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, NC

    Describe your current job role.

    Blake Harrison head shot

    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 head shot

    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 Shack Egan (’14)

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

    Deacon Spotlight Update: Where are they now? We reconnected with our alumni who we previously featured to check in with their careers and lives. Here’s an update from Amy!

    Founder / CEO of Modern Rebel & Co. in Brooklyn, NY

    Tell us about what you’re doing now. What does your job entail? What are you currently working on?

    I am still working for my company, Modern Rebel. However, it has grown and expanded considerably since I was last featured. I still do client work but the larger, bigger events and more high profile clients and I’m doing much more “CEO-ing” these days – big picture stuff! I am doing a lot of work recently on what direction we want to take in the next 10 years as a business and brand. We’ve built a community working with 200 couples in the last five years, where do we want to take that community? I see that as my responsibility – it’s exciting and nerve-racking stuff!

    What is the most significant lesson have you learned in the time since you wrote your Deacon Spotlight?
    Failure is inevitable – and it is, ultimately, the best teacher. And hire “happy.” You can’t teach happy.

    When you think about the moves you’ve made, both personally and professionally, what advice would you offer to your younger self about those decisions?
    Your youth is far more an advantage than you realize. Not knowing how it has always been done is a asset not a liability. Trust your gut and continue to get up with more enthusiasm each time you get knocked down. And be proud when you make a mistake – you were brave enough to go for something.

    As you think about your future, what advice will you keep in mind as you set goals and make plans?
    Comparison is the thief of joy. No one has it all together! Get off social media and dig deep. And also – live your life. I’m a workaholic in constant recovery.

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

    Amy Shackelford headshot

    Describe your current work role.

    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 Charlotte, NC

    Describe your current work role.

    Sarah Crosland head shot

    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)

    Director of Clinical Quality at Babylon Health in Washington, DC

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Headshot of Cassaundra Young, she is sitting in front a big window, wearing a teal shirt and dark blazer and a big smile

    I am the Clinical Quality Director for Babylon, a global tele-healthcare company and serving as their US Quality Lead. I am responsible for monitoring patient quality measures and designing strategic initiatives to improve patient engagement, perform against quality targets, and improve health outcomes for our Medicaid and Medicare patient populations.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    The most challenging aspect is adapting to rapid change. As a startup founder, I am constantly shifting seats, learning new skills and overcoming challenges. While this is certainly one of the most challenging aspects, it is also the most enjoyable because no day is the same. I also lean on my partner and fellow founders to navigate challenges to learn from them and their journeys.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Be intentional! Think about the life you want and set incremental goals to get there. Very rarely do things “just happen”! You have to build the life you want, set boundaries, prioritize, and sometimes make sacrifices in the short term for the benefit of your long term goals.

    But I would also advise that you give yourself some grace and run your own race. Your timeline is your timeline alone and though it is difficult, try not to compare your journey to that of your peers!

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    Your network is everything and you should protect it at all cost! That may sound extreme, but I am increasingly aware of how many opportunities have presented themselves to me just through my network alone. Building and maintaining your network take consistency, regular check-ins, and bidirectional effort. I think it is important to put in what you expect to get out of professional relationships and to also make sure you are not just “using” your networks but adding value to those in your network as well.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    I have a few mentors who mentor on different aspects of my career and life. I am also a mentor for other early careerists. Having a collection of voices and perspectives is helpful because it additional views on singular situations. Every career transition, challenge, difficult decision, etc., my mentors have advised me and helped me think through solutions. They have also taught me how to be a better mentor. I can’t stress the importance of having a mentor or group of mentors as you navigate life.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    Come on in, the water’s fine! Healthcare is challenging, interesting, dynamic, and at the end of the day, it helps people be better! But be open to learning and working with many different types of professions (Finance, clinicians, legal, policy, etc.) because it we can’t be successful alone.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    I’m interested in cultivating the next set of healthcare leaders, so teaching may be on my horizon. I’m also increasingly interested in leveraging best practices from health systems abroad and seeing what we can incorporate here. We will see!

    Spotlight published in January 2022. For updates about Cassaundra, check out her LinkedIn profile.

  • 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, GA

    Describe your current work role.

    Kevin Jones head shot

    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 Officer at CARE Australia and Co-Director of Aid4Uganda in Melbourne, Australia

    Describe your current work role.

    Katherine Wycisk head shot

    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)

    Deacon Spotlight Update: Where are they now? We reconnected with our alumni who we previously featured to check in with their careers and lives. Here’s an update from David!

    Visiting Faculty in Classics and Modern Languages at Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH

    Tell us about what you’re doing now. What does your job entail? What are you currently working on?

    David is wearing a black and white collar worn by members of clergy


    I’m a Jesuit in formation and a professor of Spanish and philosophy. My job entails teaching three classes per semester, researching Honduran cinema for an upcoming book, and connecting with students through faith and justice initiatives on campus. I’m particularly excited about a class on film and philosophy that I’m teaching this semester. The students are discussing how philosophical ideas express themselves through cinematography.

    What is the most significant lesson have you learned in the time since you wrote your Deacon Spotlight?
    I’ve learned about the importance of rest. In fact, for me, rest has come as an obligation. Shortly after writing my previous Deacon Spotlight, I suffered from a severe concussion that prevented me from completing my first semester of graduate school at Loyola University Chicago. Part of the reason why the concussion affected me so much was that I continued working through it during the initial stages–not stopping to take time to take care of myself. I’ve got to listen to my body, and that’s good advice for everyone!

    When you think about the moves you’ve made, both personally and professionally, what advice would you offer to your younger self about those decisions?
    My younger self would have benefitted from truly discerning important choices as opposed to jumping to conclusions too quickly. I’ve discovered the importance of listening to God, listening to others, and listening to myself before acting. Though it is important to be spontaneous and adventurous, it’s also important to take time and space to reflect on the bigger moves we make in life before, during, and after we make them.

    As you think about your future, what advice will you keep in mind as you set goals and make plans?
    At the end of the day, love and justice should inform my goals and their corresponding plans. Wake Forest has given me immense intellectual tools, but, above all, Wake fanned the fire of my passion for social transformation. I hope to nurture this passion every step of the way. As St. John of the Cross has written, “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.” May my future be one of love, and may my love for others propel me to act with mercy and justice.

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

    Describe your current work role.

    David Inczauskis head shot

    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, Uganda

    Describe your current work role.

    Carey Carpenter head shot

    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)

    Senior HR Business Partner at Olive in Portland, OR

    Describe your current work role.

    Headshot of Ryan Smith, he is wearing a suit and a big smile

    In my current role as an HR business partner for Olive, I support leaders of the Customer Experience department with all things people. I work closely with them on their talent strategy, developing & coaching team members, and providing guidance around policies and procedures. Ultimately, it is my goal to ensure that our leaders and team members feel supported so they can focus their time and energy on running the business and bringing value to our customers.

    In my role, I have the exciting opportunity to partner with both business leaders and our HR centers of excellence, including compensation, recruiting, learning, and organizational effectiveness. Because HR business partners typically wear many hats, each day looks a little bit different depending on what the business needs from me. I’ve learned to be flexible and adaptable, focusing on merging my people-focused goals with the operational goals of the business.

    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.

    Story updated in November 2021. For updates on Ryan, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Sarah Hinshelwood (’13)

    Sarah Hinshelwood (BA 2013, Religion and Spanish)

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

    Describe your current work role.

    Sarah Hinshelwood head shot

    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 Washington, DC

    Describe your current work role.

    Tre Easton head shot

    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 Washington, DC

    Describe your current work role.

    Kasha Patel head shot

    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)

    MBA Candidate at Rice Jones School of Business and Venture Intern at The Artemis Fund in Houston, TX

    Describe your current work role.

    Headshot of Taylor Anne Adams, she is sitting in a chair with her legs crossed and arm draped across the back of the chair. She is wearing a shiny skirt and big smile

    Currently, I am a full-time MBA student and am also working part time as a Venture Intern at a Venture Capital fund called The Artemis Fund. We invest in female-founded seed-stage companies focused on fintech, caretech, and ecommerce. It’s a super early fund, so we are currently focusing on investing in new companies and also raising money for the next fund.

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

    Recently I had the opportunity to interview a few different founders and present their companies to the investment committee. The founder conversations consist of business pitches and stories about their passion for the products and companies they are building. In addition to connecting with the founders, I also get to do extra research on the industries in which these companies live. The market research element really gives you a good sense of the landscape and what opportunities could potentially exist. There’s so much out there! 

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

    I cannot even begin to tell you how important mentors are. I have multiple mentors, in and out of the entrepreneurship and Venture Capital space. My mentors constantly provide a clear and objective perspective. They have been instrumental in many decisions I have made, but also in introducing me to others and expanding my network.

    *The responses below are from a previous Spotlight when Taylor Anne was working in the entertainment industry as the Executive Assistant to Senior TV Literary Agent at Paradigm Talent Agency in Los Angeles, CA*

    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.

  • Jermyn Davis (’10)

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

    Higher Education Consultant at Deloitte Consulting in Denver, CO

    Describe your current work role.

    Jermyn Davis head shot

    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 Bismarck, North Dakota

    Describe your current work role.

    Matt Dowell head shot

    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, WA

    Describe your current work role.

    Lesley Gustafson head shot

    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 Investments in Boston, MA

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

    Virginia Spofford head shot

    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)

    Deacon Spotlight Update: Where are they now? We reconnected with our alumni who we previously featured to check in with their careers and lives. Here’s an update from Delvon!

    Manager of Social Impact at Participant in Los Angeles, CA

    Tell us about what you’re doing now. What does your job entail? What are you currently working on?

    I am currently at Participant, the leading media company dedicated to entertainment that inspires audiences to engage in positive social change. We believe that a good story, well told, can change the world. And our work has been rooted ever since at the intersection of arts and activism. I currently help to manage partnerships for the Social Impact team that support various campaigns aligned with Participant’s narrative features, documentary films, or episodic television series, many of which have earned Academy Award nominations and wins. One current project I am working on is ParticipantsVote2020, a slate of films and designed impact campaigns that inspire, empower and connect our audience to engage more deeply with our democracy.

    What is the most significant lesson have you learned in the time since you wrote your Deacon Spotlight?
    The seed you sow to help others (no matter how big or small) will produce the most amazing and unimaginable harvest of blessings in your life.

    When you think about the moves you’ve made, both personally and professionally, what advice would you offer to your younger self about those decisions?
    Community is important. Make it a priority to take time and connect with people that can offer wisdom on navigating life. I am grateful for people like Dr. Barbee Oakes, Darlene Starnes, and so many others who became lifelong friends (I like to say family). While you may be responsible for crossing the finish line, you don’t have to run the race alone. Being intentional about building your community will allow you to draw strength when needed, build lasting relationships, and become your best self…..pro humanitate.

    As you think about your future, what advice will you keep in mind as you set goals and make plans?
    I will re-iterate what I said the first time because it still rings true and is something I think about often: don’t let success go to your head but don’t allow failure to live in your heart. I like how Mark Batterson says it: the leading cause of failure is mismanaged success and the leading cause of success is well managed failure.

    Delvon Worthy headshot

    Account Executive at Clinton Global Initiative in New York, NY

    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, TX

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

    Lauren Mahomes head shot

    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, WA

    Describe your current work role at Microsoft.

    Matthew Simari head shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Nilam Patel (’12)

    Nilam Patel (BA 2012, History)

    Social Media Strategist at Montana State University in Bozeman, MT

    Describe your current job role.

    Nilam Patel head shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Sonia Kuguru (’15)

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

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

    Describe your current job role.

    Sonia Kuguru head shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Ali Maffucci Cerda (’09)

    Ali Maffucci Cerda (BS 2009, Business)

    Founder and Owner of Inspiralized in Jersey City, NJ

    Describe your current job role.

    Ali Maffucci Cerda head shot

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

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

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

    What did you do professionally before launching your business?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Molly Koernke (’09)

    Molly Bolton (2010 BA in English, MDiv 2014)

    Staff Chaplain at Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    headshot of Molly Bolton

    I work three days a week as a staff chaplain at Cleveland Clinic Fairview, a regional hospital that is part of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. I am a clergyperson ordained in my own tradition who provides spiritual and emotional support to people of any or no faith tradition in a clinical setting. In my current role, I spend much of my time preparing and leading Spiritual Care Groups for the Pediatric and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit. In these groups, I use poetry, art-making, play, and mindfulness to offer consolation and coping skills to young patients. My other time as a chaplain is committed to being on-call, which means I respond to urgent spiritual care needs such as end-of-life care, pregnancy loss, and emotional support for staff.

    I am also self-employed as a spiritual director and spiritual care educator. As a spiritual director, I companion people as they seek to grow spiritually. I also teach classes and lead groups on using poetry as a tool for spiritual care. I am currently working on taking my poetry-writing practice seriously and figuring out the new (life-giving!) balance of being a part-time chaplain and being part-time self-employed.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?
    A little while after my sister had a miscarriage, she and I worked together to create a ritual to honor her grief. We included her spouse and expanded the ritual by inviting some of her friends who were experiencing grief from miscarriage and pregnancy loss too. We had a small service with candles, flowers, and reflections on her back porch. Through this ritual, I experienced how meaningful it can be for us to create these embodied and compassionate spaces for one another. I understood in a new way how my passions — centralizing the experiences of women and LGBTQ+ persons, being with people authentically, creative expression, experiencing the healing wisdom of a community — can come together in the art of spiritual care.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    The most challenging aspect of my job is witnessing the way systemic oppression manifests in suffering in individuals’ lives. For example, working routinely with young people in the psychiatric unit leads me to ask questions such as “what have we done to the world that so many young people are experiencing such devastating anxiety and depression?”. I navigate this challenge by practicing the cultivation of hope and through discerning what I *can* do. Reading the work of sages and radicals, practicing meditation, working to undo my own racism, practicing yoga, listening to the young patients I am with today, being an advocate for justice in my corner of the world — these things that I *can* do. These are the things that help me cultivate hope.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Chaplains & spiritual directors hesitate to give advice. We prefer that you become curious about your own Inner Wisdom and your own sense of calling. So I guess that’s my advice — become still enough to notice your heart’s desires. Here are some practical tips for doing that:

    • Spend time in quiet with your phone and computer in the other room. Notice if you have the desire to “fill the space”; see what happens when you don’t.
    • At the end of the day, reflect on where in the day you felt a sense of connection and belonging. On the flip-side, notice when you felt a sense of being “tuned-out”.
    • Practice mindfully moving your body in some way that calls to you — dance, yoga, tai chi, walking in nature, riding your bike.
    • Create time for creative things you enjoy simply because you enjoy them.
      Delight in cultivating meaningful friendships and show up for the people who are important to you.
    • Ask yourself: What is my dream for the World? Take your dream seriously. See if there is a way you can work with others to manifest this dream.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    Have you ever heard that the best way to make a friend is to be a good friend? I do my best to be a good colleague and collaborator. This means learning how to mindfully give and receive feedback, taking responsibility for what is mine to do, giving credit where it is due, noticing how my way of being in the world impacts other people, and learning how to have a sense of perspective.

    My life is richer because of my relationships with bioethicists, social workers, poets, hospice caregivers, educators, sage spiritual directors, and advocates. Though we have different areas of expertise and different roles, we all desire for people to be compassionately cared for, which means we have a shared sense of purpose. I have found that if I am mindful about being a kind colleague, and if my colleagues and I have a shared sense of purpose, then the network maintains itself.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    There is a poem by John Fox that begins “When someone deeply listens to you it is like holding out a dented cup you’ve had since childhood and watching it fill up with cold, fresh water.” The magic of being deeply listened to by my teachers and supervisors — Chris Copeland, Mark Jensen, Kelly Carpenter, Daeseop Yi — has allowed me to name and honor my own journey. It has invited me to be one who learns the art of listening deeply. Also, the example of women who boldly and compassionately plant their gifts in the world — Jill Crainshaw, Wendy Farley, Kim Langley, Michelle Voss Roberts — has given me the courage to do the same.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    I have found that nurturing my own spiritual practices, along with being a part of a compassionate community are the most important aspects to flourishing as a spiritual care provider. Reading works by anti-racist authors and scholars of color has also proven invaluable.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    Teaching is one of my favorite aspects of my vocation. I would love to grow my ability to offer group spiritual direction, lead retreats, and teach workshops on topics such as grief, poetry, and spiritual practices.

    Story published in March 2020. For current updates about Molly, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Jana Fritz (’15)

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

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

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

    Jana Fritz head shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Shelby Taylor (’14)

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

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

    Describe your current job role.

    Shelby Taylor head shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Carlos Maza (’10)

    Carlos Maza (BA 2010 in Political Science)

    Research Fellow at Media Matters for America in Washington, DC

    Describe your current job role.

    Carlos Maza head shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Chris Kalamchi (’12)

    Chris Kalamchi (BS 2012 in Finance)

    College Growth Market Manager at Tilt in San Francisco, CA

    Describe your current job role.

    Chris Kalamchi head shot
    Chris Kalamchi (’12)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Bo Machayo (’13)

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

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

    Describe your current job role.

    Bo Machayo head shot
    Bo Machayo (’13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Ryann DuRant (’11)

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

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

    Describe your current job role.

    Ryann DuRant head shot
    Ryann DuRant (’11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Rebecca Dore (’10)

    Rebecca Dore (BA 2010 in Psychology)

    Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Delaware in Newark, DE

    Describe your current job role.

    Rebecca Dore head shot
    Rebecca Dore (’10)

    I am currently a postdoctoral researcher studying developmental psychology and education. I design and carry out studies to investigate how children learn from media and fiction. A lot of my time is spent reading about new research in my area and writing up the results of my own studies for publication in academic journals. I have to be able to synthesize findings from diverse areas to inform my work, as well as use communication skills to relay my findings and idea to others. I also have to work well with a larger team: research is rarely a solo venture. For example, I am currently working with a team of people across three universities on a study investigating children’s learning of new vocabulary from storybooks and play.

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

    After graduating, I went to graduate school and got my PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of Virginia. While at UVA, I conducted research and taught courses on child development, research methods, and interacting with fictional worlds.

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

    It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 10 years since I attended a Psychology Department open house during the first week of my freshman year at Wake Forest. I knew I wanted to be a psychology major after taking AP psychology in high school, but when I signed up for classes there was no space left in the higher-level courses – a sure sign of a popular department! When I expressed my disappointed to Dr. Christy Buchanan, however, she opened up a spot for me in her parent-child relations class. Although at first I was intimidated to be in a class with so many older students, my interest in the material and the welcoming atmosphere Dr. Buchanan created allowed me to participate and succeed in the course.

    At the end of the semester, Dr. Buchanan encouraged me to join her lab group for independent research credit. I was immediately enamored with seeing the research process in real time: I loved asking research questions, designing surveys, and feeling the excitement of seeing results for the first time. After I had been involved with Dr. Buchanan’s lab for several semesters, she offered me the opportunity to take the lead on a new research collaboration with Dr. Eric Stone. With their guidance, I conducted a thorough literature review, helped shape the research questions, designed and carried out the study, and analyzed the results. When I began the Psychology Honors Program during my senior year, I was able to conduct a second study following up on our findings. We later turned my paper into a peer-reviewed journal article, on which I was lead author.

    In addition to my involvement in research, I continued to take as many psychology courses as possible. All of the professors I had were enthusiastic to share the course material with students and made our classes interactive and engaging. I also had the opportunity get involved in the department in other ways, including being on the Psychology Undergraduate Studies Committee, which contributed to decisions about academic issues in the department, and Psi Chi, the National Psychology Honors Society, which held panels and events related to psychology topics and professional development.

    As I neared graduation, I knew that I wanted to continue research in Psychology. The department had an excellent process for guiding students in the process of applying to graduate school, including talks on graduate school applications and a structured process for recommendation letters. But my strongest support during that time were my mentors who reviewed my application materials, wrote recommendation letters on my behalf, and with whom I talked through my decisions of where to apply and eventually what program to choose. I ended up deciding to go to the University of Virginia, where I received my PhD in Developmental Psychology last May. I am now a Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Education at the University of Delaware.

    I had experiences in the Psychology Department at Wake that I wouldn’t have had at larger research institutions, where there is less interaction with faculty and fewer opportunities for undergraduate research involvement. In addition to the amazing academics, I found a home in the department – the faculty and staff had high expectations for students but also fostered a supportive and nurturing environment. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance and influence of my mentors and the quality of my academic experience in the Psychology Department. My experiences at Wake prepared me for the challenges of my graduate program and for professional life more broadly.

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

    In one ongoing project, I am looking at children’s learning from e-books. One potential advantage of e-books is that pre-readers can use audio narration to engage with the book without the assistance of a parent or teacher, but little evidence exists regarding the effectiveness of audio narration for children’s learning. My preliminary results show that 4- and 5-year-olds can recall more story details after being read an e-book by a parent than after hearing the e-book audio narration or looking at the e-book without narration. These findings suggest that e-book reading is best served by contingent, conversational interactions with an adult. However, results also show that children hearing the audio narration can learn some content from the e-book: They recall more details and answer more questions correctly than children who did not hear any narration. This finding implies that using e-books independently may be a worthwhile activity for preliterate children while caregivers are otherwise occupied. These findings have implications for how e-book creators could improve audio e-book’s educational potential, perhaps by making e-book narration more like an adult narrator by including questions or other interactive prompts. I plan to present these findings at a national conference in the spring and then write them up in an article that I will submit to an academic journal.

    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 confident in your abilities and potential, while being humble enough to ask for and accept advice and constructive criticism to grow your skills and knowledge.

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

    Even in the relatively independent world of academia, being able to work with others and successfully navigate social situations is vitally important.

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

    I had wonderful mentors and advisors in graduate school at UVA, who pushed me to succeed and always had more faith in me than I had in myself. Building a network of mentors is so important: Having multiple sources of advice and support really allowed me to see that there was no right answer to my questions and helped me develop the skill and confidence to make my own judgments.

    Story published in November 2016.

  • Sarah Pirovitz (’10)

    Sarah Pirovitz (BA 2010 in English)

    Editor at Oxford University Press in New York, NY

    Describe your current job role.

    Sarah Pirovitz head shot

    I am currently acquiring my own list of books in two separate publishing programs: science and technology studies and art and archaeology. The books I seek out run the gamut from scholarly monographs – books scholars have been working on for years that are focused on one major subject – to narrative trade titles that might interest a broader audience of interested readers. Oxford is the largest not-for-profit press in the world with a mission of getting quality scholarship out to as many people as possible, which means we work hard to keep up with changes in both higher education and publishing while putting out books that can change the conversation in their respective fields. What is probably the most wonderful aspect of the position for me is that I am constantly speaking to scholars across the US and around the globe about their current research, how they see higher education changing, and what ideas they might have for new books. From those conversations, I shepherd those ideas from an initial proposal through to production and publication.

    Working in publishing means you are on a number of different teams but also doing a great deal of work on your own. Most days are pretty independently run and spent doing research, writing copy, drafting budgets, sending projects out for external peer review, editing, and liaising with colleagues in other departments. However, the job is also dependent on face-to-face relationships, both when I have to travel to campuses and conferences and when I present projects to our in-house board members. Thus, most editors have to be comfortable speaking publicly and selling ideas as well as working alone for large stretches of time.

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

    Once you are out of school and in your first job, especially one in a more corporate atmosphere, I think it’s a bit of a shock that there are few, if any, achievable milestones – no more graduations, exams, or anything to help break up the passage of time. You can look up and realize that you’ve worked for 6, 10 months and perhaps, superficially, nothing has changed. Couple that with the type of work you do in any entry-level position (which may seem far away from what you saw yourself doing while still in school) and you can start to spiral a bit: Am I doing the right thing? Is it too late to change my mind about my career?

    I wish I had known that pretty much everyone goes through this to some degree, that ultimately you are responsible for your own successes, and that that is more satisfying than anything else. I am quite lucky that I’ve found the right fit of my interests and talents in time, but the longer you work the more you realize that you can change course by stepping up and making major decisions not based on what others expect but on your own good sense. No one is going to swoop in and give you the promotion you know you’ve earned or offer you a fantastic opportunity to start over – you have to put yourself in the best position and go from there.

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

    In many ways, simply the liberal arts education that Wake Forest offered helped me significantly in stepping into a professional role in New York. Developing a foundation in the humanities and social sciences, writing an honors thesis, and being pushed to think more critically was excellent preparation for any type of career but especially one in the media industry, where entry-level competition can be quite steep. Outside the classroom, Wake offered a diversity of opportunities to develop leadership skills. By taking part in those through Kappa Delta, D.E.S.K., and others, I felt more comfortable stepping into similar positions once I began at the press. It was also in making and developing friendships at Wake that gave me the courage to move to New York in the first place, especially since I had no contacts here outside of contemporary Wake grads – it was thanks to a wonderful friend from my freshman dorm that I had a place to sleep for the first week of my internship. The camaraderie, collegiality, and friendship of Wake alums has continued ever since.

    Most significantly, I could not have done what I’ve done in my career without the mentorship and advice of professors along the way, specifically the incomparable Professor David Lubin. Prof. Lubin invited me to be his research assistant early in my college career after I took his American Art course; in doing so, he exposed me to the world of academic publishing for the first time. Having the opportunity to read and comment on early drafts of this research over my summers opened up an entire world I didn’t realize I could enter. Had he, as well as a number other of my professors, not fostered an environment of debate and conversation in the classroom, I would have never learned how to speak up and express myself and no doubt would have ended up somewhere quite different in my career.

    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 few things in no particular order:

    • If you are still applying for jobs, please have other people read your cover letters and resumes. I have hired a number of interns by now and though tangibles like your GPA matter, it is just as important, if not more so, to have a cover letter that compellingly makes the case for you in the specific role for which you are applying. And of course, typos or awkward gimmicks make hiring managers at any level uncomfortable, and a trusted outside reader will catch those in advance and guide you in the right direction.
    • Once you are hired, come early and stay a little late, especially in your first months on the job. If you are working as an assistant, getting in before your manager and leaving after shows you are conscientious and helps you stay ahead of the learning curve that accompanies any new job.
    • Where there are opportunities to do more, step forward. Don’t wait to be called on or assigned to do something. If you see a way for a task to be done more efficiently, rather than just complain about it to your peers, think of whether there’s a way you can fix it, then go do that.
    • Be kind to others. When new people start on your floor, remember what it was like when you first walked in and reach out.
    • For the dreamers wanting to move to New York, or any major city, start saving now. As someone who grew up in South Carolina, I was quite unprepared for the costs of city life, and it’s been an adventure ever since. Apartment security deposits, train fares, higher taxes, business casual clothes, and happy hours with new colleagues can overwhelm even the most careful savers. The more you have tucked away, the more secure you will feel taking advantage of what post-college life can offer.

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

    One of the first projects to cross my desk was a gloriously colossal cultural history of California as viewed though its engagement with classical Greece and Rome, now entitled American Arcadia. Jumping back and forth in time, the author (hello, Peter!) merged fascinating anecdotes about everything from the history of bodybuilding to the construction of the aqueducts with meticulous research. Even though it was probably twice as long as most of the books I had worked on previously, I couldn’t wait to finish reading it and get to work. The whole process of American Arcadia – having the research double-checked with scholars in a number of fields, editing with the author, and conceptualizing a design and marketing strategy with my colleagues here – was exactly why I had gone into publishing in the first place. Two years later, the book has just released and now, hopefully, a wide audience of folks interested in the nooks and crannies of American culture will discover it and be introduced to a new host of perspectives.

  • Parissa Jahromi Ballard (’06)

    Parissa Jahromi Ballard (BA 2006 in Psychology, MA 2008 in Psychology)

    Research Scientist at University of California in Berkeley, CA

    Describe your current job role.

    Parissa Jahromi Ballard head shot
    Parissa Jahromi Ballard (’06)

    I am a research scientist in the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley. I get to spend my time thinking about how to promote youth and community development, designing studies to test my ideas, and sharing what I learn. The skills I use every day to do this are reading, writing, and performing statistics. I love my job!

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

    In my time at Wake, I learned how to think. I was exposed to classes, which I never thought I would enjoy (Who knew how much I would love learning about demography? Where else can you take a semester long seminar about understanding manhood in America?). Furthermore, I got to participate in meaningful assignments and small group discussions as well as form relationships with professors who are skilled at connecting with students. I learned to follow my curiosity and to think critically. Through leadership roles and interacting with the community inside and outside of Wake, I learned how to conduct myself professionally.

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

    The other day I saw this scribbled on a friend’s mirror: “How you do anything is how you do everything.” I think that is good advice for young professionals. Do everything, even the small things, with excellence. Also, whatever your job, pay close attention to the things that truly excite you. These are the clues to translating your particular interests and skills into a meaningful career.

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

    One project I am working on right now is evaluating the impact of a school program called Generation Citizen. This program works with middle and high schools to get young people involved in solving problems in their communities. I am partnering with Generation Citizen to understand how we can inspire adolescents to channel their skills and energy into constructive community work. It’s very exciting to see the brilliant ways that young people come up with to better their communities.

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

    Good mentorship has been critical to me at every stage of my career. It is invaluable to get advice from people who have been in your situation before, and it is so worthwhile to build and keep relationships with good mentors. Good mentorship has impacted every career decision that I have made and has made it a top priority to mentor students in the same way.

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

    After I finished my BA at Wake, I stayed around to complete an MA in Psychology with Dr. Christy Buchanan. I went to the Netherlands for one year on a Fulbright Fellowship with the joint goals of traveling the world and working with a group of researchers who specialize in understanding adolescent identity development. After my year abroad, I moved to California to complete my PhD in child and adolescent development at Stanford University. I recently completed a two year post-doctoral program as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar at UC Berkeley and UCSF and stayed on in my current role as a Research Scientist.

  • Laura Jurotich (’15)

    Laura Jurotich (BA 2015 in History and Art History)

    Assistant Manager of Member Programs at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA

    Describe your current job role.

    Laura Jurotich head shot
    Laura Jurotich (’15)

    I began my work at the High Museum of Art two weeks after graduation as the Membership Assistant in the Development department. I assisted in managing all general High Museum member direct mail and email campaigns and communications, created new member initiatives like Membership Appreciation Month, and performed departmental administrative tasks.

    I was recently promoted to the Assistant Manager of Member Programs. I now manage the Young Professionals membership level, which includes planning monthly social events and communications for our 500 households of 21-39 year olds. I also assist with all events, direct mail campaigns, and member communications for the Director’s Circle and Circles membership groups, which are our two highest levels of annual membership. Events range from member previews for new exhibitions to cultivation events to acquire new members and everything in between. Direct mail campaigns include member acquisition, renewals, upgrades, and more.

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

    The rigorous academic curriculum paired with the breadth and depth of extracurricular involvement that challenges a Wake Forest student taught me how to work efficiently and effectively. It took a few months of working full time for me to fully accept that I did not have a pile of papers and readings to work through and that and that my nights and weekends actually are free (except for when I am working events). Learning how to stay on top of an intense curriculum prepared me to manage multiple projects, stay on task, and keep up to date on my email, amongst other communications.

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

    I have been managing a targeted mailing campaign asking some of our lapsed Director’s Circle members to rejoin the Museum and renew their membership. The campaign is comprised a series of letters: the first from our Director’s Circle chair, the second from our current Board of Trustees chair, and the last from our Director of Development. I have been working with the Museum’s editor to ensure that all letters follow the style guide, our database manager to pull the correct mailing lists and create source codes to track each letter, our graphics department to include a brochure of benefits and upcoming events for the respective levels, and with the signees to get the signed letters back in my hands. I received a renewal after sending out the first letter in the campaign; it was incredibly exciting to see how my work directly raised money for the Museum.

