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.