairman of the WFU Media Board, thus introducing me to the possibility of going into media as a profession.  Originally, I believed I wanted to work on the account side of advertising, but since I’ve been working in digital media, I’ve realized that the work I do now suits my skill set far better.  I am able to think strategically to help propose media recommendations and I work with data daily, allowing me to think analytically and create anecdotes out of data.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    Wake Forest taught me the value of hard work.  Because of the opportunities afforded to me by Wake in terms of leadership positions in various extracurricular activities, I know what it means to balance my time accordingly, to meet multiple and simultaneous deadlines, and to execute as a member of a high-performing team.

    As a Psychology major, digital media planning wouldn’t be the first job function I would be naturally placed into. However, because of the research methods classes I took in order to complete the major, I understand the data that I work with on a daily basis, and it allows me to create anecdotes out of that data.  When you’re creating a media plan or developing insights based on the information you pull from various platforms, being able to understand how people think, what motivates them to engage with certain advertisements, and articulating those points in a clear and concise way is extremely important.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to move into the professional world of work?

    The best piece of advice I could give to current Wake Forest students is to be intentional about the choices you make.  Whether you’re trying to make a decision about who you’re studying with, what extracurricular organization you’re going to join, or what your next move is after Wake Forest, you need to think through why you’re making this decision.  After you graduate, you get to start a new chapter in your life that is simultaneously exciting and terrifying, so don’t waste any time with indecision.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    I wish I realized that college was truly a time to learn from your mistakes.  When you are in the world of work, the stakes are a lot higher and there is less margin for error in the projects you work on.  On a college campus, you are surrounded by people whose job it is to help you learn and grow.  Take advantage of that.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    I have.  I am fortunate enough to work on a close-knit team on a large account, so there are plenty of opportunities for me to ask questions.  One of the supervisors that I sit with has really been an amazing asset to me, helping me understand the processes needed to be successful in my role and continuously providing context into whatever project I am asked to work on.  She has been working in the advertising industry for many years and as a result has garnered a lot of invaluable experience that she’s shared.

  • Amy Shackelford ('14)

    Amy Shackelford (BA 2014, Communication and Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies)

     

     

    Founder/Senior Planner at Modern Rebel & Company in Brooklyn, NY

    Describe your current work role.Amy Shackelford headshot

    I am the Founder of Modern Rebel & Company (formerly named A Modern Vow) which is an alternative event planning company dedicated to giving back. Each event’s profits lend at least 5% to a local non-profit. As the Founder and Senior Planner, I wear many hats! Some days I’m working on a color coded, Excel timeline for an upcoming wedding, some days I’m tasting cakes, other days I’m meeting with lawyers to make sure that the business is properly set-up to sustain itself and thrive. I also find that my role as an entrepreneur is also bent on relationships, maintaining them and creating them; this is a side of the business I really enjoy. For example, as A Modern Vow (just weddings) transitions into the larger company of Modern Rebel & Company (all types of events), I’m on the hunt for local non-profits to partner with. This allows me to tap into the great work being done in my community and meet people that I may not have otherwise met. On top of that, I’m finding especially as I work on my mission statement and new website design that being the one with a clear vision is a fun and exciting challenge. I want to spice up the event industry (that is over-saturated with wealth and a lack of perspective) and doing that takes a good amount of creativity. Thankfully, I work with new and brilliant people daily so I’m soaking up as much as I can!

    Describe an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    I just finished working on a wedding for a really awesome couple in Brooklyn. They were on a tight budget and I did their day-of-coordinating, which involves about a month of preparation. At one point during the reception, all the lights went out in the tent. In a matter of sheer minutes, I had to game plan and come up with a solution (flipping the breaker didn’t do anything!). We found a nice lamp and candles and mood-lit the place to death. The impact is the great reminder that no day is perfect, and it’s the little imperfections that make our great moments so great. Like the moment when the ice cream truck came barreling down the road right as the couple said, “I do!” I mean, come on, that’s the kind of funny moment you can reference someday in the rocking chairs.

    What education or experiences did you have leading up to your current role?

    I worked for Feminist Apparel, an awesome non-profit out of Brooklyn, and I also worked at Breads Bakery in Manhattan. Both were enriching experiences that taught me a ton about operating my own business.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    As a student of Gender Studies and a big theatre person, I was constantly trying to find innovative ways to make issues like sexual violence matter to students or find ways to get them to check out an awesome show we had coming up at Scales. So, in many ways, my role as someone outside the typical mold of what people may think of as “Wake Forest student” prepared me immensely. I feel comfortable being the loud feminist on campus begging a stranger to come hear poetry benefiting a local women’s shelter. This sort of spunk helps in a big city like New York where you need to stand out! Humor aside, I’d be amiss not to mention some of the incredible teachers/mentors I had while I was there. Dr. Wanda Balzano (Department of Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies) taught me to be relentless in my efforts to change the world, and she continues to inspire me to dig deeper in my work to make it more relevant, more meaningful, and more intersectional. Lauren Beam (Office of Personal & Career Development) not only helped me to secure internships or scholarships (or both!) every summer, but pushed me to make the most out of them. Brook Davis (Department of Theatre) has the wisdom of Dumbledore and a smile that makes even the worst days bearable. So, yes, Wake Forest prepared me for everything I have faced. To me, it’s the Wake Forest people and the experiences that have shaped me immensely.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    Four things: 1) That “fake it to you make it” is a legit piece of advice. 2) Being kind never goes out of style no matter what you’re doing or your title. 3) Being on-time (well, early) is the best first impression. 4) You will be disappointed and disappoint. Always get back up with even more enthusiasm than the last time.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to move into the professional world of work?

    Work hard. Arrive early. Be curious. Be brave enough to change your mind on things.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    I’m a part of a female entrepreneur network on Facebook, and I’ve found that space particularly empowering. I’m so proud to be a part of a big group of women who have ideas and are bold enough to do something with them. I find that vulnerability so incredibly moving, and I learn so much from them daily. I try to take coffee meet-ups with female entrepreneurs as much as I can even if it’s a totally unrelated field (I had coffee with a new Brooklyn astrologer the other day). As far as one steady mentor in NYC, I’m still on the lookout. If you’re reading this and want to be my mentor, find me!

    Want to see Amy in action? Check out her current website. Once her company’s re-branding is complete in late November 2015, you can find all of her planning and coordination services offered at Modern Rebel & Company.

  • Sarah Crosland ('04)

    Sarah Crosland (BA 2004, Political Science and English)

     

     

    Senior Manager and Executive Editor of Magazines and Targeted Publications for the Charlotte Observer in Sarah Crosland headshotCharlotte, NC

    Describe your current work role.

    My main job is overseeing the magazines and targeted publications division of the Charlotte Observer. I work with a team of editors, writers, designers, and photographers to create weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual publications. I also work with our sales and marketing teams to try to determine the best ways to develop products that will generate revenue. It’s a fun job because I get to think both creatively and strategically—and I get to work with some really talented people.

    Describe an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    My work often reaches beyond my actual “job.” I have written two books about Charlotte, cover the city for a variety of national websites, and frequently have the chance to promote it on television segments. This means I occasionally get asked to participate in some really cool projects.

    Recently, I had the opportunity to be a part of a panel discussion about dining and food in Charlotte. Some of the best chefs in the Southeast were also on the panel, which was moderated by Southern food writer, John T. Edge. It was fascinating to hear their thoughts on the subjects, and my hope is that the conversation helped with Charlotte’s continued progress in some way.

    What education or experiences did you have leading up to your current role?

    I’ve always worked as a writer and editor for magazines in some capacity. I was an editor at The Atlantan, Charlotte Magazine, and DC Magazine prior to my current position.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    My classes at Wake were challenging and through them I certainly learned things like time management and strategic thinking. However, I ultimately think it was my peers at Wake Forest who prepared me the most. Spending four years surrounded by incredibly driven—and ultimately successful—people was an invaluable experience. I never consider settling professionally and I attribute that in large part to my time spent at Wake developing relationships with people of a similar mindset.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    I wish that I had known that every relationship is a potential professional networking opportunity—and that you shouldn’t be shy about reaching out to people who could be instrumental in your career.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to move into the professional world of work?

    Think big and make friends. This is just your first job and it’s likely you’ll have many more. When you’re making decisions around your professional life, now is the time to be bold. And keep in mind that cultivating relationships in your field is ultimately both professionally and personally rewarding.

    This is probably the creative part of me speaking, but I also like to encourage people to have what I think of as a “side hustle.” I’m never only doing my full time job. I’ve written books, developed television series, and even—somewhat unexpectedly—created a personal brand around hosting. I’m always the most impressed by people who turn these side passion projects into their full time focus. But even if you don’t, they’re a great way to explore the things that really excite you.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    I have had numerous mentors in the form of editors. I’ve been lucky enough to work under several editors who offered direction, as well as constructive criticism. They taught me to write better and, perhaps most importantly, they taught me to be my own toughest editor.

    Want to read more from Sarah? Check out her books Food Lovers’ Guide to Charlotte and 100 Things to Do In Charlotte Before You Die.

  • Cassaundra Young ('07)

    Cassaundra Young (BA 2007, Political Science with a minor in Health Policy and Administration)

     

     

    Consumer Experience Consultant at Humana, Inc. in Charlotte, NCCassaundra Young headshot

    Describe your current work role.

    Currently I work as a Consumer Experience Consultant for Humana, Inc., a health care company.  My role involves developing strategies and frameworks to improve business to consumer relationships in an effort to positively impact consumer health, engagement and retention. I manage a cross-functional team that analyzes data trends, collaborates with consumer research and marketing efforts, and implements programs or initiatives to continuously improve the overall consumer experience.  My specific book of business includes members who are impacted by health care reform and so it can be a challenge to think of strategies that will retain them and educate them on proper utilization of healthcare services. I will say, however, that this is the most exciting part of my job. I get to come up with ideas, test them rapidly, and see what works.

    Describe an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    One of the things I like about my job is that we often have the permission to try things that we don’t necessarily know will work, but that the company believes is worth the investment to try.  I was involved with a project that created a self-care program for diabetic Medicare members.  Senior adults tend to only listen to what their physicians tell them to do in regards to their health, so this program was to see if we could impact health behaviors from a different angle while driving down the costs associated with unnecessary utilization of healthcare services.  We worked with health educators, physicians, and multi-media vendors to design a 10-week interactive program that taught our members living with diabetes to manage their own condition. I led a rather large implementation plan, built critical relationships with external clients, and regularly engaged with senior leadership about the progress of the project. It ended up growing bigger than we anticipated, but it was great to hear our CEO speaking publicly about the success of a project that I spent the better part of a year driving.

    What education or experiences did you have leading up to your current role?

    After graduating from Wake Forest, I immediately completed my Master of Public Health degree from Emory University, concentrating in Health Policy and Management. To make myself competitive, I sought out hands-on management experience through my internships with the local community hospital, and completed a practicum working for a healthcare analytics consulting firm.  But I think the most impactful experience that I received was doing a Leadership Development Program with Humana during my first two years at the company.  I received a great deal of exposure to leaders, got to do self-selected rotations across the business and worked in roles that stretched me.  I know a lot of professionals who take time off between undergrad and graduate school to work.  Because I didn’t choose that path, this Leadership Development Program was a fast track to gain the experience I needed in a relatively short period of time.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    Wake Forest prepared me for the world of work by teaching strength under pressure!  Wake graduates are known to have a high work ethic and sense of responsibility that comes from being held to a high standard.  I didn’t realize just how much was instilled in me until I was in graduate school and felt prepared to handle it all.  I have a high tolerance for stressful situations and can be very strategic about where to focus my energy.  I use this in my favor professionally all the time.  Wake Forest also taught me to be confident in my skill set and my ability to learn.  There will never be a situation where I know all of the answers working in an ever changing environment, but there will also never be a situation where I don’t feel equipped to figure it out.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    Building professional networks are so important!  I will admit that as a student, I spent a lot of time focusing on coursework and getting the “right” answers. I started my career thinking that if I applied this same level of perfectionism then I would be recognized for my work.  But I quickly learned that even though hard work is important, relationship building is important too.  I cannot count how many times I have been approached to join a project just because of a conversation I’ve had over coffee!  Now I know that it’s important to spend time learning about what other people do.  I get a lot of satisfaction from finding ways to connect people professionally and opening myself up to new opportunities.  Being able to do what you do well is very important, but building professional relationships opens the door to continuous growth and opportunities.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to move into the professional world of work?

    Have a plan, but don’t be afraid to deviate from it!  I started my career thinking I knew exactly what I wanted, how I was going to get there, and when I was going to arrive. But careers are journeys! I have met so many people along the way who have caused me to challenge even my best laid plans.  It took a little bit of courage to stray from the path I thought was best, but in letting go, I gained experience that I wouldn’t have gotten if I didn’t give myself the permission to grow.  I think we cause ourselves unnecessary stress by thinking that we have to have it all figured out all at once.  Sure I have an idea of where I want to be in 5 to 10 years, but I’ve learned to view my career in 2 year chunks.  You don’t have to have it all figured out, you just have to be willing to learn about what you want (and don’t want) in the process.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    I strongly believe in mentoring. I have a professional mentor within my field but I also have mentors outside of the healthcare space as well.  I think this has contributed to the way in which I approach work and set goals for myself.  My mentors have taught me how to promote myself. They have taught me what to expect in the corporate space and they have helped me to navigate roadblocks as they arise.  I love having them as an outlet to discuss what I want out of my career and to learn from their experiences. Because I have had firsthand experience on how great of an impact mentors are, I also serve as a mentor for graduate students and early careerists.  It’s one of the most rewarding experiences to give back something that has been so valuable to me.