    I have been working with an interdepartmental team of colleagues from Education, Public Programs, Guest Relations, and Marketing to plan a new monthly series aimed at Young Professionals called First Fridays. Every First Friday at the Museum, you can count on drinks, art making, a DJ or live music, and more. Our debut First Friday was in October, and we had “Thriller” flash mobs, haunted tours of the galleries by actors from Serenbe Playhouse, a well-known DJ, and mini-pumpkin decorating. We themed November’s First Friday around the election with make-your-own campaign buttons, tote bags for “Inside the Perimeter” of Interstate 285 versus “Outside the Perimeter,” a campaign poster photo booth, and a self-guided tour of politically-focused works of art with a “ballot” to vote for your favorite work of art. It’s been extremely fun to brainstorm themes that make sense for each month, the types of activities guests would want to do, and more. I have gotten warm fuzzies at each event and felt so proud to have had a part in planning something that achieved its goal of bringing Young Professionals to an art museum on a Friday night. Over 1,000 patrons attended our first event!

    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 tell current Wake Forest students pursuing jobs in the arts to not worry so much about the job search until closer to the end of senior year. I spent way too much time applying for jobs in the fall semester when most arts institutions are looking for candidates who can begin work immediately. However, I would strongly suggest completing informational interviews with Wake alumni in your field early and often. I have found that Wake alumni are extremely generous with their time and advice, and they are excited to discuss their careers and help you find your path.

    I would also advise this group to keep your options open. I never thought that I would want to get into Development; I always envisioned myself in museum education or interpretation. However, my time at the High has shown me that my skill set and interests align well with Development work. Taking the Membership Assistant job felt right in my gut, and I am simply following the path that has been unfolding before me.

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

    I wish I had known how rewarding the working world can be. I feel like there is a culture of fearing graduation and entering “the real world,” and while leaving the Wake Forest bubble was definitely scary, I am truly enjoying the working world.

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

    I love that I sit a few hundred feet away from the Southeast’s finest art collection. Whenever I need a break from my cube, I’ll walk through the galleries to reset myself and wonder at the incredible beauty housed in our walls. I also get to continue my art education through curator-led staff tours of new exhibitions, attending talks, and being immersed in a community that recognizes art’s inherent value.

    Story published in March 2017. For current updates about Laura, visit her LinkedIn Page.

  • Markecia Koulesser (’15)

    Markecia Koulesser (BA 2015 in Anthropology)

    Deacon Spotlight Update: Where are they now? We reconnected with our alumni who we previously featured to check in with their careers and lives. Here’s an update from Markecia!

    Collections Manager at Gaston County Museum of Art and History in Charlotte, NC

    Tell us about what you’re doing now. What does your job entail? What are you currently working on?

    As the Collections Manager for the Gaston County Museum, my primary role is to collect and preserve the artifacts. I oversee the physical care of over 40,000 artifacts, precious documents, books, art, textiles and more. It is essential that I implement policies and procedures that relate to caring for the museum’s collections. This includes, maintaining the environmental conditions of our collection spaces, ensuring proper storage and cleanliness, maintaining and updating records for all of our pieces and even managing pest control.

    Currently, I am working on planning a collections move from our onsite location to a building nearby, which will involve several months of planning, various supplies/furniture orders, tons of packing, and full staff training on handling and moving artifacts.

    What is the most significant lesson have you learned in the time since you wrote your Deacon Spotlight?

    Never stop pushing/growing/evolving!

    At the time I wrote my Deacon Spotlight, I was working as a museum experience associate at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in uptown Charlotte. At that time I split my shift between working with the public, and gaining experience in collections alongside the Director of Collections. I worked most weeks with no days off, but was determined to find my fit in the museum realm. I found it in collections and from there began my Masters in Public History. My program focuses on museum collections management and archival research, two things I am very passionate about and have always had an interest in. From there, I sought any and every opportunity there was to get involved in museum collections, ultimately leading me to the Collections Manager position at the Gaston County Museum, where I couldn’t be happier.

    When you think about the moves you’ve made, both personally and professionally, what advice would you offer to your younger self about those decisions?

    Don’t be so hard on yourself, and don’t second guess your capabilities.
    Throughout this journey I have let a lot of things get to me. People telling me I should settle for an assistant position because those collections jobs were hard to come by, or my peers questioning why I waited three years to start my Masters. And with that came a lot of self doubt. Were my professional goals feasible, especially at this age? Was I wasting my time? Ultimately, I had a goal, and to accomplish that goal I had to follow my own path and do what I knew was right. In the end, it worked out! I’m not only collecting and preserving artifacts, something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child, but I’m also leading large scale institutional projects that will bring great changes to this museum and the community.

    Museum Experience Associate and Collections and Archives Intern at Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte, NC

    Describe your current job role.

    Markecia Koulesser head shot
    Markecia Koulesser (’15)

    In my current role, I serve as the first line of contact for the museum. When guests arrive, I greet and inform them of museum events. Additionally, I serve a vital role as a gallery attendant, facilitating conversation on the pieces of the collection, both in house and on exhibit.  I help put the gallery’s pieces into context for visitors so they can better understand the exhibit, the Bechtler family, their collecting styles, artist’s backgrounds and forms of media. In addition to my primary role, I also help run museum events, geared towards community enrichment. These events vary from secluded Music and Museum events, to more public, family oriented events such as Bechtler by Night.

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

    Immediately after graduation, I landed a position at the Central Piedmont Community College Harris Campus Library, working as a library technical assistant, walking students through their academic research. It offered me an opportunity to sharpen my research skills and remain active in the academic environment, even after I had graduated. Prior to graduation, my museum experience was limited to working in collections management, as an intern at the Museum of Anthropology in Collections. I began working in Special Collections Archive my last semester of college and learned that my real interest lies in the history of things, specifically organizations and institutions. Essentially, I like to recreate the (Hi)story. I chose museums because I love the way museums facilitate learning. Museums create a self-taught experience. All of the information is there, but how you take it in and process and perceive it makes all the difference.

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

    Wake Forest has done an excellent job in preparing me for the world of work. From the resources available, to the people there to help you, Wake Forest has created a center for complete development, both personal and professional. I can honestly say that my major and minors have set me up perfectly for the work ahead. My anthropology major peaked my interest in museum work, sharpened my critical thinking skills, and honed my research skills. My minors in history and cultural resource preservation allow me to properly interpret pieces, place objects into historical context and discuss them with guests, all while honing in on my skills in preservation and conservation. Throughout my journey to this point, Wake Forest has offered me countless opportunities to succeed, from forums on finances to scheduling mock interviews. The career counselors, professors and other academic staff work so hard and really extend themselves for the benefit of their students, which is admirable and adds fuel to the flame of success.

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

    My work in collections and archives affords me the opportunity to work on a plethora of projects. One of my new projects will be to organize, catalog, and digitize the entire museum library and archive. I am really looking forward to it! In addition, I cannot wait to see what projects will stem from working in collections alongside the collections manager, curator and exhibition team in coordinating our next exhibit.

    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?

    To current students at Wake Forest University, please, please, please take advantage of the opportunities Wake has to offer! Sure, you’re not going to be able to make everything, and in many cases, you may not need to make everything, BUT it is important that you know what resources are there for you. And DO NOT hesitate to stop by the Office of Personal and Career Development! Ask questions, even the silly ones and develop a relationship with the staff. For those who have already graduated, don’t count anything out. You never know where your experiences will take you. I wanted to work in a museum; but in my first year, I got a research job in a library setting. I used that to my advantage. After having only been with the institution for three months, I play a key role in the development of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art’s Library and Archive. Take in every experience, because every experience has value.

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

    I’ve learned that professional development doesn’t have to equate to stress or settling for less. Prior to graduation, I stressed constantly about getting the dream job after college. I thought that if I didn’t get that dream job, I would be settling. I put in applications for jobs every day to remain active in my search. It took some time before I realized that I was more focused on completing an application than actually landing the position. I now know these things certainly don’t happen overnight. It takes time, patience, and focus.

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

    I cannot say I have been mentored by someone in my field since graduating, but I have been mentored by the career counseling staff, as both a student and employee. The career coaches in the Office of Personal and Career Development are the reason I am where I am today. I’ve also been impacting by my fellow students and alumni. As weird as this may sound, they have also mentored me in a way. To be in an environment with like-minded individuals who are striving for greatness just as you are, is a mentoring experience in itself. And now we are out in the work place and know what it means to develop professionally and we help each other.

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

    Special thanks to Patrick Sullivan (OPCD), Amy Willard (OPCD), Stephanie Bennett (ZSR Library Special Collections), Thomas Frank (Depart. of History Chair), Ellen Miller (Biological Anthro. Professor) and Margaret Bender (Linguistic Anthro. Professor).

    Story published in March 2017. For current updates about Markecia, visit her LinkedIn page

  • Kara Peruccio (’11)

    Kara Peruccio (BA 2011 in History)

    PhD Student at The University of Chicago in Chicago, IL

    Describe your current job role.

    Kara Peruccio head shot
    Kara Peruccio (’11)

    I am a third-year PhD Student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Currently, I am studying for my comprehensive exams which test me on my specific field (Modern Middle Eastern History), my pedagogical philosophy for teaching Islamic History, and my ability to do research in foreign languages (Modern and Ottoman Turkish). After I successfully pass these exams, I will be proposing my dissertation. Tentatively titled “Womanhood Mediterranean Style: Feminist Engagement, Patriarchal Authoritarianism, and the Politics of Fiction in Italy and Turkey, 1919-1930,” I will be researching novels written by Turkish and Italian female authors who, I argue, used fiction as a means to critique highly charged gender rhetoric promulgated by the dictatorships in both countries. It will be a history using popular cultural materials but asks political questions about the nature of womanhood under Mussolini and Atatürk and will hopefully uncover women’s reception and responses to their policies and ideologies.

    In addition to my research, I am the TA for Early Islamic History. Having and being a TA was one of the major differences between Chicago and Wake that I had to get used to, but I am having a great time working with the students. Many of them won’t go on to get PhDs in Islamic History, so a key part of my job is to make the material compelling and exciting. I have two discussion sections with undergrads, and it’s been my favorite part of my week this quarter. I’ve tried to model my own teaching on that of my mentors at Wake and at Chicago. I’ve stressed to my students that I want them to succeed and learn, and they’ve responded really positively.

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

    After graduation, I held a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Turkey. I taught English in a small town called Uşak (three hours east of Izmir, 4-5 hours west of Ankara, 11 hours south of Istanbul). The teaching was challenging and I learned a lot about Turkish university culture. I had the opportunity to travel throughout Turkey to more than 12 different towns. It was a transformative year and ultimately, inspired me to pursue an MA in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago.

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

    After I took my first history class at Wake (Dr. Simone Caron’s The Gilded Age to the Great Depression), I knew I wanted to become a history professor. As an undergrad, I thought I would focus on American history, but fortunately, the history department requires its students to take courses outside their geographic focus. This rule led me to taking classes with Dr. Charles Wilkins on the Islamic Empires and the Modern Middle East. It was only after these classes and my year living in Turkey that made me pursue Middle Eastern History.

    Wake more than prepared me for graduate school. The history department has a strong emphasis on writing and I’m confident in my ability to write different papers (research, historiographic) because of my training at Wake. I also was very fortunate to have mentors who supported my work and let me take creative approaches to the historical questions that excited me. Additionally, I try to present my research to at least one conference a year. In her classes, Dr. Caron always had students give 10 minute presentations; as a freshman and even up to my senior year, I was always nervous speaking in front of people. I really valued these talks, because it helped me learn how to be effective and also how to communicate my material in an accessible way. I still sometimes get nervous, but I feel more confident and articulate as time goes on.

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

    Last year, I wrote my second-year paper (essentially an MA thesis) about “My Self is Mine!”, a 1929 novel by Nezihe Muhiddin, a controversial feminist leader in Turkey. I argued that she wrote the novel in the form of an allegory to protest Kemalist policies towards women’s suffrage and equality within Republican Turkish society. My analysis focused on three key plot points that centered on Zeynep’s body; Muhiddin inscribed political meaning into her protagonist’s body and used these plot events to explore the political and social realities of Turkish women during the first years of the Early Republican Era.

    The project involved reading the novel, which was challenging as modern Turkish has changed a lot since 1929! In order to translate things, I have to use an Ottoman dictionary to make sure I’m thinking about a word or verb in the right way. How a word might be used in 2016 can be completely different from how it was in the Early Turkish Republic. I’ve also engaged with other scholarship on Muhiddin’s life and work, but very few people research her novels.

    I presented a version of this paper at the Middle East Studies Association conference in November of 2015. It was really helpful to present my early arguments and receive feedback before I got into the bulk of my writing. This paper will hopefully be a section of my dissertation, and I plan on sending it out for publication.

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

    If you are considering applying to PhD programs, do your research and also consider taking time off. The best advice that I received my senior year was to take a gap year. PhDs are long, demanding, and draining both intellectually and emotionally. I love what I do and I am able to enjoy it because I took the time to have a break from classes and explore if getting a graduate degree was the decision. I would talk to the Wake Forest Scholars program; my Fulbright experience helped get me to where I am today.

    Also, for current students, I cannot stress enough the importance of office hours. Go talk to your professors!

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

    Being a graduate student is in some ways a continuation of being an undergrad (you’re still going to class and taking exams!), but it’s definitely different in terms of professionalism and teaching. Having just graded a round of essays and midterms, I’m sometimes surprised by how long it takes to grade. I have greater respect and appreciation for my Wake professors who were always quick with turning back papers! Also, teaching is hard. Some weeks in discussions students will talk constantly and want to participate; other weeks, the class can be silent. Getting up and lecturing for an hour takes a lot more time and preparation than I ever expected. My professors at Wake made it look easy, and I admire their dedication and enthusiasm for their research and fields.

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

    I applied to the University of Chicago to work with Dr. Holly Shissler. She is one of the few professors in the United States who works on the Early Turkish Republic and even more specifically gender. I’ve been working with her since the first year of my MA program, and now four years later, I am still so glad that I made the decision to attend Chicago. She is a phenomenal teacher, and I always learn something from her, whether it’s in a seminar class or during a two-hour long talk in her office. She champions my work and most of all, has made it very clear that she believes that I will succeed.

    I also have stayed in contact with mentors from Wake Forest whose guidance and support I value. When I was a high school senior, I picked Wake Forest because I knew I would receive a great education. I did not know that I was also picking a support system that extends beyond my four years on campus.

  • Joseph DeRosa (’14)

    Joseph DeRosa (BA 2014 in History)

    MA Student at Columbia University in New York, NY

    Describe your current job role.

    Joseph DeRosa Headshot

    I am currently in the first year of the Dual MA/MSc in International and World History at Columbia University/London School of Economics. My research focus is nomadic peoples, the British Empire, and state formation processes in the Middle East in the early 20th century. I also serve as the representative of my cohort for the Graduate Student Advisory Council.

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

    I have spent most of my professional career working with the Syrian conflict; first at an internship at The Carter Center and later as an Analyst at Creative Associates International. Somewhere in between, I moved to Cairo where I worked at a research/consulting firm specializing in South Sudan.

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

    I had my first encounter with the media last Spring, when Huffington Post Germany interviewed me for my thoughts on the Syrian conflict. I’m not sure I can gauge the impact my comments had on the readers, but I learned two things from the experience. The first was how to say “caught with their pants down” in German. The second was to choose metaphors carefully during interviews.

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

    Above all else, Wake Forest taught me two things: how to be curious and how to learn. Whether it’s history, health care, or hermeneutics, get curious about something and read up on it. If you become an expert in your chosen field, things often falls into place.

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

    While interning at The Carter Center, I had the fortune of meeting a person whom I would consider to be not only a fantastic mentor but a dear friend. The two roles really aren’t so different. Through this relationship, I learned that it’s important for me to reach out to coworkers with whom I would like to begin a mentoring relationship. Many of my best mentors have not been the most outgoing people in the office; indeed, more reserved coworkers often have fewer would-be mentees and therefore, are more likely to have time to dedicate to their relationship with you. Once you break down the formal work barriers (manager-employee, employee-intern), you’ll find that most people in the office are quite welcoming.

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

    The working world is not something to be dreaded! There is life after college. And it’s not all that different. Especially coming straight out of undergrad, almost every job you take will require substantive on-the-job training. And, by learning to learn, Wake prepares all of us for this.

    Story published in April 2017. For current updates about Joseph, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Kim Korzen (’16)

    Kim Korzen (BA 2016 in Sociology)

    Engagement and Artistic Coordinator at Carolina Performing Arts in Chapel Hill, NC

    Describe your current job role.

    Kim Korzen head shot

    I am the Engagement and Artistic Coordinator at Carolina Performing Arts at UNC Chapel Hill. Every day is different, and I love it. For example, when Youssou N’Dour was in town, I was emailing faculty and students one minute, and escorting Senegalese pop stars across campus the next! With the Engagement team, I help connect presenting artists to the university and community with educational and community events. I reach out to faculty and students, investigate event possibilities, coordinate class ticket vouchers, and help with overall planning and strategizing. With the Artistic team, I also help with logistics and I assist artists when they are on campus. One of my goals is to facilitate the collaboration between the Artistic and Engagement teams, so I take on responsibilities that benefit both teams and compile and distribute information. I use communication, organizational, and problem-solving skills constantly, and I rely on my arts and humanities background for research and working with artists.

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

    In the two months immediately following graduation, I served as one of three Performances Interns at the American Dance Festival. This was my dream internship. The American Dance Festival has presented the leading modern dance companies in the US and the world for over 80 years, and it’s based in Durham, NC! The experience was intense, demanding, and the perfect beginning to a career in performing arts administration. I was responsible for coordinating logistics for ten companies or individuals who performed in the festival’s seven-week period, and I was only one of the three Performances interns! I left with a better understanding of the duties of performing arts facilitators, with confidence in my abilities, and an improved ability to articulate my capabilities and career aspirations.

    I have also served as an Administrative Assistant for Karola Luettringhas/Alban Elved Dance company. I began working with Karola periodically in 2014 on her SARUS Festival in Wilmington and performances in Winston-Salem. Since August, I have continued to assist Karola administratively in various ways, including conducting research and contacting possible presenters or collaborators.

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

    Throughout my time at Wake, I sought out independent projects. The support I received from faculty as well as organizations like URECA allowed me to take on these opportunities and explore and solidify my career aspirations. I received grants through URECA for multiple projects with the assistance of professors Lynn Book and Christina Soriano. Lynn connected me with an exciting summer research opportunity in Raleigh and she invited me to join her study abroad program in Berlin. This summer experience, all centered on the emerging field of arts entrepreneurship, was an important stepping stone as I began realizing my passion for arts administration and gaining the skills to make a career in the arts.

    Christina, Nina, and the whole Wake Forest Dance Department allowed and pushed me to express myself and pursue my goals, and gave me important performing arts experience. As stage manager, board operator, dancer, and chorographer, I saw every side of a dance production, and loved it. Christina also suggested I go on the OPCD’s Performing Arts Career Trek, which was a great opportunity to explore career options and speak to alumni working in NYC. Shan Woolard in the OPCD was also a great help in my senior spring, as I applied for the internship at ADF and began researching job opportunities.

    Also in my senior year, I created and directed a performance through IPLACe. I brought together poets and dancers for an evening exploring identity, inspired by sociological theory. I deeply appreciate the work of IPLACe, and mentioned this in my interview with CPA. As I told them, I know first-hand the powerful impact arts integration can have in a university. I was also able to tie together my studies in dance and sociology when I pursued independent research in the sociology department with the help of Saylor Breckenridge. My entire experience in the sociology department prepared me for the “world of work,” as I learned to improve my communication, project management, and research skills – all of which translate well to administrative responsibilities. Overall, my mentors at Wake prepared me for life after college by bolstering my confidence in my capabilities as well as helping me sharpen my skills in many areas!

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

    Each performing artist or group’s visit is a new interesting project! One group that was particularly intriguing to work with was zoe|juniper, a visual art and dance collaboration between Zoe Scofield and Juniper Shuey. At Carolina Performing Arts, they presented their newest work, Clear & Sweet, inspired by the southern traditional Sacred Harp singing. The audience was seated onstage in the round instead of in the house, which created a more intimate experience. I was involved with organizing receptions for post-performance discussions both nights, collaborating with our Marketing Coordinator on publicizing Zoe’s masterclass and creating songbooks the audience, collecting reactions to the performance with student surveys, and more. Overall, from surveys and conversation we know that this new set-up was effective and exciting for our audiences.

    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?

    Honestly, I would tell anyone to be excited! I feel there’s an overly apprehensive culture around leaving college and entering the work world, and I want to shift that. Any job comes with challenges, and adjusting to working full time can be demanding. However, I would encourage anyone starting a new job to enjoy themselves and approach their work enthusiastically. Not only will you do a better job most likely, you might just have a good time.

    On the flip side, if you are looking for work, stay active and get involved with causes or groups you like as you search. I reached out to a regional nonprofit, Triangle ArtWorks, when I was between positions and applying to jobs in August. I volunteered with Beth, the Executive Director, a few times and learned a lot about the arts in the area in a short time. I helped and will continue to help with multiple projects. I was also able to talk about this activity in my final interview with Carolina Performing Arts, and I think it helped. At the very least, I felt more confident in the interview and starting the job, because I had stayed active and felt more informed about the arts in the area. Even showing up to relevant events is an important way to improve your chances of finding and getting opportunities, so put yourself out there.

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

    Beth, the executive director of Triangle ArtWorks, who I mentioned above as well, was an awesome mentor to meet after I finished my summer internship. She is tapped into the arts across Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and everywhere in-between, and has very valuable insight. I look forward to volunteering with her more, and being part of her important effort to support the arts in the Triangle! I am inspired by the work she does and I feel more motivated and confident in my career plans because of working with her.

    Additionally, my bosses and team members at Carolina Performing Arts have been excellent mentors from the beginning. They are encouraging, give good direction and feedback, and show me the ins and outs of performing arts administration in a university setting. I’m learning a lot, and having a great time.

    Story published in April 2017. For current updates about Kim, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Peyton Barr (’15)

    Peyton Barr (2015 BA in Politics & International Affairs and Russian)

    Legal Assistant for Corporate and International Counsel at Revlon in New York, NY

    Tell us about your current job role and what you’re working on.

    Peyton Barr Headshot

    I support the corporate governance of Revlon, Inc. and its dozens of domestic and international subsidiaries. This includes preparing materials and agendas for Board of Directors meetings, reviewing financial and legal documents for international subsidiaries and facilitating corporate projects. Some of my larger projects have been due diligence collection and dissemination during an acquisition and drafting BoD materials related to executive compensation.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    Learning how to manage interpersonal and hierarchical conflict was challenging.  As students at Wake, we were often times encouraged to challenge professors and administrators with differing viewpoints. Some professional and quantitative environments differ strongly, valuing service and consistency over initiative and originality. I’ve also learned that these institutional values change across industries, companies and ranks, and that identifying office culture should be a valuable element of the job search.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    There is no curriculum outside college, so you may experience a “void of purpose” and often times, a void of community. If you’re seeking purpose or community outside of work, look to your hobbies and passions such as volunteering at your favorite non-profit or sports/exercise team activities. As far as “real world responsibilities”, I’ll share a gem from one of my WFU mentors: minimize your administration time. Manage your finances with automatic funding features, make email folders for your tax and financial liabilities and balance your budget.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    Absolutely! As a Fellow, I was mentored by faculty in the OPCD and my major departments who were interested in my personal development. They helped me to discern my career path and combine happiness and success. My professional mentors after Wake are resources for more technical career advancement, including explaining best practices for constructing a particular presentation, document, or argument. This doesn’t totally discount the existence of personal mentoring after college, but these relationships take time to flourish. Ideally, you need both styles for rewarding mentoring.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I set deadlines to accomplish extracurricular and career-related tasks. As students we’re all used to deadlines, so create some for yourself and keep yourself accountable. Whether its finishing a book, applying for a job or participating in a fitness challenge, managing your time helps manage the results.

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

    Volunteer for special projects and anything you can get your hands on. You’ll only learn more (and be more marketable down the road) if you constantly challenge yourself and living outside your comfort zone. In short, comfort can be a recipe for mediocrity and staleness so challenge yourself and make bold moves.

    Story published in April 2017. For current updates about Peyton, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Nehemiah Rolle (’15)

    Nehemiah Rolle (2015 BA in Politics and International Affairs)

    Senior Associate at The Roosevelt Institute in New York, NY

    Tell us about your current role and what you’re currently working on.

    Nehemiah Rolle Headshot

    The Roosevelt Network is the largest youth-driven policy organizations in the country. Organized on over 140 college campuses and in 40 states, we work with young people to write and enact policy change at the state and local levels. I specifically work lead all of our equity and inclusion work. Essentially, I work with our staff and student leadership to ensure that our trainings, chapter models, and leadership opportunities are designed to ensure that our members can fully participate in our mission and that this structural design is shaped by the awareness of their particular needs and lived experiences.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    As a student, I led the Roosevelt chapter as President and served on the National Leadership as the 2013 Southern Regional Coordinator and 2014 Emerging Fellow in Foreign Policy. Those experiences shaped how I view the importance of policy change. Additionally, my involvement with the Pro Humanitate Institute was formative in my commitment to employing a justice lens to the public policy process. I further honed these commitments as 2016 Wake Forest Fellow in the Office of the Provost, working on various projects related to institutional equity and civic engagement.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    You’re not going to love everything you do 100% of the time. From senior management to entry level young professionals, we all have things we’d rather not do. But that’s why we must do them. It teaches you commitment and discipline, but most importantly – it teaches you interconnectivity. The menial tasks are often what undergird those big projects that you dream of working on. Mastering those opens up the opportunities to work on those big projects, do things differently, and ultimately figure out and own your value add to any organization.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    With your nose to the grindstone, don’t forget to look up and around every once awhile. Take those opportune moments for reflection. Make those invaluable moments for connection. You’re entering another formative chapter in your life, and the real gems often lie in those moments of reflection and connection. You know how to work hard. Now is the time to learn how to make meaning.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I’ve mostly built relationships one-on-one. As an introvert that expends way too much energy in a crowded city like New York, one-on-ones allow me to really focus on the other person, how our stories and experience intersect and diverge, and what we can build together. I’ve applied this approach to building relationships in the workplace and the community I’m trying to be more intentional in cultivating.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    I’ve had several mentors at Wake Forest! Brilliant faculty that entertained my half-formed ideas, compassionate administrators that walked with me along my journey, and students that really taught me how to think differently. All of these relationships taught me the value of authenticity, empathy, and that half the battle is showing up.

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

    I know what you’re going through, friend. Shift that laser focus from figuring out where you’re going to end up to the possibilities of where you can start.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I’ll be at Roosevelt for the next three-four years, so I’m going to focus on being present in this moment. That said, my future likely lies at the intersection of politics and storytelling. As what forms those opportunities take began to unfold, I’m using my current role at Roosevelt to do more blogging, elevating the stories of our students, and always bringing us back to the story that makes us show up every day – when we invest in youth leadership, transformative change can happen.

    Story published in May 2017. For current updates about Nehemiah, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Lori Pilon (’12)

    Lori Pilon (BA 2012 in History)

    Financial Advisor at Merrill Lynch in Winston-Salem, NC

    Tell us about your current job role and what you’re currently working on.

    Lori Pilon Headshot

    I’m currently working at Merrill Lynch as a Financial Advisor. I am part of a Wealth Management Group comprised of six members: four Advisors and two Client Associates. This particular team brought me in to enhance the relationships they have with their current clients and expand the capabilities of the team to focus on growth and servicing. Essentially, I was brought in to be a “relationship manager.”

    What I quickly learned is that this business is always changing and change can be almost instantaneous. A few months in, our only assistant of eight years moved out of state, so I took over the role of servicing the day-to-day needs of the team and our clients until a replacement could be found. I then transitioned into more of a business manager on the team. More recently, I have morphed into becoming one of the planners responsible for running the retirement/planning analyses for our clients. I have found that my role is constantly shifting as I develop and learn and as the needs of the team change. One of my partners called me the Chief Operating Officer of the team the other day, so for now, that’s what I am.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    After I graduated, I worked at Wake Forest in the Admissions Office as an Admissions Counselor for one year and as Assistant Dean for another year. I was given the opportunity to work with a variety of professionals in the educational sphere, hone my presentation skills in front of parent and student audiences, organize large events and think critically about how to shape the best institution out there (although I admit a severe bias here). I even completed a couple of semesters of a M.Ed. in Higher Education, believing higher education administration was my calling. Soon I started to realize that change in higher education is slow and though I still have a soft spot for it, I decided to start looking elsewhere.

    In honesty, I had no clue what I wanted to do. I was a history major with minors in Spanish and dance. That stinging question I hated getting in the Admissions Office seemed to hang in the air: “What in the world do you do with a history major?” I considered a Ph.D. in History and becoming a professor. Stereotypical. I considered becoming an account executive at somewhere like an advertising agency. A 180-degree turn from where I was. In case you haven’t noticed, I lacked direction and conviction. I’m not exactly sure what led me to Merrill Lynch, except for a connection that mentioned my name to someone on my future team. Thankfully, it developed into an opportunity that has kept me on my toes, challenged me and rewarded me.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    As a newly-minted graduate, I was eager, asked a lot of questions and had high expectations that what I said would be immediately considered and likely implemented. I was shot down a time or two (or three) and of course, I realize now that those expectations were unrealistic. It was a challenge to be faced with the reality that I hadn’t earned my stripes and to realize that my indignation was, at times, misplaced – I don’t believe I did this until after I started my current job. But I also learned that the relationships you cultivate with coworkers, other professionals and your network can open your eyes to opportunities you hadn’t considered before. If I could talk to any student, I’d advise him or her to keep connections strong. You never know where an opportunity lies and who it is that might bring it to your attention.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Balance. It is all about balance. It is surprisingly easy to forget the active, on-the-go lifestyle you had in college when you sit at a desk for however many hours a day. As young professionals, we have a tendency to try and prove ourselves by being the first ones in the office and the last ones to leave. I have seen 5am in the office, as well as 7pm, but I strongly believe that your work schedule must be sustainable. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key. I was fortunate enough to recently attend a seminar by Sarano Kelley, in which he stated the obvious: Each of the facets of your life – relationships, work, health, organization, spirituality, finances, among others – is intimately connected to the other. If you fail to take care of yourself in one of these areas, it has a direct impact on the others and your well-being as a whole. This really resonated with me. It is a simple concept, really, but it is easy to lose sight of the big picture. Take care of yourself first, then take on the world.

    And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t say something along the lines of “save your money.” It is so easy to put off saving in favor of expensive trips and happy hours and say to yourself, “I’ll save later.” As someone who does a fair bit of retirement planning, however, I have seen first hand the dangers of that kind of thinking. Enjoy time with friends and coworkers and experience life, but also save for the time in your life when every day is Saturday (aka: retirement). Contribute everything you can to your retirement plan and make sure you’re getting the full company match. It’s free money, people. Take it and watch it grow!