  • Kevin Jones ('05)

    Kevin Jones (BA 2005, History and Philosophy, Reynolds Scholar)

     

     

    Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Georgia in Athens, GAKevin Jones headshot

    Describe your current work role.

    I conduct historical research on the modern Middle East and teach a variety of courses on the history of the Middle East at the University of Georgia. I have published several academic articles and book reviews in international scholarly journals.

    I am currently working on a book manuscript project about anti-colonial politics and popular poetry in Iraq. The project is based on my dissertation research at the University of Michigan. I utilized a wide variety of primary sources in this project, including documents from the British National Archives, old Iraqi newspapers, countless volumes of poetry published by Iraqi poets, and numerous Iraqi political memoirs. This research has occupied me for nearly a decade and has taken me to libraries and archives across the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. I hope and expect the book to change the way that historians think about the relationship between culture and politics in the modern Middle East.

    After graduating from Wake Forest, what education or experiences did you have leading up to your current role?

    I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan from 2006-2013, pursuing my PhD in History. From 2013-2014, I was the Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the George Washington University, Institute for Middle East Studies.

    How did your Wake Forest education prepare you for the world of work?

    I like to say that Wake Forest taught me how to think. The history department gave me the scholarly tools that I needed to succeed in graduate school and beyond, but I also really value the intellectual tools that I gained from my philosophy courses.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    I wish I had known that I would never again have as much time to simply read. I obviously have to read widely and constantly to stay abreast of current events and contemporary scholarship on the Middle East, but I simply no longer have the luxury to take my time and really immerse myself  in a good book. I would have savored those luxurious days of reading a bit more.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to move into the professional world of work?

    Try to strike an appropriate balance between confidence in your own abilities and receptiveness to advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from mentors and role models, and try to identify why others have succeeded. At the same time, don’t ever lose sight of your own unique abilities. Don’t simply imitate previous models of success, but try instead to adapt these models in your own way. The world is constantly changing, and you should always remain aware that some degree of innovation is a requirement for future success. Don’t forget to enjoy the experience!

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    Juan Cole, my PhD advisor at the University of Michigan, really helped me to develop as an historian of the modern Middle East. It was simply invaluable to have the advice of an expert scholar to guide me along the way. Dr. Cole encouraged me to take calculated risks in my own scholarship that really helped to open professional doors for me after I finished my PhD.

  • Katherine Wycisk ('12)

    Katherine Wycisk (BA 2012, Political Science and International Studies, Reynolds Scholar)

    Senior Bequests and High Value Donor OffiKatherine Wycisk headshotcer at CARE Australia and Co-Director of Aid4Uganda in Melbourne, Australia

    Describe your current work role.

     

     

    My current full time job is working at CARE Australia, a member of the international development organization CARE International (CARE is an international humanitarian aid organization fighting global poverty, with a special focus on working with women and girls to bring about lasting change to their communities. CARE is a non-religious and non-political Australian charity, working together with communities to provide emergency relief and address the underlying causes of poverty).

    In my role, I figure out exactly who in the Australian public has expressed interest in leaving a gift to CARE in their will, and use that profile to determine who else in our database might be interested as well, if we reached out to them about it.  Then, I figure out the most effective channels of communication to engage them about the subject, design those communications, oversee the distribution, then evaluate the results (and hopefully get many more people not just interested, bu actively adding CARE into their will).  For middle donors, I do much the same – figure out who has been a middle donor past and present, and who in our database might be willing to  upgrade to that status.  Then, I develop communications to keep and deepen their engagement in CARE, for instance through a direct mail campaign that tells the story of a village that was benefited by the donation of a single middle donor, and what else needs to be done by the organization with the help of those donors.  My goal is to raise a certain amount of money from the middle donor pool over the course of a financial year.

    I am continuing my work with Aid4Uganda with my husband, since that has always been run as a “passion project” on the side of our other work.

    Give us an example of an interesting project you’ve recently worked on recently.

    My husband and I recently organized a big silent auction and trivia night fundraiser for our work in Uganda (Aid4Uganda).  We rented out a community hall and had 130 people come out to support the kids with whom we work.  It was an enormous undertaking, because both my husband and I have separate full-time jobs, but it all came off beautifully. We got about $5,000 worth of auction items donated by businesses across Australia, and not only raised $10,500 in the one night, but got five new child sponsors on board.  We are going to use that money to complete the first two stories of the orphanage.

    How did your Wake Forest education prepare you for the world of work?

    Wake Forest taught me critical thinking, improved my communication skills, and taught me about time management, all of which have been crucial in life after school.  Wake Forest also gave me the opportunity to pursue research and travel opportunities that have helped me get to where I am in my career – it was on a research grant that I first traveled to Uganda, met my husband, and came up with the idea of building an orphanage.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    Practical experience is key.  You can take all the classes you want, but nothing beats getting out there and getting some work experience, doing some research, and studying abroad, because those are the things that will set you up best for life after school.  I am so grateful I got out of the classroom and got some real world experience while I was at Wake Forest, but if I had known just how important those experiences were, I would have done twice as much!

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to move into the professional world of work?

    Do what you love, but don’t be afraid to start at the bottom.  It’s easy to assume that, armed with a degree, you will automatically get your dream job, but starting from entry level positions and working your way up slowly as you gain experience will give you a much stronger foundation for your career.

  • David Inczauskis ('14)

    David J.W. Inczauskis, n.S.J. (BA 2014, Religion and Spanish, Reynolds Scholar)David Inczauskis headshot

    Jesuit Novitiate of St. Alberto Hurtado in St. Paul, MN

    Describe your current work role.

    The “novitiate” is the place where Jesuits in formation receive their first two years of training for the Catholic priesthood or brotherhood. In the novitiate we undergo several “experiments” or “tests” before taking perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. For my first experiment I assistant taught and worked in the campus ministry office at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in the Twin Cities. The Cristo Rey network of Jesuit schools caters to underprivileged students in largely urban areas. Cristo Rey students are unique in that they spend one day a week at an internship, which helps them gain self-sufficiency, responsibility, and work experience. Aside from my time at Cristo Rey, I’ve also volunteered at L’Arche Daybreak, a community of people with and without disabilities who live and work together.

    Give us an example of what your formation and training entails.

    As part of our formation as Jesuits, we go out on a 30-day “pilgrimage” with nothing more than a one-way bus ticket, $35, and a few toiletries. My bus ticket took me from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Rexburg, Idaho. My desire for the 30 days was to spend time with people from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) in order to better understand their religious beliefs and practices in a personal way. The Latter-day Saints were very generous to me, giving me ample food and hospitable lodging for the entire 30 days. During that time I engaged in numerous inter-religious conversations and attended routine events with Mormon families. You could almost say that it was a miniature ethnography, one of the fields of religious studies upon which I focused as an undergraduate. The impact was huge. This otherwise “other-ed” group became very familiar to me, and I now have a much more well-rounded understanding of their religious expression of Christianity than when I began.

    How did your Wake Forest education prepare you for becoming a Jesuit novitiate?

    My specialization in religion at Wake Forest prepared me to think critically and academically about religion while still remaining respectful of the evident variety of people’s spiritual expression. This approach has been helpful for me especially in teaching and explaining the Catholic faith to others. Because the Department of Religion gives its students a breadth and depth of knowledge of the major religions of the East and the West, I feel comfortable engaging with the great diversity of religions in America. As for my specialization in Spanish, I would say that there are practical and cultural benefits to my degree. For instance, I’m able to speak with Latino Catholics in their native tongue, and I know something of their way of life.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    “Working professional” is not a term that I would readily associate with the Catholic priesthood, but there is an aptness to the expression regardless because priests “profess” a certain creed by “working” in a certain way. “Working professionals” and Catholic priests-in-training must realize that we are part of a corporate body. Just as students of Wake represent Wake to the world, so do working professionals represent their organizations to the world. Part of our identity is inextricably social, and we shouldn’t forget that aspect of our lives. We are social animals, not isolated individuals.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to move into the professional world of work?

    The first few weeks/months of professional life can be exhausting. Just as our transition from high school to college carried with it a whole range of emotions, so too does our transition from college to career. Let this time of adjustment be an opportunity for self-improvement as well as an opportunity for self-expression. It is perfect for reflection on questions such as the following: what sort of person do I want to be? how is my work going to affect the world? and, how can I balance my work and my relationships? As Jesuits, we aim to be “contemplatives in action,” that is, people who retain in tension the seeming extremes of thought and work, immaterial and material, prayer and service. This concept is beneficial to all people, regardless of their religious identity.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    Each Jesuit novice is assigned a spiritual director. My spiritual director has been a great resource for my spiritual, personal, and “professional” growth. He left the “working world” to become a Catholic priest, and I really admire the purity of his vocation. Whereas I entered the Jesuits immediately after college, he had to make some difficult decisions in order to leave his job, his money, and a potential family.

  • Carey Carpenter ('11)

    Carey Carpenter (BA 2011, Political Science and Spanish, Reynolds Scholar)

    Partnerships Associate at Living Goods in Kampala, Carey Carpenter headshotUganda

    Describe your current work role.

    I am part of the Partnerships Team at Living Goods, an innovative social enterprise that is at the vanguard of transforming healthcare in the developing world through networks of community-based agents. From Living Goods’ base in Kampala, Uganda (East Africa), my role involves partnering with the world’s largest NGOs, companies, funders, and governments to launch new enterprises that promote access to affordable healthcare products in the developing world. My role has taken me to remote communities across Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, and Myanmar (Burma).

    The pace is fast, like most start-ups. I rely on strong critical thinking skills to “get things done.” This means quickly learning the ropes of a new market, figuring out how to navigate unfamiliar professional environments, and finding ways to break down complex ideas so they can be understood and successfully replicated in new geographies. To do all of this well, I need to gain the trust of international partners whose backgrounds are very different from my own. My goal is to crack the rural distribution challenge in developing countries! Whether that’s through the for-profit, non-profit, academic, or social sector, only time will tell.

    What previous work experiences did you have before moving into your current role?

    Prior to Living Goods, I spent three years with Deloitte Consulting’s Federal Practice in Washington, DC. My clients included the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank Group, and the United States Postal Service. Deloitte was the perfect place to launch my career. I found endless opportunities to put my liberal arts education to practical use, and my colleagues and mentors at Deloitte helped me build the technical skills I needed to succeed. Best of all, I made fantastic friends at the firm, many of whom are fellow WFU alums, who helped me crack into the international development space at a relatively young age.

    Describe an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    The most interesting and rewarding aspect of my job is getting to know the communities where Living Goods and our partners are operating. I recently spent several weeks in rural Myanmar, conducting market research in a region that has been closed off to international organizations for decades. Sharing meals with Myanmar families in thatched bamboo huts, while discussing persistent health challenges and lack of access to basic products, reinforced the importance of making health supply chains work for the poor. I have had similarly inspiring experiences in Zambia, where I am currently managing a partnership between Living Goods, a large NGO, and corporate sponsors who want to increase access to affordable healthcare while improving incomes for the poor.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    I am where I am today because I am not afraid to ask questions, take calculated risks, and explore new places. I left Wake Forest with an insatiable desire to learn – not just in an academic setting, but also in my daily professional life. From the warm and familiar classrooms on Reynolda Campus, to the sleek office space of Deloitte’s Federal Consulting Practice, to fieldwork in Uganda’s rural villages – for me the learning has never stopped, to my own personal, professional, and spiritual benefit.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    Soak up every minute of campus life! It’s not often that you get to live, study, work, and play in the vicinity of so many best friends. With each year that passes, I feel heightened appreciation and nostalgia for my four unforgettable years living in Babcock Hall, eating M&M cookies in the Pit, getting lost in the stairwells of Tribble Hall, singing the fight song after a touchdown, and seeing the breathtaking steeple of Wait Chapel on my morning commute to class. There’s lots to look forward to in the professional world, but you will miss Dear Old Wake Forest!

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    Go into your first job with a heightened sense of humility, a willingness to roll up your sleeves and pitch in where possible, and an eagerness to learn. Attitude is everything. Your colleagues and superiors will quickly identify and appreciate your ability to help where it’s needed, and they will be energized by your excitement to learn new things. Making an impact early on, no matter how small, opens doors for you to take on more responsibility over time and, ultimately, craft the career you have always wanted.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    I’m a big believer in having informal mentors, and I’ve been fortunate to have many of them since entering the workforce. Some have been close in age, acting as big brothers and sisters to shepherd me into the professional world. Others have been farther along in their careers, willing to share sage advice and offer encouragement for the future. All of my mentors have played a pivotal role in helping me build my network and crack into the international development community. I would not be where I am now were it not for those special people!

  • Ryan Smith ('13)

    Ryan Smith (BA 2013, Psychology with a minor in Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise)

     

     

    Manager, Account Install Specialists at Cigna Health Ryan Smith headshotServices in Phoenix, AZ

    Describe your current work role.

    I am in my second rotation in Cigna Health Service’s Operations Leadership Program. In my current role, I manage a team of account install specialists that build the health insurance benefit information for our Arizona/Colorado based clients. My primary responsibilities include supervising the daily productivity of my team by setting goals, identifying knowledge gaps for additional training opportunities, and ensuring that we meet client expectations.

    I am enjoying learning the ins-and-outs of managing a team including adapting my leadership style to the various members on my team to ensure that they each have the support they need in order to be efficient and effective in their role. Additionally, the role provides me with opportunities to work with our process enhancement team to identify barriers that we can alleviate in order to create greater productivity as well as outline strategies to roll out these improvements.

    My first rotation was as a project lead with the Performance & Effectiveness team. In this role, I had the opportunity to build some fundamental project management skills while learning about how we onboard clients. These skills have been instrumental as I’ve transitioned into my current role as I have a background for working and leading projects yet am now combining that with learning how to manage a team and a piece of our business.

    Describe an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    Most recently, I had the opportunity to be one of the business leads for implementing a peer audit process within my organization. Long story short, it’s critical that the benefit packages we put together for our clients accurately reflect their intent of what they purchased. Ultimately, we decided to put a peer review in place to ensure accuracy. The process itself was not complicated, but taking into consideration all of the different factors that can play into the timing, communication, and capturing of important data made for a more complicated roll out than we anticipated.

    The impact is that we now have a way to double check and verify benefit information prior to providing it to the client to ensure that we provide our clients with an increasingly positive experience. The impact internally is that we have yet another checkpoint in place to help identify, at an organizational level, where we can look to make process improvements.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    Wake Forest taught me to take the initiative. Whether it was in the classroom or as a leader in a campus organization, the environment at Wake Forest encourages students to jump in and take action. Wake Forest helped me to develop the confidence and skill set to analyze options and drive action towards these initiatives which set me up to be successful in the workplace.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    Jump in! Opportunities to get involved and learn new skills will appear all the time. The challenge is being comfortable saying “yes.” Even if it’s early on in your time with the company and in your role, saying “yes” to those experiences are going to help you immensely as you learn and grow as a professional. So don’t let them pass you by!

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    Be a sponge. You probably hear that a lot, but that’s because it is really good advice. Every opportunity is a chance to be involved in something new, meet someone new, and learn more about your organization, your role, and where you want your career to head. So take the time to network and meet new people, talk with the senior leaders in your organization, and take advantage of opportunities that come your way.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    I have had a couple of mentors throughout my time so far at Cigna. They have happened organically based on who I was working with closely at the time. These mentors have challenged me to stretch myself and have also guided me when I was unsure of the correct action to take. Each learning moment helps me develop faster than I would have on my own.

  • Sarah Hinshelwood ('13)

    Sarah Hinshelwood (BA 2013, Religion and Spanish)

     

     

    Fellowships Program Coordinator at the Center for Sarah Hinshelwood headshotPublic Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, MA

    Describe your current work role.

    I am the Fellowships Program Coordinator at the Center for Public Leadership (CPL), one of 15 centers at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. At the center we have nine fellowships for master in public policy and master in public administration students that focus on forging leaders capable of solving the world’s most pressing problems across the sectors of business, government, and civil society. The nine fellowships focus on different contexts and interests such as Israeli public sector leadership, addressing disparity in under-served communities, and environmental issues.

    My role on the fellowships team is to help plan and implement the leadership development co-curriculars that our 105 fellows attend every week, as well as our larger fellows retreat and field experience trips. The weekly programming ranges from simulations, faculty and practitioner speakers, experiential learning, skills-based workshops, and “Dream Trusts” (basically a space where fellows can present leadership or personal challenges and receive advice and feedback on them from their peers). Coordinating the activities for the nine cohorts can be a challenge sometimes, but it puts my attention to detail, communication skills, and strategic thinking to good use. Since starting, I’ve gotten to plan and execute a 200 person alumni reunion, improve fellowships application and selection processes, and I’m heading up a design thinking team to improve internal collaboration and task management on our team. There’s always a new challenge, but I love my colleagues and the fellows and learning from them, and it has proved to be an awesome role.

    Additionally, I will be starting a master’s degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Education this September 2015 in Higher Education Administration and Leadership. I will complete the program part-time over the next two years while continuing to work full-time at the Center for Public Leadership. I’m very excited about what this degree and program have in store for me and my professional development!

    Describe an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    I’ve had a lot of really great projects, but I actually just got back from staffing the Leadership Service Seminar trip, a student-led field experience trip that goes to a city each May to meet with policy makers, business and community leaders, and grassroots organizations to discuss a specific policy area and learn about the “on-the-ground” challenges. This year, we went to Detroit and it was an amazing trip! We had a group of 16 students who explored economic development and urban revitalization and met with local individuals like the Mayor of Detroit, Lt. Governor of Michigan, Dan Gilbert (Founder of Quicken Loans), Director of Development for Detroit, the Kresge Foundation, real estate developers, local entrepreneurs, and others. While I attended the trip and provided on the ground support, I also planned and executed all of the logistics for the trip. The impact of the trip was amazing for all of the participants. Detroit has this fascinating and tragic narrative, but this moment in history is rare and special for the city after coming out of the biggest municipal bankruptcy in the U.S. Watching the students engage with their policy passions outside of the classroom was amazing as well as this serves as an experiential learning opportunity in our center for students outside of the fellowships. It helps demonstrate to students that outside the classroom, these problems are messy and complicated and that adaptive leadership is key in facing them head on.

    The students are currently working on creating a blog reflecting on the experience (still a work in progress). You can check it out here: https://hksxdetroit.wordpress.com/.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    I think the leadership opportunities I took on and the extra-curriculars I participated in were really key in prepping me for work. I learned time management, strategic thinking, and how to communicate with many different constituents. As a student leader, I also learned how to take the initiative, self-start, and prioritize, which I feel are invaluable skills in the workplace, especially when you’re just starting out. Outside of the skills I developed in student organizations, my major in Religion has really developed my written communication, as well as my ability to connect and relate to people from many different backgrounds, especially considering that 40% of the Kennedy School is international!

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    I know now to better pace myself in terms of balancing work life and personal life. Coming from Wake Forest, I think it is so easy to slip into this always busy and wearing 15 different hats mode in terms of feeling like one has to work 40 hours a week, go to social gatherings, be a leader volunteering somewhere, blog on the side, and possibly take classes. Since graduating, I’ve really enjoyed curating my time more and picking the two things outside of work that I really want to focus on right now that give me satisfaction rather than doing 10 things that just leave me exhausted. While flexibility is important and being able to stay late to work on that important assignment may be necessary sometimes, I also think that maintaining a healthy work/life balance early on is key so others know what to expect and you set good habits for yourself.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve received is that at the end of the day I am the only one who can advocate for my career and for my professional development. While many of us enjoy a mentoring relationship or may have a boss or a coworker willing to go to bat for us, ultimately it’s we who have to step up and ask for that promotion, that raise, or that project. However, in order to make the answer “yes,” hard work and initiative are necessary as well.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    Yes, I’ve just started a wonderful mentoring partnership with a staff member outside of my center, but still at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). It has had such a positive impact on my satisfaction and development in my job. It has provided me with someone who can give me feedback on my professional challenges, understands the HKS context, and took a similar path that I did. Outside of my professional challenges that I take to her, she’s also been pushing me to define and evaluate what my core values are and how I’m living them now. I think this is such a valuable thing because it’s so important for all people, especially when starting out, to really understand what your values are to keep you true to yourself no matter what professional and personal challenges are thrown at you.

  • Tré Easton ('13)

    Tré Easton (BA 2013, Political Science)

     

     

    Special Assistant at U.S. Department of Energy in Tre Easton headshotWashington, DC

    Describe your current work role.

    I work as an appointee of President Obama in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Congressional & Intergovernmental Affairs. I report to the Assistant Secretary for Congressional & Intergovernmental Affairs. The basic scope of my office’s work deals with daily interactions with Congress, Governors, Mayors, tribes and a whole host of external stakeholders with interests in the nation’s energy policies.

    Admittedly, I didn’t have a keen interest in energy policy when I began my work at DOE, but the work I do synthesizes my interests in public policy as well as my passion for effective organizational work quite nicely. No day is ever like its predecessor. My responsibilities range from overseeing my boss’s hectic and dynamic schedule, staffing and preparing him for meetings with the Secretary (the one with the awesome hair), members of Congress and other government officials, gathering briefing materials for his daily interactions, as well as executing projects and research on special issues as they arise. One of my favorite aspects of my job is prioritizing memos for my boss’s concurrence (or approval). It allows me to both garner a great deal of knowledge about the goings on of the Department as well as sharpen my ability to gather and process information quickly—a skill set that’s useful in every profession.

    What work experiences did you have prior to your current position?

    I worked briefly for a start-up PR firm when I first moved to DC. It was an enlightening experience wherein I learned a great deal about what I like and don’t like from a professional setting. It also gave me the space to sharpen and amplify my keen interest in public affairs and public policy.

    Describe an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    Last summer, I was involved with the confirmation of our new Deputy Secretary of Energy. One of the chief functions of my office is to prepare all Department officials for interactions with Congress. After the President’s nomination was made public, my office—which had been working behind the scenes in preparation—sprang to life to secure hearing dates, arrange courtesy meetings with Senators and prepare her for her inevitable confirmation hearing. I was tasked with preparing briefing materials for meetings with Senators and to begin to research and synthesize potential questions she’d get during the date of her hearing. It was quite encouraging to see her cite information that I personally had researched or make a point that I had suggested she make during the course of her meetings and hearing. She was confirmed via voice vote (read: the most seamless way) and is making an indelible impact on the Department during her tenure.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    I have found time and again that graduates from Wake Forest know how to interact with the world in such an adept manner with a professional ease about them. I’ve coined the phrase that “Wake Forest taught me how ‘to be.’” What we learn at Wake transcends the classroom. We are imbued with an ability to understand problems quickly, acclimate ourselves to dynamics with expedient fashion, all the while seeking to bring together a culture of joint learning steeped in a commitment to the educating of the whole person. These skills make for better boardroom participants, business partners, graduate students and so on. Wake Forest fortified within me the ability to listen astutely, communicate objectives clearly, and above all to help inspire and facilitate a climate of open, unfettered professional engagement.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    I’m a gregarious person by nature and I really like to connect with people on a meaningful level as quickly as possible. Before I entered the professional world, I wish I had been more appreciative of the fact that sometimes, this can come across as overly familiar and, in some instances, unprofessional. That’s the first thing. The second thing is I truly wish I’d known how valued good quality work is in the professional world. It speaks for itself. I appreciated the merits of good work prior, but to see it actively rewarded and extolled is quite reassuring.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    Be open. When you avail yourself to as many opportunities as possible, you don’t limit the possibilities of the things that you discover align with your interests. This doesn’t mean you lose focus. You can be focused and be open simultaneously. For example: I focused my sights on living in Washington, DC, but availed myself to the notion that working in public policy didn’t necessarily mean I had to work on the Hill.

    Be honest. If a professional setting makes you uncomfortable, convey your concerns in a respectable way. If an aspect of your job isn’t fulfilling you like you thought it would, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that. If you’re like me and for so long you thought the definition of success looked like one thing, but realized that you didn’t have a passion for that “one thing,” there’s absolutely nothing wrong with honestly changing your definition of success. The point is to not be stuck in a place where you aren’t performing to the best of your ability and doing things that mean something to you and your professional development.

    Never take a job for the sake of saying that you have a job. I’m incredibly happy where I am in my professional trajectory right now because I was able to get to a point and see the potential growth and development inherent in the work. If you can’t see the value and worth in a position that you’re in or considering taking, then perhaps there’s another opportunity that would better suit you. There’s nothing wrong with being cognizant of your interests and waiting for something that piques your intellectual curiosity and allows you to put the Wake Forest education to affirming work.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    I’m quite fortunate to be in an office of people who seek to support my professional development actively. Be it through the proverbial DC coffee chat or even just informal conversations had at the end of a long day, people are readily accessible and always willing to offer whatever advice I may seek. The political appointee system is also incredibly attuned to the varied interests of all of the people serving in the Administration. There are mentoring opportunities aplenty. DC also has a vibrant alumni community and, at every turn, there has been someone willing to chat with me or help guide me into a more focused path of pursuit. I serve in my current capacity because of a connection I made with a Wake (and Student Government) alum who was working in my field of interest and willing to shepherd me through the process.

  • Kasha Patel ('12)

    Kasha Patel (BS 2012, Chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry)

    Science Writer at NASA and Science Comedienne in Kasha Patel headshotWashington, DC

     

     

    Describe your current work role.

    At NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, I write about Earth science topics for articles on nasa.gov with my name attached to the article. My article topics range from satellite measurements of Earth’s ozone layer over the past decade to the installation of a new instrument on the International Space Station that measures tiny airborne particles on Earth like dust and smoke. I also pitch out interesting stories to journalists at local and global publications and help with live national interviews with our scientists from our in-house TV studio. I have also been lucky enough to attend a rocket launch!

    What academic or work experiences did you have prior to going into your current line of work as a science writer?

    After Wake Forest, I immediately went to graduate school to earn my MS in Science Journalism from Boston University, where I developed a lot of my journalism skills. During my masters program, I interned at Harvard Medical School and Draper Laboratory, traveled to Kenya to report on the healthcare system thanks to a grant from the Gates Foundation, was an editor of the Science section of our school news site, and interned at NASA, which turned into a job upon graduation. I definitely kept busy during grad school.