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    If I could write down every mentor I had at Wake Forest, I would. There were a lot. I had more professors take time to have that personal development conversation than I would have thought possible. I found great mentorship through the Office of Personal and Career Development and still do to this day. Patrick Sullivan and Allison McWilliams take on a world of student and alumni problems, gripes, failings, frustrations and raw emotion and somehow still found the time to offer me a word of advice, a helping hand, or simply an ear. I also found great mentors within the walls of the Admissions Office. Some of my young colleagues turned out to be my biggest cheerleaders and encouraged me to ask questions and not be afraid. I have also found great mentorship at Merrill Lynch. My teammates have let me flounder, have seen me make really stupid mistakes and have helped me develop a thicker skin. They have also taught me how to be more thoughtful, more thorough and compassionate. In each phase of my life, my mentors have helped me develop and grow and I am truly thankful for each bit of advice, tough love and encouragement. 

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

    Take advantage of opportunities. Be humble but have conviction. Talk to your colleagues. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Develop a thick skin. Don’t just talk but listen and listen well.

    Finally, LEARN. Every job has something to offer in the way of life lessons or professional lessons. Even the “worst jobs” can teach you great lessons, so we must be open to them.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    One time-consuming short-term goal I have is to obtain the Certified Financial Planner designation, considered to be one of the hardest in the industry to achieve. I am partway through the journey and I hope to end next year with the designation. When I think about long-term goals, however, I tend to see one pathway: I intend to stay with Merrill Lynch and work as an advisor for the entirety of my career. The beauty of financial services is that I will always be learning something new. It’s an incredibly dynamic field and one I’m enjoying exploring. It’s also a beautiful thing to be in the unique position to truly help families through the good times and the bad. I’m well aware that the phrase “financial services” leaves many with a bad taste in their mouths, but I have been so very fortunate to be joined up with a team that cares and we do right by our clients. The human element of this career makes it so worthwhile and makes me feel good about going into work every day.

    Story published in May 2017. For current updates about Lori, visit her LinkedIn Page.

  • Noland Griffith (’15)

    Noland Griffith (2015 BA in Communications)

    Financial Services Consultant at Ernst & Young in Charlotte, NC

    Tell us about your current role and what you’re currently working on.

    Noland Griffith Headshot

    I am currently a second year analyst at Ernst & Young, working on the living will campaign for a large cap U.S. bank. I am on a team of 10 consultants who are charged with drafting a will (similar to an estate plan) for this bank to submit to the Federal Reserve & FDIC.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    Honestly, my breakthrough to this field can be credited to Jim Dunn, who at the time was the CIO of Wake Forest, but is now the CEO of Verger Capital Management. His office offered four internships each semester, and I was fortunate enough to land their only non-business school internship for the fall of my junior year. Because of my performance during this internship, Jim felt comfortable vouching for me to employers in New York. My time in the Office of Investments laid the ground work to secure three additional financial internships. My experiences both in the Office of Investments and these other internships helped me to successfully interview at Ernst & Young. 

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    The biggest challenge has been adjusting to a different measure of success post-graduation. For much of your formative years, you are trained to believe that grades are the ultimate measure of success. Whereas, in the real world, measures of success are related to metrics like having strong soft skills, your ability to communicate effectively, your ability to produce high-quality work products by deadline, your value-add, etc. I’ve learned that preparation is key – whether it is preparing for a presentation or speech you are about to give, or internalizing certain facts about a colleague or client that will allow you to have a more valuable conversation down the road, preparation shows not only that you know what you’re talking about, but that you care.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    In many jobs, it is difficult to truly have a work life balance during the normal Monday – Friday work week; but I’ve seen most recent graduates fail to maintain their personal life habits especially on the weekends. When you first enter the real world, a pay check can indirectly seem like a source of freedom to burn the midnight oil with friends. But this will, in turn, cause you to let other important life habits, like exercise, spending genuine moments with friends, expanding relationships in your apartment complex and work, fall by the wayside. Keep it in perspective, don’t forget to take care of yourself and your personal needs (aka. having a little me time) on the weekends to re-charge for a strong work week.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    Fortunately for me, I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I currently live. The biggest way I’ve expanded my community is by not being afraid to reach out to those that may have been acquaintances in college or before college. The real world can be, no excuse me, IS intimidating; why not start with someone who is familiar with you? Throw your inhibitions out the window and be that friendly face. By re-establishing this familiar connection, you will be able to establish other connections, and your personal and professional network will continue to grow.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    Most of the mentoring I have received came from those at Ernst & Young. I am fortunate enough to be at a company where they provide you with a peer advisor and counselor to ask any questions you may have, on or off-the-record. Also, the Charlotte office of EY has a strong base of young professionals that I have been able to benchmark off of, to learn from their successes and failures, to attempt to minimize failure and maximize success myself. The positive impact many of these colleagues have had on me has allowed me to not only have success at my job thus far, but also truly enjoy it, while so many others in my class, or the classes graduating before me, have already changed jobs and or occupations in their first few years post-graduation.

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

    Do not come out guns a-blazing in your first job. Show your employers that you cannot only work diligently and efficiently, but you are willing to learn from their wisdom and perspective. It is more important to prove your worth as a strong, hard-working employee, rather than trying to prove your worth as a creative and intelligent mind. Trust me, there will be plenty of opportunities to express your opinions and provide creative notions, but my advice is to maintain a strong air of respect and humility when you begin your professional career.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    My future goal as of now is to complete my three-year rotational program at Ernst & Young, and then who knows from there! I really enjoy EY, and if for some reason I decide consulting is not for me, I may request to move laterally within the company to a recruitment or business development role. As of now, I love where I am.

    Story published in May 2017. For current updates about Noland, visit his LinkedIn Page.

  • Hilary Burns (’14)

    Hilary Burns (2014 BA in Communications)

    Reporter at the Charlotte Business Journal in Charlotte, NC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Hilary Burns Headshot

    I am a reporter covering banking and entrepreneurship for the Charlotte Business Journal. I write about some of the largest banks in the country and the entrepreneurs building tomorrow’s companies. I’m particularly interested in how technology is changing the banking industry. My days consist of interviews with high-profile executives, newsmakers and community leaders. My goal is to write stories that make an impact.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    Serving as the editor-in-chief of Wake Forest’s student newspaper the Old Gold & Black prepared me for working in a professional newsroom. The late nights spent piecing together a newspaper read by students, faculty and alumni taught me how to work under deadlines, manage crises and collaborate with my peers to produce a quality newspaper. We covered topics ranging from LGBTQ inclusion to stagnating faculty salaries and increased the paper’s online and print readership. Working for the OGB made me realize I would never be bored if I pursued a career in journalism.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    My first job in the real world was working as a reporter for Bizwomen.com. The hardest part of the job was finding two to four story ideas per day. I learned how to manage my time, spot potential story ideas and to ask for help when I needed it. I landed interviews with Jessica Alba, the CEO of Deloitte, the former CEO of American Apparel and other high-profile women by being persistent. I learned that saying less is more in an interview and if you catch someone at the right time, they may tell you their life story.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Don’t be afraid to take on new assignments or responsibilities, even if they don’t sound fun. You never know what you could learn. I didn’t know much about the banking industry before taking the job with the Charlotte Business Journal covering Bank of America and Wells Fargo. I’ve learned about the industry by asking good questions, reading and listening to people who know more than I do. I have not had a dull day since taking the job.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    Yes, Justin Catanoso from the journalism department has been my mentor throughout college and post-grad life. Whenever I have to make a major career or life decision, he is one of the first people I call. Mr. Catanoso served as the OGB’s adviser and let us make decisions on our own, unless we needed back up. He is a great teacher, storyteller and friend. Since college I’ve been fortunate to work for wonderful editors who support my work and make me a better writer.

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

    Ask a lot of questions before taking your first job. Make sure you are working for someone you trust and doing something you can learn from. And if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I hope to have a long career in journalism writing stories that matter. I will raise my hand for new opportunities when they come up, learn new subject areas and improve my writing skills to make sure that happens.

    Story published in September 2017. For current updates about Hilary, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Mark Covington, Jr. (’13)

    Mark Covington, Jr. (2013 BA in Psychology)

    Therapist at Aquila Recovery and PhD Student at The George Washington University in Washington, DC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Mark Covington Headshot
    Mark Covington (’13)

    Currently I am working on my PhD at George Washington University in Counseling full time. Additionally, I am a therapist part-time while in school. I work with those who have issues with addictions to drugs and alcohol, depression, anxiety disorders, and identity issues.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?  

    In my family life, I had always been surrounded by those in the helping professions – social workers, medical doctors, and ministers. So helping others has always been a value my family instilled. Career wise, I tried different things out after leaving school, such as marketing. During that year I did some soul searching about if this was the right path. I came to the realization that I wanted to take a more active role in helping people, and make a difference in the world by working with individuals who need to be empowered.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    My first job was in a marketing role as an assistant coordinator. I learned that you need to find a role that “fits” you. Job “fit” can be described as how well you and your job responsibilities are meshing, and how well it suits you. I was in a position that did not suit my skills, talents, and desires at the time. I learned that I would need a job where I am feeling fulfilled, and where my skills were put to good use.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    I would tell students to not be afraid to fail. Accept that things in life will be challenging, but it is all about how you handle it. Don’t get down on yourself if that first job doesn’t work out, or you get that rejection from a Graduate program. Keep going, find out what drives you, and what will keep you energized on some of those challenging days.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I have been really fortunate to work in the counseling field and academic field with so many leaders. I have been able to contribute to research on social relationships, and LGBT studies with renowned thought leaders in my profession. I have also been very fortunate through my employment to attend professional trainings in ethics, human development, and psychology. I have been fortunate to also be in the Capitol of The United States of America, where thought leaders gather. I developed a “yes man” approach to things, because you never know who you may run into here.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    I have had the honor of being mentored by several people during my time at Wake Forest and at GW. My advisor at Wake Forest, Dr. John Petrocelli, was instrumental in helping me make a decision to apply to graduate school. He was so supportive of me going forward in the field and I always felt comfortable with him. Associate Provost for Global Affairs and Kemper Professor of Business Kline Harrison was instrumental during my time in leadership with my fraternity, Theta Chi. He was our advisor, but I developed a relationship with him beyond graduation. He has been a system of support for me as I entered into academia. It has been wonderful to still be able to keep in contact with these men. They have inspired me so much.

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

    Make sure you find a job that you will care deeply about. I am passionate, and I care deeply about mental health and the outcome of what I am doing. If your interests, passion, and values are not aligned it will be difficult, but keep pushing until you find something that does.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I am working towards my PhD, so first would be to graduate! I would like to be in a position where I am teaching future mental health professionals, and while also continuing to work with clients. I am currently in my second year of my program and still finishing my course work. Luckily, my job is also pretty congruent content wise with what I do everyday. Its a great feeling to know that I am in the right field for me, and I feel good about my work everyday.

    Story published in September 2017. For current updates about Mark, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Samantha Kruse (’09)

    Samantha Kruse (2009 BA in Anthropology and Spanish)

    Senior Account Supervisor at Edelman in Washington, DC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Sam Kruse Headshot
    Sam Kruse ’09

    As a strategic communications counselor on Edelman’s Crisis & Risk practice, I specialize in risk and reputation management, providing clients with support on communications elements like message development and media relations, as well as the creation and implementation of corporate, litigation and crisis communications campaigns. Edelman is a global public relations agency focused on the intersection between communications and marketing. The firm operates more than 65 offices worldwide, which offers me the opportunity to work with a global network of thousands of employees spread across continents and sectors, despite the fact that I call D.C. home and work mainly out of our D.C. office.

    In my role, I develop and facilitate crisis simulations designed to test organizations’ existing incident management procedures. On the active incident side of the coin, I work closely with legal counsel and other third parties to coordinate internal and external response. Over the past five years in the industry, I’ve developed a specialty in crisis communications surrounding data security & privacy (an ever-changing debate and a growing concern for companies of all sizes). My writings on the subject have been published in Thomson Reuters’ Westlaw Journal Software Law and commPRO.biz, and I’ve really enjoyed speaking on the topic at events like Skytop Strategies’ Global Cyber Security Summit in Rome, Italy and PRSA Philly’s Crisis Panel: Protecting Your Brand’s Reputation Against Cyber Warfare. Currently, I’m working with clients across multiple industries (part of the reason I love my job!), including health care, financial services, manufacturing, transportation and food.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    I’ve been lucky enough to have had two immensely rewarding previous personal and professional experiences prior to my current position at Edelman D.C. Most recently, I was working in crisis communications for another great firm here in the city – LEVICK. Prior to LEVICK, I lived in Sevilla, Spain for three years teaching English as a Foreign Language at both a school in the historic city center and a private language academy on the outskirts of town. The professional strategic communications skills I developed a LEVICK, coupled with the confidence I gained from working and living in a foreign country, definitely got me to where I am today. Being bilingual is not a requirement for my job, but it certainly helps. Anytime a colleague needs something translated from English to Spanish or edited in Spanish, they can reach out to me rather than going through external vendors. Every once in a while, I still think about escaping back to the land of flamenco and tapas…

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    This is a tough question! If we’re counting my teaching stint in Spain as my first “real world job,” which I think makes sense, then the most challenging aspect was having to do all of the administrative tasks involved with starting a new career/moving to a new city for the first time after college…and making sure that everything was done correctly, while doing it all in a foreign language. I thought my level of Spanish was great when I graduated from Wake Forest and had studied Spanish, but I had a LOT to learn about the dialect and jargon in Sevilla. It took a full year before I felt fluent and started to dream in Spanish, and that was a direct result of forcing myself to speak in only Spanish with my native and expat friends outside of work hours. I learned that you need to be comfortable outside your comfort zone (sounds weird, but it’s true), and unafraid to fail and try again or ask for help when you need it. I also learned how important it is to form meaningful relationships within the workplace so that you have champions and advocates when you need them.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Wake Forest is an incredible institution whose faculty and staff do an amazing job preparing graduates for the real world. I may be biased, but I still think that is a factual statement. I would advise WFU graduates to give themselves a bit of a break right after college. You don’t have to have your finances and your life plan figured out a year after you graduate. I certainly did not…and so far, so good. You probably shouldn’t get a summer job straight out of college and then turn around and immediately spend all of your earnings, but, you can take some time to figure out the budget that’s right for you, talk to your parents or financial advisors about best next steps and do some research on spending and investments that make the most sense for you.

    I think it’s crucial to remember that in work and in life you should never let yourself feel stuck in any situation. Don’t let fear be a deciding factor. I was terrified about moving to Spain, but it was the best decision I ever made. I was scared to move back to the U.S. and try to work at a private corporation, but that also worked out in the end and brought me closer to friends and family, which was important to what I wanted for my future. Work/life balance is something that can easily get imbalanced when you live in a big, competitive city like Washington, D.C., New York City or Chicago. I’ve only recently learned the value of taking time for myself – attending workout classes, seeing movies alone, reading good books – and how it translates to higher productivity in the workplace.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    This sounds crazy simple, but I think they key to making and keeping personal and professional relationships is acting like a human. Don’t be attached to your mobile device, and don’t only communicate via email. Have human-to-human, face-to-face interactions, in the office and after work; form mutually beneficial and trusting relationships with your colleagues and your clients. Some of my colleagues and former clients are now close friends, and it’s always a good idea to be adding to your personal and professional networks! Go to happy hours and networking events, too. It’s fun AND beneficial.

    Once you find a home at a company that you care about, take the time to get to know colleagues outside of your immediate team so that when they need someone to pull onto a special project that’s in your wheelhouse, your name is the one that immediately pops into their heads. Take the time to learn from folks in your company who specialize in different things that you might be able to add to your own skill set down the road. Join professional organizations! I’m a member of Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR), and it has been a wonderful way to attend exciting events, speak on communications panels, and meet other motivated female PR practitioners here in the city. Also, complimentary hors d’oeuvres.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    Not officially. However, my “big sister” from Delta Zeta at Wake Forest is a role model for me in every sense of the word. She studied harder and more intensely than anyone else I knew in college, and she also managed to have an incredible time. Since then, she’s built an enviable career for herself here in Washington, D.C., and I’ve taken a lot of pages from her book as I look to grow my own career. She is as tenacious as they come. She’ll be embarrassed, but her name’s Michelle Johnson, and if you’re in D.C. and looking to get into politics or communications, you should look her up.

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

    Recognize and take heed of every piece of constructive criticism that you receive along the way, and do not take anything for granted. Above all else, don’t sell yourself short. Even though this is your first job and your Professional Experience section of your resume could use some more content, that should not be a detracting factor in your hiring or your ability to know your new roles and responsibilities out of the park. Volunteer for every project you can get your hands and be patient – you’ll see real results sooner than you think!

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    Someday in the next 5-10 years, I’d like to be the Communications Director of an organization or a company whose cause or mission I care deeply about. I’ve loved worked at agencies and boutique communications firms and having the opportunity to represent clients in various industries and sectors and hone my skills. Eventually, though, I’d like to find one brand that I can dedicate all of my efforts towards and learn to run a communications team of my own. I have regular meetings with my manager about progress towards goals, and I make time every year to reevaluate my own personal life goals and be sure that my professional situation is helping me get there (where do I want to live, what do I want to be doing with my time other than working, etc.).

    Story published in September 2017.

  • Alyssa Walter (’12)

    Alyssa Walter (BA 2012 in English)

    Senior Studio Manager at SoulCycle in New York, NY

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Alyssa Walter head shot

    I am a Senior Studio Manager at SoulCycle, an NYC-based fitness company that specializes in indoor cycling classes and has revolutionized the boutique fitness industry. In my role I oversee the day-to-day operations and business development of 3 of the studios on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. My days are never quite the same, but some of my main focuses are developing and training new managers, overseeing the marketing and finances for each studio and continuing to foster the community that is so important to our brand by taking care of clients needs.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    Well my career trajectory is not exactly your typical one. When I graduated from Wake I immediately moved to New York to attend the Columbia Publishing course and continued to pursue a career in journalism working at Health Magazine and the start up FitBump. My passion for health and fitness won out in the end and I decided to become a Health Coach through the Integrative Institute of Nutrition and started working at SoulCycle. But my work in the fast paced journalism and start up fields really prepared me for the unpredictability that comes with managing people and a business.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    My first real world job was at Health Magazine as an editorial assistant and I think the most challenging aspect for me was finding my voice within a large team and while working with very accomplished editors. It definitely took me a while to find my confidence and feel empowered to pitch ideas and speak my mind.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    First off, be prepared for the fact that the transition from college to a full time job is hard. But work to find the routine that is best for you. Whether it’s working out, meal prep or dinner with friends, find what makes you feel energized and work it into your weekly routine. No matter how much you love what you are doing, you still need to find time to recharge.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I really relied on the Wake Forest community in NYC and am so grateful to have moved to this big city with friends who made it a lot less overwhelming. I’ve also been lucky from job to job to make at least one great friend and I really try to continue those relationships even after our careers take us in different directions.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    Maria Henson has been a mentor of mine since I interned at the Wake Forest Magazine my senior year. I learned so much from her and the rest of the Wake Mag team and that is what gave me the confidence to move to NYC 2 weeks after graduation to pursue Journalism. Even when my path curved away from that of a typical Journalism student, Maria has only been supportive and encouraging of my journey. It’s amazing to have mentor relationships like these that last years and span miles away from Winston Salem!

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

    Go in ready to give your all, even if it might not be exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life. I’ve learned something in every job I’ve had that has informed and impacted my success in my current role. So even though it may not always be glamorous, hard work pays off!

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    In the near future, I hope to open a SoulCycle studio in a new region…looking at you Southeast! It would be an incredible opportunity to build a studio, team and ridership community from the ground up and I know I would learn so much. Beyond that, my work at SoulCycle has really fostered my entrepreneurial spirit so one day I hope to be running my own business!

    Story published in October 2017. For current updates about Alyssa, please visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Lisa Northrop (’11)

    Lisa Northrop (2011 BA in Psychology)

    Director of Community Relations at SECU Family House in Winston-Salem, NC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Lisa Northrop headshot

    I’m the Director of Community Relations at a local hospital hospitality house. We provide affordable lodging in a caring environment for adult patients and their families who travel to Winston Salem for medical treatment. Essentially a non-profit hotel. Part of my job is to manage our 75 volunteers, and the other part is to manage the communications – website, emails, newsletters, etc. Also, as a non-profit, a key component in my job is fundraising! As the end of the year approaches, I’m currently finishing up a year end fundraising appeal letter, recruiting volunteers for our holiday fundraising initiative, and planning the digital components to our year end fundraising campaign.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    Making new friends is difficult when you’re not surrounded by people your age who are all heading toward the same goal. You also don’t live together in a dorm anymore! I’ve learned to be intentional about developing these relationships – to have open, friendly body language, initiate activities, and take advantage of what my city has to offer. Not the easiest thing to do being an introvert, but worthwhile.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    First of all, your company and workplace culture has a lot to do in setting the tone. Consider that as you are job searching. I’m lucky enough to work for an organization that encourages a healthy work/life balance so I don’t feel guilty during “my” time. For me, routines work best, so joining a gym that had a set class schedule, and setting up my bank account to auto-draft money into savings were the first two things that I did. Start to explore hobbies and ways to de-stress now so know what to turn to when you get bored. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself checking your work email (don’t put it on your phone!) and working. Also, go ahead and start that retirement fund today!

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I’m serving on the Board of Directors for two local non-profits, and I’m also a member of a couple of professional organizations (one for volunteer administrators and one for fundraising professionals). I’ve found other friends through various volunteer activities, my gym, and roommates. It truly is all about who you know!

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

    Be a sponge and learn everything that you can and talk to everyone that you can. Don’t think that anything is beneath you right now and have a good attitude in tackling the challenges and not-so-fun parts of the job…you never know when you might apply what you learn in the future.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    To be perfectly honest, I’m happy where I’m at in my career right now, so currently my future goals and plans are focused more on personal growth and wellness. I’m working on building intentional, strong relationships with family and friends and big financial steps, such as purchasing my house this past spring and navigating home ownership.

    Story published in October 2017. For current updates about Lisa, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Maggie Cancelosi (’13)

    Maggie Cancelosi (2013 BA in Communications)

    Account Supervisor at Edelman in New York, NY

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Maggie Cancelosi head shot

    I’m an Account Supervisor in the Brand practice at Edelman, a global communications marketing firm. In my role, I’m responsible for crafting earned media relations strategies across retail, food, active lifestyle and consumer packaged goods clients. My day-to-day routine can range from overseeing a brand campaign launch to coordinating a spokesperson press day, and I value the opportunity to be constantly engaged with colleagues, clients, media, influencers and other key stakeholders.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    My passion for communication was ignited at Wake Forest, where lectures in classes like Media Ethics, Public Speaking, Communication and Technology and Sports, Media and Communication have been transferable to my professional life. My affinity for sports also played a key role in leading me into the industry, where internship opportunities in the communications department at the Wake Forest Athletic Department, IMG College and the NFL provided me with the experience and path forward to pursue a career in communications marketing upon graduation.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    Learning on the job! From “what’s the proper email etiquette when reaching out to a reporter?,” to “how can I manage up to share that I may not make this deadline?,” it involves so much patience and yes, maybe even a few minor errors, but the mastery will come with time and experience.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Everyone is charting their own path as they enter their new jobs in perhaps new cities or countries, and it’s easy to become comparative (thanks, social media)! When getting settled into your new routine after college, focus on the schedule that works best for you to find a healthy work/life balance, whether that’s blocking off one night of the work week that’s just for you, or making time to get to know your work colleagues by coordinating an after-work yoga outing.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    It has been fantastic to see the Wake Forest Alumni Group in NYC continue to thrive from game watches to volunteer opportunities. At work, I’ve had the privilege of fostering relationships with senior leaders, mentors and managers who have served as advocates and sources of encouragement, and I have found that to be a critical part of my professional growth. I hope to be able to pay it forward one day!

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    Mentorship is part of Wake Forest’s DNA. We’re the kind of community that wants to bring out the best in one another, so whether a professor in the Communication Department provided guidance in office hours, or a counselor in the OCPD coordinated a mock interview, I felt so supported to pursue opportunities that have led me to my career in communications marketing.

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

    Raise your hand (without over-committing yourself). It’s great to show an investment in your company with an eagerness to learn more. It goes a long way with senior leadership when they see someone’s excitement to be a part of the team, but it’s equally important to understand your own workload so that you’re appropriately managing your time and the team’s expectations. Also, be confident that the constant multi-tasking at Wake Forest was worth it, because it pays off big time in the “real world.”

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    One of the reasons why I’m so passionate about my job is that the communications marketing space is constantly evolving, and the increased necessity to be able to forecast trends and offer best in class solutions for clients offers an exciting challenge.

    Story published in October 2017. For current updates about Maggie, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Brooke Thomas (’12)

    Brooke Thomas (2012 BA in Communications)

    Director of Basketball Operations-Women’s Basketball Team at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    I’m the Director of Basketball Operations for Wake Forest University Women’s Basketball Team. It’s a dream job. I am responsible for the day to day logistics behind the scenes of the Women’s basketball program. I’m working on something different every day. Actually it seems like every hour. A few things I’m working on right now is finalizing our travel arrangements for conference play beginning in January. I’m also working on planning an alumni weekend for all of our former women’s basketball players that will be January 3rd and 4th (shameless plug!). Tonight, I’ll go to the William G. White, Jr. Family YMCA with the players. They’ve done an awesome job of giving back and volunteering their talents to help coach during YMCA basketball clinics. I’m so proud of these young ladies. It’s really an awesome team to work with.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    Previously, I was a web content reporter for Fox Sports Florida for a little over three years. I loved the experience. It definitely solidified the fact that I want to be working in sports. Last year, I worked for Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Edgewater High School in Orlando, Florida. It was a life changing experience. I was a mentor, a life coach, a team chaplain, “a little bit of everything” for high school students at my alma mater. Working for FCA led right into this job where I have a very similar role when you take away all the logistics I’m responsible for now. At the core, I’d say the mentoring and relationship building with the young ladies has been my favorite part of the job.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    The most challenging part of my first real world job was finding my strengths finding where I fit in, and understanding what I could add to the team that no one else could. As a former basketball player, I always knew how my strengths and skill sets helped the team. In the “real world,” managers and bosses aren’t always as intentional about pulling out the strengths in their employees as coaches might be with their players. It was an adjustment at first to find my fit. The lesson I learned is to always be committed to personal career development. Yes, you have to master your job first. But, I don’t think you have to settle for just doing only what your boss asks you to do. Or only what’s on your job description. If I have to go to work everyday, I don’t want to just go, I want to grow.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Life after college is funny. I’m still figuring it out! I think in some ways I’ll always be growing, changing, and laughing at myself. My biggest advice is to realize that your biggest asset in life is your relationships. Make time for people. Invest in people. In my first job, I got so caught in “being successful” I had no work/life balance. A good friend of mine once told me a good relationship balance is to find three groups of people in your life. People that pour into you (mentors, parents), people that walk with you (peers, siblings, partners), and people you pour into (someone you are mentoring). People are the currency of life.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I’ve built personal relationships by volunteering and by joining a church. Although I’ve never joined an intramural team, many of my friends have found great friendships by joining these kinds of teams! I’ve built professional relationships very casually. If it’s someone I want to get to know who works in the same building as me, I love just popping into their office and saying hello. I think my general rule in professional networking is out of sight, out of mind. I want to give a hello, send a text or email, go to lunch, or just make some type of touch at least once a month.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    I’ve been mentored by SO MANY PEOPLE at Wake Forest. In general, I have been so blessed to have many amazing mentors in life. It would take too long to single out every impactful relationship in my life. So I’ll just comment on the impact mentorship has had on me as a whole. I believe mentorship has expanded my thinking, corrected and challenged my insecurities, affirmed and enhanced my strengths. Mentorship has made all the difference in my life. I can’t even imagine where I would be if it wasn’t for the people who have and still are shaping me and pouring into me.

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

    My advice – hard works always pays off. It’s the rule of farming: you reap what you sow. Don’t cut corners. Don’t let your feelings dictate your work ethic. Working hard and treating people well will always always pay off in the end.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I think this question is always hanging over a recent graduate’s head (I still consider myself a recent graduate!). If I’m being honest, I can’t exactly pinpoint what my career will be in the future. I do have the desire to host a talk show one day. I also know that I would like to continue in college athletics. I wouldn’t call these desires goals though. I like to set input goals, not outcome goals. No matter what my job is, my career goals will always be about what I’m putting into the job – working hard, loving people, and growing personally. I’ve learned to trust that my career, just like my life, is a process. I have to trust the process and enjoy the journey. I am definitely enjoying this part of the journey – back at Mother So Dear, in a sport I love, working with amazing people.

    Story published in December 2017. For current updates about Brooke, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Fahim Gulamali (’14)

    Fahim Gulamali (2014 BA in Religious Studies and Anthropology)

    Assistant Director of Social Justice Education and Programming in the Pro Humanitate Institute at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Fahim Gulamali headshot

    As Assistant Director in the Democratic Engagement and Justice Programs area in the Pro Humanitate Institute, my main responsibilities include: managing our Social Justice Incubator space, a student-led incubator space dedicated to advancing social justice through education, programming, and large-scale events; manage Deacon Camp, a three and a half day pre-orientation program that introduced 70 first-year students to Wake Forest University’s traditions and legacies; manage the Wake Alternative Spring Break program; plan a yearly banquet that recognize students, faculty, and staff accomplishments related to service and social action; design and lead social justice training sessions; and manage the institute’s graduate assistant.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    After graduating from Wake Forest, I was determined to work at an organization that centered and empowered LGBTQ individuals and/or women. A couple of months after graduating, I landed a job as a Program Coordinator for the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) in Washington, DC. PLEN is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., with the sole focus of preparing college women for leadership in the public policy arena. In this role, I designed content for and lead seven seminars; served as the primary point of contact for students, speakers, and volunteers participating in a seminar; moderated panel discussions; managed PLEN’s website and social media platform; and managed PLEN volunteers and campus student leaders.

    I was also part of a feminist book club. ☺

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    The most challenging aspect of my first “real world job” was learning that I didn’t have to say yes to everything. At the time, I was living in Washington, DC, and there were always so many amazing things happening. I was also meeting new people, and was really excited to spend time with everyone. I quickly realized, however, that I was starting to burn out. My lesson from these “yes” experiences is that it is okay to say no sometimes, because there will always be another event I can attend, or another time that I can connect with individuals.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Upon (or before) graduation, make a list of the small things you do to take care of yourself. And then carry this list out as you start your careers, because the first couple of months after graduation may be difficult emotionally, physically, and mentally.

    For example, mindfulness practice and going to the gym were at the top of the list for me. When I was stressed about work or moving to a new environment, I was able to ground myself in being mindful and going to the gym everyday.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    Authenticity. It is so important to be yourself, because building personal and professional relationships is about shared values. I have developed a number of personal and professional relationships with individuals in Winston-Salem which I truly value because we began our relationships from a place of authenticity.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    My mentors at Wake Forest have shown me the importance of vulnerability in relationships. They have shown me that any relationship requires work, and that in order to grow, we need to hold each other accountable to be the best versions of ourselves. It is because of my mentors at Wake Forest that I have grown in my personal and professional relationships.

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

    My favorite Muslim poet and philosopher Jalaluddin Rumi once said “Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.” Graduating can invoke a variety of conflicting emotions because many individuals are uncomfortable with the unknown. My advice to young alumni and students is that being uncomfortable is okay. Allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable will push you to explore new places, make new friends, and learn from your professional jobs from a place of empowerment rather than fear.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I am in the process of applying to law school! In an ideal world, I would practice public interest law at the intersections of social justice, law, and Islam. I took the LSAT a couple of months ago, which required (a ton of) studying every night after work. I am now in the process of finishing up my personal statement with plans to submit my first application in the next two weeks!