    Describe an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    Since graduating from Wake Forest and moving to DC, I have immersed myself in performing stand-up comedy. I have combined my interest in science with my interest in comedy to create a Science Comedy night where only science jokes and stories are allowed. Recently, one of my science jokes was printed in the Washington Post. I also performed in a comedy show where Francis Collins, the director of the NIH, was in the audience, which was a delightful surprise. Writing science jokes relies on my ability to succinctly present the scientific premise and make an intellectual punchline. From my personal experiences, I’ve noticed that using humor to talk about science helps people open up and be more receptive to learning about science instead of immediately discounting the fact that they won’t understand it.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    Similar to many students at Wake Forest, I was involved in several different activities in addition to my studies. Through necessity, I learned the importance and difficulty in achieving a work-life balance, which proved to be vital in the working world. Learning how to maximize my efficiency at work is valuable because it allows me to have more time after work, which I use for personal career development. I actively participate as in professional societies, freelance articles on the side, and do stand-up comedy.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    Your job is what you make of it so be proactive. If you want more work, find it. If you have an innovative idea and are willing to do the work to bring it to life, you should propose it even if the idea has never been done before at your workplace. I know the guidelines at each job are slightly different, but people generally appreciate someone who shows initiative, good work ethic, and creativity.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    Don’t let work consume your life. Not only will you be happier, but you will also maintain your identity. People generally have similar office tasks, but not everyone does the same thing outside of work. This is your opportunity to define yourself. It can be as simple as joining a kickball league, going for hikes on the weekends, or meeting weekly with friends. As an excited recent grad starting his or her first professional job, it’s easy to not mind long hours or do extra work, but remember to take care of yourself.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    I feel as if I have been extremely lucky because I have met some fantastic individuals that have shown genuine interest in helping me succeed. I still keep in contact with my mentors at Wake Forest, such as my former boss when I was an intern in the Office of Communications. When I need career advice, I have people that I can count on. I also try to pay it forward and help others, if I have anything to offer.

    Want to see Kasha’s science comedy in action? Check out her website here.

  • Taylor Anne Adams ('14)

    Taylor Anne Adams (BA 2014, Communication with Minors in Film Studies and Sociology)

     

     

    Executive Assistant to Senior TV Literary Agent at Taylor Anne Adams headshotParadigm Talent Agency in Los Angeles, CA

    Describe your current work role.

    I serve as the Executive Assistant to a Senior Agent in the TV Literary Department at Paradigm Talent Agency. Our department represents writers, directors and show-runners of hit TV shows including Black-ish, Silicon Valley, Sons of Anarchy, The Good Wife, Scorpion, The Simpsons, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. My boss represents the head writer of The Colbert Report and he brought home an Emmy this season. It was such a cool thing to see and be a part of!

    My communication and organization skills are put to work every single day as it is my responsibility to make sure that every client is catered to along with my boss and my department. I manage all of the client contracts and client finances. Since “being on the desk” as they call it here, I have implemented new systems so that my boss is more up-to-date with all client meeting and deals so he can follow up with studio and network executives in a more timely manner. My goal is to one day become an executive at a smaller studio with a niche market, like Lionsgate, Netflix, Hulu, or HBO.

    Describe an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    Recently, I have been tasked with compiling staff lists and all details of shows that are run by Comedy Central, Lionsgate, and Sony Pictures Television. It has been incredible to talk with various executives at these studios and learn more about the inner-workings of television, the needs they have and the way they are altering their current shows. This project involved a lot of organization as well as networking in order to gather more information for my department. The impact has been great – each shows’ needs are now specifically detailed, making it a more fluid process for the agency to be able to recommend clients and get them hired to write and direct for hit shows.

    The entertainment industry is a tough business. What lesson(s) have you learned working in this field?

    Always stay true to both you and your morals. Don’t let a specific industry and its culture fool you into thinking that you’re not made for it or that you don’t belong. Most importantly, ALWAYS be kind. You never know what is happening in someone else’s life and your kindness could open a door or create an amazing friendship. Make sure to stay humble in all of your successes and continue to work hard. It is difficult for members of our generation to prove ourselves – so keep your head up and maintain a positive attitude through any adversity. Oh, and it’s always okay to ask for help.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    The leadership opportunities that were offered to me at Wake Forest are the reason why I have been so successful in the job I currently hold. I learned how to communicate with people in high-power positions and to take the initiative to make necessary changes in order to improve current systems and make myself an asset to the company.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    It is so important to not only focus on things that are happening at Wake Forest (while you’re in college), but it is crucial that you educate yourself on the industry you are passionate about or interested in. Stay up to date on the ins and outs of the industry, familiarize yourself with the leaders making decisions and the kinds of decisions they are making. Really put yourself out there and ASK QUESTIONS. It seems so uncomfortable at first, but it really is the key to success. Information is everything, and if you have it, people will want to work with you.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    Reach out to people who are currently in the field you are interested in. Most everyone is willing to help and share stories about both the good days and the bad days they’ve encountered in their field. Read everything you can about the companies and industries you are interested in. You will be an impressive candidate and have a leg up in the application process.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    I have been mentored by a current Agent Trainee here at Paradigm Talent Agency and it has been immensely helpful. She has made me feel more comfortable with my decisions and has helped me to muster the courage to speak up even when it seems like my opinion is unwanted. Assert yourself and identify your brand – it is your job to make sure that people remember you because the working world is much much bigger than Wake Forest and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.

  • Jermyn Davis ('10)

    Jermyn Davis (BA 2010, Chinese Studies and Political Science)

     

    Higher Education Consultant at Deloitte Consulting in Jermyn Davis headshotDenver, CO

    Describe your current work role.

    I recently joined the firm of Deloitte Consulting, specifically the higher education practice. Among many of the services offered, as partners to the nation’s top colleges and universities, we have helped them with creating and implementing strategic plans, transforming their business models, and advancing IT solutions. Since joining Deloitte,  I have been able to help a few schools redo their overall business model. I hope our assistance will help them to continue to provide students with quality education.

    What previous experiences did you have before landing your current position?

    I am extremely fortunate to have had two incredible experiences post graduation, prior to my current job. My first role was actually at Wake Forest working as a Fellow in the President’s Office. My fellowship not only allowed me to see and understand an organization from a macro level, but I also was able to witness what the most senior leader(s) think about and do when operating complex institutions. As a result of my role at Wake Forest, I was given the opportunity to become the President’s Chief of Staff at Colorado College. As a senior adviser to the President, I balanced managing the day-to-day operations of the President’s Office and Board of Trustees with helping the institution think strategically about its future priorities. However, the joy of each role has been working with students as they figure out how to make the most of their time in and post college.

    Tell us about one of your most memorable experiences from working as Chief of Staff to the President at Colorado College.

    My time at Colorado College was filled with many memorable experiences, from working on strategic initiatives to helping students plan their futures, it’s hard to pick a favorite! However, there is one experience that I will remember forever. One Sunday in August of 2012, my quiet morning of doing laundry and watching Netflix was abruptly ended when I realized I had 15 missed calls, including some from our campus security office. Thinking the worst had happened, I returned that call first, to hear that someone from the “President’s Office” wanted to speak with me. Given that I worked in Colorado College’s President’s Office and everyone in the office had my number, I was extremely perplexed.

    I checked my next message, only to realize the representative was calling from the office of the President of the United States. He was wondering if it would be possible for Colorado College to host an event for Barack Obama. Without really thinking, I said “I think that is possible,” only to realize later in the conversation that the event would be in three days’ time. Further complicating matters, my office was transitioning between our director of events, the staff person who would usually take the lead on this type of thing. A visit from the President of the United States is not easy to put together, let alone in three days. Individuals from across campus pitched in to make the visit a success. I’ll never forget meeting the President and the exciting, last-minute effort to welcome him to Colorado College.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    Without a doubt, I am so grateful that Wake Forest prepared/taught me how to be a critical thinker. Whether it was a History, English or Natural Science course, I was taught to look beyond present facts for deeper meaning. This has been so valuable in each of my experiences. Now, whether I am drafting crisis communications, balancing a unit’s budget, or helping an organization strategic plan, I try my hardest to contemplate what will be the message conveyed beyond what is “present.”

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    I know it is cliche, but you can accomplish so much by being hardworking. Routinely, I am shocked by the number of people that just float by in life. I don’t mean that everyone has to be an overachiever, but having grit and a strong work ethic can actually take you pretty far.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    I would encourage new or young professionals to be open to various opportunities. During winter break of my senior year at Wake Forest, I was all but certain that post graduation I would be in Charlotte, NC. I never imagined that I would be in my current profession; however, being open to a great opportunity, which at the time did not fit my career goals, I now have had the most amazing experiences. As a millennial, we have been corrupted into thinking that to be successful, you have to know the exact job, place, and timing of what you want professionally before graduating. For some students, they do know. However, while having those goals are important, I think being open to opportunities you may not have imagined can lead to a fulfilling career.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    I have been mentored by several people since becoming a working professional; however, I have had two types of mentors. First, I have had mentors where there is a “named” mentor-mentee relationship. From these people, even when I am wrong or can’t see the forest for the trees, I am able to get unfiltered advice, which ultimately has made me stronger. I also have had mentors that did not know they were my mentors. I watch and observe the actions of these people that I admire and when the time is right, I ask them about decisions they have made. This has been helpful in getting differing perspectives on how to solve complex issues.

  • Matt Dowell ('13)

    Matt Dowell (BS 2013, Communication and Media Studies)

     

    Sports Anchor and Sports Reporter at KXMB-TV in Matt Dowell headshotBismarck, North Dakota

    Describe your current work role.

    I work for KXMB-TV in Bismarck, North Dakota. It’s the first step in what will hopefully be a long, successful career, but you’ve got to pay your dues. On the weekends, I anchor the sports block of our 6 and 10 o’clock newscasts. During the week, I am a sports reporter in which I go out and film games, do live shots from a sporting event, and find stories from around the Bismarck area that are sports-related that we can tell on the news.

    What previous experiences did you have before landing your current position?

    Immediately after graduating from Wake Forest in 2013, I went to graduate school at Syracuse University and got my master’s degree in sports broadcasting over the course of a year. Following that, I interned with The Tennis Channel in Los Angeles for two months during this past summer in which I got to work with legendary tennis players and shadow them in the broadcasting booth. I even got to interview Venus and Serena Williams, two sports icons and two of my favorite athletes, which was a mind-blowing experience. Now, here I am in Bismarck making my way up the ladder!

    Can you share with us an interesting project that you’re working on currently?

    Recently, I did a story on a family that is going to Frisco, Texas to support the North Dakota State football team in the national championship. The married couple both went to the rival schools so that was a fun aspect, but the deeper part of the story was that the husband was suffering from kidney failure and was on dialysis. He was also able to take his father whose wife died in 2013 from kidney failure. I called the story “Finding Inspiration in Frisco.” Thousands of people saw the story, shared it on Facebook, and said how great it was. So that was a cool moment. Hopefully someone helps him find a donor.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    Wake Forest is truly the greatest school in my mind. The constant work load, while it is strenuous, molds you into being a hard-working adult who only strives for the best. I’m a perfectionist, as are most Deacons, so always striving to be the best has helped me to not only be successful so far in my career, but aided me in that natural progression to the real world.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    Be open-minded! I knew that getting a first job in the broadcasting industry was going to be tough so I said, “Take me wherever! Let’s go see the world!” I wasn’t afraid to move to a place like Bismarck, North Dakota (which is actually a beautiful place). You’re young, (most) aren’t married, and (most) don’t have kids. So before that part of your life takes over, make this part about you. Be a little selfish and follow your own dreams because you seriously never know where you’re going to go!

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    As I mentioned before, I’m a perfectionist. When I got to Bismarck I literally told myself, “Okay. You better have this job down and all of Bismarck memorized in the first week!” That’s completely unrealistic. It takes time to get used to the job you’re in and a brand new city that you’ve never lived in before. Talk to the experienced professionals who you’re working with, get their advice, and just make it a slow progression.

    Check out this video on the “Finding Inspiration in Frisco” story mentioned above to see Matt in action on the job.

  • Lesley Gustafson ('12)

    Lesley Gustafson (BS 2012, Computer Science and Political Science)

    Solutions Consultant at AIM Consulting in Seattle, WALesley Gustafson Headshot

    Describe your current work role.

    I currently work as a Solutions Consultant for a rapidly growing technology consulting firm, where I specialize in a tool called ServiceNow.  It can be difficult to describe what I do; I usually just call myself a developer.  However, I really participate in a broader cycle of consulting: deduce a client’s problem, propose a solution, and then implement the solution.  I also have the opportunity to innovate enhancements to the current ServiceNow platform that will be used by future clients, and even the overall tool user base – think creating an iPhone app and then publishing it to the App Store for anyone else to use.  This role is really dynamic, and allows me to constantly exercise my technical skills along with my soft skills, such as professional communication, problem solving, creativity, and presentation skills.

    Can you share with us an interesting project that you’re working on currently?

    The tool that I work with is generally used by IT departments, but I have worked on several projects repurposing the tool for non-technical uses.  This has been a really interesting challenge, because it requires taking on the perspective of a non-technical user, and understanding how to design it in a clear and user-friendly way.  This is something that nearly every developer struggles with, because we look at technology very differently than a user.  One of my applications was featured at the annual ServiceNow conference in San Francisco this year, which was really rewarding to have other IT professionals being inspired by my ideas.