    Story published in December 2018. For current updates about Fahim, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Colleen Somich (’07)

    Colleen Somich (2007 BA in Psychology)

    Head of Training America at Ruth Miskin Literacy in New York, NY

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Collen Somich headshot

    As Head of Training America for Ruth Miskin Literacy Inc, I help students – get reading and keep loving reading.

    Did you know the US has one of the lowest literacy rates in the developed world? 34% of fourth graders cannot read and 68% are less than proficient according to the Nation’s Report Card. In the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls) the US is ranked 16th internationally. As an educator, I find these numbers to be shocking. As a former teacher and school leader, I know these are not just numbers, they are students, students with names, hopes, and dreams.

    After starting my career as a Teach For America corps member in North Saint Louis and serving as a Dean in Brooklyn, I moved to London to help lead a new school in a low income area. I was amazed at how many children there could read. I was introduced to a different approach; when taught effectively, this approach gets 90% of 6 year olds meeting or exceeding literacy expectations. In fact, in England, only 5% of children leave primary school not yet reading on grade level. Motivated to learn how to teach every child to read by 6, I attended a Ruth Miskin training for Read Write Inc, a program taught in 25% of schools in the UK. Inspired by the experience, I joined the Ruth Miskin Training team.

    Since, I’ve supported hundreds of schools in Australia, England, Scotland, Mexico, and the UAE. Seeing the training and program’s impact made me determined to bring Read Write Inc to the United States. Now, I empower children, parents, teachers, and school leaders through training and support, working toward systemic change and solving our literacy crisis.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    I’ve had a lifelong love affair with books. I also wake up in the morning with a purpose. Combining my love of books with a mission for getting more children reading and loving it, allows me to say, ‘I love my job.’

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    My most challenging aspect of teaching first grade as a Teach For America corps member was learning – no one has all the answers. From birth to graduating from Wake Forest, I was lucky to have excellent role models, teachers, and mentors. As a student, you are handed syllabi that outline your assessments, readings, and due dates. You have people waiting on campus to help you with career choices, office hours, and social events. In the ‘real world’ there is not always a clear path or one person to turn to for all the answers. I quickly learned to ask tons of questions, trust my gut, and to take more risks.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    What type of life do you see yourself living in 10, 20, 50 years from now? If you haven’t already, start aligning the choices you make today to your future goals…you won’t regret it. I heard somewhere that your adult habits are shaped during your early twenties. True or not, I took this to heart. Since graduating Wake, I’ve learned to align my time to my values. I’d say I’ve lived a ‘life rich’ life in the past 10 years: a loving marriage (with a Demon Deacon), family I call friends, friends I call family, 30 countries traveled, a fulfilling job, and a dog (@lincdoggydogg).

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    ‘Change happens at the speed of trust.’ – Stephen Covey

    I try to make personal connections, show genuine interest in others and share my purest intentions in order to build strong relationships in any community.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    I grew up next to my life mentor, Jim Hardeman. He is one of the first African Americans to attend Harvard. Jim marched with MLK Jr. and advised the White House in the 90s. (He is also a BC alum/ professor and we’ve had fun talking trash since they joined the ACC.)

    Growing up next door to Jim, I’d always ask questions about his life experiences, the pictures with Oprah and Bill Clinon on his walls, and books he was reading or writing. Since age 13, I remember hearing about Jim’s social justice work with the aboriginal communities in Australia. So, when I was given the chance to support the Department of Education in the Northern Territories (NT) of Australia, I jumped. Inspired by Jim’s work that supported the aboriginals’ unique context and community, I took his teachings and applied it to my work almost 20 years later. I’ve trained close to 200 teachers in the NT and they are now experiencing the highest level of literacy engagement they have ever seen. You can read more here: https://blog.oup.com.au/2017/09/06/consistency-and-community-key-in-indigenous-literacy-qa-with-shirley-davey/

    Jim’s servant leadership, love, and determination has been humbling to witness and makes me proud to call him my neighbor.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    My goal is to get children reading and keep them loving reading by age six in the US. Every day, I am looking to partner with more parents, schools and districts to achieve this goal. Email me if you’d like to help.

    Story published in December 2018. For current updates about Colleen, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Kelly Smith (’86)

    Kelly Smith (1986 BS in Accountancy)

    Senior VP, CFO at Replacements, Ltd. in Greensboro, NC

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Kelly Smith head shot
    Kelly Smith (’86)

    In addition to typical financial duties, I also have responsibility for Human Resources, Benefits, Continuous Improvement, Safety & Security, and Facilities. I also manage the personal estate of the owner of the company.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    My first job was in public accounting where I was worked in the “small business” group. After that positive experience, I sought out a financial role in a small company where the work I did made a direct, tangible difference to customers and employees.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    As a retail company, Replacements has experienced a lot in the last 23 years I’ve been here including: rapid growth in the early years, the advent of the internet, the recession of 2008, and slowed growth in the recovery. It’s challenging to constantly adapt our business model to the rapidly changing face of retail.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and challenge of finally working after years in school. Be sure to set common sense goals and stick to them – just like you did in college. Even though it will be difficult, manage your personal finances early – the discipline will pay strong dividends in the long run. And don’t neglect your personal life for your career. Balance can be achieved; and if you’re in a job where that’s not possible in the long term, you probably should be looking for another job. And decide where you can make a positive difference in the community…and make that difference.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    Having the opportunity to meet people will come relatively easily. I tried to follow this advice: take every single opportunity you can and then exercise good follow-up and maintenance of the relationships you make; just be sure to make the relationship genuine and not directed solely for the benefit of your career.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    I have definitely benefited from good mentors. I mustered the courage to leave public accounting because a mentor who had moved on to private industry believed I could make a difference in his company. Even now, I am mentored by some great professionals/philanthropists/community activists who I learn from every day. I have also had the opportunity to mentor young professionals at WFU and elsewhere, and find I benefit greatly from these relationships as well.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    Make sure you are right for the field – accounting & finance require a specific mindset/skillset (as do other fields). Then, do your best to steer your career towards a job that’s with a company (1) you admire and want to be a part of, and (2) is in an industry to enjoy. Everyone says it, but enjoying what you do every day goes a long way toward both happiness and success.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    I am fortunate to have been at Replacements for more than 23 years. I am proud to say that when the time is right, I’ll retire from this great company. Until then, I want to keep getting better – as a person, as a father, as a professional, as a community member.

    Story published in January 2018. For current updates about Kelly, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Andie Vaughn (’09)

    Andie Vaughn (2009 BA in History)

    Program Analyst at United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington, DC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Andie Vaughn head shot

    I work in USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning in the Office of Development Cooperation. Our office strengthens USAID’s partnerships with bilateral donors and emerging economies as well as engages with multilateral organizations and institutions on issues affecting U.S. national security, and collects and reports official development assistance statistics on behalf of the U.S. Government. I specifically focus on international data standards, ensuring USAID transparently provides data each quarter in accordance with international commitments and laws. Internally, I help ensure that the Agency’s data is available for both internal decision makers and other stakeholders while also working with USAID missions around the world on how to best protect data and individuals in sensitive locations. Externally, I work with other donor organizations and USAID partner countries to make sure the data we are providing is useful and meets the international community’s needs.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    Prior to joining USAID, I spent two years teaching overseas, first in Seoul, South Korea and then in Istanbul, Turkey. I was fortunate to be able to travel through Southeast and East Asia as well as parts of Turkey and the Middle East. I knew then that when I came back to the US I wanted to work in international development and deliver positive impact to some of the places I traveled. Interestingly, I never had an intention to work in government or international development, but I am very happy with how those experiences shaped my career path.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    With teaching abroad, there were obvious challenges from working with people of other cultures and languages on a daily basis. Sometimes even simple tasks made me feel silly or would take an excessively long time. There were a lot of situations I found myself in that were pretty humbling. Particularly when I was in Seoul, my colleagues and co-teachers could not have made me feel more welcome and I was constantly overwhelmed by how kind they were to me. One coworker even translated the entirety of the user manual for my new microwave from Korean to English! I learned that kindness goes a long way in the workplace, and that no matter where you are, what role you are in, or where you are on the career ladder, being welcoming, kind, and creating a work culture around you that is supportive cannot be underestimated.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    New graduates are in the perfect position to create unique opportunities and take risks. When I moved to Korea to teach following graduation, it wasn’t the best career decision from a financial perspective. It did however, end up being one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for all the best financial habits I could have cultivated at graduation. Everything is a balance, but the first few years following graduation are the perfect time to explore, take chances, and figure things out. You don’t have to have perfect habits on day one of your post-college life, and that is okay – there is a lot of time to sweat the boring stuff later. The only caveats I might add is to keep an eye on where you eventually want to end up, and treat those risks and chances as learning experiences. As well, you’ll thank yourself later if you open a retirement account (somewhere my Dad is patting himself on the back as he reads this).

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    The DC area is full of Wake alumni, including a group of some of my best friends from Wake who made my transition to DC easy. I am also fortunate to work with an amazing group of empowered female coworkers that I now can call friends. As we’ve all moved around to different roles at USAID, it has been really helpful to have a sounding board of supportive colleagues. I try and attend alumni events, such as Global Deacs events, and I enjoy volunteering as a mentor with a youth organization in the DC area where I’ve enjoyed getting to know other mentors. It is easy to be complacent on relationship building when you find yourself in a city with an existing network, but your network can never be too big and building relationships is never finished.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    I have not been mentored, but I do work with a few other alumni and parents of students or recent alumni. Even though I would not consider these mentoring relationships, it is always fun to talk about Wake Forest sports in the hallway or hear a ‘Go Deacs!’ when you wear a Wake Forest shirt to the USAID gym. The close-knit Wake Forest community extends far beyond Winston-Salem, and I enjoy having that community in the workplace as well.

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

    A great piece of advice I received a few years ago went something like “you can’t really make a wrong decision on your career path at an early stage in your career.” It’s really easy to fret over wanting to focus on a specific thing and miss the big picture of how skills transfer, the importance of building a community and network, and that even the best laid plans might not work out or even be what you end up enjoying. Maybe you end up only tangentially close to your dream job to start out, but if you look at every opportunity as a place to build skills and learn, with some patience and cheer, moving around (and up) will happen. Take every opportunity you are afforded – even if it isn’t one you want, figure out what you can learn from it, and take advantage of all of the skills building and training you can, and look at each step of your job or career as part of a larger process and not the end goal.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I enjoy my day to day at USAID. I plan to continue building my career at the Agency and become more technical to identify new use-cases for USAID data to further international development. This means ensuring that vital pieces of information are available to partner country governments, civil society organizations, and others who need it to improve their work. My passion for the day to day, and the mission of USAID make it an exciting place to work.

    Story published in December 2017. For current updates about Andie, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Stephen Russell (’88)

    Stephen T. Russell (1988 BA in Sociology)

    Regents Professor of Child Development and Chair of the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at University of Texas at Austin in Austin, TX

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Stephen Russell Head shot
    Stephen Russell (’88)

    I chair the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at UT Austin, and teach undergraduate and graduate students in courses that focus on adolescent development and health, and human sexuality. I conduct research on these topics with special focus on LGBTQ youth and adult health and well-being.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    I conducted some of the first studies of LGBTQ youth health during a time when it was very risky professionally (1990s). Those studies are now considered foundational for understanding LGBTQ youth, and ultimately provided a grounding for my program of research and teaching. I feel very fortunate: I took some significant professional risks, but also had significant privilege to be able to do so. Also, frankly, I had few mentors, but when I started I quickly learned that there were so many LGBTQ (and more recently, allies) university students who were extremely motivated to work with me. Mentoring young scholars has been among the most rewarding aspect of my career – something I had not anticipated.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    Regarding, research, it has been a challenge to conduct highest quality social science research on a topic that has been marginalized – both scientifically / methodologically (e.g., only recently has there been systematic efforts to include LGBTQ measures in large-scale surveys), and also politically / institutionally (e.g., having research funding allocated to study marginalized populations). And then there are lots of management challenges associated with academic administration and leadership!

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    I always avoid answering this question: I have awful work/life balance, and am not a model for that. What I hope is that Wake Forest provides the context for its students to find the things that motivate them. That is what it did for me. Combining the extraordinary privilege of a WFU degree with ones passion – hopefully that can be the basis for values and focus after which finances and work and life can be created…

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    It takes a lot more time to be emotionally intelligent than transactional in human interactions. The careful email, phone call, and thoughtful comment establish your personality and credibility in ways that accelerate your intellectual contribution. My biggest advice is to rigorously prioritize emotional intelligence (including kindness) in interactions with others.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    I mentioned that I had few mentors in the early part of my career. I learned a lot from several bosses (university deans) in my mid career period – about management (both good and bad models!). But the most important mentoring relationships I have had have been with my graduate students and postdocs. I always feel that I learn as much as they claim to – and they are life-long colleagues and friends.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    People interested in academic careers are often necessarily focused on research skills and productivity. That is crucial – but young scholars who stand out are those who have a clear sense of their potential contributions to the academy in addition to research expertise. What is your academic passion for teaching? For leadership? For diversity and inclusion? For community service? Graduate training will force a narrow accumulation of research expertise – which it must do. But don’t forget the other components that make for a rich experience as an academic – these are the things that will help you share your academic identity with others.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    Honestly – I’m happy where I am. I work too much, and look forward to eventually “just” being a professor (no longer being department chair). I have thought about higher levels of administration, but I realize that I am passionate about my research and about teaching.

    Story published in January 2018. For current updates about Stephen, visit his website.

  • Margaret Miles (’13)

    Margaret Miles (2013 BA in Psychology)

    Assistant Manager, Global Digital Marketing at Stuart Weitzman in New York, NY

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Margaret Miles head shot

    Stuart Weitzman is built upon the philosophy of creating a beautifully constructed shoe that combines form and function. For more than 30 years, the brand has been dedicated to perfection: every pair is handcrafted using the finest materials and is meticulously engineered to achieve a flawless fit. Stuart Weitzman has become one of the most recognizable names in footwear and is celebrated for melding unparalleled luxury, uncompromising craftsmanship and unrivaled style.

    In my current position I’m responsible for coordinating the necessary creative and technical components of Stuart Weitzman’s global (US, CA, EU, APAC) paid, digital marketing initiatives. On any given day this encompasses strategizing, organizing and executing projects in the paid search, display and paid social spaces. I develop channel-specific audience engagement strategies to nurture our existing brand-customer relationships, work with the creative team to concept lifestyle placements and act as the direct touch-point for our digital agencies who oversee the tactical execution of all placements.

    With Fashion Week right around the corner, I’m currently preparing my channels for our upcoming Spring/Summer 2018 campaign launch.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    In my previous position as an Account Executive and Digital Marketing Specialist for CCL Branding, I managed Hanes Branded Printwear’s print and digital brand-building initiatives. While in undergrad, I held fashion internships in the fields of visual merchandising (C.Wonder, accessories department), editorial content creation (CollegeFashionista.com, weekly columnist) and PR/Social (MullenLowe U.S., HanesBrands.) I am a Google AdWords certified partner and am proficient in Google Analytics, SEO, HTML and Adobe Creative Suite.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    Adjusting to an eight hour work day! As someone who’s struggled with ADHD for their entire adult life, remaining engaged with tasks for an extended period of time has always been a challenge. Working at a mid-size advertising agency gave me the flexibility I wanted to work on a variety of short-term, creative projects and structured support I needed to keep me accountable for my workload.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    (1) The internet is your best friend. There are going to be an enormous number of new tasks you’ll become responsible for post-graduation like choosing a healthcare plan, enrolling in a 401k, building a manageable budget, etc. Lean on the digital resources (Reddit is a treasure trove of information, but remain wary of advice that sounds too good to be true) available to help navigate these new challenges and create a financial/health plan you’re comfortable with.

    (2) Always check with HR to see what benefits your company offers outside of vacation and sick time! You may be eligible for a subsidized gym membership or discount on tech products.

    (3) Get enough sleep. Seriously, I’m just learning this at 27. Get enough sleep.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    Personally, by taking advantage of low-key networking events and getting involved with the NYC volunteer community. It feels a lot less daunting to attend an existing office happy hour than it does to try and develop plans of your own with new coworkers! I’m not embarrassed to say I’ve also dabbled in “Bumble BFF” to expand my brunch crew. Professionally, by saying yes to development opportunities when they present themselves. At my last job, I learned the Google AdWords program because our partners wanted to take client SEM work in-house. They asked who might be interested in a new responsibility and I jumped at the chance. Three years later, paid search is one my primary job functions and I’m very grateful I said yes.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    My manager (our director of global digital marketing) has been as an incredible resource and mentor to me during my time at Stuart. Having the opportunity to work under an ambitious and supportive woman in the field I’ve always dreamed of building my career in still feels a little surreal. While interviewing, ask as many questions as you feel is appropriate of the people you’ll be reporting to. The right manager-employee relationship can serve as an amazing professional resource.

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

    Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help if you need it, but always do your best to answer the question at hand before reaching out for additional assistance. It might sound silly, but googling, using your best judgment and looking for “context clues” you have access to in files, emails etc. can really go far! Your coworkers and manager will trust that you can handle things on your own and will appreciate not being bothered with questions that, in retrospect, could have been answered without interrupting their work flow.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    Last year, while interested in my job but not passionate about it, I began planning my transition from advertising to fashion. With relevant experience, but no connection to the industry, I hustled my way (“I’m not currently located in NYC, would a first-round phone interview be workable for your team? Sure thing, I’d be happy to complete a project in the next 24 hours to prove my skill set”) into a series of interviews with seven companies that led to my current role. Don’t be afraid to reach out to companies you love, even and especially if, you feel it’s a long shot. My current position began with a LinkedIn application… the worst thing that happens is no one ever gets back to you! At 27, it feels like my career has just started and I look forward to continuing to say “yes” and seeing where the road takes me.

    Story published in April 2017. For current updates about Meg, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Austin Belcak (’13)

    Austin Belcak (2013 BS in Biology)

    Partner Manager @ Microsoft | Founder of Cultivated Culture in New York, NY

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Austin Belcak head shot
    Austin Belcak (’13)

    During the day, I work to build and manage partnerships at Microsoft. We partner with advertising agencies that are plugged into the small business space. Microsoft provides marketing, management, and technical resources to help these agencies grow their business and, in return, acquire more Microsoft customers.

    Outside of my 9-5, I founded a company called Cultivated Culture that aims to help people land jobs they love along with salaries they deserve.

    The idea stemmed from the challenges I faced during my transition from graduating with a biology degree and a job in medicine, to working in digital sales at Microsoft. Over the past year I’ve helped people land jobs at Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and more along with $1.5M in combined salary.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    I started my career in medical device sales where my company made the parts used in hip, knee, and shoulder replacement surgeries. I was a “bullpen rep” so it was my job to cover any extra surgical cases across North & South Carolina. That meant a lot of driving (sometimes 1000+ miles per week) and waking up at 3:30am to be at the hospital by 6. I quickly realized it wasn’t for me.

    My next two jobs were in account management at startups in New York City. In addition, I started my own digital advertising “agency” on the side to help me build experience.

    I was able to leverage all of the above to land interviews and offers at Google, Microsoft, and Twitter. I ended up choosing Microsoft and just crossed the 2.5 year mark there.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    There are two that really stand out. First, coming to the realization that traditional job search advice usually doesn’t work. When I wanted to leave medicine and transition into tech, I applied online to over 100 companies and didn’t hear back from a single one.

    Second, dealing with not having enough experience to change industries. When I did get interviews through family or friends, every employer told me I didn’t have enough experience for the job. After starting Cultivated Culture, I’ve learned that this is an incredibly common frustration for people looking to change their career path.

    After hitting the century mark for job applications and not hearing back, I knew something had to change. Albert Einstein says the definition of insanity is doing something repeatedly and expecting a different result.

    I ended up writing down four criteria for what my dream job looked like. The company, where it was located, the salary I wanted to make, and the age I wanted to “make it” by.

    Then I combed through LinkedIn to find people who met those criteria and began reaching out. The conversations taught me two things that totally changed the game:

    1. The best jobs with the highest salaries fill 80% of their positions via referral (not online applications)

    2. If I wanted to be competitive, I needed to have real world experience I could point. That led me to start the digital advertising agency I mentioned above.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    1. Your network truly is your net worth, and you can get in touch with anyone you want (from a hiring manager at Google to Tony Robbins).

    Instead of going to dozens of professional meet ups or happy hours, choose one or two people you want to connect with. Research them, sign up for their newsletters, and look for ways to add value. When you reach out, give and don’t expect something in return right away. Over time, that will come.

    2. Create like no one is watching. We’ve all had that idea for an app, wanted to learn how to code, or got curious about a new interest. When you have that moment, go out and take action. Sign up for an app development class online, learn photography, or start your apparel business.

    That is the best time in your career to experiment and learn what you like/don’t like (both are equally important). Regardless of whether you succeed or fail, the experience you get will be invaluable.

    3. Don’t compare yourself to other people. There’s always going to be someone with more money, more followers, a nicer place, etc. Set your own standards for happiness and progress, then judge yourself against your past results, not other people’s.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I picked a few people that I really admired and focused on building relationships with them. I’d follow them on social media, sign up for a newsletter if they had one, etc. then I’d look for ways to add value.

    It could be as simple as sending an article related to a post they made, recommending a book, introducing them to someone, etc. I made sure my name was at the top of their inbox and on their social profiles a few times each month. Then I’d ask them to catch up for coffee or over the phone.

    That’s helped me build relationships with everyone from people in upper management at Microsoft to Arianna Huffington.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    The Wake alumni network was incredibly helpful when I was looking for jobs. I reached out cold to a lot of people asking for guidance and almost every one welcomed it with open arms.

    I encourage anyone looking to make a career move – be it undergrads or seasoned professionals – to tap into our alumni network. Wake has done a fantastic job of making that accessible and effective.

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

    During your first few months, aim to grab coffee with everyone (from entry level folks to upper management) in a one-on-one setting. If they tell you they’re too busy, wait a day, then go out and buy two coffees and bring it to their desk/office. Ask them:

    – About their role and their day-to-day
    – The one thing they’d love to get from your team that they’re not getting right now
    – What they like to do for fun outside of work

    That will give you all the info and rapport you need to make a big splash.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    At Microsoft, I’m aiming to take the next step up on my team and continue to grow our partnerships so agencies and small businesses have all the tools they need to succeed.

    At Cultivated Culture, my long term goal is to help 100,000 people find jobs they love and get paid what they deserve.

    Every morning I write out my 30 day, 1 year, and 5 year goals. Then I follow that up with 3 things I’m doing that day to get me closer.

    Story published in February 2018. For current updates about Austin, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Alexandra Taft (’11)

    Alexandra Taft (2011 BA in Psychology)

    Enterprise Analyst at A2B Solutions Group in Winston-Salem, NC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Alexandra Taft headshot
    Alexandra Taft (’11)

    I work for a small consulting firm that specializes in the Salesforce CRM platform. We assist our clients – integrating CRM into their current organization and owning ongoing development and support. In my role, I wear many hats – Business Analyst, Project Manager, Technical Architect and Developer. Whatever is required by the client at hand! I love what I do and the variability keeps me constantly learning and on my toes. My current project is assisting Komatsu Mining with integrating an acquired company (Montabert – based in Lyon, France) into their Salesforce CRM.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    My career path has been challenging and varied. After graduation, I actually pursued my dream of being a Professional Equestrian. I spent over a year as the Assistant Trainer on an excellent farm riding clients horses, giving riding lessons, and competing. But then the day came when I realized I was living my dream, but it was no longer what I wanted out of life. It was a hard wake up call. At 22 I started a very transitional period of my life. I took a job as a receptionist in a veterinary clinic to move home. While I was no longer pursuing horses as my career, they were still a big part of my life, and I made ends meet by doing training rides on the side. During that time I began talking to literally everyone I met about what they did for work and what they loved about it. Through these discussions, I was offered my first “career” job as a Human Resources Administrator. The Vice President of HR was a client of mine – I was helping her with her horse at night. The experience exposed me to the operations of a large company and enabled me to make many professional contacts. But through this experience, I also realized that Human Resources was not my calling. So again, I continued talking to everyone I met about their work and career paths. These conversations ultimately led me to my current boss and the rest is history. As the company grows, the needs change, and my role changes right along with it. I love working with clients to solve problems, stream line work processes, and create success!

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    I wish someone had told me that my early 20s were just going to suck. After graduation, I thought I had made it somehow. I was educated. I was out on my own, making my own money, and I was going to win at this thing called life! And then there was this horrible realization that everything is SO expensive, and what you thought was a good salary doesn’t go so far after taxes, and relationships are challenging with busy work schedules and uncertain career paths.

    I took a step back to re-evaluate and then I dove in. I followed sage advice and put myself on a strict budget – saving as much as I could at all costs. I took advantage of the max 401k match right away even though it was painful. I found a way to make time to ride my horses and work off the board to save money. And I continued to follow my intuition. I bought a house at 23. It is very small – 945 square feet to be exact – but I have never been happier living anywhere. When times are hard, I come home to my little piece of heaven (a mortgage I can afford even on the worst months).

    I would never go back to my early 20s. I have let a lot of those false expectations go and found my own way. But I think most importantly, I keep talking to everyone around me young and old – about relationships, work, life expectations and then do my best to find my own truth.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    Any way that I can! I’ve pursued my interests outside of work by joining a masters swim team and continuing to stay involved with horse-riding. I’ve maintain my relationships with former professors and with other Wake alumni. 

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    Yes. I consider myself very fortunate as I have had several mentors. My current boss is the most prominent one, however, and he is constantly pushing me to consider directions I may not have found on my own, providing resources for me to learn and improve, and critiquing my current work so I can do better next time.

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

    Go into your first job planning to do your very best work in that role. Prove yourself by excelling at the tasks at hand, even if they seem insignificant to you. Be ready to learn without judgement from everyone you encounter and follow your intuition when it calls.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I am in the very exciting position of helping grow A2B Solutions Group. I am hoping with time to lead more client projects as well as more of the operational aspects of the company. I am on a path to become the first COO of A2B.

    Story published in February 2018. For current updates about Alexandra, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Michael Warren (’99)

    Michael Warren (1999 BA in Psychology)

    Deputy Commissioner for Population Health at Tennessee Department of Health in Nashville, TN

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Michael Warren Head shot

    I currently serve as the Deputy Commissioner for Population Health with the Tennessee Department of Health. Our Department serves as the state public health agency and we have a mission to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. We are focused on the “Big Four”—factors that are driving Tennessee’s poor health rankings as well as taking years from our lives and lives from our years: physical inactivity, excessive caloric intake, tobacco/nicotine dependence, and other substance use. In public health, much of our work is “upstream,” distinguishing us from traditional health care. Rather than focus on treating you once you are sick, our aim is to prevent disease before it ever happens. Another distinguishing characteristic of our work is that our “patient” is the entire population—so we are always thinking about how the work we do can impact the health and well-being of 6.6 million Tennesseans. Current priority areas for me include thinking about how we make public health data more available and in a more timely fashion to influence programming and policy at all levels (local, state, and national); exploring ways to operationalize and measure the concept of “population health;” and thinking about how we adapt our public health infrastructure to incorporate advances in technology and to meet the population health challenges of our time (which have largely moved from infectious diseases to chronic diseases).

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    As a third year medical student, I was rotating through my pediatrics clerkship and actually had the opportunity to shadow my own pediatrician, Dr. Mac Herring (a Wake Forest medical grad). I remember walking out of an exam room after a particularly challenging visit, and Dr. Herring turned to me and said, “Michael, you have to be an advocate for these children and families. No one else is going to do that.” That advice struck a chord within me and caused me to look more broadly at the opportunities that physicians have to improve health, many of which are outside of the clinic or hospital. In medical school and residency, I was fortunate to have mentors who introduced me to ways that physicians could engage systems to influence health policy. When I finished my residency, I pursued a Master’s in Public Health, during which I completed a public health practicum. I worked alongside one of my mentors in the Tennessee Governor’s Office of Children’s Care Coordination and with colleagues in public health and Medicaid on a variety of issues aimed at improving the health of children and families. Those experiences gave me a better understanding of how to navigate the state government and health policy landscape, and in 2010, I was fortunate to join the Tennessee Department of Health as Director of Maternal and Child Health. Over the next few years, I assumed additional responsibility for efforts related to chronic disease prevention and health promotion, and most recently I was appointed as Deputy Commissioner for Population Health.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    One of the most challenging aspects of this work is a relative lack of resources. While we devote a tremendous amount of resources to health care in this country, the amount that we pay for public health and primary prevention services pales in comparison. So there never seems to be enough money to do what we truly need to do. And yet there are still ways to get things done. I think back to my WFU days and community work through the Volunteer Service Corps—we formed partnerships with folks who had resources to help us accomplish a goal. In the same way, our teams work every day with partners across the health spectrum to combine our efforts in pursuit of a common mission. Another very real challenge is thinking about how to communicate science, especially when those messages are nuanced, to a broad variety of audiences. Because I work in a government setting, there is often mistrust about what we are saying and why we are saying it. I have been fortunate to have strong mentors who have constantly reminded me that it is important to engage folks—even if they disagree with you—and work to find the places where you agree and work from there. Understanding their concerns and, where possible, addressing those as you formulate a response—can be incredibly powerful. That engagement builds trust, and even if you don’t ultimately convince others to see the world exactly as you do, they may be able to better understand your perspective (and vice versa).

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    I’m probably not the best person to give advice on work/life balance, although I’m trying to get better! I think it is very important to find those things that help keep you grounded, and make those a priority. Whether it’s time with a significant other, or a particular hobby, or being active, make explicit time for that. I remember thinking that early on in my career that I needed to put all of my effort into my work and then make time later for all those “nice-to-do” things that help keep me grounded. While well-intentioned, that pace is absolutely not sustainable (at least not with any desire of maintaining your health or meaningful relationships with others), and it is hard to find time “later” once the schedule is completely booked. Build in time for you (and your loved ones) early on, and make it a priority. That may mean deliberately blocking your calendar for those things. Don’t believe people when they say that you will find time to “work it in” later!

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    One of my favorite leadership books is “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. In that book, Lencioni describes how teams can work together to achieve success. At the root of those efforts is trust, which creates an environment where individuals feel comfortable sharing their ideas and their emotions. When that is able to happen, a group of people can have “healthy conflict” and commit to an idea based on the “wisdom of the group” rather than one individual. Those ideas are almost always better than the one that any single one of us originally had. On the teams with which I work, I try to create that environment where individuals feel comfortable and empowered to share their ideas.

    I also like to think about all the stakeholders that are involved in a particular issue and be sure that they are engaged. That is rooted in a dual desire to 1) get their input so that we can end up with a better product (see above), and 2) to identify what resources we each might bring to bear to address a challenging issue (in a time when resources are usually limited).

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    I’ve been fortunate to have strong mentors throughout my life. At Wake Forest, my undergraduate adviser was Dr. Christy Buchanan in the Department of Psychology. I learned so many things from Dr. B—not the least of which was how to write well. I have a mug on my desk that says “I’m silently correcting your grammar” that is a testament to my time in her courses. (If she’s reading this, I hope that I don’t make any mistakes!) More importantly, she exposed me to key concepts in developmental psychology that I still use today. Another mentor in Psychology was my honors advisor, Dr. Debbie Best. Debbie always seemed to be able to have a sense of where I was going or could be going (even when I didn’t) and encouraged me to think beyond my first plan for myself and explore what really made me happy, both professionally and personally. During residency, I was exposed to pediatricians who helped to shape my path. Dr. Veronica Gunn helped to show me career path options outside of those that are typical, and Dr. Rebecca Swan helped me to carve out learning experiences during residency that would help prepare me for this somewhat unique career path for a pediatrician. Once I moved to public health, I was fortunate to have a series of supervisors and colleagues who have continued to mentor me. Dr. David Reagan taught me the value of staying in a position 5-7 years “so that you can learn to live with the decisions that you make,” one of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given. Each of these mentors, along with others, has helped me to ask the difficult questions needed to clarify my path and have been the source of invaluable “cheerleading” all along the way.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    First, the kinds of things that make you successful at Wake Forest—discipline, intellectual curiosity, and integrity—will absolutely make you successful once you leave. The hours can be long and the days can sometimes be frustrating, but when you look back after a few months, or a few years, you realize that you’ve been able to “move the needle” on issues that will ultimately make the population healthier. Doing that work with integrity, especially if you are in the public sector, will help you avoid distractions that can derail even your best efforts.

    Another bit of advice would be to always be willing to work across disciplines and with people who have differing viewpoints. In very few circumstances will you be able to succeed by only working with people who think in the same “bubble” as you. Exploring the diversity of opinions around an issue and involving others early on in the process will assure that you come up with solutions that are much better than you could have devised on your own.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    I was in my previous public health role for about five years before moving into this current role two years ago. So I’m following the advice of one of my mentors and thinking about what lessons I learned from my successes (and more importantly my failures) in the last five years and applying those lessons in this current role. I do miss clinical pediatrics, and I am currently working on some opportunities to build back in a little bit of clinical time to help keep me grounded (and because who doesn’t want to make toddlers laugh!). I really do love the work I am doing currently and the new challenges that come each day. I don’t have any moves planned in the short term—I would hope that future roles would continue to satisfy my calling to serve and to do so in the context of improving the health and well-being of populations.

    Story published in March 2018. For current updates about Michael, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Janna Raley (’13)

    Janna Raley (2013 BA in Economics)

    Program Manager at Amazon in Seattle, WA

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Janna Raley Head shot

    I work for Amazon on a team that designs scalable solutions to ensure the product quality of every order meets expectations. Personally, I work with software engineers to make sure new tools are designed in a way that solves for the correct business objectives. I also help identify gaps in current processes and prioritize technical and programmatic solutions. I love working in the product quality space because I really feel like we are helping our customers!

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    This is my third job since graduating from college and all have been widely different. I first worked as a research associate at a small consulting firm before doing sales operations and strategy for Google Cloud. Most recently, I moved to Amazon to help ensure high product quality and outstanding customer experiences. Through these experiences, I was incredibly fortunate to have enormous opportunities to learn new professional skills. At the time, I was not sure where each opportunity would take me, but everything I learned has contributed to my personal and professional development. Each job has given me a unique perspective and helped me become a more versatile employee.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Right after college, it can be hard to balance all the new responsibilities– particularly if you are in a new city. The good news is, you don’t have to have it all figured out at once. Focus on settling in to your new job and then work on putting the rest of the pieces into place over time. Finding the right work/life balance takes constant effort and you’ll likely swing too far in one direction or the other multiple times until you find a pattern that works for you. Oh, and save as much money as you can! You really won’t regret that.

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

    Some people have a clear career path. If that is you, then by all means, go for it! However, for all the people who don’t know what they want to “do with their lives”, that’s okay too! When I graduated from college, I had no clue that jobs like I have today even existed. I’m glad I said “yes” to every opportunity and worked my hardest every day. My advice is just keep learning because you have no idea where it might take you.

    Story published in June 2018. For current updates about Janna, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Joe Zaccaria (’10)

    Joe Zaccaria (2010 BS in Health and Exercise Science)

    Vice President at EY-Parthenon in Boston, MA

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Head shot of Joe Zaccaria
    Joe Zaccaria (’10)

    In my role, I manage complex strategy projects for clients within the Life Sciences, Healthcare, and Consumer Health industries. Projects range from launch strategy (i.e. which customers/physicians should we target), growth strategy (which new countries/regions should we enter), and transaction strategy (which products/companies should we acquire). In my role, I manage a team of Consultants and Analysts to create an independent point of view to help companies grow and deliver innovative products to market to improve the lives of patients and consumers worldwide.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    During my undergrad experience at Wake Forest, I was a science major through and through. I was pre-med, an anatomy T.A. for Dr. Marsh, and worked two research-based summer internships in Winston Salem for Dr. King in Chemistry and Dr. Miller in HES. I love science and medicine, but realized I didn’t want to practice or pursue a PhD. I realized I wanted to explore a career that blended business and science and allowed me to focus on problem-solving and analytics, and so I pursued opportunities in consulting. I took a job out of Wake Forest as an Analyst at a small life sciences consulting group in Boston, and have moved around the industry since then.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    After an academic career in science, the transition to business was challenging. I had never analyzed P&Ls, built forecasting models, or analyzed company growth strategies. But Wake’s small classroom experience and focus on teamwork led me to learn from my peers and managers to pick things up quickly.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Keep asking questions! When you come out of undergrad, you might think you know what you want to do, but you definitely don’t know all of the potential options and outlets that exist. Continuing to develop your professional network and really understand all of the potential options is necessary. Also – it’s incredibly important to focus on your health. Making time for exercising and eating right can be tough when you’re working long hours at your first job, but it helps you to think more clearly and get into a disciplined routine.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    When moving to Boston, my initial personal and professional network was very alumni driven! One colleague at my first company, Rick Sullivan (’09) graduated a year ahead of me and helped introduce me to a variety of folks in the Boston area. I also attended a variety of Wake Forest alumni networking events and happy hours to meet more people in the area, which is actually where I met my now wife (Alyson Cooper, ’08).

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

    Work hard and ask for help! Coming out of undergrad, I had some challenges asking for help at first, because I didn’t want to be perceived as not knowing how to accomplish basic tasks. But it’s a lot easier to ask a question early, than it is to try to do something new for 5 hours only to ask for help when you’re stuck later on. It’s also important to always be thinking about how what you’re doing now is helping you achieve your goals – keeping focused on where you want to go and who you want to be will help you stay focused on your development.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I want to help build innovative, global companies in the Life Sciences and Consumer Health industries. There are such interesting technologies being developed across genome editing, machine learning, and data analytics that will forever change the way we think about healthcare and wellness. I want to work on the front-lines, meeting with scientists, entrepreneurs, and executives that are helping to bring these ideas to market, and working in Life Sciences strategy consulting with EY-Parthenon lets me do that every day.

    Story published in January 2018. For current updates about Joe, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Brandon Chubb (’15)

    Brandon Chubb (2015 BA in Economics)

    Deacon Spotlight Update: Where are they now?

    Headshot of Brandon Chubb, He is wearing a tux, and smiling

    We reconnected with our alumni who we previously featured to check in with their careers and lives. Here’s an update from Brandon!

    Managing Partner at Captain Partners in Atlanta, GA

    Tell us about what you’re doing now. What does your job entail? What are you currently working on?

    I am Managing Partner for the VC firm Captain Partners. Captain Partners is a nascent investment firm, with a team full of Wake Forest alums, that sets out to create unique value for our Limited Partners. We are able to do this by investing in diverse founding and executive teams, having high quality co-investment partners alongside top VC funds, and cultivating a strong community amongst our LPs. We are raising Captain Fund I in Q1’21, so currently we are sourcing deals, speaking with founders, and doing our due diligence on companies we believe fit our investment thesis and that we can add value too.

    What is the most significant lesson have you learned in the time since you wrote your Deacon Spotlight?

    The most significant lesson since last time, two years ago, that I have learned is a lesson I already knew but maybe didn’t realize the significance of it. That lesson is to “reach back”. What I mean by that is to make yourself available to assist others, in some fashion or another, who might ask. The amount of people who have helped me get to where I am by making themselves available to take a phone call, respond to an email, grab a bite to eat, etc is paramount to me being in the position I am today, chasing my career dream and goals. I spoke last time about the importance of relationships and I believe “reaching back” is a huge component of having great and healthy relationships with your peers and others.

    As you think about your future, what advice will you keep in mind as you set goals and make plans?

    The best advice that has gotten me through all my personal and professional career challenges is knowing that everything happens for a reason. By believing that, and if you control the “controllables”, no matter what life throws at you you will be able to take it on and be at peace with the outcomes. This is crucial advice because, the way our society is structured now, everyone is highly visible and that lends itself to comparison.

    Professional Athlete in the National Football League in Mableton, GA 

    Brandon Chubb Head shot

    Brandon Chubb (’15)

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    I am currently playing in the NFL. This past year, I started the Chubb Foundation as a way to give back to the Atlanta community and surrounding communities. I am exploring a couple of investment opportunities that may fit with my brand and future endeavors.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    During the 2017 season, I was sidelined with an ACL injury and was moved to Injured Reserve status for the Detroit Lions. During the 10 months, I used the abundance of free time I had, while rehabbing and recovering, to prepare for my future after football. I gained experience with two externships: one with Fanatics and the other as a Legislative Intern for the U.S. House pf Representatives for Congressman John Lewis. While I was at Wake, I volunteered weekly for the Winston-Salem based organization, H.O.P.E. This experience helped to shape my perspective on the initiatives I want to tackle with my foundation.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    My first “real world” job was playing in the NFL for the LA Rams after I graduated from Wake. The most challenging aspect of that experience was just being independent and trying to view myself as “My Own CEO”. The independence aspect was challenging because I was on my own, in another state across the country, and surrounded by coaches and teammates I had never worked with before. Adapting to my new surroundings and culture was a major adjustment. Also, adapting to the reality of “being fired” was challenging. The NFL is just like any other job where you are hired to perform certain tasks, and to be productive at those tasks for the organization, while competing with thousands of others who are just as good, or better, than you trying to take your position. College is the total opposite; I had a guaranteed job for 4 years with my scholarship.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    I would tell them to definitely value the relationships made during college because as we’ve all experienced, it’s a “small world” and you’ll never know when, how, where, or who can assist you in your future endeavors. Value your daily life and experiences; have a work/life balance in a way that doesn’t take away from your appreciation of daily life. What I mean by that is take care of business when you are working so that you don’t have to worry about that stuff when you’re off. There is so much to life and you are so young and can never get this time back so enjoy it when you can.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I value relationships greatly. I take every opportunity I can to meet fellow alumni. Living in Atlanta is a big hot spot for Deacs and there are a lot of alumni events that allow you to cross paths with them. When I do cross paths, I make sure to value that interaction and extend it past that one time. I have also used Linkedin, alumni events, and finding alumni in my area through LinkedIn to find people with common interests as me to meet for dinner.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    Yes, many people! Ashley Wechter had a large impact on my from a community involvement standpoint. Ashley always had her doors open to student athletes in Miller Center, and one day I took advantage of that opportunity and never looked back. Dwight Lewis & Skip Brown have been important as well. They always extended a hand to student athletes and once I established that relationship with those two guys I went to them for any advice, concerns, or questions. Lastly, Warren Belin, my Linebacker coach at the time. He was a great example of how to be a man and handle yourself in a respectful and Godly manner everyday and being around that all the time set a great example for how to handle myself.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    My future career goals are to run my own business. This goal might entail being a franchisee of a business or owning and operating my own business. That is my start goal. I’m entrepreneur-minded, so being able to have a business I own/operate would be ideal.

    Story published in July 2018. For current updates about Brandon, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Maggie Sandy (’16)

    Maggie Sandy (2016 BA in Communications)

    Digital Marketing Manager at Gryphon House Books in Winston Salem, NC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Maggie Sandy head shot

    I manage and develop online strategy for Gryphon House through social media, website operations, email cadence, and more. Currently I am boosting e-commerce sales through the implementation of successful Facebook ads and email promotions. Facebook ads reaching over 200,000 people and sending out over 60,000 emails a week.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    Working with various on-campus groups to create, manage, and leverage social media accounts really helped me understand and learn about the power of social media in today’s business world.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    Understanding what a work/life balance is and how important it can be for my success professionally.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Be picky about the job you want. Don’t let yourself accept a job just to have one. Take on a job that can get you out of bed everyday and doesn’t keep you up at night.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    By creating connections and exploring new experiences. I have made friendships from just liking a netflix show to meeting people in a bikram yoga class!

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    My supervisor has really put me in a position that I can thrive and learn everyday. She has given me confidence to take on new projects and to have the security to learn even more.

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

    Don’t doubt yourself just because you are the newest face in the office. Go into your first day with confidence, you were hired for a reason.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I would love to run my own marketing and communications firm someday. I am wanting to work within companies as an in-house marketing professional across many different industries. This will help me learn and develop marketing strategies that can be used across a number of different industries and companies.

    Story published in June 2018. For current updates about Maggie, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Anne Hillgartner (’15)

    Anne Hillgartner (BA 2015 in Music Performance and History, MA Mgmt 2016)

    Associate Consultant at Mercer in Atlanta, GA

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Anne Hillgartner head shot

    I work for Mercer, which is a global Human Capital consulting firm. The work that I do focuses on creating what we call “workforce strategies” for companies – creating plans for how to motivate, source, reward, develop, and manage employees.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    I didn’t have a full-time job before working for Mercer, but I had two key experiences at Wake Forest (other than my great education) that really helped me be a better worker: the first was my internship with the Secrest Artists Series, where I got some serious experience in what it takes to curate a series of events and make them connect to different audiences. With our small budget and busy student population, we had to think of new ways to do things and be flexible. There wasn’t a manual for how to do things, similar to the problem solving I do today. The second experience was my part time job working as a sound and lighting technician for J’s crew. Jay Lawson, our boss, taught me a lot about how to be a good team member and how to be a leader of a team and have fun at the same time. Working for Jay, I also learned the basics of setting up A/V in rooms, which has been a surprisingly valuable skill now that so many meetings are virtual – I don’t have to call IT to fix things!

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    It’s a cliche, but striking the balance of work and life has been very hard in consulting. Working in consulting means that you travel a lot and that you’re often at the mercy of your client or your project manager’s schedule. It’s been hard to convince myself sometimes that, even though I could keep working and learn more and get better, going home and cultivating a community outside of work is just as important.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    I think one of the most fundamental things everyone should do as they start their job is to make a list of their values. We did this in the Wake Forest mentoring group I was a part of in Atlanta and it helped me achieve a lot of clarity about every other part of my personal life. Once you have a true idea of your values, the other decisions get easier – when you make your budget, if you value music, that should be reflected. Similarly, if you value helping others, look at the amount of time you spend doing things every week and see if volunteering is part of it. Same thing with work – to what extent does the work that you do reflect what you think is important?

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I had the interesting experience of moving to a city where I knew no one, so I had to rebuild my community from scratch. I found that never letting myself make excuses to go to things helped a lot – I immediately signed up to volunteer, go to happy hours, join running groups, meet up with friends of friends, and didn’t let my nerves stop me from going. While it take more time to find close friends in a new place (and you have to be patient), I found that there were so many people that wanted to connect!

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    I was very lucky to develop a strong relationship with a woman that I work with almost from the month that I started. She is more senior at our company and in a different phase of her life, and I’ve really enjoyed having a mentor like her to provide perspective. At my job especially, having a close mentoring relationship with someone you trust and respect has done a lot to propel me forward and make me more confident.

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

    Don’t sell yourself short but don’t be haughty either.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I’d like to one day run a non-profit, hopefully in education, or be a member of city government. I mentioned my interest in education to my boss and he did a great thing: let me be in charge of my firm’s partnership with edX, a non-profit MOOC provider so that I could get some exposure. I think it’s a great example that raising your hand can help you get a new opportunity – people often want to help you succeed.

    Story published in July 2018. For current updates about Anne, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Sam Larsen (16)

    Sam Larsen (2016 BA in Communications)

    Workplace Consultant at Steelcase Inc in Boston, MA

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Sam Larsen head shot

    I am a Workplace Consultant for Steelcase Inc in Boston, MA. Steelcase is the world’s leading office furniture manufacturer and global research company that researches how people work and identifies trends/insights on the future of work.

    In my current role, I work with clients and architect firms to design a company’s workspace and help them achieve the best workplace experience possible. At a high level, we work with clients such as startups moving into their first space to international companies with over 500+ employees redoing their office. At a granular level, I sell office furniture.
    I’m responsible for supporting the interior designer and providing them whatever information they need to help the client. I’m very passionate about the research that Steelcase does, so I look for ways to apply our research to discover insights about our clients while prioritizing their business needs. For example, some of the trends we’ve researched are how can spaces inspire creativity and innovation, how do spaces help attract and retain talent, how to achieve the right balance of privacy and collaboration (especially in open office plans), and more.

    On any given day, I’ll have an internal strategy meeting about a new client’s space, take a design to lunch to hear about a new opportunity, host a client and architecture firm into our space to give them a tour and hear what they’re trying to achieve in their new workspace, send samples and information to a designer, and work on continuing opportunities.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    I have been a cheese monger (like a sommelier, but for cheese) and a copywriter (I wrote taglines for a few different companies) before coming to Steelcase. Neither of those are related, nor was my major (Communication) or my minors (Entrepreneurship / Political Science) to what I’m doing now. I’m still not sure how I got this job, but I’m very happy I did!

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    There were three elements I found very challenging at first, but now am incredibly grateful for. The first was your role is what you make it (especially in your first job), the second was to be my own best advocate, the third was realizing it’s important to have a life outside of work.

    When I started my job, I said yes to everything, didn’t ask questions because I didn’t want to come across as inexperienced, and overextended myself because I was so concerned about hitting the ground running. A few months into my role, I realized I wasn’t adding as much value as I could be, and I felt like I was passively at my job. I came to Steelcase because I was passionate about their research and design thinking approach, but I didn’t find I was using either of those things on a day to day basis. I wanted to take more of an active approach in not only this role, but in my career and give it a research-focused spin and see what additional opportunities I could find within my role. Steelcase is a great company with a variety of career development opportunities and I wanted to start taking advantage of them.

    Since then, I’ve sought out every opportunity I can, and it has led to me to working on a project that is using Artificial Intelligence to develop a personal assistant app for the workplace, what the element of “delight,” in an office can do to the workplace experience, and a few others. I’ve engaged with some of our in-house researchers to learn more about their projects and have become certified in many of our presentations aimed at educated architects and designers on the future of work.

    Second, in becoming my own best advocate, I’ve negotiated a raise with a promotion (everyone should do this!) and was selected for the CONNECT leadership sprint where we go to our HQ over the next few months and engage in leadership modules designed to start learning about how to develop leadership traits.

    Finally, I moved to Boston only knowing two people and I was a little nervous about starting a new job in a new city with an entirely new climate and lifestyle to adapt to, so I wanted to throw myself into my job. I imagined I’d be best friends with my coworkers and the industry I was in would be my social circle. Instead, I found friends and hobbies that are outside of my industry and I prefer that. I enjoy having a separated balance of work and my personal life, and I realized my job is only one element of my life and the other parts (friends / socializing, hobbies, etc.) are the parts that add the most value to my life I’ve created here. I’d rather love the community I’ve created and like my job, rather than vice versa.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    These are all very important things to value when you’re creating your life after college, but you also need to learn what you value. For starters, you need to find a work/life balance that works for you. You don’t have to be the person who answers emails at all hours of the night and is constantly connected to their work; it’s healthy to have some separation. The company has already invested a lot in hiring you, they probably won’t fire you if you leave a little early to go to a doctor’s appointment or if you don’t answer emails at all hours of the night. It is your life; the company does not own you or your time outside of work.

    Tying into healthy lifestyle habits, I’d find a consistent exercise routine that works for you. I workout in the mornings before work so I have my evenings free (not as dauting as it sounds, I promise!) I’ve used ClassPass and I love the flexibility of the different classes and the fact that someone else is telling me what to do so I don’t have to think about what exercises I’m doing at 7am. I’d also learn how to find a few easy, healthy recipes to cook and to prioritize sleep, especially during the week.

    In terms of creating a budget, I do a combination of things. Out of college, I didn’t know anything about personal finance, so I studied up and checked out books from the library, read a lot of articles, listened to podcasts and attended as many personal finance lectures / talks as I could so I could be more informed.

    We all know it’s important to save money, but that felt like a daunting task to me when I was living paycheck to paycheck, so I knew my efforts had to be on the smaller side. First thing, if your company matches any part of a 401(k), immediately take advantage of it. If you don’t, you’re throwing away free money. Then, I knew I needed a way to save incremental amounts because even if it was a tiny amount, it was still something. I use the Qapital app, which allows you to passively save money by squiring away a little each time you buy something. You can set various goals and it’s very user friendly.

    Finally, the b-word: budget. Instead of it feeling like your budget is trapping you and you can’t spend money, I look at it as another way of prioritizing. For me, when I moved to Boston, I prioritized my living situation and I found an apartment I absolutely love and never want to move out of, but it was a stretch on my budget. That being said, I love to cook, so I always bring my lunch to the office instead of buying it (we have a communal table in my office so people either bring or buy and we all sit together), I drink the coffee in my office instead of buying coffee, and I never order takeout or order in. Instead, I prefer to spend money on experiences or spending time with people (I’ll meet my friends for drinks after work or we’ll try that new restaurant we’ve been hearing about). I use Mint, but I also created a budget spreadsheet in Excel I update every Monday (It has my fixed costs, savings, and then everything else is flexible) which shows me how much money I have left to spend that month on “fun things,” (dinners, activities, etc.) and it makes it feel more fun.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    In terms of professional relationships, I was part of a 4 ½ month training program at my company’s headquarters. The best advice I received was to internally network as much as I could while I was there and to continue those relationships once I had moved out to Boston. Everyone I reached out to at Steelcase was very welcoming and interested to talk to me. Since being in Boston, I’ve kept reaching out and always add an extra day to work travel back to our HQ to continue those relationships face to face.

    I’ve also reached out to people outside of my industry, specifically people I think have had an interesting career or who have a role I’d be interested in having one day. It’s been great to hear how they got into their roles and what advice they must start taking steps towards that career.

    For personal relationships, it took a ton of effort (literally went to a yoga class over an hour away on public transit to meet a new friend – it worked!), but I’m so happy with the group I’ve found. I expected it to take significantly longer, but it only took a few months for me to find a few great friends. Technically, all my friends are transplants, besides those I knew at Wake, which I’d also suggest to anyone who is moving to a new city – find the transplants! They’ve all gone through the transition and know what it feels like to be new in town and trying to find new friends. They’re empathetic and usually welcoming to people trying to join their circle.

    I also joined the Junior League of Boston. For any ladies out there, I’d 100000% recommend joining your local Junior League chapter. While I can only speak to the one in Boston, it has been a huge highlight of my move here. I found a great group of girlfriends (we all just signed up for a cornhole league) and it’s added so much to my experience in Boston, both from a social and a philanthropic aspect. They all joined looking to make friends and give back to the community, so it worked out perfectly.

    Also, keep up the relationships with your family and your friends who aren’t in the same place as you. A phone call to catch up is an easy way to stay updated on your friend’s lives in their new city and to catch up with your family and tell them about your new city. Commutes are great for this!

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    At Wake, I took Evelyn William’s class, High Performing Teams and Design Thinking, and it completely changed my perspective. Since that class, she has been a great mentor to me and she suggested I apply to Steelcase. She’s now teaching at Georgetown’s MBA program and it’s been great keeping in touch with her.

    In my role now, my manager, Tom, has been a fantastic mentor. He has been incredibly supportive of me looking for internal career development opportunities and my promotion and is always looking for ways to help me continue to get closer to a more research-focused role. He always makes himself available if I need help with something or have a question and it has been so valuable to see what makes a great manager.

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

    Be kind to everyone but stand up for yourself. Be as respectful to the cleaning people in your office as you would be to the CEO. Be your own best advocate and go after what you think you deserve (that promotion or salary raise, working from home flexibility, attending a conference). The first time you do it is always the scariest but keep trying! Do the best you can at your current role, but always keep an eye on your career and identify what steps you can do to get you there. If your first job isn’t your dream job, that’s totally good! If you had your dream job right out of college what else would there be to work for? If there’s someone you admire or someone’s career you find interesting, LinkedIn them and ask to talk for 20 minutes. They’ll probably say yes.

    Find a company who shares the same values you do. If you’re really into creativity, then find a company who values that. If you’re all about sustainability, find a company who is equally as passionate about sustainability as you are, etc. Also, dress like you could meet an executive at any point.

    Finally, at the end of the day, it’s just a job. Your family, friends, and the life you build will always be more important than a job.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I am looking to get more into research, specially user experience research, or understanding user behaviors, needs, and motivations through observation techniques, interviews, and other methodologies. Essentially, it’s understanding why people interact and experience things (could be a product, like a phone or a process, like taking public transportation) and how to make it a better experience for them.

    Steelcase has a great team called Workspace Futures that I’ve been interested in since I started, and we have a relationship with MIT in Boston. To be more involved and gain some experience in UX research, I’m working with the workspace futures team now on a project and I’ll be attending a conference at MIT in a few months. Right now, I’m working with our UX leader on what creates an element of “delight” at work and what are the benefits it can have in a workplace. In addition, I will be taking a crash course on UX research with IDEO (the global design company who basically invented design thinking) starting in September so I can start creating a portfolio to gain more real-world experience.

    Eventually, I’d like to attend grad school, possibly for my MBA with a focus in entrepreneurship.

    Story published in September 2018. For current updates about Sam, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Robert Capizzi (’94, MBA ’01)

    Robert Capizzi (BA 1994 in Economics, MBA 2001 Finance)

    Owner/Managing Partner at CapEd Educational Group in Winston-Salem, NC

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Robert Capezzi head shot

    Since 1991, the CapEd Educational Group has inspired students in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad to achieve excellence in academics and standardized college entrance exams. We accomplish this every day by instilling confidence, filling knowledge gaps, and establishing the organizational and learning skills necessary to succeed in an ever intensifying secondary, collegiate, and post-graduate environment. We establish lasting relationships with the students and their families with the mission to ensure that students of all calibers succeed and achieve their personal best from elementary school through college.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    I grew up a competitive swimmer and naturally gravitated into coaching and developing young swimming talent. While attending RJ Reynolds High School, I coached the Shallowford Lakes Swim Club and later while working on my undergraduate degree at Wake Forest University, was head coach of Westwood Club. These experiences solidified a love of working with young people, and as I progressed through my own education, found a new path of academic coaching. Coaching a student to their personal best has proven to be a very gratifying experience.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    In a world of instantaneous access to information, CapEd is evolving to provide students with a robust online capability to complement its well established use of one-on-one and in classroom teaching environments. We are utilizing webinars to expand our reach well beyond the Triad and attempting optimize our exposure on social media. Still we strongly believe that learning is best accomplished through interpersonal interaction between student and teacher and do not wish to loose that aspect of our academic model.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Recognizing “Wise men don’t need advice” I venture the following:

    Acknowledging that there are often multiple approaches that may be employed to solve a given problem is a hallmark of critical thinking. While many of my professors at WFU either explicitly or implicitly told us this, the ability to look at a problem and use critical thinking is a foundation of a liberal arts education and the primary idea I wish to get across to all of my students.

    My undergraduate experience at Wake Forest College furthermore taught me, I believe, how to learn and gave me the confidence to do the research to understand a problem. My graduate experience at the Wake Forest Babcock Graduate School of Management taught me how to question things I did not know and more importantly, to train me to think about and find the answers.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    One is successful through others is both a simple and profound truth. So develop your network and keep them close. Attempt to like the people you work with and take a sincere interest in them. Make an effort to keep up. Not too difficult today with the many social networking tools available to us.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    Yes, and I have to give at least three individuals mentor status during my time at Wake Forest. These faculty members allowed me more time in their offices than I probably deserved, but in all honesty, the freedom to meet with faculty to “talk” about literally anything was definitely part of the education and experience:

    Dean Billy Hamilton – helped me find purpose at Wake Forest.
    Dr. Dolly McPherson, British Literature – taught me how to read more carefully and above all, “to answer the question” when she assigned a writing assignment.
    Dr. Anne Boyle – furthered my ability to read, took the extra time I required to remediate my reading skills, and introduced to me the idea of “listening to the author’s voice” in order to understand.

    All of their assistance may sound like common sense, but it was the personal interaction that allowed their message and advice to resonate and remain with me.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    We continue to look for ways to help young people become better students. Whether it is college admissions or graduate school preparation for standardized exams, tutoring or subject remediation, college consulting, or working on courses for credit, we will always aspire to pay it forward – to provide them the leg up they may need to perform at their best. Building standardized exam programs for groups is a goal to improve exam scores for many students. With college admissions getting more competitive and the cost to attend post-secondary institutions rising, the need to prove academic promise is at an all time high.

    I would like to add that I applaud Wake Forest for going test-optional back in 2008. Attending the Rethinking Admissions Conference at Wake Forest gave much insight into this issue and how best to evaluate a student’s potential when applying. While no metric is perfect, Wake’s willingness to broaden their scope to allow students to choose to submit scores or not is one example of how they wish to view their students and candidates.

    Story published in September 2018. For current updates about Robert, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Pete Dunlap (’07)

    Pete Dunlap (2007 BA Physics, 2010 MAED Science Education)

    Founder of Digital Detangler in Nashville, TN

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Pete Dunlap head shot

    I wear all the hats for my business: marketer, writer, speaker, trainer, hustler. I’m currently filling up my fall speaking schedule, continuing to promote my book, and designing a digital mindfulness meditation course.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    My desire to teach goes back to tours of National Parks as a tot. I was always perched on the front row, often with my hand up. At church I imagined myself giving the sermon and would scribble down bits and pieces of my own “sermons”. I also had impactful physical experiences during my college years (hiking the Appalachian Trail and cycling most of the way across the country). Those experiences expanded my beliefs about what I could accomplish through patient effort. Since my time at Wake, teaching challenged me to find creative ways to deliver content so that even students who hated science would tune in. When my wife and I moved to Nashville, I began working as a software engineer and enjoyed a flexible work-life balance. The death of our first daughter at the bitter end of pregnancy, left us empty and unmotivated. I decided during the months after that tragedy to retool and begin a career teaching and speaking on digital productivity and wellness. At universities and corporations, I help people find ways to get work done in an age of distraction.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    Business. I’ve never run a business before, so there has been a steep learning curve as I’ve gotten Digital Detangler off the ground. The hardest thing about business has been the number of things I’d like to know that take work to figure out. How many customers are in my area? What challenges do they face? These types of questions are essential to a business but were not intuitive to me initially.

    Networking and connecting with people who have knowledge and experience I am missing have been incredibly helpful. I’ve also begun stopping to evaluate what is working/making money and doing more of that. Reflecting each morning has led to prioritizing work more effectively based on business needs instead of my own interests. Another thing I started doing was asking lots of other industry and non-industry folks for their opinions on my ideas. If I hear three or more people give me the same advice, I tend to pay attention.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Don’t relax with screens; use them only when working with tools. For example, most time spent on social media is a waste of time. Time spent with a tool like Adobe Creative Cloud will grow your skills and be engaging.