    What previous experiences did you have before landing your current position?

    After graduation, I worked for Accenture Federal Services as a Technology Consulting Analyst.   At Accenture, I learned the fundamentals of consulting, which I use every day at my current job.  It was also where I was introduced to the technology that I currently work with.

    In May 2014  I quit my first job to take a “sabbatical,” where I backpacked around Europe for two months and then relocated to Seattle to look for a job.  I was unemployed for about 4 months and I was very nervous how my absence from the workforce would look on my resume to potential employers.  I had prepared a response for the interviewers when they inevitably would ask me to explain, but no one asked.  As important as my career is to me, I am so glad that I didn’t let this opportunity pass me by.  I encourage everyone to quit worrying about falling behind in their career path and take those opportunities to work on your bucket list as well.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    I find that coworkers are often surprised to find that I am younger than they perceived, and I attribute this to the opportunities offered at Wake Forest to cultivate my voice early on.  The intimate classroom size encouraged (if not forced) me to be constantly engaged and practice vocalizing my opinions in an intelligent way.  I also found so many leadership opportunities available, where I was charged with leading a discussion or speaking to a large group.  I can only imagine how difficult it would be to assert yourself to this level at a large institution, and I am continuously grateful that I was able to start developing professionally long before I entered the workforce.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    I have found that it can be very tempting to go after a job with the flashy title or big-name company, but looking back at these “dream jobs” that I didn’t end up pursuing, I can see how they would have been a terrible fit.  The company reputation is something to be proud of, but you will live every day with the work culture that you choose.  This is something that I will always remind myself whenever I seek a new opportunity.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    There is a lot of ambiguity in the professional world that does not exist when you are an intern.  As a full-time employee, you rarely have someone who can devote significant time to managing your work. I have gone weeks at a time not having clear direction from a manager.  It can be really frustrating and takes a lot of patience, but you can use this time to develop your skills you may not have the opportunity to when your plate is full.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you as a professional?

    The initial adjustment to the workforce was challenging for me.  I went from being a highly involved student at a small university to a new analyst at the bottom of a massive corporate structure.  I felt like I needed to adhere to this rigid hierarchy, but my mentor quickly changed this perception.  She taught me invaluable skills such as asserting my opinion respectfully and leading professional meetings.  Within six months, I was transformed from a timid new analyst to a respected team member.  I am greatly appreciative to have had a mentor to assist me during the difficult post-college transition, and encourage others to seek out those strong mentoring relationships.

  • Virginia Spofford ('11)

    Virginia Spofford (BA 2011, History and French)

    Assistant Registrar of Corporate Art at Fidelity Virginia Spofford headshotInvestments in Boston, MA

     

     

    Describe your current work role as the Assistant Registrar of Corporate Art.

    I manage Fidelity’s private collection of art which consists mainly of contemporary artwork by artists all over the country and even the world. The art decorates common areas as well as private offices at the headquarters in Boston, regional and international campuses, and investor centers throughout most major cities. As part of the registrarial staff, I oversee the care and documentation of the artwork. Different from my counterparts at traditional museums, my daily responsibilities consist of a high quantity of small projects, mainly coordinating the movement of artwork. This could mean temporarily removing a painting from a wall in preparation of renovations or shipping an internal exhibit to distant offices. The most interesting part is the daily exposure to a diversity of art in different mediums, styles, and just about any subject matter you can think of. The most rewarding part is knowing that I am helping my department to benefit the company’s employees by improving workplace atmospheres and creating daily encounters with beautiful, interesting, and even intellectually challenging art. Ultimately, the goal is for art to be a positive influence on employees what will enhance their ability to contribute to the company’s success.

    Before landing your current position, what previous work experiences have you had?

    The past three years have been a whirlwind of incredible opportunities. I interned at a variety of cultural institutions to gain professional experience researching and working hands-on with collections at Colonial Williamsburg, the Musée Picasso in Paris, and the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms. I also furthered my education by earning a Master’s in Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture from the Bard Graduate Center in New York City. Two years with some of the world’s best collections at my doorstep combined with academic study of art and artifacts pushed me to see and think about the world and my field differently. I was also able to acquire specialized skills related to exhibition planning through my school’s gallery.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    Wake Forest, of course, prepared me academically, but most of all it prepared me to work with people from all types of backgrounds and perspectives. Students, faculty, and staff from all over the world form our community and my semester abroad especially taught me intercultural competencies that are relevant whether speaking with someone from another country or even just a different region in the United States. The ability to communicate in a foreign language has also opened doors in allowing me to build a circle of relationships beyond just English speakers and read scholarship in its author’s own words.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    Work hard, work well, and maintain a positive demeanor to create your own luck in the form of new opportunities for growth. When these opportunities present themselves, say yes and take full advantage to continue the cycle and progress in your career. Having embarked on two job searches post-graduations, it can be hard to put so much effort into applications and networking only to face rejection. Remember that self-confidence in your education and skills will cause others to believe in and think of you when they hear of the perfect job opening. Also be patient and open to roles you might not have initially considered. They enable you to develop new skills and could put you in an unexpected situation for personal success. Both of these will be helpful whether you pursue the new track or circle back to your original intended career.

    One of the coolest things about Wake is that students come from everywhere. Equally cool, but less convenient is that they then disperse to everywhere. Transitioning from campus life where many friends are minutes away and up for an impromptu Pit Sit to “the real world” where group dinners require advance planning and probably even a weekend trip can be a challenging adjustment, especially in the first year. Take advantage of Skype and keep in mind how many Deacons support you from near and far and want to see you succeed!

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    I wish I had known how inherently interdiscplinary projects in even the most specialized fields must be in order to fully succeed. In college I focused on completing my major’s requirements and considered the divisional requirements secondary. I now realize that investing myself more in seemingly unrelated classes would have done more than supplement my main degree, but would have enhanced it. I think I took the liberal arts model for granted, but now fully appreciate having been at least exposed to many areas of knowledge and perspectives.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    I have been lucky to have incredible mentors at each of my internships and schools. My field is made up of passionate professionals who give of themselves on a daily basis and are generally willing to share their experiences. Mainly, they’ve taught me how to work with objects and see artifacts as valuable primary historical sources in addition to written documents. They’ve also pushed me to appreciate physical design and aesthetics as much as the stories behind an artifact, expanding my interest in fine art. I’ve also learned a lot simply by being friendly and social at work. It’s amazing what you can gain from a casual conversation in the lunch room or at a conference.

  • Delvon Worthy ('08, MBA '13)

    Delvon Worthy (BA 2008, MBA 2013)

    Account Executive at Clinton Global Initiative in New York, NYDelvon Worthy headshot

    Describe your current work role at Clinton Global Initiative, including responsibilities and skills used.

    I joined the membership department team at the Clinton Global Initiative in January 2014 to work as a member relations liaison between organizations and CGI.  I have a portfolio of organizations across the globe that work with CGI to create commitments to action to address a domestic or global challenge. I am also responsible for the recruitment of new members for each CGI platform, helping to support cross-sector partnerships. Relationship management is key in my role since I work with CEOs, Presidents, heads of foundations and NGOs, celebrities and philanthropists to maximize member engagement of CGI’s diverse offerings and platforms. Other skills that are heavily used include: communication, presentation, writing, and project management.

    What other professional experiences have you had leading up to your current role at CGI?

    In June 2008, I started working as a Product Line Development Specialist in the Strategic Planning and Development Department at Novant Health in Winston-Salem, NC. Then I was promoted to be an Associate Business Planner within the same department, working a total of 4.5 years before moving to my next job. In 2012, I transitioned to a fellowship at the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, working as a program associate at the foundation. I stayed there until January 2014, when I moved to NYC to work at the Clinton Global Initiative.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    While there are many things I could name that helped me prepare for work, what stands out to me most are the priceless opportunities to create meaningful relationships. In a unique and effective way, Wake Forest has done a good job of connecting staff, professors, students, and even the Winston-Salem community. As a result, I was surrounded by people who have become life-long mentors, friends, and supporters.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    Time management is extremely important in having a productive and successful life. When time is managed well, everything falls into place and has a better outcome.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce?

    One person that I have stayed in contact with is Dr. Barbee Oakes. She is a woman of wisdom that has pushed me to continue to believe when I was struggling with grades and time management. She was also very good with relationship management and always provided solid guidance to anyone who crossed her path. Through the Wake Forest Mission of Good Hope program, we traveled together to South Africa and as she interacted with the community there, confirmed my belief that she is simply awesome. Her presence in my life has produced a mark that can never be erased.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    Don’t stress about promotion or how you’re going to get to where you desire to be. Work hard where you are and those opportunities will come. Make sure you learn the value of “being present.” When you’re in meetings or talking to people, make sure you pay attention to them and what they’re saying. President Clinton says it like this: Respect the human dignity of everyone you meet, observe them closely and listen to them carefully.  Every event in life (good or bad) has a lesson that can help to shape a good future. Don’t let success go to your head but don’t allow failure to live in your heart.

    Any other professional lessons learned that you would like to share?

    My first job is very different from my current job. I did not really discover my passion of helping others give back until I participated in volunteer activities at Novant Health, my first employer. Sometimes the path you start on may not be where you end up. When the journey is not clear, keep moving and exploring, and eventually something will align with your passion, leading you to a fulfilled life.

  • Lauren Mahomes ('12)

    Lauren Mahomes (BA 2012, Communication)

    Senior Associate Media Buyer at Universal McCann in Dallas, TXLauren Mahomes headshot

     

     

    Describe your current work role at Universal McCann, including key responsibilities and recent accomplishments.

    As a media buyer, I implement advertising campaigns via traditional media in local broadcast markets. My responsibilities include negotiating and purchasing television and radio spot air time for primarily auto clients in six DMA regions across the country. My goals are always to put together the most efficient and productive buys to help advertisers connect with consumers. I’ve also recently been appointed to an advisory board within the company to incubate and foster growth and relationships between agency practices and tech startups.

    What is an interesting project that you have worked on recently?

    Though my office only does media buying for television and radio, I was able to participate in a companywide initiative to educate and foster creative communication about mobile properties/campaigns to employees. I teleconferenced with employees at Universal McCann in all the different offices in North America to narrow down objectives and come up with a platform that would benefit employees with different levels of expertise of mobile engagement. The result was an interactive newsletter featuring articles and interviews with mobile giants that could speak to ways we could better serve our clients. It was an incredible experience to work with my company as a whole and I was excited to have the opportunity even while I was just an entry-level assistant.

    What has been your career path leading up to your recent promotion to Associate Media Buyer?

    After graduating from Wake Forest, I started off in a Sales Assistant role for Katz Media Group in Dallas. From there, I landed the role of Assistant Media Buyer for Universal McCann before being promoted to an Associate.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    Wake Forest prepared me for the working world by providing me with universal skills and knowledge that applied beyond my technical area of study as well as work environment skills such as diligence, time management, managing expectations, effective communication, and efficiency.  I also want to magnify the role that the Office of Personal & Career Development has had in my career both while I was a job-seeking senior to even now. I regularly seek out advice from the counselors and mentors in that office as I put together the building blocks of my career. I’m extremely grateful for the resources Wake Forest makes available to both students and alumni.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    I know I was told this previously, but I don’t think I took it to heart as much as I do now: do not underestimate basic work etiquette such as showing up on time, being pleasant around the office, and completing your work correctly and by deadline. Though you may not always receive a gold star, your boss will notice. Yes, having skills directly related to the position is important, but don’t forget to stress what a reliable and diligent worker you are in interviews.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce?

    Yes, in both of the positions I’ve had since graduating, I’ve been fortunate enough to have someone become invested in my personal growth, development, and success in the industry. I think it has been instrumental in any and all of my accomplishments. Their instruction has ranged from literally teaching me how to do my job to providing sound advice towards helping me navigate the murky post-graduate waters. I am very grateful for their insight.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    Be picky, but not too picky. If you had asked me where I thought I would end up two years ago, I would not have guessed anywhere close to what I do now. Nor would I have imagined I’d be so successful having learned nothing explicitly related to the industry in school. Get as close as you can to your target, but don’t be afraid to take leaps. You will be very surprised how well your skills can transfer over to different industries and areas of expertise.

  • Matthew Simari ('12)

    Matthew Simari (BS 2012, Computer Science and Political Science)

     

     

    New Product Innovation at Microsoft in Seattle, WAMatthew Simari headshot

    Describe your current work role at Microsoft.

    I currently work in a traditional product management role for “new product innovation.” It is a multi-dimensional and constantly changing role, which (when boiled down) is about building awesome things and solving really challenging problems.  Some of my responsibilities include leading design and ideation, driving development from the engineering team, coordinating business strategy, and ultimately ensuring we ship something that betters people’s lives.  It can be intimidating, but there’s nothing more rewarding than knowing millions of people are using something that emerged from “what if ____ was possible” banter with your team at happy hour.

    What is an interesting project that you have worked on recently?

    One of the key items I helped drive was biometric identity on Xbox One (i.e., go in front of any Xbox and it will recognize you, load all your content, Netflix, games, etc.).  Beyond the team’s work dealing with engineering, privacy, and others, some of the most interesting was in developing the user experience.  How quickly do you need to recognize someone for it to seem magical?  What do you do once you’ve recognized them to let them know you have?  What are the limitations of the technology in enabling these goals?  The questions all seem simple on surface but introduce more and more challenges with each layer peeled back.  That said, knowing your product is in several millions of homes, seeing it talked about on Reddit and Twitter, and watching family and friends use it for the first time provides an unbelievable sense of accomplishment.

    Before landing at Microsoft, what additional work experience did you have after graduating from Wake Forest?

    I worked for Deloitte Consulting LLP. I advised clients as a management consultant on an array challenges including business strategy, data analytics/visualization, social business, and mobile application development.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    Looking past the academic preparation for my coding/technical skills, the ability to critically analyze and breakdown problems (imparted largely from the liberal arts) has proven invaluable. We sat in classrooms debating Plato, Locke, and Machiavelli thinking we were learning about political theory.  In reality, we were really learning how to think, how to make an argument, and how to look past text into the subtext of what was actually going on.  Abstracting those skills into the professional world is critical.  I have seen it directly correlate to my successes, and I am thankful Wake Forest imparted it upon me.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce?

    I have been blessed to have strong mentors both in and outside of work.  Without them, I likely would not be in the positions I am today.  Great mentors (as with managers) understand where you want to go, and have the experience, insight, and connections to either help you get there or have you reconsider whether that destination truly serves your underlying goals.  Not to mention, they often become great friends as well.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    A mentor told me this when I graduated, and I have seen it abundantly true in my young career.  Who you work for matters more than what work you do.  A phenomenal manager can build opportunities for you, understand what matters to you, and accelerate your career by helping you grow.  A bad manager (no matter how interesting the work) can make you feel insecure, invaluable, or dissatisfied with even the positives of your job.  So, if given the choice, choose the manager and people you want to work for over the work you want to do.  If you’re in a good company or field, those people will matter more to your long-term growth and success than whatever topics you may have been working on at the time you first got started. Also, the Deac network is successful and strong; don’t be afraid to use it.

  • Nilam Patel ('12)

    Nilam Patel (BA 2012, History)

    Nilam Patel headshot

    Nilam Patel (’12)

    Social Media Strategist at Montana State University in Bozeman, MT

    Describe your current job role.

    I currently work as the Social Media Strategist for Montana State University. I create content and manage top-level university accounts via various social media channels while continuing to build brand recognition and increasing our audience. I also help departments, colleges and student organizations with their brand alignment and social media strategies.

    My job can be stressful at times but in general it’s a lot of fun. I get to engage with various audiences, promote university goals and resources and help students have a better experience at MSU! Social media is a great way to gauge university culture and we can bring MSU to thousands of alumni and supporters that don’t live in the area. It’s an exciting job and no two days are the same!

    Tell us about an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    I recently worked on a Veteran’s Week ad campaign to showcase the University’s Veterans Center and all of the resources available to veterans on campus. It was truly a departmental effort as we had five videos, countless photos in addition to designing and coding a brand new Veterans Center website. The affinity that our students, faculty/staff and community members have towards MSU grew and it was heartwarming to see so many people share their stories of how MSU helped them or a veteran in their life. We also won a Bronze Case Award this fall for our work on that campaign, so that was a nice bonus!

    What professional experience(s) did you have prior to your current position?

    I was a part of the 2012-2013 Wake Forest Fellows cohort and it was an amazing experience. I was extremely lucky to work in Information Systems with Rick Matthews and I couldn’t have asked for a better first boss than Rick. I learned a lot – not just about technology and higher education but a lot about myself. Rick was great about preparing me for post-Fellows life. He was intentional about making me think about myself and where I wanted to be. The mentorship I received from Rick and the Fellows program was truly exceptional.

    My current role at Montana State University is wonderful, and honestly, this is the job that made me realize what I want to pursue as a career. My job at MSU has given me a very clear understanding of what it means to work in higher education and specifically what type of work interests me. I love that I can make a difference in the lives of so many people through the University and it also gives me the opportunity to work in public relations/communications.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    Confidence is key! Once I left Wake Forest, I suddenly lost all of my confidence. New coworkers didn’t know what I had done or what I was capable of, so I was very quiet and didn’t speak up. There are lots of articles out there that say that millennials are entitled and haven’t earned their place in the workplace, but I disagree. As long as you don’t have a lot of hubris, then most of your older coworkers will welcome your ideas and comments.

    Also, make friends wherever you go and be kind to everyone! You’ll never know when a personal connection can help you get ahead in a project you’re working on or open a door for a new job. Also, a handwritten thank you note can go a long way!

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    Wake Forest helped shape me into the person I am today by giving me a solid foundation and excellent leadership skills. I learned to work hard and to follow my passions. I distinctly remember hearing Zahir Rahman (’10) telling a young doe-eyed group of Student Government freshmen to “do whatever makes your heart beat the fastest” – and I still follow that advice. Volunteer for projects that you’re passionate about and you won’t even feel like you’re going into work. You’ll learn to love what you do and that will definitely shine through in your work.

    Also, I can’t leave out the importance of Pro Humanitate. I loved my City of Joy trips and cherish those memories every day. I haven’t stopped volunteering – whether it’s through the Junior League, my local TEDx chapter, or BozemanSOUP – it’s in my blood and it just makes me happy. Giving back will help bring balance and perspective into your busy schedule and will allow you to make new friends and experience new things along the way.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    I decided to choose a theme for each post-Wake Forest year and they started when I moved to Montana.  My first year out here, I chose to say yes to everything so I could experience new things and create a social circle in a new city. The second year, I wanted to only do what made me happy and to stop the constant cycle of overcommitting just because I wanted to please everyone. And my third year is going to be the year of me being a better friend and keeping in touch with loved ones. I would highly recommend that other young alumni think about choosing their own themes and/or setting these types of goals.

    Additionally, a lot of Wake Forest graduates move to DC, New York City or Atlanta for their first professional jobs and while there’s nothing wrong with going to a big city, know that there are other opportunities for you in other cities (e.g. don’t pass up a great offer in Texas just because your best friends are all moving up to NYC together). Moving across the country to an unfamiliar place made me really appreciate my family and friends. You’ll make time to see your college friends and it’s not the end of the world if you don’t all move to the same city. All of this makes you appreciate your time at Wake Forest.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    It is hard to find mentors upon graduation and leaving Wake Forest. I recommend finding someone you admire professionally and learn as much as you can from them. And if you feel confident, ask to have a 20 minute meeting with them regarding advice on advancing within your field and how they got to where they are now. It doesn’t hurt to ask and it allows you to continue to gain professional development opportunities. That 20 minute meeting I had turned into a one hour monthly meeting where my mentor tasks me with various professional development challenges. I have a safe space to ask him how to navigate through University politics, resume builders, or even how to balance life outside of work. Plus, you’ll have someone to champion for you in the office!

    Keep your mentors close! As someone who now works on the other side of higher education, I love it when former interns keep in touch and ask for career/life/professional advice. Another tip: buy The Defining Decade by Meg Jay and read it. It is truly an incredible book that will help ease some anxiety about leaving college and it will help you make the most out of your twenties.

  • Sonia Kuguru ('15)

    Sonia Kuguru (BA 2015, Politics, International Affairs, and Religion)

    Wake Forest Fellow in the Office of the President at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC

    Sonia Kuguru headshot

    Sonia Kuguru (BA ’15)

    Describe your current job role.

    I’m currently a member of the Wake Forest Fellows class, a year long program based on personal and career development through opportunities in ten different departments University-wide. In my role as a Fellow in the Office of the President, I research future University projects, facilitate communications to connect our Office with students, faculty, and staff, develop social media strategies, plan events, and serve on committees ranging from diversity and inclusion, Greek life and budget planning.  The Fellows Program is primarily an educational opportunity – learning from application while giving insight, ideas and fresh eyes to University administration. Fellows spend a lot of time learning from senior administrators and developing ourselves personally through professional development exercises and workshops all year.

    I also have the immense pleasure of having Dr. Hatch and Chief of Staff Mary Pugel as my principals, and meet with them weekly to discuss work and life, relationships which have proven to be a highlight of this year. Lastly, while Fellows do a lot of different and new work, for me, writing white papers and letters to planning a University-sponsored Habitat House, the same skills I brought to being a student at Wake Forest apply to being a Fellow here – willing hands and a creative mind.

    Tell us about an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    Throughout my portfolio, very few projects will see their realization while I’m still in this role. One of my most interesting projects has been to research ways in which Wake Forest can be a more proactive and conscious community partner in Winston-Salem. Our office recognizes the need, hunger, and poverty surrounding our campus, and it is a priority to meet that need in a humble and respectful manner, working alongside the community to help deliver sustainable, community-created solutions. My work consists of understanding community desires and needs, developing and researching the feasibility of potential solutions, and looking for best practices. It’s been the biggest project I’ve ever worked on, and I look forward to seeing the ways Wake Forest will live out Pro Humanitate.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    While I’m still learning, I wish I knew that it’s alright to be yourself and bring your personality to your job. I thought that professionalism was mutually exclusive from fun, but I’ve found that if your work and work ethic speak for themselves, you can be free to bring your whole self to the office.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    Wake Forest prepared me for the world of work through lessons, sometimes hard ones, which deepened my belief in the importance of interpersonal communication, hard work, and integrity. I come from a community where face-to-face interaction is king, and Wake Forest shares that tendency. Although my work transition was into a position also at my alma mater, I have certainly learned the importance of clear and prompt communication this year, and knowing how to talk to and relate to nearly anyone is an important skill wherever you go.

    I’ve also found that “Work Forest” prepared me for long and short-term, high pressure work; thanks to rigorous classes and high-expectation professors, I can learn and apply new lessons well – a skill important in any job. I’m also learning that I don’t need to know everything pertaining to a project to start or be a part of it, but a positive attitude in getting things done can make a lot happen. And lastly, but simply, integrity and character make all the difference. Trust and strong values will seed you above competition, especially regarding sensitive work. Always be proud to do the right thing.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    There is no perfect entry-level job. While I happen to think mine is quite close, there will be things I don’t enjoy as much as others. Dr. Hatch tells me all the time that that will follow me throughout my career, and I believe it must be true. Sometimes, you take what you get, and you work hard and do well at it – as you rue the task – until someone notices and gives you something better. It’s so cliche, but it’s so true.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    Mentorship is a true strength of our Wake Forest community – I’ve found mentors throughout my five years here, and have had the pleasure of staying close to many, many mentors I made as a student. Additionally, my professional mentors, Mary Pugel and Dr. Hatch, have shepherded me, with patience and good advice, through my first year at work. This year, though, I’ve made the unlikely mentor and friend of one Emily Wilson, who has taught me to be myself and to demand the most of those around me for a worthy goal. I’ve learned to think critically and outside the box, and to engage with everyone equally. She has impacted my work-life philosophy in ways, I’m sure, she wouldn’t know.

    What are you interested in pursuing after your Fellows position comes to an end?

    In the coming years, I plan to pursue a career in human rights and international law, with more robust work, school, and life experiences behind me. Growing up in Kenya and in a home full of egalitarians, I’ve always been passionate about injustice and the rights and livelihoods of the underprivileged and disadvantaged, and would like to work toward the political and social empowerment of such groups.

  • Ali Maffucci Cerda ('09)

    Ali Maffucci Cerda (BS 2009, Business)

    Ali Maffucci Headshot

    Ali Maffucci Cerda (’09)

    Founder and Owner of Inspiralized in Jersey City, NJ

    Describe your current job role.

    I started Inspiralized in 2013, the brand and resource for cooking healthfully, creatively and deliciously with the spiralizer, the kitchen tool that turns vegetables and fruits into noodles. I write for my blog on Sundays through Wednesdays at Inspiralized.com and I wrote my first cookbook, Inspiralized, that is now a New York Times bestseller. Also, I launched my own branded spiralizer called the Inspiralizer.

    Tell us about an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    I’m currently working with a hotel chain brand to develop a specials menu that is entirely spiralized. The menu will launch in February 2016 and it will feature gluten-free pasta and noodle dishes that are made with the spiralizer. This has involved flying to their corporate headquarters to spend a day with their head corporate chef to design recipes that would work for the restaurant. This is such a great opportunity because I’m able to bring my recipes to the masses and share this healthy way of cooking and eating with more and more people.

    What did you do professionally before launching your business?

    My first job out of Wake Forest was working for the Trump Organization at one of their golf courses in New Jersey. I did hotel and event management and got to work closely with the Trumps, which was great. I got to learn a lot about business and branding while working with them.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    The importance of work-life balance. No one really talks about that when you’re still in college. I find that to be the hardest thing to master – making time for your friends and family, especially while building a business.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    Two words: work ethic. Being an entrepreneur, you have to be a self-starter and have the discipline to overcome many obstacles. Without the work ethic that Wake Forest ingrained in me, I wouldn’t have the success that I have had so far (and hopefully the future successes!).

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    Everything you’re doing now, no matter how mundane or seemingly unimportant, will help you grow professionally. Whether it’s typing up notes from a meeting or putting stamps on a mailing, you’ll learn and develop certain skills. I think many recent graduates immediately want a high-powered job that pays well and fills you with a sense of importance. However, it’s the early-on moments where you’re doing basic desk work that helps build your basic skill set to prepare you for that executive position later on. Stick through it!

    Additionally the greatest business advice I’ve ever learned is this: “Don’t prioritize your schedule, schedule your priorities.” This is a quote from Marie Forleo, a business guru. It’s made such an impact in my productivity and has helped me tackle big goals within my own business.

    Check out one of Ali’s videos, “How to Become a Better Cook,” below. You can see more on her YouTube channel.