    Become ruthless with your environment as a way to organize your time. For example, if you want to exercise more, sell your TV and use the money to buy a treadmill. That will make it much more likely you’ll exercise at 6pm when you get home from work.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    I go to networking events in Nashville whenever possible. I also use LinkedIn to get connected to folks I’d like to get in touch with. I also use LinkedIn as a repository of connections. So if I meet someone at an event, I add a note to my LinkedIn request saying, “Great to connect at X!” That way if I forget how I know the person, I can always see a record of where we met.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    I tried to get a couple influential mentors and was rejected multiple times. Getting the time of influential folks is difficult. They are busy. I started investing in people I had access to. First was the man who counseled me during the loss of our daughter, Ed Brinson. He helped me accept some hard truths about grief and impermanence. I’ve also been meeting with another Wake alum, Andrew Britt, once a week for the past year as I started Digital Detangler and he finished his PhD in History. Keeping each other accountable and setting goals has been invaluable on personal and professional levels.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    Read long-form. Cultivate the ability to focus for hours at a time without interruption. That will allow you to out-pace your peers in a world of short attention spans.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    Lots more speaking engagements. I’d like to have a TedX talk in 2019.

    I have an invention I’ve started working on. I can’t reveal too much, but it involves some physics I learned about at Wake, applied to smartphones.

    Story published in September 2018. For current updates about Pete, visit his website.

  • Lizzie Ward (’09)

    Lizzie Ward (BA 2009 in Studio Art)

    President at Sunshine Beverages, in Winston-Salem, NC

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Lizzie Ward head shot

    I lead a start-up beverage company based in Winston-Salem called Sunshine Beverages, which manufactures and sells better-for-you energy drinks. Sunshine took on investment in 2017, which is about the time that I joined, and I was promoted to President in early 2018.

    My focus over the past nine months has really been around building the foundation and infrastructure to support growth, which involved hiring a team (there was only one full-time employee when I started), expanding Sunshine’s distribution network and bringing on new retail accounts.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    I moved to New York City about two years after college, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made personally and professionally. I was out of my comfort zone in every way, and I believe that is when you learn and grow the most.

    During my time in New York, I worked in sports and was fortunate enough to have an amazing female boss that became a great friend and role model. She believed in my ability, trusted my leadership and always challenged me to grow. I developed a great deal of confidence in those years, and I don’t believe I would be where I am today without that experience and responsibility at such a young age.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    It depends on the day that you ask!

    Right now, I think being the “little guy” is the greatest challenge Sunshine is facing. We offer excellent products that deliver on an unmet need for consumers, but we are competing with companies that have long-established brand awareness, significantly larger budgets and numerous SKUs. Retail shelf space is finite, and we are in a highly competitive category where new brands, like Sunshine, must prove themselves faster than ever before to maintain placement.

    We’ve built a team that deeply believes in our products and mission, and, ultimately, I believe that will be most important to building a successful brand and company. We are all avid consumers of Sunshine, and we are our brand’s greatest ambassadors. Our vision resonates with consumers, distributors and retailers, and we are seeing it come to life every day.

    From strictly a marketing standpoint, Sunshine wins on taste. We lean heavily into samplings, and that will always be a critical part of our promotional strategy for growth. Sunshine is a “better-for-you” product, and we believe consumers shouldn’t have to sacrifice taste for function.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    I could say a lot here, but there is one area that matters most… Prioritize your health.

    Eat well. Exercise. Find outlets or activities that help you to relieve stress.

    You will improve at almost EVERYTHING (work, relationships, decision making, balance) when you commit to your health.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    Building relationships is one of my favorite parts of any “job” – it never feels like work. I love getting to know people, and I probably ask too many questions! I also love to help and connect others, which naturally helps maintain a network.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    Mentors have had everything to do with my career, and I’ve deeply valued those relationships at every stage in life. At Wake, Professor Bob Fly helped me find and create my path. I was fascinated by his experience in marketing and determined to follow in his footsteps – I was a frequent visitor to his office and even called him to tell him about my first job offer before I accepted!

    Since college, I’ve had a number of individuals that I would consider mentors and a few that have remained a very significant part of my life over the years. I talk to them about everything from work to house renovations to relationships, and I couldn’t be more thankful for their guidance and engagement in my development.

    I also love mentoring, especially other women. I learn so much from the time I spend with my younger female colleagues, and I have a lot of heart for helping them grow and develop – it’s a significant motivator in my life and career.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    I’d say this goes for all industries … be curious, be eager to learn and don’t be afraid to try.

    Graduating from Wake, you definitely know how to work hard and you’ve developed a diversified foundation of knowledge. That said, there is still a lot to learn, so be clear about why you are interested in the industry and don’t pretend to know it all. I am proud to say that I am still learning something new every day!

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    My heart is in Sunshine, and I am committed to building this company into the next big beverage brand. We have aggressive growth plans over the next few years, and I couldn’t be more excited for where this team is headed.

    Story published in December 2018. For current updates about Lizzie, visit her LinkedIn profile.

  • Ethan Groce (’13)

    Ethan Groce (2013 BA in Education)

    US Army Paratrooper in the United States Army in Monterey, CA

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Ethan Groce Head shot

    I serve in the United States Army as a Paratrooper within the Military Intelligence Corps. While much of what I do is classified, I can provide you with a general scope of what my enlistment entails. Before I do, however, I encourage the readers of this article, be they current students, alumni, or friends of the university, to read the other fine articles made available by the OPCD. You will find, as I have, that committing yourself to open-mindedness, coupled with curiosity, will take you a long way. That viewpoint is espoused in many of the other Deacon Spotlights and I will gladly lend my voice to that group.

    The way I explain my “career” will inherently sound quite different than most, simply due to the nature of my “work”. And, yes, those quotation marks are necessary because, and this is a point I’d like to make clear, serving in the United States Armed Forces is a calling, a passion. Fewer than one percent of Americans currently serve in the military and that figure has remained the same since Conscription (the “draft”) was ended. I enlisted in the U.S. Army because I felt as though that was exactly where I belonged. That sense of belonging should serve as a guiding light for you while navigating your own career path. Search for an occupation that really speaks to your values and what you hold most dear. Of course, I offer that advice fully aware of the sometimes frustrating job market. Before finding my calling, I had a wide array of jobs and, for that, I am grateful. Those other work opportunities taught me about myself and what I was (or was not) good at, in terms of skill set. I can see I am already getting ahead of myself here…so, back to the actual question.

    Currently, I am stationed at the Presidio de Monterey located in Monterey, California. This Army post is home to the Defense Language Institute, which is where soldiers, sailors, airmen, and members of all branches of our nation’s military attend for the purpose of achieving fluency in a language the Department of Defense deems vital. Previously, I completed Airborne School while temporarily stationed at Fort Benning, GA. My training was steeped in the tradition of fabled units such as the 82nd and 101st and culminated in the presentation of my own “Wings”. Immediately following graduation of Airborne School, I spent three months as a trainee within the 75th Ranger Regiment. Theirs is a training and selection process I intend to complete at a later point in my military career. As of right now, my duty is to become fluent in my assigned language so that I am equipped to execute any mission assigned to me as a Paratrooper within the Military Intelligence Corps.

    My relatively short time as a soldier has already taught me a tremendous amount about perseverance and resilience (or, as it is referred to in the Ranger Creed, “intestinal fortitude”). Additionally, the four years I spent as a student at Wake Forest and the two years I gave back while working in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions most definitely helped with that process.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    My wish for this article is to offer and share information I deem useful as it relates to career and personal development. I have had the good fortune of working with the fine folks of the OPCD and I know that they are appreciative of personal stories but their purpose is to disseminate information they consider beneficial to young professionals. With that in mind, I will attempt to keep my personal anecdotes closely tied to lessons I have learned that can be serviceable to other Demon Deacons who are seeking career advice.

    First, I pursued a degree in Education because I had and continue to have a passion for it. While I value the curriculum I was exposed to and am especially grateful for a Study Abroad opportunity offered specifically through the Education Department, I now recognize I should have simply sought after some sort of concentration through research in another academic field. One of my minors was Politics & International Affairs, I could have easily molded that into an academic major with a concentration or focus in national/global education policies. Yet, I felt strongly about majoring in Education at the time, even though I had no intention of becoming a schoolteacher immediately upon graduating. With that, I offer you my first point of advice, when deciding upon something that may greatly affect the content of your résumé, give it careful consideration beyond your immediate desires. You have got to think long-term! As much as “living for today” or “living in the now” may sound groovy, it probably will not be considered savvy to your potential future employers.

    Upon graduating, I had a tremendous skill set pertaining to communication, networking, public speaking, and the like, but I lacked many of the “hard skills” that can lead to a six-figure job. Still, I was determined to land a job within the Piedmont Triad. I knew I wanted to remain, at least temporarily, in the area I had grown to love as a college student. That brings us to my next pointer, do not shy away from having standards…that may sound odd, but what I mean by that is, set standards for things that you have some control over. Location, workplace environment, and general career field are perhaps three good criteria of job searching you can control. The OPCD and, especially, Allison McWilliams are to thank for this point of advice. Allison encouraged me to use the tools I already had my in possession: my professional network! I had just spent four years of my life in Winston-Salem and met hundreds of folks, some inside and some outside the WFU community. As a Wake Forest student, I was exposed to dozens of potential mentors, coaches, advisors, and the like, who could help guide and shape me. As a graduate, I could now engage those professional relationships I had worked to develop and use those connections to my advantage. You should aim to do the same with your own professional network. Please understand, I am not suggesting that all Wake graduates should just stay in North Carolina for the first few years after receiving their degree. You may very well have plenty of connections back home or even in some random corner of the world. I am simply suggesting you already have an advantage upon graduating an outstanding university like Wake Forest.

    Without a doubt, a big “Thank you” is owed to the Wake Forest University Police Department, specifically Regina Lawson and Ken Overholt (there are others to thank within the PD, you know who you are). My Work-Study appointment had taken place within their department throughout my time as a student and they offered me part-time work upon graduating until I found full-time employment. They were tremendously kind to me during that season of life. Here is a short note regarding part-time jobs: take them when necessary. “Temp jobs” are meant to be just that, temporary. Thus, your employer is going to be understanding when you inevitably leave for a full-time job. As long as you exit gracefully there should not be any hard feelings. Additionally, the job will have served its purpose and you may have very well gained some valuable experience from it. I will leave it to the experts as to whether to include part-time work on your résumé but if it directly relates to your overall career path, I do not see the harm in it.

    I should come clean here. Not only did I wish to remain in the Piedmont Triad area…I desperately wanted to work at my Alma mater. The commitment and devotion I had received from the WFU Faculty, Staff, and Administrators during my time there had impacted me beyond belief and I wanted to give at least a part of that back as a staff member. Then, an opportunity to interview for an entry-level position within the Office of Undergraduate Admissions was granted to me. The two years I spent working with the amazingly dedicated people of Wake Forest Admissions was crucial to my development as a professional, a leader, and, quite honestly, as a more whole human being. So many aspects of that position spoke to my strengths and I think people like Martha Allman and Kevin Pittard recognized that when they hired me.

    If I was to share all the professional and career development insights I was awoken to while working at Wake Forest, I would probably need my very own webpage. Suffice it to say, delve into every opportunity your workplace offers to engage with your colleagues outside of work and meet other professionals. Those interactions lead to connections, and that is how you expand your network. Generally speaking, your first full-time job out of college will be the most consequential of your entire career. You quickly discover, as a newly minted young professional, what your workplace values and needs are. Take note of those things because they should serve as road signs as you navigate your career path. Do you work best in a group setting or individually? Are you happy to be given large amounts of tasks or would you prefer to be given small tasks spread out evenly? Who do you “gel” with? That is an important one. Surprise! Not all of your co-workers are going to appreciate the work you do or how you go about accomplishing it. Find a workplace where you see the most net-positive in terms of business and professional relationships. While it may be impossible to find a company, firm, or non-profit that is able to hire only the most positive of people, you can at least find an employer who strives to do so with the aim of creating an amazingly effective workforce. Positivity promotes productivity.

    Briefly, in the early 2000s, the Army’s motto was “An Army of One”. While that particular marketing/recruiting campaign was geared towards appealing to Americans’ individualism and rogue spirit, it seems to have had the opposite effect. The U.S. Army is made up of a diverse body of men and women but, no matter the myriad of differences, the goal of each of those individuals is identical: to protect and serve our great nation. Indeed, one of the core Army Values is that of “Selfless Service”. There is a great sense of unity within the Army and military in general. Being part of that collective effort appealed to me, as did the opportunity to defend my fellow Americans in foreign lands. So, while I could spell out my résumé and directly relate each job to my current employment, suffice it to say, every job matters. Your work experiences should build upon each other and, ultimately, direct you to employment that offers opportunities for personal progress.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    As a member of the uniformed services, much of my day is scheduled for me: Accountability Formation, Chow Time, PT, etc. So, the work I have to put into striking a healthy work/life balance is fairly minimal. I can, however, give a hearty endorsement to practicing healthy personal habits outside of work. Thankfully, much of my work experience has been coupled with in-office friendships. As an employee of Wake Forest, I fondly remember good times and conversations with people like Anthony Tang, Megan (Massey) Tang, Lori Pilon, Brett Kaiser, and Victoria Hill. Spending quality time with co-workers and colleagues outside of the workplace can be immensely beneficial to cohesion and productivity within the workplace. That was my experience and I am thankful for it. A warning, however, is necessary. Friendships with co-workers can turn sour and cause disharmony back in the office. Preferably, one wants to avoid such a thing and that is why many people simply do not, under no circumstances, mix work with play. You have to make that decision for yourself but I, for one, benefited from friendships I developed with outstanding colleagues.

    Of course, friendships, whether in or out of the office, are only one piece of the puzzle. A healthy work/life balance involves successfully managing your personal affairs. I will keep this short and sweet, get ahead of things or at least stay on top of your personal business. As is often said, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” It just so happens that your health and personal finances can greatly affect your work-life. Keep both of those things in check and you will encounter less stress in your life.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    This is a question that really only takes a list to answer: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WAKENetwork…I think you get the idea.

    It does not take an expert to recognize that we live in an age of social media, in which there is seemingly an infinite number of ways to connect with others. Yet, just because I can easily send a message electronically to a friend 1,000 miles away does not mean a profitable exchange will commence. Typically, I am not a proponent of looking at relationships as transactional but when your goal is to network and, quite possibly, land a job, you must approach social media differently than your average teenager would. Exchanging adorable puppy videos will only get you so far.

    For that matter, social media itself will only get you so far. Some occasions do call for personal interaction…that means face-to-face. It can be uncomfortable but you may very well have to attend a job fair and approach a stranger’s booth to inquire about their business; you may have to participate in an informational interview with an associate of the corporation you have recently been eyeing; you may even have to grab lunch with a friend of your uncle whom you’ve never met before (gasp) but is an industry expert within your career field of interest. As I was attending seminary in Louisville, KY, I was fortunate enough to land two part-time jobs as a direct result of the sort of things I mentioned above. Most notably, I befriended a well-connected and well-liked gentleman named Jack Richardson while in Louisville and was frequently invited to soirées he hosted. Business owners from around the community would occasionally drop-in for conversation at these events and it was through those conversations that I eventually was offered a favorable position within a marketing firm that allowed flexibility with my seminary studies. It took some gumption and, at times, gripping and grinning, but I eventually became quite adept at making cold introductions and initiating conversation out of thin air.

    I will leave it to others to demonstrate how firm that initial handshake really should be but I do encourage you to get out there! Exit your comfort zone and meet professionals who may enjoy sharing personal experiences regarding their own career path.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    According to the OPCD, to think only of a “Mentor” when seeking personal and career advice is a narrow view of interpersonal development. There are several different types of personnel you can approach for help, most notably, mentors, coaches, sponsors, and advisors/counselors. These, of course, may not be official titles but they represent roles your parent, supervisor, spiritual leader, and others can possess.

    “Mother, so dear” may sound like an odd inclusion in a university’s Alma mater song but to me, personally, it made perfect sense. As a student and, eventually, as a staff member, I was graced by the presence of several stalwarts of Wake Forest and her values. These guardians of Pro Humanitate served as parent-like role models for me, bolstering my understanding of working for the good of humanity. It is not an exaggeration to say that without the positive influence of Cherise James, Matt Imboden, Mike Ford, and Barbara Stephens-Macri I would not be the man I am today. These individuals encouraged me in my zealous pursuit of Wake Forest community involvement. In fact, many opportunities to volunteer and lend my voice to important campus matters were brought my way thanks to them. It seemed as though the actual essence of Wake Forest was breathed out by Ken Zick and Marybeth Wallace, two individuals who, while demonstrating humility and modesty, served as some of the university’s most impactful spokespeople. Joyful personalities, even in the midst of difficulty, were shewn forth by the likes of Mary Gerardy and Angela Mazaris, two women who exemplified resolve in the face of challenges. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention one of my absolute favorite characters of the WFU campus. Larry Jones served as a mentor, coach, advisor and, ultimately, a friend to me for many years and continues to do so. He is the kind of person who cannot help but exude positivity and he is an exemplifier of servant leadership.

    Simply put, I cannot overstate the importance of mentorship. My mentors have made an indelible impression on my life and my character. The world will occasionally churn out a match made in heaven by sheer coincidence but, more often than not, you have to seek out mentors. You may find yourself drawn to a glowing personality at work while participating in a club or interest group, or even at your place of worship. Wherever it may be, remain cognizant of those around you who exude benevolence, self-reflection, and wisdom and reach out to them in a professional manner. The OPCD can offer you the exact tools you will need to appropriately ask someone to become a mentor but, plainly speaking: be polite; be professional; and be precise in what you say.

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

    In the Army, we have many sayings, some are wise while others are…well, less wise.  One of my favorites relates to presenting information to soldiers: Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em; next, tell ‘em; then, tell ‘em what you told ‘em.  So, in that same spirit, I will repeat an earlier statement. Your first professional job will likely be the most consequential of your entire career. You will develop habits as a young professional that will likely remain with you throughout your time in the workforce.  With that in mind, do it right the first time. Of course, as a young professional, mistakes will be made and you may not feel like your feet are firmly on the ground at all times. Still, I encourage you to work as arduously as possible to be the best team player in your workplace.  Take on extra work when it is offered. Volunteer for work events. Do not shy away from social gatherings hosted by your supervisor.

    Fortunately for me, I learned a long time ago to soak up every moment and appreciate the time I have been granted on this earth.  As a Wake Forest University graduate and a lifelong Demon Deacon, you are expected to infuse the world with good works and positivity.  I strive to do so each day. I do that, in part, through my service as a soldier, my service in the surrounding community, and my service to friends and family as I make myself available to listen, love, and support whenever necessary.  Personally, that is how I strive to be a whole human being. You know, earlier I noted an old slogan used by the U.S. Army. Well, prior to the aforementioned slogan there was another, more popular, one used for nearly two decades: “Be all you can be”.  I wish you the very best in your endeavor to achieve that status!

    Story published in December 2018.

  • Sarah Josey Lyon (’12)

    Sarah Josey Lyon (2012 BA in Political Science)

    Assistant District Attorney at Kings County District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, NY

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Sarah Lyon head shot

    I just started my third year at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. Currently, I am working in the Grand Jury. Every felony case in New York must be presented to a Grand Jury to receive an indictment before the case can proceed to the trial stage. I have a caseload of felony cases, and I present these cases to the Grand Jury through the testimony of civilians and police officers.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    In law school I was fortunate enough to intern at a law firm, work for a judge, and intern at my current office. I felt like these three very different internships gave me a wide range of experiences in the legal profession. Ultimately, I really enjoyed my time at the DA’s Office and continued the interview process after my summer internship.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    Before I started my current job, I had been a student for a very long time, in college and in law school. I had a much more flexible schedule as a student. The legal profession can be a demanding one, and I struggled with a work/life balance early on and finding a good routine. It is still something I am working on! I learned that sometimes life will feel unbalanced in the beginning and that is ok. But to keep from burning out, I try to leave work at work and am intentional about making plans outside work that will keep me feeling relaxed and balanced.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Remember that everything is a season. You might be brand new to a job, a new city, a new community, and feeling lost – it’s normal. Just because you feel like your work/life balance is off during the first few months of your new job does not mean you will always feel that way. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed at first. Try to get into a good routine of activities outside of work that fulfill you, whether it’s meeting a friend for dinner or going on a walk every night. It won’t happen overnight, but eventually you will find your own routine.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    My office has been a wonderful community of both professional and personal relationships. I have developed friendships with colleagues that continue outside of the office, and found supervisors who mentor me in both professional and personal capacities. I have worked to develop relationships with colleagues by attending work events, shadowing more experienced colleagues when possible, and learning from my supervisors by continuing to ask questions when appropriate. Spending time with colleagues outside of the office has made working together every day an even better experience.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    All of my political science professors were so supportive and helpful during my time at Wake Forest, and through the law school application process. The relationships at Wake that had the most impact on me, though, were through other students. While at school, colleagues and friends were so supportive of each other through job searches and grad school applications. I have been lucky to maintain many close friendships after graduation, and watching these friends flourish in their different careers has inspired me.

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

    Be flexible, be open, learn to take constructive criticism, and remember that everything is a season. The learning curve can be very steep in many first jobs (including mine), but the first few months are a season that will pass. Be a sponge and soak up as much information as you can from more experienced colleagues.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I hope to continue working my way through different roles in my office, eventually working as a felony trial assistant district attorney. I am enjoying my time in my current role and and am focusing on learning everything I can from more experienced attorneys in the office.

    Story published in December 2018. For current updates about Sarah, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Tisha Felder (’01)

    Dr. Tisha Felder (BA 2001 in Sociology, Spanish Minor)

    Assistant Professor at University of South Carolina, in Columbia, South Carolina

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Tisha Felder head shot

    I am currently a tenure-track, Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina in the College of Nursing (CON). I joined the faculty at the CON in 2013 and transitioned to my current role in 2015. In my current role, my primary focus is on conducting research that focuses on preventing and treating breast cancer among African American and low-income women. My primary research is currently funded by a five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute (2015-2020) where I will be designing a program to improve breast cancer survivors’ experience with taking endocrine therapy (e.g., tamoxifen). I also have a grant from the CON where a nursing colleague and I have developed a mobile website “app” (Mocha Mamas Milk) aimed to improve breastfeeding among African American women. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing aggressive breast cancers in women, yet African American women are less likely to breastfeed. In addition to research, I teach courses to graduate nursing students.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    My experiences as a cancer disparities researcher have been guided by key moments of exposure. During my senior year at Wake, I had no idea what I was going to do with a degree in Sociology. Dr. Earl Smith advised me to apply for one of the top social work programs in the country and that’s just what I did. After completing my MSW from University of Michigan, I was hired as a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), where I gained my first real exposure to the world of research. As a PMF, I saw research that continually documented the disproportionate burden of cancer among African Americans. I was not exactly sure, however, about how I wanted to make a difference until I attended the NCI Minority Investigator Career Development Workshop in 2004. There, I learned both about NCI’s commitment to reducing cancer disparities, and about the lack of minority researchers doing this much needed work. During my time at NCI, my best friend’s mother also died from breast cancer. The combination of those personal and career experiences made me determined to make a difference. I resolved to pursue an academic research career, building on my social work background by adding the public health and research focus.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    Time management is the most challenging aspect of my job. Faculty members often have considerable amounts of autonomy and flexibility in how we spend our time, such as deciding what types of projects we want to participate in, which committees we want to serve on, etc. For someone like me who is naturally drawn to helping others solve problems, I have a tendency to say “yes” to a lot of unique and timely opportunities that may not always be the best way for me to spend my time. What has helped me the most with overcoming this has been two things: 1) having great mentors and 2) professional development. I talk with my mentors regularly about how I am spending my time or new opportunities that have been presented to me, so that they can advise me on what I should stick with, what I should walk away from and how to effectively manage my time for the tasks that are currently on my plate. I am passionate about self-improvement, so I constantly seek resources and attend workshops focused on time management as an academic.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Embrace the fact that life after college isn’t lived in semesters. Real life is not linear, predictable, and cannot always be planned. The joy in this fact is that much of what shapes your life story are those things that you never anticipated would happen. At each stage of your life, seek out and talk with people who are living out things that YOU value in their careers and personal life. For example, if you value work/life balance, set up a lunch or coffee meeting with that person who seems to be balancing those roles well. I have found that people love to talk about themselves (in a good way), especially when it can help someone else.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    By nature, I am a person who deeply values meaningful relationships. During my time at WFU, I developed some of the deepest relationships (including with my Hubby!) I had ever had in my life. I have been nurturing those relationships now for over 20 years. My WFU network plays a key role in giving me a safe space to be my “whole self” with women like me who are now balancing families and careers. I have maintained this network through consistent communication (e.g., email, phone calls, text groups, social media) and creating opportunities to get together (e.g., dinner, trips out of town). For my professional networks, I have been deliberate by keeping in contact with them via email, social media, connecting at professional conferences, and collaborative projects.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    I have learned the value of having a team of mentors. I am an African American female scientist, as well as a wife, mother and teacher. I am also a first-generation college graduate and first-generation academic. Given the complexity of my identity, I go to different mentors to get different pieces of advice for my career and life. As I stated earlier, my professional mentors help me in general with career aspects such as time management, learning the norms of academic culture and developing new research ideas. I also have some mentors who share some of my personal and professional identifies who give me strategies on work/life balance as a mom or how to navigate the academy as a minority faculty member.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    Get exposed to research early! I didn’t learn anything about research until I was in my early 20’s. At a minimum, current students should seek out short-term opportunities to volunteer or work on grant funded projects with faculty at WFU or elsewhere. Current students should also take advantage of opportunities to do an honors thesis which develops key research skills. Young alumni should seek out research assistant or program manager jobs where you will have the opportunity to help carry-out key aspects of the proposed research. The greatest benefit in getting research experience is that it is an inherent resume builder and you will attain highly transferable skills that can be used in other industries should you desire to change fields or disciplines.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    My two most pressing career goals are to obtain: 1) tenure and promotion to Associate Professor; and 2) my first independent research grant from the National Institutes of Health.

    Story published in February 2019. For current updates about Tisha, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Eleanor Scott-Davis (05)

    Eleanor Scott Davis (2005 BA in English, with minor in Studio Art)

    Artist at Eleanor Scott Davis Fine Art in Raleigh, NC

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Eleanor Scott Davis headshot

    I am a full-time artist and full-time stay at home mother to three little girls — ages 5, 3 and 1.

    My day-to-day life is a balancing act of working as a professional artist and a stay-at-home mom. I am lucky to have my studio in my home so, I am able to fit work in throughout the entire day. And, because of this, motherhood has really become a part of my artistic process. My kids are in preschool (even the baby goes two days) for most of the morning and I dedicate this time to painting. I don’t make appointments or run errands — as soon as I drop them off, I race home, put the baby down for a nap if she is with me, and get into the studio. But, my children also often work or play alongside me when I paint. As an abstract artist (and a generally impulsive person), I find that having my children with me has actually been a benefit to my work: I am constantly pulled away — to get a snack, change a diaper, break up a fight. Because of this, I step back from the work often and am able to return with fresh eyes. And plot my next move.

    My art business is made up of both commission work and collections that I release on my own. Currently, I am working on a new collection of paintings that will be released on my website on April 12. A friend is hosting a party here in Raleigh on April 11 where the paintings will on display and for sale. I’m so excited to share this new body of work with people — it is bold and colorful and making me very happy. It is my goal in each collection to include many different sizes and price points so that collectors in all stages of life can purchase a piece.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?
    My path to becoming a professional artist was not a straight one. I minored in Studio Art at Wake Forest but never imagined I could actually make a career of this. I majored in English and after college, went on to get an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Poetry. I thought I wanted to be a poet but soon realized how difficult it is to make a living at that. After graduate school, I worked on the editorial staffs of several regional magazines. I have always loved magazines and working for these publications was fun and exciting. I’ve always loved writing and these jobs gave me many opportunities to hone my craft while covering some amazing stories.

    I quit working full time when we had our second child. But, I had a deep desire for a way to express myself creatively. We had just bought a new house so, I began to work on paintings to hang in our own home. I posted one on Instagram and my sister said she wanted one. Then, my cousin said she wanted one. Then — I took a giant leap — and posted a painting and said “available for purchase.” It sold. (To a friend from Wake Forest!). Selling a piece of art was incredibly validating. I continued to post. And, they continued to sell. It goes to show that sometimes, allowing yourself to be vulnerable can often be the defining move you make on the path to success.

    I strongly feel that all the moves I made in my education and career brought me to this point: Though it was not a straight path, I made no missteps. My writing background is imperative to telling the story of my art. And, painting abstractly exercises the same part of my creativity as writing poetry. But, thankfully, people buy more paintings than poems.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?
    Being an artist is so much more than creating art! Selling, marketing, framing, sourcing and buying supplies, website design, writing for social media, PR and – ugg — accounting. I’ve navigated these challenges by setting a strict monthly schedule and sticking to it. So that I know – even if I am dying to be in the studio – on the first day of every month, the first thing I do is sit down and pay my taxes.

    I try and tackle the administrative side of the business in stolen moments throughout the day. I answer emails when my kids are eating breakfast, take them along with me on trips to the art supply store and tackle framing and finishing work after they’ve gone to bed. I’m proud that my three girls get to see me work hard every day for something I am passionate about. My oldest daughter, Avery, says that when she grows up, she wants to be an artist and a mommy. My middle daughter, Julia, says she wants to be “the person who makes the bubble gum.” So, in the least, I think some entrepreneurial inspiration is sinking in.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?
    The most important decision you will most likely make post college is who you choose to marry. Choose wisely. Because, inevitably, someone is going to have to make some sacrifices in their own career in order to make things work. My husband, Hill Davis (WFU ’05, JD ’08) is a lawyer and does not have flexibility in his work day. Because of this, he recognizes the need to support my career in other ways. I am so thankful for this.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?
    As an artist, I feel a great sense of connection to those people who choose to bring my work into their homes. Friendships that develop are often organic and I am grateful for the wonderful people my art connected me with.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?
    Go for it! But, keep your day job. Nothing stifles creativity more than having it be responsible for paying your rent.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?
    I’d like nothing more than the opportunity to continue creating art full time. I pinch myself everyday.

    Story published in March 2019. For current updates about Eleanor-Scott, visit her website.

  • Kellie Dupree (04)

    Kellie Dupree (2004 BA in Political Science, with German & International Relations)

    Director of Partnerships & Training at Ballot Initiative Strategy Center in Washington, DC

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Kellie Dupree head shot

    Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC) is the only national progressive organization exclusively focused on ballot measures. We work across the country to create a coordinated strategy on ballot measures and pass policies that improve people’s lives. I provide strategic advice and guidance to national and in-state groups looking to deal with an issue on the ballot. I also oversee several programs areas including training campaign staff, our state legislative program focused on protecting the ballot measure process, and overseeing our annual national conference.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    I’ve been lucky to have jobs that have challenged me and allowed me to constantly expand my skill set. I’d never even heard of a ballot measure until I started working at Planned Parenthood Action Fund in 2011. On my first day they told me I was going to Mississippi to fight a ballot measure – and I had no idea what they were talking about. But being open to learn and being trusted by my employer to succeed ended up sending me on an entirely new career path. It’s a theme that’s existed in every job I’ve had. Taking the chance, even though I wasn’t guaranteed 100% success and being trusted to do so. Whether that’s when I took over a specific training program for new college graduates at EMILY’s List, running the statewide operations for the DNC in Connecticut in 2010, or going to Kenya to teach youth there about organizing, I was trusted to lead.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    We’re a small team but we accomplish a lot. I think it can be incredibly challenging to remember that my goal is to help people do great things, not to do it for them. I know a lot and have expertise but I’m not always the expert on that specific situation. I try to go into every situation confident but humble enough to really listen to what I’m being told. I can’t be helpful if I’m not really listening and people aren’t going to trust me if it’s clear I already have my own agenda.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Your career and your life aren’t going to happen in a straight line. You might have a plan, but be flexible in following it. I’ve had a lot of varied job experiences but they all teach me something and help build skills that allow me to advance. Don’t get caught up on titles and really look at the work you’re being asked to do. Ask if it’s in line with your values and will it help you get where you’re going. Also, work is a part of your life but it shouldn’t be your life. Balance doesn’t mean all your commitments are perfectly spread out at all times, but make sure you’re making time for what you value.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network? 