  • Molly Koernke ('09)

    Molly Koernke (BA 2006, Communications)

    Head of SMB Marketing at Insight in Scottsdale, AZMolly Koernke Headshot

    Describe your current work role.

    I’m a marketer who leads a team that’s focused on growing the small and medium businesses segment at Insight, a Fortune 500 company that’s based in Tempe, AZ. Insight is on a mission to help businesses of all sizes run smarter with the right technology.

    So what does marketing mean, exactly? Well, decades of bad marketing have given Urban Dictionary the opportunity to have a little fun. They define marketing as “Origin unknown. Purpose unknown. States the obvious, accepts all the credit, rejects all the blame.”

    Ha! All kidding aside, the better definition of marketing is “Getting someone who has a need, to know, like, and trust you.” People don’t buy things from brands they distrust or dislike. Naturally, I spend a lot of time and energy building trust. My team’s responsibilities include leading the go-to-market strategy, lead and demand generation, digital marketing, content generation, external communications, and all related marketing campaigns.

    I’m responsible for properly spending a seven-figure budget (no pressure), and am held accountable for the results. Fueling the growth of Insight’s current and future customer bases is my top priority.

    List any additional work experiences you’ve had since graduating from Wake Forest, in addition to your current employment.

    After graduating from Wake in 2006, I moved to New York City on a whim, with the rather naïve thought that I could change the world and immediately become a CEO. Reality eventually set in, and I quickly changed my path after a few months of New York City fun.

    I packed my bags and took a job at a boutique consulting firm in Michigan, where I gained valuable hands-on marketing experience. After a couple years, I realized that I needed an MBA in order to have the type of long-term career I wanted in marketing.

    I graduated from Michigan State University’s full-time MBA program in 2010. Shortly after, Dell recruited me for a brand management role. I spent four great years at Dell – helping to see the company through its historical privatization – before moving on to a bigger and better opportunity at medium-sized software company in late 2014. Insight recruited me in early 2016, and I haven’t looked back since!

    Describe an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently. What did it involve and what was the impact?

    Digital is everything right now, especially in the business-to-business space. Nearly 80% of small to medium business owners research online before they even pick up the phone (if they even pick up the phone)!

    This means that my team and I have to do everything we can to show up when our target audience searches for anything technology related. They say if you want to hide something to put it on page two of Google. One important project I’ve led recently is to make sure Insight shows up on page one of Google for critical technology areas like data center, software, cloud and mobility.

    Getting a page one ranking is known as SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in the marketing world. To improve SEO, my team rolled out an extensive plan to research what keywords were driving traffic to our website. We identified where we ranked and where we didn’t as well as what content we needed. We then developed a six-month editorial roadmap that included assessing what tools we needed to succeed. Finally, we created a roadmap for how the entire marketing department could work collaboratively to drive the best results.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    I fully embraced the Wake Forest “work hard, play hard” culture – and learned that I’m happiest with the right balance of work and play. When people ask about my Wake experience, I let them know that I’ve met some of the smartest people I’ve known while studying there. Being surrounded by 4,000+ type-A, success-driven students motivated me to always want more and to keep pushing myself to do better professionally. As Edmond Lee said, “Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers.” Well, Wake has plenty of those.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    Here are three pieces of advice:
    1. Say “yes” more than you say “no.” You’ll be surprised at where some of the “yes’s” take you throughout your career.
    2. Hand-written thank you notes never go out of style. In fact, they’ve opened up a lot of doors for me.
    3. Rejection is inevitable – get comfortable with it as quickly as possible. Remember, you only need one “yes.” The pain of any “no” will quickly fade with a single “yes.”

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    That my career path would be full of plenty of ups and downs – and to take the good with the bad and always keep working towards my goals. Many times throughout my career, I felt unsure about my next move or next step. But more often than not, those moments of hesitation led to some of the best career opportunities.

    Please include any additional comments, stories, or information that you would like us to have.

    In my spare time, I’m working on my first novel. Without giving too much away, it chronicles the rather humorous experiences of my main character, Jane, from freshman year of college through to her early thirties. From interesting fraternity parties to forgettable bosses, Jane never shies away from saying what’s on her mind. Phone calls home to mother help ease the pain as well.

    The goal is to complete the book this year. I’m also hoping to make one of my favorite authors and Wake Forest alumna, Emily Giffin, proud. 🙂

     

  • Jana Fritz ('15)

    Jana Fritz (BA 2015, Communication with minor in Sociology and Entrepreneurship)

    Wake Forest Fellow in the Office of Personal and Career Development in Winston-Salem, NC

    Jana Fritz headshot

    Jana Fritz (’15)

    Describe your current job role and the skills you use on a daily basis.

    I have the pleasure of serving as the Wake Forest Fellow in the Office of Personal and Career Development (OPCD).  My main responsibilities lie with the OPCD Marketing/Communications team, but due to the nature of the Fellowship, I have been able to work with various teams across the office including Employer Relations, Leadership Development, and Career Education.  So, I am in the unique position of pursuing my passion for communications, but also exploring other avenues of personal and career development.  I find myself using the skills of relationship and project management, mentorship to students, and strong communication (both written and oral).

    Tell us about an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    Having been a participant of the Career Treks program as an undergraduate, I am extremely passionate about these go-to-market learning experiences, organized by our incredible Employer Relations team. This year, I had the privilege of going on the treks to New York City (December 2015) and San Francisco (January 2016) so that I could lead our social media efforts (check out #WFUCareerTrek).  These treks are uniquely Wake Forest and I wanted to showcase that to prospective and current students, parents, and alumni.  My communication goals were met, as I organized a successful “Street Team” of student trek participants, moderated a hashtag Tagboard, and curated content for Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. On Twitter, we saw over 93,000 impressions on our content during December and January.  Current students, prospective students, and alumni were extremely engaged on Twitter, Instagram, and even positively responded to us on WFU Snapchat! Moving forward, I believe these social efforts will be great collateral for constituents of the treks. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll never forget.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    Throughout my Fellowship, I have learned that it is okay to ask for help. When you’re working towards a goal as a team, it’s important to maintain open communication with team members and ask for advice or assistance when you need it. Through this open communication, you’re able to accomplish more and maximize results.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    My time as a Wake Forest undergraduate was certainly the most transformative time of my life.  I gained an incredible amount of self-confidence, learned how to be a strong communicator, and realized the importance of forming meaningful relationships with people.  The skills I gained in and out of the classroom have made me very adaptable and ready to take on any challenge that comes my way… so attributable to my liberal arts degree!

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    The Wake Forest network is so vibrant and resourceful that I would definitely recommend students and alumni utilize it. Whether it’s reaching out for a networking call or grabbing a coffee with someone to learn more about their background, I’m consistently amazed by fellow Demon Deacons (alums and parents) who are so willing to give back to the school. Strong lifelong bonds can instantly be formed by those who share a Wake Forest connection.

    Have you been mentored by anyone in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    I have found many wonderful mentors across this campus, both personally and professionally. I learn so much from all of the OPCD team members, my manager DeeDe Pinckney, Professor Evelyn Williams, several people in University Advancement, and my professional mentors: Andy Chan, Dr. Allison McWilliams, and Mercy Eyadiel.  They challenge me with tough questions and are helping to strengthen my self-awareness. I’ve grown immensely from my relationships with them, so I strive to serve in that type of role for others.

    With your Fellows position coming to an end this summer, what are your plans for the future?

    After the Fellowship, I intend to pursue a career in the communications/media realm. I have a passion for storytelling and how brands are building that into their communications strategy to engage various audiences. At Wake Forest, I’ve learned that personal stories are powerful and can really influence the choices listeners decide to make. So, of course, I would love to weave that into a future job!

  • Shelby Taylor ('14)

    Shelby Taylor (BA 2014 in Communication with minors in Entrepreneurship and Italian)

    Marketing and Business Development at Salem Delights in Winston-Salem, NC

    Shelby Taylor headshot

    Shelby Taylor (’14)

    Describe your current job role.

    I recently accepted my current position with Salem Delights, a Triad local business that delivers fresh produce and locally made goods to customers’ homes on a subscription basis. At Salem Delights I am responsible for marketing the company and its services to current and potential subscribers. In my day-to-day activities I manage our social media accounts and website, curate weekly emails about the week’s featured box items, and use my digital marketing experience to attract new customers to our service. Another important aspect of my job is working with local vendors who supply goods for our boxes to innovative ways to co-market in a way that drives business for both parties.

    In my previous position, I worked as Marketing Manager for The Head Team at Keller Williams Realty. In this role I was responsible for all aspects of marketing – web, social, email, print, advertising, etc. While I learned a lot about real estate and digital marketing in this role, I think the detailed knowledge it gave me of the Winston-Salem area and it’s demographics will be the most useful as I grow into my new position with Salem Delights.

    Tell us about an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    In my previous role as Marketing Manager for The Head Team at Keller Williams Realty, I took on a community outreach project in which our team was a sponsor for the 31st Annual Mistletoe Run through the Buena Vista neighborhood here in Winston-Salem. I created print materials that were put in each runners’ participation bag and manned a booth at the start/finish line where we raffled off a large picnic basket of goodies. The event was a huge success and was an excellent way to get face time with the local community. Digital marketing is a huge driver of business in real estate but being present at an event like the Mistletoe Run fosters a more organic relationship between our team and past/future clientele.

    I’m hoping to bring this take-away from my previous job with me to Salem Delights, a company already so rooted in the local community.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    Being a young professional can be challenging and I wish I had known that while youth is generally coveted amongst people, it can make gaining respect in the workplace something you need to work at. It goes beyond acting professionally or wording your emails in a certain way. I think to really gain acceptance as an important, contributing member of a company, you have to show initiative beyond your job description. Use your personal skills to add unique value to your workplace and you won’t be looked at like a recent graduate anymore.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    It is hard to put into words the way Wake Forest prepared me for life after college. I chose to go to a liberal arts institution because I was open to studying many different topics and felt that I should let my skills and interests guide me in my academic career. In many ways I expected to come out of Wake Forest at graduation with a more narrow focus, but I am happy to say that the opposite is true. I am now even more open to opportunity in the world of work and my openness has led me to each of the jobs I have had since graduation. I have the tough yet ultra supportive environment of Wake Forest to thank for the cool confidence I now have – unafraid to dive into different industries and get my hands dirty with work that excites me.

    I am, however, noticing a trend. In the past four years I have gone to work for four start-ups and/or small businesses. Wake Forest and the Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship are definitely responsible for my passion for entrepreneurship. It all started my Junior year when I was awarded a Summer Entrepreneurial Internship Stipend to work for Campus Grumble. With all of the experience I have gained working for young and small businesses and as an Entrepreneurship minor, I can definitely see myself as a business owner in the future.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    It can be hard to land your “dream” job right out of college, but go after something that really excites you. As a recent graduate you are in a unique position to be able to move around and take jobs that may lack in benefits but make up for it in autonomy and creativity. Take advantage of these years because they are definitely numbered!

  • Carlos Maza ('10)

    Carlos Maza (BA 2010 in Political Science)

    Research Fellow at Media Matters for America in Washington, DC

    Carlos Maza headshot

    Carlos Maza (’10)

    Describe your current job role.

    I work as a researcher, writer, and video producer at a progressive media watchdog organization called Media Matters for America based in Washington, DC. My work has focused on combating misinformation on LGBT issues, but I’ve recently expanded to focus on a host of other important progressive issues.

    Tell us about an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    In 2014 and 2015, I helped produce original investigative reports debunking misinformation about non-discrimination protections for transgender people in public accommodations. I led a team in contacting state and city officials with experience implementing such laws and solicited original testimony that was used to produce first-of-their kind documents about the impact non-discrimination laws have on public safety. The reports I’ve worked on have been cited in local and state level debates over LGBT legal protections.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    Be a good writer. Learn how to be a better writer. It’s totally baffling how much of being a working professional is really just knowing how to communicate effectively and write well. I’m lucky that I come from a family that encouraged me to write, but I’ve seen a lot of grown adults struggle with written communication and it really, really gets in the way of being a competent and efficient professional. Writing well is a wildly underrated skill.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    Wake Forest is where I learned how to excel in research, writing, and constructing complete and compelling arguments. I competed for four years on Wake’s policy debate team, and I can’t stress how formative that has been in preparing me to do the kind of work I do today. I know that I wouldn’t be as effective as I am in my work had I not had the opportunity to work with such a talented, brilliant, and passionate debate team.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    Three things: 1. Fight for chances to write – doesn’t matter what it is. There’s no greater sign of competency than someone who can communicate well. 2. Be a human – competency doesn’t do much for you if you’re a nightmare to work with. Be professional, but remember that everyone you work with is a human who wants to be treated well, be productive, and enjoy their day. You rarely actually need to be a jerk. 3. Be your own boss – people are busy and distracted and sometimes self-absorbed. That’s normal, it just means you need to make sure you’re checking in with yourself and asking things like “what can I be doing better?” and “how can I kick more butt than I’m currently kicking?” If you can grow on your own, people will notice.

    Have you been mentored by anyone or served as a mentor in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    I’ve been lucky enough to manage and mentor a handful of people since entering the workforce, and it’s been a pretty eye opening experience. Management is definitely it’s own skill set – you have to be able to read people, recognize what kind of communication works best for them, what their strengths and weaknesses are, etc. No two people are alike, and the more you cater to their particularities, the more success you’ll have with them. Mentoring has also made me learn to be less self-involved at work – the goal of mentoring is to give the person the guidance and space they need to kick butt – and that can’t happen if you’re breathing down their neck or letting your ego get in the way.

  • Chris Kalamchi ('12)

    Chris Kalamchi (BS 2012 in Finance)

    College Growth Market Manager at Tilt in San Francisco, CA

    Chris Kalamchi headshot

    Chris Kalamchi (’12)

    Describe your current job role.

    I currently work on the growth team at tilt.com, which is a tech start-up based in San Francisco (started by a 2008 WFU alum!). Within the growth team, I specifically focus on the college market, which has been our largest lever of growth over the past two years. I currently help run and manage our US college ambassador program, which has over 1,000 students (20+ from WFU!) across 100+ universities. My challenge within our program is to find the right students to help us spread and promote Tilt by using it with their groups of friends on campus.

    One of the best parts of my job is the variability in the day-to-day tasks. From chatting with power users to experimenting with new ideas to spur step-function growth, or running data analyses to identify potential opportunities, I’m never exactly sure what will be thrown my way.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    Now that I work in tech, I’m surrounded by such accomplished people that some in other industries would consider kids! I think when I started my career I just assumed that I didn’t know anything and relied on the older people to tell me what to do. I had a really eye-opening experience when I started at Tilt when I was given the freedom to run with any and all ideas that I think would be successful. I wish I had known how much value you can add and how much you can learn right out of school, so don’t short sell yourself!

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    The first would be work ethic. Trust me, those long nights in the ZSR Library can get old, but they will help prepare you for the real world and put you well ahead of a lot of the competition in your first job.

    The second would be the focus on group projects that a lot of my advanced classes in the School of Business emphasized. I think these projects and interactions directly relate to how most teams that I’ve worked with operate in the real world. One of the best skills I learned is how to work with others, play off of their strengths, know their weaknesses, and also know those things about myself. These understandings have helped me grow and improve as a teammate and an employee every day.

    The last thing would be the hard skills I developed in the School of Business. I can’t express how important it is to know how to manipulate data in my day-to-day, and I am grateful that I learned some baseline Excel skills in school which set me apart early on in my career.

    Describe an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently. What did is involve and what was the impact?

    Two recent projects come to mind. The first was that I had the opportunity to travel to Sydney, Australia to help our one-man office launch during its first back-to-school period (which is our busiest time). It was an amazing experience to not only see Tilt expand to a new continent but to interact with a whole new subset of users and students and to learn how this market could potentially use our product.

    The other project hits a little bit closer to home, as I’ve had a unique opportunity to work directly with the Wake Forest community. I’ve been lucky enough to work with the University Advancement office to help them set up events on Tilt that directly benefit WFU students. The most notable would be the “Wake the Library” campaign that we organized, which raised over $4K to help support students during finals. I’m excited to have more opportunities like this to help give back to the WFU community in the near future!

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    If you’re interested in tech or making the move out West, Wake is starting to emphasize this as a potential outlet for students, so don’t be afraid just to go for it (even if all of your WFU friends are heading to Charlotte, NYC or DC). If any current students or recent alums want to chat more about heading West, do not hesitate to shoot me an email (chrisk@tilt.com).

    Also, your first job doesn’t need to be a predictor of where you’ll be in 2-5 years. The best thing you can do right out of school is to work your butt off, make a good impression, and gain people’s trust. Then when you want to explore other options that may better align with your true passions, you know you have an army on your side willing to help you make that next leap.

  • Bo Machayo ('13)

    Bo Machayo (BA 2013 in Economics and Politics & International Affairs)

    Confidential Assistant to the Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington, DC

    Bo Machayo Headshot

    Bo Machayo (’13)

    Describe your current job role.
    Currently, I serve as an appointee of President Obama in the Office of the Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). My main role is to assist the Chief of Staff and Secretary Johnson in coordinating efforts to advance collaboration between DHS, other departments/agencies, the White House, the news and media, members of Congress, industry executives, labor organizations, local governments, foreign embassies and missions.

    Being in the Secretary’s office allows me to see all the inner workings of the Department and the important decisions that have to be made on a daily basis by Secretary Johnson. As the newest department in the United States, we have been tasked to handle a vital cross cutting mission of both domestic and national security issues. Firsthand, I get to be a part of the process of seeing how a Cabinet member runs a department and how the Secretary and Deputy Secretary are advised on matters for which DHS has responsibility, including counterterrorism, cyber security, border security, aviation security, trade and travel, immigration, federal disaster response, and criminal law enforcement.

    During my time at the Department, we have been able to accomplish some important goals including seeing through the passage of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, successfully implementing our Unity of Effort Initiative which has created a structure and process to build and implement Department-wide strategy, and seeing the effects of important national security decisions that have occurred recently.

    What professional experiences did you have prior to landing in your current role?

    Prior to the Department of Homeland Security, I served on Capitol Hill as a fellow to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and as a Legislative Correspondent to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. During my time in the Senate, my job as an aide was to maintain relationships with constituents, advising and supporting the Senator’s education, health, labor, homeland and social security legislative priorities and agenda. My experience working for Senator Gillibrand allowed me to meet with constituent groups to discuss concerns and maintain relationships of the Senator’s position on legislative policy. Some of my most fondest moments include being a part of passing the Senator’s six legislative priorities with bipartisan support of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, ensuring passage of the Older Americans Act which helped seniors have delivery of social and nutrition services, and getting to know the inner workings of how a bill becomes a law on Capitol Hill.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    Everything will work out. Instead of spending your senior year, like I did, worrying about what job you will have, where you will end up, or if you will make enough money, just enjoy the ride. The most important aspect of job seeking is to find what you’re passionate about and pursue it with all your heart. Additionally, relationships are really important. Never take for granted your Wake Forest classmates, past professors, or people you meet along the way because those people will be important contacts in your professional life.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    Arriving as a first-generation African American student with parents from Uganda and Kenya, Wake Forest was the only college where I was embraced for who I was and who I was to become. The opportunity to take classes for the first two years that would broaden my mindset and allow me to travel across East Africa learning Kiswahili and Luganda solidified to me that this University was unique.

    As an Economics major, we were not just asked to figure out the answers to different algorithms but instead to see how through different ideologies on both the macro and micro levels economic theory effects those in our cities, states, country and across the world. Coupling the economy with my political science studies allowed me to understand how different policies effect those who are governing our country. This way of thinking spilled into other areas where I was encouraged to step out of my comfort zone and begin things that would last past my time at Wake Forest. I was able to become the President of Pi Kappa Alpha and Building Tomorrow, in which I am proud to say that I am still involved as an alumni and it is flourishing much better than when I was there as a student.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    Pursue what you enjoy doing regardless of cost. Since you will be spending the majority of your life after graduation working, it is important for you to enjoy what you’re doing. Having said that, make sure you are enjoying life and doing extracurricular activities outside of work. You are not your job, it’s just a part of your life and what you’re currently doing.

    Have you been mentored by anyone or served as a mentor in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    I have been blessed with the opportunity to be mentored by people who have not only effected my professional path but also my personal one as well. This blessing and realization of how important mentorship is began at Wake Forest. It was people like Roz Tedford, Mike Ford, and Chip Siedle who took me under their wings with the belief that anything was possible and achievable if I wanted to do it. To this day they are still influential people in my life.

    I have also been fortunate to witness firsthand the exceptional leadership of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Secretary Jeh Johnson in my most recent job roles. They have shown me that intellectualism and determination can lead to the realization of your dreams whether you are a mom of two young kids and just happen to be a full-time Senator or a dad who has two children in college and who happens to lead the largest agency in the United States. There have been others like Christian Marrone, Karina Cabrera, and others who have embraced and mentored me along the way. You’re only as great as the people you surround yourself with.

  • Ryann DuRant ('11)

    Ryann DuRant (BA 2011 in Communication, Presidential Scholar in Dance)

    Communications Director at the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, DC

    Ryann DuRant headshot

    Ryann DuRant (’11)

    Describe your current job role.

    As a Communications Director for a Member of Congress, I create and implement my boss’s message, and I handle all day-to-day communications and press operations.   Since I work in the House of Representatives where staffs are small, I am a one-woman press shop managing all social media accounts, writing speeches and talking points, prepping my boss, sending out weekly e-newsletters, coordinating interviews, pitching media outlets, and speaking on the record on behalf of the Congressman.  But what I most enjoy is the analytical and strategic side of political communications – figuring out what we need to say and to whom we need to say it.

    What professional experiences did you have prior to landing in your current role?

    I love dancing, but I also love communications. After spending my post-graduation summer dancing professionally, I decided to start my Hill career. I worked my way up from Scheduler/Office Manager to Press Assistant/Legislative Correspondent to Communications Director.

    In addition to my work on the Hill, I serve as the Secretary on the Executive Board for a 501(c)3 charity called Taste of the South.  Taste of the South is made up of 13 southern states, and we raise over half a million dollars each year for charities across the South.  Every spring, we host a black-tie gala, affectionately known as “Hill Prom,” with over 2,000 guests.

    Tell us about an interesting project that you’ve worked on recently.

    Congressional districts are made up of thousands of people who come from different backgrounds and represent different interests.  However, it is extremely important that my boss is able to communicate to our constituents in both a broad sense on legislation that affects everyone and in a specialized way to individual coalitions or groups of constituents.  Recently, I developed a strategic communication outreach plan that involved three “waves” of outreach to four different issue groups: e-newsletter emails, “snail mail” letters, and glossy mailers.

    For example, we have two Air Force Bases in our district, so I sent an e-newsletter, a letter, and a glossy mailer spaced out over a six-month period to thousands of constituents around the bases because people in defense communities want to know what a Member of the House Armed Services Committee is doing for their base.  In its simplest form, political communication is about marketing a product or selling a brand, and your buyers are all interested in different facets of that product. It was rewarding to get feedback from constituents who were thankful for the information or who were able to better understand what my boss is doing on behalf of his district.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known about being a working professional?

    Networking.  It is central to everything, especially in DC, where it is not enough to simply make a new contact, but it is important to keep that contact in your network.

    Speak clearly. I cannot stress enough how much preparation is essential when communicating in the office space. At Wake Forest, I learned that it was not all about me, and no one wanted to listen to me pontificate about some ill-conceived idea. You have to listen. And what you say matters, but how you say it matters more.

    Peer to peer mentoring. Often, we are so worried about “networking up” that we forget we can learn a great deal from our peers. After all, in ten years, the peers we have now will be our business contacts later.

    How did Wake Forest prepare you for the world of work?

    Admittedly, I let fear dictate a lot of what I did, and a lot of what I didn’t do, in my first two years at Wake Forest: fear of not being as smart as my classmates, fear of not being the best dancer in the company, fear of not being as social, as funny, or as cool as my friends. It was not until my junior year that I relaxed into what Wake Forest had to offer me, and in turn, what I had to offer Wake Forest. I realized that I did not have to be my fellow classmates – I already was one of them. I feel confident that this could have only happened in our unique Wake Forest space where I was surrounded by supporters who celebrated my differences, dance teachers who never let me slack off on perfecting my technique or my creative process, and professors who understood that just because you’re quiet does not mean you do not know the material.

    I learned how to capitalize on my fear and turn it into motivation, which has been vital in my post-graduation life.  In a city like Washington, DC, so much of one’s success is dependent upon how much that individual takes advantage of opportunities.  Wake Forest pushed me to be the best version of myself because I was too scared not to be. I was surrounded by people I admired and respected, and from whom I learned a great deal about life.  Had I not grown and matured in a place like Wake Forest, I would not be where I am today.

    Wake Forest also excels on an academic stage, but with so much emphasis placed academic fields like Business or the Sciences, Scales is a sometimes forgotten building behind Davis Field to those students who didn’t spend the majority of their lives as Deacons there. But our arts programs at Wake Forest are truly top notch.  I am eternally grateful for my time in the Wake Forest Dance Department.  It was in the studio that I learned how to breakdown problems introspectively and push the boundaries of my creativity. I learned how to think analytically and see things with a different lens.  These lessons I could have only mastered at the barre, and I am forever indebted to my dance professors at Wake Forest.  Go take an entry level dance class – you’ll have fun, I promise!

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional full-time job?

    Humility. In your first job – even if it’s an awesome job way beyond your years of experience – there will come a time when you will have to do a task that is “beneath you.” Do this task with the same vigor as you do everything else, accept the task with grace, and never have your superior have to ask you to do anything twice.

    I think college students are so concerned with getting career advice that they forget to get general life advice, too. Most major life events happen after you graduate (marriage, buying a house, having a family member pass away). You are starting a completely new chapter of life that will look a lot different from the past four years, so find a mentor who can coach you through life decisions and give you honest advice on questions that will have nothing to do with your career (Should I move to a city for a significant other? What part of a city should I live in?).

    Have you been mentored by anyone or served as a mentor in your professional field since entering the workforce? If so, what impact has that had on you?

    I am fortunate enough to be in the Wake Forest Alumni-to-Alumni mentoring program here in Washington, DC.  I deeply admire my mentor on both a professional and personal level, and it is so important that I have someone who “gets” the Wake Forest experience.  She understands where I am coming from and where I want to go.  Making changes for the better and forming life-long habits can be daunting, so we are currently working through a “Wellness Program” where I am focusing on one facet of professional/personal life each month.