    It’s a bit embarrassing but I actually schedule time to check-in with people. I create calendar reminders so I can send a quick email, make a quick phone call or whatever to make sure people know I still want to be in relationship with them. And I try to make sure that I’m not making an ask every-time I talk to people. Identifying our shared values means that I can not talk to someone for weeks or months and there can still be trust and respect when we reconnect. So whenever I’m traveling and talking to new people I try to make sure I’m actually listening to what they’re saying and identifying what we have in common. Then I follow-up.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    I’ve been lucky to have mentors who have occasionally believed in me more than I believed in myself. When I went to Kenya for a consulting job, it wasn’t because I’d applied but because a mentor thought I’d be good at it and sent it my resume. She didn’t even tell me she’d submitted it until afterwards! Having people in my life who are supportive but also willing to ask me the hard questions (and sometimes push my boundaries) made me feel safe to take chances.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    Just do it. It’s not always glamorous and can sometimes be hard to explain to people! But if you believe in what you’re trying to accomplish, go for it. Don’t get caught up on titles – in political work titles are free – and pay attention to what you actually get to do. Show up, do the work and you will advance. But also value yourself and your boundaries. Politics can be all consuming and knowing who you are is key to making it through.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    Ironically even as I’m filling this out I’m preparing to transition to a new role at a new organization. In May, I’ll be moving into more of the resource support side of political work. I’ll be really focused on how we can support grassroots groups to address the issues that directly impact them, with a special focus on traditionally under-represented groups. I spend a lot of time thinking about how we shift whose voices get the most attention in politics and working to support those directly impacted feels like a natural next step.

    Story published in April 2019. For current updates about Kellie, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Mattie DelVecchio (’14)

    Mattie DelVecchio (BS 2014 in Business & Enterprise Management, with Italian Language)

    Marketing Manager at Amazon (Contractor), DC Metro Area

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Mattie DelVecchio head shot

    I currently work as a contractor for Amazon.  I am in their Workforce Services division working mostly in recruitment marketing.  My role is to reimagine how we are marketing to potential new hires to work at Amazon across varying areas of the company.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    To put it bluntly, I was a COVID layoff from my previous job at Hilton, which I loved.  I was unemployed for roughly a year where I was freelancing and volunteering while job searching.  It was one of the most stressful times I’ve encountered during my professional career.  I had found my footing at Hilton and enjoyed the company a lot so losing that position was tough.  Throw in a global pandemic and the uncertainty of the job market and it was a trying time.  That being said, I kept looking and broadened my search beyond traditional full-time roles and found this contractor role with Amazon.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    Learning to stand up for myself and what I know is right was challenging. It can be scary to go against the grain, but I learned that it is so important to maintain your integrity and stand up for what you know to be right. I wasn’t expecting to question things at such a level in my first job but it has shaped who I am today.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    1. Create a budget and try your best to stick to it (but don’t be afraid to treat yourself now and again).

    2. If your company has a 401K, invest in it. I didn’t for my first few years after school and I don’t recommend that (plus if your company matches, that is free money!)

    3. Keep your hobbies or find new ones. You’ll want to do things outside of work to relieve stress and get out of your head. It’s also a great way to meet new people.

    4. Know what is important to you in life (job, family, free time, travel, etc) and figure out what you’re willing to trade-off to focus on those things that are important.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I’m not not going to lie, it was tough for me to make personal relationships when I first moved up to the DC area. I’m fairly introverted and I was the youngest person on my team by a good 10 years. I eventually found a fantastic gym where I have been able to build friendships and I’ve gotten back into dance classes which have both helped to develop those personal relationships. Professionally things were a bit easier for me. I had a great boss who is well connected and he introduced me to his colleagues who in turn introduced me to more people. I also recommend getting involved with a Wake community near you! Great way to meet alums and network with people you already have at least one thing in common with.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    I’ve had two mentors from my time at Wake Forest who I still go to today to talk through work, life, and large decisions. Holly Brower and John Ceneviva were two professors who took me under their wing while I was a student and I have been able to grow and develop so much by having them both as sounding boards. Professionally, I have found a sponsor in my former boss at Hilton, he’s someone who I know will speak up on my behalf when I’m not in the room. I’ve learned how important it is to both have mentors and sponsors in my corner.

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

    Stay true to yourself and your values. No job is worth losing who you are or what is important to you. I fully believe ambition is important but so are your family, friends, and health. Also, no job is too small (or big) for you to do. People notice when you take the time to help others and do something that may not be in your job description.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    Looking far into the future, I’d love to be a CMO…one day. For now, I’m making sure that I when I look to change jobs, I do so in a strategic way, to ensure I am gaining new experiences and a different perspective. I am also actively building my network and making sure that those in my network know my skills, passion, and work ethic. I’m also committed to continuously learning. I love to read about great leaders and what new things are happening in the marketing and business world to keep my mind and perspective fresh.

    Story updated in October 2021. For current updates about Mattie, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Anna Cowdin (’11)

    Anna Cowdin, DMD (2011 BA in Psychology, with Chemistry)

    Owner/Dentist at Nomad Dental in Dallas, TX

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Anna Cowdin head shot

    I currently own and operate a tiny house dental office, Nomad Dental, in Dallas. We visit large company headquarters monthly to treat employees during their work day.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    I started Nomad Dental while I was still in dental school and had the tiny house built about an hour from school. I worked in a few dental offices before I was accepted to school so I used that knowledge, my knowledge from school, and a whole lot of winging it to design and build the office.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    I worked as an assistant for a few years after college, but this is probably my first real job. With Nomad, knowing that the buck stopped with me was a little scary at first. I got a lot of pushback on my choices in design and equipment but I had to stand up for what I wanted because nobody else would.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Figure out what works for you and don’t feel guilty about it. I have two kids, 2 and 11 months, and I felt a lot of guilt when I couldn’t spend all day with them anymore. I’ve now realized I’m a better mom when I get time away to spend on my passion. I feel more refreshed and when I’m home I am 100% present during that time rather than 50% present all the time.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I have realized that I need to put myself out there more than I would usually. I try to attend more events and say yes to spending time with other moms and dentists, even when I would rather not. This is so important as a startup and since I work alone and don’t have professional relationships at my office.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    I had a couple of mentors in dental school. They instilled in me the confidence to go out on my own and follow my dream. They were always available for questions and built me up when I was struggling with something. I call them often to chat and ask questions!

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

    If you have a dream, set little goals to get there and always check in on yourself to see if what you’re doing is helping you on the way. Every job you take should be a stepping stone to your dream! I worked as an dental assistant, front desk, and even in dental real estate. All of these jobs, while tedious at the time, helped me learn the different aspects of my field.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    The end goal for Nomad is to have multiple offices in different cities and possibly franchises. We also currently consult, design, and build mobile offices for other dentists and would like to grow that part of the business. We are always trying to perfect our systems to make sure we have a scalable business model. Once we feel like we can grown without putting quality at risk, we will likely open our second office.

    Story published in May 2019. For current updates about Anna, visit the Nomad Dentist website.

  • Jessica Williams (’03)

    Jessica Williams (2003 BA in Communications)

    Founder & CEO at Superwoman Project in Portland, OR

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Jessica Williams headshot

    I’m the Founder and CEO of the Superwoman Project, an organization devoted to helping professional women find more meaning, clarity and purpose in their careers through coaching, training and live events. I’m on a mission to put more women in positions of power by advancing the professional development of strong, wise female leaders. I have also created the Superwoman Summit in Portland, OR, a multi-day transformational experience devoted to helping professional women up-level their careers and feel more powerful so that they can lead others and make a difference.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    The mission of the Superwomen Project is inspired by my own personal journey. I grew up in a working class family in rural North Carolina. After I graduated from Wake, I drove west to Los Angeles. I started my career working in sales, marketing, and advertising. 

    In 2009, at the height of the recession, I landed in Portland, Oregon flat broke with no job prospects in sight. Over the course of the next six years, I became a certified yoga instructor and graduated with a master’s degree in strategic communications from The University of Oregon.

    The 15 years I’ve spent in business showed me that a lot needs to be done to support the advancement of strong, wise female leaders; and I felt called to this cause. My approach to this work encourages female leaders to be authentic and true to themselves, to tap into their intuition, creativity and curiosity, and to leverage the new world of work to their advantage.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    I’m not selling widgets; I’m selling social change and personal transformation. While this is the most rewarding part of my job, it can often be the most challenging! Figuring out how to price, sell and market my services in a way that meets my community’s needs, but also makes a profit is probably the most challenging part of my work:) I navigate this challenge by having multiple different revenue streams, and working to secure corporate support and partnership to offset costs for the individual consumer.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Since this is the focus of a lot of my work, there is so much advice I could give, so here are my BIGGEST nuggets of advice for life after college:

    • Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction! Take the best next step, get feedback and continually improve.
    • Your life is not a straight-line, it’s more like a jungle gym. The sooner you accept that, the better:)
    • Follow what feels like freedom, love and joy (what feels better) versus what feels heavy, dark and suffocating (what feels worse).
    • There are no right or wrong choices, only consequences and feedback to the decisions you make.
    • Figure out what you value and what your “non-negotiables” are, and go after that above all else.
    • There is no such thing as balance…only trade-offs. Like a pilot navigating the ocean, find your middle-path and try to hit it at least half of the time. Eventually, you’ll get there!

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    I have been networking a ton over the last decade — going to events, coffees, lunches, and happy hours to build my network. Finally, all of that hard work has paid off! Now, when I go to events, I always run into someone I know. Having this kind of network is a great benefit, because I am introduced to influencers and decision-makers all the time. I have to think intentionally about saying yes to connections that don’t align with my current priorities.

    To help manage my network, I like to think of my relationships as a set of concentric circles. There’s my “inner-inner circle” of my closest family and friends I count on for love and support. The next rings are other friends, acquaintances, and other people I know. Thinking about my network in this way helps me to prioritize my time and investment in these different types of relationships. My network is fluid; relationships change over time and so do our priorities. 

    My advice is to always network strategically — make sure you’re spending time where it counts. If you are the smartest person in the room…you’re in the wrong room;)

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    I have had very few mentors, but A TON of great coaches and therapists that I’ve paid to help me out through the years. The impact has been profound in helping me overcome limiting beliefs that were holding me back and focus my time on what matters most. Additionally, I’ve had people that believed in me wholeheartedly so that when I was losing steam, they picked me up and dusted me off and told me to get back out there!

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    The kind of work I do is very competitive and can be hard to navigate. If you want to be a coach of some sort, I recommend you find people you admire and pay attention to what they do in their business. Don’t copy them, but note what you like and don’t like and incorporate those principles into your own work and build on them. Additionally, niche, niche, niche! Niche down further than you ever think you should and then niche again! Don’t confuse your customer by offering too much — offer one thing and do it incredibly well.

    If you want to be a professional public speaker, figure out what your point of view is, what industry you belong in and develop a signature talk that shares your message in a concise way that solves your customer’s problems. Hit up all of the associations and groups in your community and speak for free, until you have enough experience, street-cred and testimonials to start charging.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    We’re expanding the Superwoman Project products and services all of the time! Right now, we’re about to reboot our podcast, The Superwoman Chronicles for its fourth season and we’re focused on making this year’s Superwoman Summit bigger and better than ever!

    Story published in May 2019. For current updates about Jessica, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Andrew Snorton (’93)

    Andrew Snorton (BA 1993 in English and Sociology)

    Owner at Creative Community Solutions, LLC in Atlanta, GA

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Andrew Snorton head shot

    I am the Owner of my own company, Creative Community Solutions. My work includes education, writing, and press/media services. I provide a range of educational services, including traditional and virtual tutoring and workshops for ACT/SAT preparation and ASVAB. I work with a few of high schools in my area for their test prep (ACT, SAT, and Asset testing).

    I have written two books (“Deeper than your deepest sleep: thoughts on love with Joseph Snorton” and “9 stories of faith: volume 1”). I’m  an editor and proof consultant for fellow authors. I consult with a few businesses as they interface with radio, television, and online publications. On my television show “The Conversation Corner with Author Andrew Snorton”, I interview a wide range of guests from the entertainment, business, nonprofit, and inter-related community.

    With those moving parts, my current work is focused on expanding to different audiences within my community and in other cities. I have several projects in the works with organizations and schools for their test preparation, with individuals and businesses, and with community entities to support their press/media needs.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    There are a number of key personal and career experiences which have led me to where I am today. My previous experience of working in Gwinnett County Public Schools (GA) and my with community organizations have a clear impact on the work I do. While I am no longer in the classroom, understanding the importance of teaching and learning, meeting students where they are, and giving them the gradual challenges to improve their skill sets, confidence, and performance are all key experiences that I continue to use today.

    Early experiences ranging from classes taken in English, Sociology, History, and Communications play a huge role with my writing and interfacing with multiple audiences. I can remember being interviewed by the local media when I participated in the Volunteer Service Corp (Project Pumpkin)! This experience helped shape how I think about interviewing others now.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    Sometimes, there are “lean” stretches for my company, even when I have planned and mapped out quarterly goals. There are long evenings, setbacks and unanticipated situations that I experience as a business owner. What helps me is my spiritual grounding, understanding that this comes with the territory and is a part of the process, and knowing that at times I have to pause, reboot, and even leave something alone before I let it spill into other areas. Even with experience, I have to remember there’s always a learning process.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Never stop learning. Learn from your mistakes. We all make them. Know that at times, your biggest support may come from people who don’t know you, because people who know you are used to seeing you operate in one “lane”. As you grow, evolve, and expand, some people aren’t going to know how to process this new you.

    That’s where your grounding is so important. Understand that life is a process and things take time, sometimes longer than you’d expect. But when people see that you are dedicated to your craft, you’ll be surprised where help may come from next.

    And don’t forget to reach back and empower others along the way. Nobody gets “there” by themselves. Reach across the aisle and to those with experiences different from your own.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    Sometimes, I wonder how! 

    You build your network by identifying people in your field or area of interest. For example, there are a number of authors (and more that I’m looking forward to connecting with) from different events and festivals that I connect with and network with. There are things they see that others don’t and vice-versa, and over the long haul, you can make things a “win-win” on so many levels. The same with press/media; when I wrote for Examiner.com in 2016, opportunities to interview people across the board, from community organizations to those in arts and entertainment are very integral in my development to where I have a growing platform to build upon the work I’ve done and yet to do.

    It’s combination of identifying people to connect with, being a part of the “circles” for your meet and greets, mixers, and workshops to help you grow, and being as consistent as possible to connect with people. You don’t always have to call someone every day, but call on them as best as possible, and come to them with something to talk about and you’ll be surprised where it can take you.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    We hear on a regular basis how mentoring is important. And it really is.

    Professors such as (but not limited to) Dr. Eure, Dr. Harris (Sociology), Dr. Oakes (now at UNLV), Dr. Ernie Wade, Ms. Elena Mastroianni (one of my teachers from elementary school…yes, I can remember that far back!), and other coaches and professionals have been and are still great resources to me. They provide timely insight and advice. Fellow authors, Tyressa Ty and Darrius Gourdine, have been real helpful.

    Mentors do more than provide the professional or creative insight and advice; at times, they are the ones who help redirect you so you don’t look foolish.

    Get the right people in your corner. Those individuals who are willing to give you sincere and honest feedback, even when the truth is something you don’t want to hear. Often, that’s when you need to listen to it the most.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    Learn as much as possible when you decide to venture on your own. Identify people beyond your usual circles. They can provide some sound insight based on their experience that you can adapt to your needs.

    Stay as connected as possible with your initial “tiers of access”, including where you grew up, and your collegiate experience at Wake Forest. Please make sure to be engaged with the community and expand across different audiences and demographics. Don’t immediately shun, discard, or discount someone because they don’t appear to be like you or what you are used to. Be sincere with your outreach and stewardship, and don’t be afraid to show your dedication to your craft and development.

    You never know who may be a resource and help you expand your reach.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    What’s next? Continued growth and development, continuing to get better, and keeping it as balanced as possible. Essentially, remaining grounded, humble, and hungry.

    There’s more on the horizon for the work I am doing and have yet to do. As long as I remain grounded, dedicated to my craft, learn from my mistakes and successes, and continue to focus on positive growth with a blend of being strategic and having fun along the way (yes, you do need to be focused and driven, but we all have to stop and smell the roses, or take that walk in the park and enjoy a sunset and those kinds of things), I’ll be an even bigger and more positive presence professionally, civic-wise, and otherwise.

    Story published in June 2019. For current updates about Andrew, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Carla Gallelli (’98)

    Carla Gallelli (1998 BS in Health and Exercise Science, with Biology)

    Former Chief Financial Officer at Diane von Furstenberg in New York, NY

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Carla Gallelli head shot

    Currently I am in between jobs, taking a bit of a break to spend time with family, friends and travel the world. Previously, I was the Chief Financial Officer of Diane von Furstenberg (DVF), a global women’s fashion brand, based in New York City. I was at DVF for almost 6 years.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    There were a few along the way. First, was most definitely my Wake Forest education, which I appreciated even more after earning my MBA a few years after graduating from Wake. Wake basically laid the groundwork for working hard and overcoming challenges. I definitely gravitated towards math/science in high school/college, but Wake’s undergraduate program required a very broad and diverse elective requirement. It was the first time I was challenged outside of my comfort zone. Three years later post-graduation, I was entering an MBA program at Georgetown University with no prior “real-world business” experience or undergraduate business classes under my belt, but knowing that I had already succeeded in areas of academia that were not my strengths gave me the confidence to step up to the challenge of business school.

    I also had the opportunity to work for both publicly-traded companies and privately-held companies which are very different in terms of corporate culture and dynamic. I think working in both has given me a clearer idea of what sort of company I am likely to thrive in, and for me, this means smaller, privately held companies.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    The most challenging aspect of being CFO was finding the balance of saying “no” while not always being the person who said “no”. In the role of CFO, you have to support the business across the board and help everyone in the company understand business priorities, all of which require funding to execute. It’s hard when there are a lot of great ideas or sales are not on plan, and you have to tell departments to cut costs or only fund certain ideas over others. You want to be a partner to the business not an obstacle. It is a very tough balance.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    It’s definitely easier to say than do, but it is SO important to find an outlet outside of work –  exercise, a hobby, social events, etc. I made the mistake several times of letting work dominate my life and often times, it resulted in me not being my best self personally and professionally. You absolutely need to set boundaries and set time for yourself. Otherwise it will eventually catch up to you in a negative way and it won’t matter if you were/are the hardest working person in the room. I am using this time off to re-calibrate and re-set to make sure I don’t fall into the same mistakes previously made.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    LinkedIn is a great tool and I think it is important to keep your profile updated as it is key tool used by recruiters and companies to seek out talent. I always try to attend as many alumni events from both my undergraduate and graduate schools. It’s a great way to re-connect with people and meet new people. Often times, other introductions materialize from those events. Never pass on an opportunity to meet someone for coffee, lunch, etc to network.

    I think it is very important to engage with your co-workers and build relationships with them. I don’t think you have to be best friends but making the effort to have a drink after work or grab lunch with someone becomes another person who you can reach out to later down the road should they end up at a company or in a role that you are interested in.

    I think it is important to make yourself available to junior employees. Ultimately, they will eventually move on to new roles and you never know if you might need help getting your resume into the right person’s hands. People are much more inclined to help when they remember you as having helped them along their way.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    Mentoring relationships have been really important especially earlier on in my career. Every company has its politics and people who are difficult to work with. Having a mentor gave me the outlet to vent when I felt something wasn’t right. Often times, mentors helped me see the “bigger” company picture which you need to have in order to move up in your career.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    First, I would definitely look at the alumni database and reach out to alumni working in the industry. Wake Forest is a very special place and most alumni are really excited to help other Wake Foresters. Also, think outside the box of ways to substantiate your interest in the field. For me, a part-time job in a retail store while working a full-time finance job right out of business school helped me see that I wanted to marry my financial skill set with the retail industry. Once I knew that, I networked my way into my first fashion brand in New York in a senior financial analyst role. In terms of the fashion industry, there are key times in the year when brands make “temp hires” (ie. Fashion week/market). If you have the time, try and take a temporary job. Often times, it could lead to a permanent role. Also, you don’t have to be a “creative” person to be in this industry. IT, HR, Finance, etc are all functions needed at any company.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    I am still enjoying my time off but think ultimately I will end up back in a CFO role. Having worked at some established global brands, I believe I have a lot of experience to help start-ups in the industry or industry-related fields (i.e. retail technology) build the business infrastructure from the beginning versus too late in the after the business has taken off and then you are scrambling to catch up from an infrastructure perspective. Strong financial leaders are always needed in this industry.

    Story published in July 2019. For current updates about Carla, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Melvin Scales (’76)

    Melvin Scales (BA 1976 in History)

    Executive Vice President at Meridian Resources, Inc. in Winston-Salem, NC

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Melvin Scales ('76) head shot

    As EVP of Meridian Resources, a national talent management consulting firm with a focus on career management, executive coaching and outplacement, I am responsible for our leading our corporate strategy and all new ventures as well as overseeing our University Solutions division which provides career management services to select colleges and universities. Currently I am working on launching two new initiatives wherein Meridian provides all career management services for students for a private liberal arts college and the graduate business school for a leading state institution in Utah.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    Like many individuals who have worked in business, downsizing is a way of life. As a result of that event, I was introduced to the world of career management consulting through my transition coach, Ron Grant, who remains both a close friend and mentor to this day. Because of him, I changed careers to become a career transition coach and a few years later led the global career transition practice for the world’s largest provider of those services, Right Management.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    The greatest challenge of my job as EVP of Meridian is to understand that many of the solutions on which we are developing and introducing to the market are sometimes years ahead of the current practices by prospective client organizations. Providing the rationale and securing agreements with these organizations to be willing to experiment with solutions that have a degree of risk is difficult but we are finding that leaders with a true vision for what is possible are the best prospective clients with whom we can partner.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    The best advice I can give to Wake Forest graduates is to understand that nothing beats the willingness to sacrifice, work hard and be willing to give more than what is required in the career and in life. Also, be as financially literate as one can possibly be and continue to learn through additional formal education. Finally, understand that we are all here to leave the world and the human condition better than when we found it.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    I constantly re-connect with former colleagues and friends by sharing updates and asking them how they are doing at present and how could I be of help to them if they are having a problem of any kind. It is not important to build a network…anyone can do that. But not everyone can build true relationships.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    I have already mentioned Ron Grant as one mentor. The other mentor was Jack Ward who was VP of Marketing at L’eggs Products when I was a part of the brand management team. Although extremely busy, Jack always took the time to answer questions that I shared with him. And there were many because my background was not business or marketing for that matter. Because of Jack I was able to become, some years later, General Manager of Meldrum, Fewsmith and Arocom which was Ohio’s largest advertising, promotion and public relations firm.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    For those students and young alumni interested in the field of talent management consulting, it is important that you learn as much as you can about what truly motivates individuals to be engaged in their chosen profession. Be a “people engineer” to find ways to connect with who they are and what they aspire to be. Great talent management consultants have this “gift” and it is available to anyone no matter what they studied in school or what they focus on professionally.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    First, I don’t believe that I will ever retire because I enjoy the work of helping people reach their professional potential and goals. However, I may explore bringing my experiences in the business and academia spaces to a college and university to lead or establish their career services organization while also lecturing on business and leadership ethics.

    Story published in June 2019. For current updates about Melvin, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Steve Margosian (’85)

    Steve Margosian (1985 BA in Speech Communication)

    Senior Vice President, Creative Partnerships-Sports & Olympics at NBCUniversal in New York, New York

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Steve Margosian head shot

    I have oversight of an Ad Sales Marketing team which creates multi-platform opportunities for advertisers to reach consumers via linear television, digital and social media. The NBC Sports portfolio of assets includes The Olympics, NFL, Super Bowl, NHL, PGA Tour, The Open Championship, Ryder & President’s Cup, Nascar, Premier League, Triple Crown Horse Racing, Notre Dame Football, IndyCar racing, The French Open and Tour de France.

    Our objective is to leverage the media, marketing and intellectual property rights secured from our league partners with advertisers to create incremental value and drive a Brand’s awareness and consideration. We’re often combining an advertisers “Official Sponsor” status with these Leagues to create even more meaningful exposure for Brands and measurable interactions with consumers. Currently, my focus is developing unique custom content to drive incremental sales to Sunday Night Football for advertisers like FedEx, State Farm, Applebees, Hyundai, and Amazon. Additionally the countdown to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics Games has started. Activating the marketing platforms for Official Olympic sponsors like Toyota, Comcast, Visa, and Coca-Cola are in full swing.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    I’ve been very fortunate to be immersed in the Media and Sports Marketing space for 34+ years. A friendship formed with my Sigma Pi fraternity brother Jim Keever (WFU ’83) led to my first opportunity at a mid-sized advertising agency named Backer & Spielvogel. After spending 10 years on the agency side in media buying, I made a career-defining decision to work for Anheuser-Busch here in NYC. Heading up their wholly-owned subsidiary Busch Media Group-New York office, I was given the chance to learn from the very best sports marketers in the country. How to create, market, and sell a product leveraging the scale provided by the largest beer company in the US and their marketing budgets was a most invaluable experience. It allowed me to expand my relationships in the sports and media business to the highest levels at all the legacy media companies like ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and ESPN. In addition to having a seat at the table for Official Sponsor negotiations with the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, and Nascar among others.

    Participating at that level taught me the power of preparation, unlocked my creativity and allowed me develop relationships that I value to this day. The past 13+ years I’ve spent on the Sales side working for Comcast Sports and ultimately NBC Sports. Leading a group of professionals in the ideation process is most fulfilling and our collective “What if we…” mindset has been a strong mantra to foster creativity within my group. Having worked on the Agency, Client and Sales side of the business has given me great industry-wide perspective. It underlines each of us needs to be willing to take chances on new opportunities which often can complement each other for a more well-rounded experience.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    Balancing the multiple properties, relationships, and challenges of a rapidly changing media marketplace is a huge challenge. Sports is typically viewed live and not truly impacted by the “time-shifted viewing” patterns rapidly developing. However the broader industry trend of consumers watching “what they want, when they want, on the device they want” has far reaching implications to all media companies. The best way to help navigate during these times of change is to stay connected to the young people on my team and around NBCU. Engage them on their viewing and consumption habits. What’s the hot social platform? What streaming service can’t you live without? Why are watching live sports still so important in a culture obsessed with binge entertainment viewing? How can a marketer break through to you without it being viewed as intrusive? Listen to their answers and you’ll learn a lot.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    I’m lucky to see many young people looking for that first opportunity in Sports Marketing so I get to give a fair amount of advice. I always lead with hard work, maintain your integrity and be a team player. That serves as a pretty good baseline for success. In our sports business it’s tricky to create that work/life balance as so many of us are passionate about the sports we follow and having it directly interwoven into your career leads to 7 day work weeks. A person working in our business watches that football game or soccer match or golf tournament with an eye unlike most people. We see things on how Production presents the sport and how marketers create campaigns to leverage the passion of sports fans with a professional eye. It’s fun, but hard to turn it off. Don’t watch a game with someone in the sports business…it could drive you crazy listening to the intricacies that most people don’t see.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    Making sure you check in with honest communication with your network of friends and relationships is a key. Without being overbearing you need to make that outreach at the right moment, with something relevant, with something interesting that shows you’ve been thinking about that person and care about the relationship. Of course, some relationships are so strong you don’t need that seminal moment to make contact. Those are the best kind of relationships.

    Bottom line, is stay available to your friends, be willing to go the extra mile to engage, and know when it’s better to be a listener, not a talker.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    As I mentioned, I’ve had a remarkable opportunity to speak to many young people about the industry. Mentoring them on what’s important, what to focus on and how to use that information to succeed is something I’m most proud of. Over the past years I’ve managed big and small groups. Maintaining relationships with my team members and watching their successes has been extremely rewarding. My advice on Day One with every member on my team has been please let me know if you’re thinking of new opportunities whether inside or outside The Company. If I think it’s a good one, I’ll help you get it. If I know things or have a strong opinion why it may not be the best idea, you may hear me try to talk you out of it. That philosophy has earned me the trust and lifelong friendship of many people who’ve gone on to successful careers.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    Study the industry. There is more written and commented on in the media and sports marketplace than ever before. The high-speed collision of Content, Distribution, Brands and Measurement is happening right now and if you’re interested in those things, start reading and talking to people about it. And when push comes to shove, learn what life at an advertising agency is all about. While a part of our business under great pressures, it’s still the best place to start.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    I’d like to continue my career at NBC Sports with a strong focus on a successful Summer Olympics in Tokyo 2020. At some point, I believe I’ll be drawn into teaching about Sports Media & Marketing. That would be a nice way to sunset while still learning from young people about what’s relevant.

    Story published in October 2019. For current updates about Steve, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Shana Eagle Hurt (’95, JD ’99)

    Shana Eagle Hurt (1995 BA in History, JD 1999)

    Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley in Winston-Salem, NC

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Shana Hurt headshot

    I recently joined Morgan Stanley as a Financial Advisor, after spending the past 17 years at Wells Fargo as an attorney and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies. Our team at Morgan Stanley, the Fenimore Hurt Group, specializes in helping people with their personal finances, reducing the anxiety they have about their money. We give them time back in their lives so they can focus on what’s important to them: families, careers and passions. We sit down with people to understand what’s important to them and what they care about, and then identify ways to help them reach their goals.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    After spending the past 17 years at Wells Fargo as an attorney and relationship manager, specializing in Executive Compensation and working for Fortune 500 companies to ensure C-suite executives received their (large) corporate payouts, I recognized that my passion was waning. I felt like I was only helping corporate America and Wall Street get richer, leaving me personally unfulfilled. Because I was fortunate to be in a stable job, I could be intentional in assessing: my strengths; my passions; the type of work environment in which I thrive; what size employer I want; what I expect from a team and colleagues. In other words, what kind of work was I going to find meaningful and do with a passion for the next 15-20 years? As a result, for the first time in my 20+ year career, I got to choose the job rather than have the job choose me.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    Time management and prioritizing. What’s important? What’s urgent? What’s the best use of my time, and does that answer change if my goals are short term vs. long term? I schedule a meeting with myself for 30 minutes every Friday afternoon to plan my upcoming week. And I schedule 15 minutes on Wednesday mornings to assess if I’m on track or whether an intervening event has forced me to re-prioritize.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    First, ‘work / life balance’ is a misnomer . . . and sets you up to feel like you’re failing, or at least flailing! “Balance” indicates “equal” or “even distribution”. Balancing work and life is cyclical – you will spend more time on one for a while, and then the pendulum swings back the other way. When you’re starting a new role, you are going to spend significantly more energy on “work” – getting yourself up to speed, learning what the role ‘really’ is, how everything fits together, what the expectations are of you . . . but that all takes a back seat, for instance, when you are moving into a new apartment or planning a wedding.

    Second, set a budget, stick to it, and save. The sooner you can start saving and investing, the more freedom you will have in making choices and decisions. Take advantage of your employer’s 401k plan; educate yourself about money. You don’t want to be haunted with financial burdens for 30+ years because of decisions you made in your early 20s.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    Building and maintaining a network doesn’t happen overnight. It takes effort. The high school and college environment made it relatively easy to meet people because you are surrounded by a large number of similarly-aged people. And the vast majority of your classmates were in the same season of life. After college, however, you will be working with people who are in many different stages of life: old fogeys anxiously waiting to retire; middle-aged parents battling with their teenagers’ behavior; career-focused individuals who frown upon socializing in the workplace. Most of them have very busy, scheduled-to-the-max after-work commitments, along with established social networks.

    Thus, be intentional in creating a social network for yourself. Identify a couple of groups or places where you can meet people with interests and passions similar to yours, and then force yourself to go. Rarely do you meet potential new friends of any age by staying at the office late or heading home to watch TV alone. And be open-minded: your social network will come to include a wide range of folks of varying ages, backgrounds and seasons of life – all of which will bring a new richness to your life.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    Finding mentors, even if they aren’t mentors in the formal sense, is soooo important. They give you someone to bounce ideas off and ask questions of: how does this work? What should I be aware of? Is this typical? As I look back at the various mentors I’ve had – from work, from volunteering, from church – they all had two things in common: 1) they’ve ‘been there, done that’ – giving me a perspective that often times allowed me to avoid some of the same mistakes they made. And 2) they had gotten to know me – so their advice was consistent with who I am and my values.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    Whether you are interested in working in the legal or financial industry, leverage your liberal arts education. Employers want to hire well-rounded folks who can think and problem-solve . . . and then implement a solution. They generally care very little about whether you have ‘the knowledge’ to do the job but rather whether you are capable of learning and applying what the job and work environment teaches you. I did not take one single business or accounting class while at Wake Forest. Yet I’ve spent my entire career working for a bank and an investment firm – and been very successful at both. Earning a degree from Wake Forest equips you with the tools to thrive in any industry – so take the same skills you learned at Wake and then apply them professionally.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    I plan to work another 15-20 years, and then retire. Our team at Morgan Stanley sits down regularly to assess our 3-5 and 7-10 year plan. How is the industry changing? How is technology affecting our jobs? What is the next generation expecting from a Financial Advisor? I love learning and applying new knowledge to my life – both personally and professionally. Not only does it grow me, but it serves my clients well. The world is constantly evolving – and I don’t want to be one of those who finds themselves left behind because I refused to embrace change.

    Story published in October 2019. For current updates about Shana, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Kevin Felder (’00)

    Kevin Felder (2000 BA in Communications)

    Station Manager at Millennial FM 95.9 (Glory Communications, Inc.) in Columbia, South Carolina

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Kevin Felder head shot

    I am the station manager at Millennial FM 95.9, a 24-hour Christian hip-hop, Christian pop, and Urban Inspirational FM radio station in Columbia, South Carolina. This is a fairly rare radio format, where we play artists like Lecrae, Andy Mineo, Hillsong Young & Free, Jonathan McReynolds, and more. We are blessed to be in our third year of operation, and are continuing to expand our reach in the community and beyond.

    I am also Christian rap recording artist and songwriter Big Redd. My most recent song—Running Back to You (featuring Fred Hammond)—debuted at #22 on the Billboard Gospel Digital Songs Chart and had several weeks of success on the Billboard/Nielsen BDS Gospel radio charts. I also just co-wrote and performed in the television campaign for non-profit organization Historic Columbia’s 41st Annual Jubilee Festival.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    I am proud to say that relationships and experiences at Wake Forest University paved the way for my career. As an undergrad, I changed majors mid-stream to Communication. In what became a milestone in my life, Dr. Ananda Mitra said in class one day that if we could master communicating with people—first finding common ground with them, then speaking their language through a lens of understanding—we could be limitless in life. Those passing words sparked a fire in me, and proved to chart a course for both my career and life aspirations.

    Shortly after, a gentleman (who worked in The Pit and I only remember by his nickname Jay Bird), knew that I had a love for Gospel music. In conversation one day, he invited me to come sit in on his weekend Gospel radio show at Winston-Salem State University to see how I liked it. Jay showed me how to take song requests, how to introduce a song on the air, and how to “run the board.” That night, thanks to Jay, I fell in love with radio, and pledged in my heart that I would one day become a radio announcer; I have now been in the radio industry for nearly 15 years.

    During my tenure at Wake, I was also a proud member of The Wake Forest University Gospel Choir, and contemporary singing group God’s Workmanship. These experiences cemented my love for Gospel music, and I vowed to God that I would dedicate my life to enriching others’ lives through music the way He used music to change my life while at Wake Forest.

    Finally, I want to credit Dr. Barbee Myers Oakes, former chief diversity officer, assistant provost, and director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs (now the Intercultural Center) for being my second “Mom” while at Wake Forest. In high school, I cruised academically. Wake was a wake-up call to say the least. Dr. Oakes helped me navigate through some challenging academic and personal times. After one of my “couch sessions” in her office, she pulled a book from her shelf and recommended it to me. That book—and her counsel—were a turning point in my life. If not for “Momma Oakes” going the extra mile at critical junctures of my undergrad life with such genuine, unreserved, and unconditional love and advice, I would not be who I am today.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    The most challenging aspect of Millennial FM is spreading the news that we are on the air. Sometimes, because we are the media, we can forget that we too have to advertise! Our music is great, our features are great, but even three years in, some people—particularly those in our target demo—are still learning that we exist. To navigate that challenge and to increase our visibility, we primarily partner with local organizations during their events. We will continue to find ways to promote ourselves and genuinely engage with the community to which we have been called.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    There are a few pieces of personal life habit advice I would give to Wake Forest graduates:

    • When you get a job (and if they offer it), invest consistently in your company’s 401(k). Start where you are, and increase your contributions as you increase. Compound interest is golden. Your later-in-life self will thank you.
    • Remain teachable. Yes, you are highly intelligent, but someone else knows more than you. Ask questions—lots of them. Submit yourself to someone who knows more than you, master what they master, and remain humble along the way.
    • Serve others. Bestselling author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” Volunteer. Stop and help someone else. No matter how successful you become, look for opportunities to help others get what they want/need; life then has a way of opening those same doors for you. The way up, is down.
    • Enjoy the journey.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    “Life happens at the speed of relationships.” It is important to build relationships, and don’t burn them.

    I build my network methodically and genuinely. I’m not a big fan of buying a box of business cards, attending networking events, and considering it a success to have put my card in the hand of x-amount of people by the night’s end. I focus on learning what others do, and assessing whether or not my skill set could assist them in any way in the future. Again—”You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” If you build your network on the premise of helping others, instead of only how you can benefit from them, you’ll find that your network is a lot stronger and more meaningful than just having a drawer full of business cards.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    There are two mentors who have unequivocally changed my life—Mr. Alex Snipe, owner of media group Glory Communications, Inc., and my pastor, Dr. Herbert Bailey, II of Right Direction Church International.

    As a young man aspiring to be a radio host, Mr. Snipe pulled me in his office one day and told me that if I could master sales, I could do anything I want to do in the radio industry. I admired his accomplishment—owning seven radio stations across South Carolina, sitting on the board of directors for the National Association of Broadcasters, and at the time, a storied 24+ year radio career—so I took his advice. I began to master sales, and it has opened doors for me to now lead the company’s newest radio station. His tutelage, patience, and generosity along the way have made a mark on my radio career that I am truly grateful for.

    Personally, Dr. Bailey has in all respects been my life coach. His mentorship has guided me through marriage, finances, parenting, and overall life strategy. Often, pastors get a bad rap. The words “greed, prey, money-hungry, sneaky, crook,” and the like are often associated with their role. Dr. Bailey and his wife Dr. Marcia Bailey have been the exact opposite. Their lives of personal and professional integrity undergird their committed, practical, and selfless mentorship. I am forever grateful.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    The thought of current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni being interested in my industry brings a broad smile to my face! The radio industry is exciting, is evolving, and is looking for bright minds to take the baton and run with it. To begin, contact your local radio or television station and express your interest in volunteering. Secondly, contact me. I’d love to talk with you further about my journey and offer you specific advice.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    I desire to own my first radio station. I was recently named by the National Association of Broadcasters Leadership Foundation as a 2020 Broadcast Leadership Training (BLT) Fellow, and will be participating in an intensive, MBA-style program for senior level broadcast managers who aspire to become station owners. I have no doubt that my experience at BLT will help me achieve my goal.

    I also plan on releasing new music. Stay tuned.

    Story published in October 2019. For current updates about Kevin, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Susan Pilon (’96)

    Susan Crawford Pilon (1996 BA in English)

    Client Advisor at Mercer Advisors in St. Petersburg, FL

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Susan Pilon head shot

    I am fortunate to work with an amazing team handling the wealth management needs of multiple generations of successful families. We guide our clients to build and maintain financial independence to experience their best life possible, whatever that means for them. We help them define their life goals and dreams, and then connect their finances to those goals. We strategize on a plan to get them from where they are today to where they want to be in the future, and help them articulate and pass on their values to the next generation and beyond. There is nothing better than when a client tells us they aren’t worried because they know we are there for them and their families.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    One key for me was balancing being an English major and working summers at a bank throughout high school and college. That real-world experience helped me to get multiple interviews in the financial industry and I ended up starting my career in banking. I think my English major truly helped me with my communication skills and with critical thinking skills. Another key was building great relationships personally and professionally. A local Wake Forest alum recommended me to a prestigious program called Leadership St. Pete and while participating in that program, I was recruited into the wealth management industry. Maintaining strong relationships in my industry led me to my current role today.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    Human behavior is the most challenging aspect of my job. People tend to do the wrong thing at the wrong time, often out of fear. Warren Buffett has said of investors, “Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.” I overcome this challenge by having this contrarian viewpoint and by educating clients on the ups and downs of the markets and the natural volatility inherent within them. When clients experience the expectations set, over time this calms their fears and helps them make better decisions. This also builds upon the foundation of our relationship and allows me to make a positive impact in their lives by being their trusted advisor. It really goes beyond investments though – it is about the relationship people have with money and how that impacts the choices they make. Again, it comes down to education and earning trust, so I can truly guide them. It wouldn’t have hurt if I had minored in Psychology though!

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Always have a goal around the most important aspects of your life – wealth, health, relationships, career, philanthropy, etc. Check in with yourself regularly to see if you are in line with those goals. If you find yourself needing to improve in a certain area, focus on that area as quickly as possible. It’s easy to drift from your goals if you wait too long to make changes. The quicker you can adjust, the easier it is, so that regular reflection will be an important aspect. Habits tend to stick in any area of your life, so set yourself up for success by creating good ones. Moderation truly is a good key in all areas. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention living within a budget and making sure it has space for saving for short-term goals, investing for long-term goals, building an emergency fund, giving back, and having fun!

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network? 

    Join industry associations – they can lead to a lot of learning and connections for potential new job opportunities, mentors, and advocates for your career. If your city or chamber has a leadership program, those opportunities can be hugely beneficial. I have built and maintained close friendships with many of my Leadership St. Pete classmates since I went through in 2001, and I moved to a new career because of being involved in the program. Volunteer for a charity you are passionate about. You will find like-minded people, give back, and make an impact. Find your WAKECommunity and attend events. Find a local interest group – running club, art enthusiasts, social club – or create one. Once you have found the right couple of groups, get to know members. Ask them to coffee or lunch. And then choose one of those groups to take a leadership role in when you are ready.

    The main things to remember are that you have to show up (if you don’t go, you can’t meet anyone), connect (introduce yourself and talk to people – most want to make a connection), and reach out (once you have the connections, take an interest in them – call, text, schedule time together.)

    And don’t forget your dear friends! Make sure to reach out to them regularly. Enjoy the good times with them and be there for their struggles. They will enhance you best times and be your life savers in the hard times on this journey.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    Mentors are invaluable! I haven’t had very many formal mentors, but have had a host of informal mentors who have greatly impacted my career and life. I would consider my current manager to be one of those mentors. I have learned so much from him about this industry and having someone that is open and honest and truly gives feedback will only expand your horizons. Find someone you admire and learn from them. You can always ask for a more formal mentoring relationship if they are open to it. Lastly, if you can find an advocate, that is the ultimate in mentorship! Advocates will often influence your career even more by connecting you to others, giving references for you, and promoting you for opportunities.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    Build a good network and gain some experience first. If you are lucky enough to have a large financial firm in your area, work at the home office and learn as much as possible before going out to advise clients. When you do go out, join a team. This industry is aging and needs the next generation to take the lead and make some progressive changes. And reach out to me! I would be happy to talk about the realities, opportunities, and challenges of this industry.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    Our industry is changing. Investment management is essentially free. What won’t go away is good advice. There is an art and science to working with people’s finances and their feelings towards them. Having deep discussions and the ability to navigate complex situations and work with other professionals take finesse and wisdom. I am continuing to work on that art part to help clients achieve their best lives, whatever that looks like for them. And constantly looking at what the next iteration of this business will look like in the best interest of our clients. It is an exciting time!

    Story published in January 2020. For current updates about Susan, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Deb Marke (’16)

    Deb Marke (2016 BS in Health & Exercise Science, with Psychology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies)

    Assistant Director of Advocacy & Social Justice Education in the Office of Civic & Community Engagement at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Deb Marke headshot

    I am honored to work at Wake Forest in the Office of Civic & Community Engagement. The OCCE is the central hub on campus for community based activities on campus where we engage students, faculty, and staff to create meaningful social change. In my role, I manage our Social Justice Incubator space, a student-led incubator space dedicated to advancing social justice through education, programming, and large-scale events; oversee the BRANCHES Social Justice Retreat; manage the Wake Alternative Spring Break program; plan and coordinate the College Advocacy Summit which brings students together student organizers to share resources, build skills around organizing and advocacy, and mobilize for change; design and lead social justice training sessions; coordinate the Deacs Decide Election Engagement Project, and manage Building University Inclusion through Leadership and Diversity (B.U.I.L.D.) pre-orientation program that introduces first-year students to concepts of leadership, intercultural communication and social change.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    During my time at Wake, I was on the pre-med track. I realized a little too late that medicine wasn’t what I was passionate about, but continued on because my parents really encouraged me to do so and I didn’t want to disappoint them. After graduating, I decided to do a year of service through the AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) program in Winston-Salem which seeks to build capacity at a non-profit or community organization to eradicate poverty. During this time, I learned a lot about economic justice, community organizing, and began to realize that I really love developing programs, workshops, and connecting with people. I leaned on my mentors from Wake and ultimately had a moment where I came to the conclusion that I wanted to do student development work really centering on marginalized students. I went to work at the University of Cincinnati’s Women’s Center as the Program Coordinator for Activism and Leadership. In this role, I got the opportunity to focus in on feminist leadership, gender justice, and feminist activism. I really had the chance to grow and challenge myself and my students to begin to reimagine the world that we want and what we need to do to achieve it. After a little over two years, I was thinking about my next step and the AD position opened up in the OCCE. I was nervous, but realized that this is a great next step for me- continuing the work I love to do, challenging myself in new ways, and getting to come back to a place that gave me so much.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    I struggled a lot with Imposter Syndrome. I constantly felt like I didn’t belong and had to prove to myself and others that I should be there. I worked a lot of late nights and weekend, rarely said no to anything, and was really hard on myself. It took my supervisor reminding me that they hired me out of all the candidates because they wanted me there and that they knew that I could do the work. I learned that I can’t be everything for everyone, sometimes it’s okay to say no, and that trying to do everything is not sustainable- it’s really exhausting.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    1. Use your paid time off! If you are sick, do everyone in your office and yourself a favor and stay home and focus on getting better. You accrue that time, you should use it- the work and the office will always be there.
    2. Find time during the week to do things that you love to do. I really enjoy going cycling- so I make sure to do that 3-4 times a week where I don’t focus on anyone else but myself. It’s never selfish to focus in on yourself
    3. It’s really hard to make friends outside of college. I had to learn what it looked like to build community as an adult. At first, I spent a lot of time alone, trying to adjust to a new city where I knew no one and it was really isolating. So, I went out to coffee shops, events around topics that I really love to meet people with similar interests, and I started volunteering at organizations I was passionate about, and slowly, but surely I formed a really solid community. It’s going to be weird, but I encourage you to lean into the discomfort and awkwardness of meeting new folks.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    Dr. Paige Meltzer was the first director of the Wake Forest Women’s Center- she has always been there for me, poured into me, challenged me, and cheered for me. I would not have made it to graduation if it had not been for her. She is the reason why I am in higher education, in all the spaces I didn’t feel seen or heard across campus- I always felt at home and like I belong in the Women’s Center. When I told her I wanted to do what she did- she sent me job descriptions, helped me prep for the interview, and gave me space to practice my presentation. I still talk with her and go to her when I need advice or something big is happening in my life. She taught me what a good mentor looked like and I think of her when I am mentoring my students now.

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

    Remember that this doesn’t have to be forever. You may not be where you want to be and that’s okay. Take the time to figure out what you love about the job you are in, what skills you can gain, and just go in doing the best that you can.

    Story published in November 2019. For current updates about Deb, check out LinkedIn.

  • Lee Norris (’04)

    Lee Norris (BA 2004 in English & Communication)

    Professional Actor and Development Executive at Prix Productions in Raleigh, NC

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Lee Norris headshot

    I’m a professional actor and I also just started a new job as a development executive at Prix Productions, a film and TV production company based in Raleigh, NC. On the acting front, I have a movie coming out in 2020 called “Greyhound” starring Tom Hanks, and a Christmas movie airing on Lifetime with some of my former “One Tree Hill” cast mates. At Prix Productions, I’m helping to develop two feature films that are in various stages of production.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    Juggling my senior year at Wake while simultaneously filming the first season of “One Tree Hill” was one of the hardest, but most important experiences of my life. I was so fortunate that the professors and staff understood that I’d been given a unique opportunity with the show, and they worked with me to balance my classes with my filming schedule so I could fulfill my obligations to graduate on time. It was chaotic, but totally worth it, because I got to walk away with my college degree and still be part of this show that would carry my career for a decade. It taught me that you don’t always have to compromise. Instead of choosing between school or the show, I took on both, and the payoff has been incredible.

    More recently, the decision to move from Los Angeles back home to NC has been a defining experience. Career-wise, it made sense to stay put in LA, but my wife and I wanted to raise our newborn son closer to our families in NC. Ultimately, we decided it was more important to move home and be closer to family regardless of what it meant for my career. Fortunately, since the move, I’ve been able to continue working on various acting gigs and also taken on the production company job. This was the right decision for us as a family, and it’s also reaffirmed for me that there’s not just one path to success. You can make an unconventional career move and still succeed and find happiness.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    Lack of stability is the most challenging aspect. Unless you’re one of the few big name actors in Hollywood, it’s inevitable to have lulls in your career. As a child actor, I learned from an early age how fickle the entertainment industry could be. When I was lucky enough to land a long-running series that provided some financial stability as a young adult, I didn’t take it for granted and saved as much as I could to ride out slower periods that I knew would come later.

    Evolving has also been helpful. I’ve grown my skill set and found new opportunities off-camera that make me less dependent on acting jobs. The Alumni Personal & Career Development Center was instrumental in helping guide my search for a more traditional work role that led to my current development job. Lauren Beam, in particular, helped me figure out how to present my non-traditional work experience in a way that made my resume more appealing. That office is such an invaluable resource for alums, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Balance is crucial. No matter your line of work, you have to take care of yourself mentally and physically, or you’ll suffer. I think a big part of that is finding outlets and meaningful relationships outside of work so that your identity isn’t completely tied-up in what you do. This gives you more freedom to evolve, grow from mistakes, and transition into new roles. Let your source of pride and strength come from the people who love you, and not from whether you’re crushing it or falling behind in your career. 

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network? 

    One way I build my network is by trying to be as authentic as possible with everyone I meet and work with. So much of what we encounter now is filtered or based on perception, and I think that leads us to crave authenticity in our relationships. I’m not perfect at it by any means, but by trying to be kind and genuine with others, I feel like I forge more meaningful connections. This, in turn, helps me stay in touch and I find that people are more willing to help out when they can. Outside of that general philosophy, practical tools like social media, Linked In, and college alumni meet-ups have been helpful.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    Starting out as a child actor, my parents were the most immediate and impactful mentors in my life. Though neither of them had experience in the entertainment industry, they taught me the importance of being professional on set, treating others with kindness, saving money, and getting an education. All of that helped me navigate the transition from child actor to adulthood. I also had some amazing professors at Wake Forest who nurtured my talent and growth as a person, and who are still valued advisors and friends. Cindy Gendrich, Sharon Andrews, Brook Davis, and Mary Dalton are just a few who mean so much to me. 

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    You have to truly love what you’re doing because there’s a lot of rejection involved. You also have to be open to learning from others, but at the same time, not let other people define you or tell you what you can do. Do the smart, practical things to gain experience like working in theatre to build up your resume, and remember that even though it’s often an ego driven business, people ultimately want to work with others who are collaborative.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    I’ll continue to seek acting roles that interest me, but I’m excited to explore this new opportunity of developing films and TV shows. It’s fun to put the knowledge and experience I’ve gained after more than twenty years in the business to use in a different way. 

    Story published in November 2019. For current updates about Lee, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Emily Goodson (’07)

    Emily Goodson (2007 BA in English Education)

    Founder & CEO at CultureSmart in Santa Monica, CA

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    headshot of Emily Goodson

    I am the Founder & CEO of my own company, CultureSmart. I work with early-stage startups, which generally have anywhere from 20 to 150 employees. A common pain point in the startup world is not having the bandwidth or resources to hire a strategic Chief People Officer. My work with clients is designed to solve this pain point by amplifying internal leaders and designing scalable workplace culture.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    I was the Head of Talent & People at several high-growth organizations in Washington, DC. This experience gave me real expertise in building People departments in fast-growing environments. Coming from an Education background at Wake, I also have always had a passion for ensuring people are working in environments that enable them to be their most productive. There are many small, iterative steps that organizations can take to intentionally drive their cultures. That said, creating meaningful workplace culture doesn’t always have the focus it should in early companies. My previous experience in driving this meaningful culture coupled with my passion for amplifying others is what led me to start CultureSmart.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    One of my favorite authors is Brene Brown and her work on vulnerability and courage. I truly did not understand the depth of courage until I started my own business four months ago. I have immense empathy for anyone who has started a company because it presents so many new challenges, ranging from business development to financing to finding your market fit.

    A friend told me recently that you either overcome your challenges or they overcome you. This statement really resonated with me. One of the most important things I do to navigate challenges is to reflect daily both through journaling and through physical reminders. I have a small office in a WeWork in Santa Monica and keep a large framed photo on my desk. The photo is of me and a few of my team members from Optoro (a startup in DC). We are standing outside of The Washington Post’s office after being recognized as a top workplace. When I left Optoro, the leadership team framed that photo, all of the employees signed it and one of my mentors wrote: “Best Place to Work, Because of You!” across the top. Clearly I’m not the only person who made that workplace engaging, but having the physical reminder of a compelling workplace I contributed to in the past gives me motivation when I need it to face my challenges today. It reminds me of my mission in a very tangible way.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Having a community that knows and sees you outside of the workplace is vital. Whether it is the Wake alumni network in your city, a book club, or a cycling studio, find a place to plug in after graduation. I was involved in the leadership of the Wake alumni clubs in both Winston-Salem and Washington, DC. Both were and continue to be very instrumental in forming my community and network. I’m also a huge SoulCycle fan. I encourage everyone to seek out what community looks like for them and also to acknowledge and expect that your community will change over time.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    I’m extremely grateful for my network. I think the people who are most successful at networking are those who don’t treat it as transactional. Networking is all about building a community of support. I think LinkedIn is a great tool for tracking your network. However, the key to building and maintaining a network goes beyond that to investing in relationships. I use handwritten cards and personal e-mails to keep up with people in my network on a regular basis. I also often reach out to former colleagues for coffee when I’m traveling for work in their cities. It is important to recognize that these are long-term relationships and there will be times when your network is helping you, but there will also be times when you are helping your network. One of the things I have most enjoyed about building my business is getting to reconnect with former colleagues and classmates. Even though we have moved on from our initial connection, whether it be school or work, we are still a part of each other’s network.

    I regularly coach clients in emotional intelligence and relationship-building. The advice I give them is that you have to be genuine to yourself when building and maintaining a network. Many of the leaders I coach have identified building a network as an important tool for growing their careers, but don’t know how to do it or don’t think they will like doing it. You need to find what works for your style – that could be handwritten notes, but that could also be taking a friend or partner with you to business events, joining a kickball team in your city, or hosting a webinar to share your subject matter expertise. You never know where or when you are going to meet the people who will impact your life and career. From my perspective, showing up and being authentic in every interaction is the most important thing you can do.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    In my experience, mentors and coaches are critical for everyone to have. I currently work with a tremendous executive coach who pushes both me and my business to grow. I think everyone should seek out a safe sounding board for them, who can both provide advice and ask thought-provoking questions.

    That said, I am also a firm believer that you will benefit from any relationship and community where you invest. I moved cross-country last year, from Washington, DC to Los Angeles, to start my consulting business. In August 2019, I had decided to move but had not committed to starting my own company. I was strongly considering moving and taking another job as a Chief People Officer, a decision I had been struggling with for months at that point. I know I would have vacillated on my decision even further if it weren’t for a good friend pushing me to set the end of September as my deadline decision and reminding me not to forget the impact I could have as a consultant.

    There is an African proverb that I’m always reminded of when I think of my network of friends, mentors, and colleagues – “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This proverb has been true for me in every stage and relationship of my life.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    I spent time working in campus recruiting at Deloitte Consulting prior to working in high-growth companies. The balance of understanding HR at both small and large companies has been invaluable to me. Professional development has also been very impactful in building my expertise. I got my PHR certification many years ago, which provided a great foundation in HR. From there, I’ve achieved several coaching certifications. If you are entering the HR field, I highly recommend immersing yourself with content from different thought-leaders because the field is so quickly evolving. I’m a big fan of material coming out of Harvard Business Review, the Center for Creative Leadership, Josh Bersin Academy, First Round Review, and Culture Amp. I also consolidate articles on workplace trends and circulate through my own CultureSmart newsletter.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    Having a spectrum of clients in Southern CA, Washington, DC and internationally, is already a huge dream come true for me. I started my business because I believe strategic and intentional HR is vital to the success of a company. It has been really rewarding to see executives engage in my mission and model.

    A future goal of mine is to grow my capacity to amplify female and underrepresented founders. I have worked with some tremendous female leaders in my career and want to see more women succeed in leadership positions at startups. I’ve gotten involved in different community organizations in Los Angeles and San Diego that host events advocating for greater inclusion in the workplace, and I would love to partner with more diverse founders as I grow my company.

    Story published in March 2020. For current updates about Emily, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Alex Creswick (’07)

    Alex Creswick (BA 2007 in Communication with a Focus on Critical Film Theory)

    Freelance Sensitivity Reader in Los Angeles, CA

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Alex Creswick head shot

    I’m a Sensitivity Reader/Diversity Editor for film and television. It’s a relatively new job that’s still figuring itself out so a lot of what I’m currently doing is educational—just letting creatives and executives know we exist, that this resource is out there. Broadly, what I do is assess projects for unconscious bias and unintentional problematic content—I work with writers to make sure they’re being intentional about all the themes, subtext, and messages they’re putting out in the world. I often tell people, “I’m here to warn you what the internet will get mad at you for, and how to avoid that.”

    There’s a lot of overlapping diversity within this work—you might hire someone with a specific background to give authenticity notes, similar to why you’d consult with a doctor about medical authenticity but on a cultural level.

    I do generalized Sensitivity Reading (which one could argue is also “Expert Reading,” given my background in story development and criticism/theory), wherein I evaluate stories both on a personal level (i.e., what happens solely within the scope of a text, the “trees”) and a systemic level (i.e., how your work fits into the broader context of our society, the “forest”). It can be hard for writers to step back from their story and try to consider it within the “bigger picture,” and Diversity Editors can help with that. Sometimes it’s my job to let a client know I’m not the best person to help them, either in whole or in part, and at my own discretion will link them with someone who can.

    Right now, I’m primarily working as a Sensitivity Reader whilst working on my own writing and producing projects. And I’m opening the Museum of Petty Justice in February.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    When I was graduating from Wake, I wanted to take a couple years off to not be in school, and figure out what kind of career path to take. My mother advocated for going directly into grad school, so we made a deal: I’d apply to film schools, and if I got in, I’d get a MFA and if not, she’d let me figure myself out for two years. I graduated from the Producer’s Program at UCLA two years later, and I’ve been in Los Angeles ever since.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge? 

    Talking to people about their own internalized, unconscious biases is always challenging. It’s hard and it sucks, because we’re forced us to examine our behaviors and thought patterns, and inevitably realize we’ve downloaded and perpetuated some really harmful stuff.

    Each person (and project) is different, so my approach and delivery is tailored towards what’s most effective. One thing that’s consistent: I go in to each job with the attitude that every interaction, every choice we make, every conversation we’ll have, is an opportunity to be better, learn and educate, and ultimately be more intentional and clear in our communication—whether that’s everyday communication, or the kind of communicating we do through art.

    My goal is for my clients to walk away understanding why certain storylines or characters are problematic / harmful, because I don’t want to just tell them “this is bad, here’s the fix.” I’m not the one writing the new draft, I’m giving notes through a very specific lens. I want artists’ creative output to be informed, because that empowers them to be precise and specific in the stories they’re telling, which makes for more dynamic, interesting, and fun art. If someone understands the why, then not only can they more effectively implement changes, they’re less likely to repeat the same mistake.

    Also, it ultimately results in a far less traumatic and stressful movie-going experience for minority groups, and more viewer eyeballs/box office dollars.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Prioritize yourself. We live in a world that wants to turn us into commodities, and in turn treat others like commodities. Every single person has inherent, intrinsic value just for existing. I’m always thankful for the people who choose to spend any amount of their limited time with me.

    Make sure you’re taking care of the creative part of yourself, both in what you consume and what you create—creative output is informed by creative input. Cast your net wide and be diverse in your consumption. You might want to “turn your brain off,” but keep in mind the people making things do have an agenda and point of view. And don’t stop creating–do an art at least once a week, y’all.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network? 

    I will talk to just about anyone—that’s the Southerner in me—and because of my internet-fueled tendency to go down very deep research rabbit holes, I find engaging people fairly easy. People will always surprise you. I like to ask weird, unexpected questions; life is weird, y’all, and something uniquely bizarre has happened to all of us at some point. Sometimes it’s just a matter of framing your story differently—drawing out the absurdity or emphasizing the randomness—which I’m good at and is one of the most effective tools in my arsenal. I always try to interject some humor and personality in e-mails, helps make an impression and stand out a bit.

    Los Angeles can be hard and isolating. It’s really easy to fall out of touch with people. Especially if they live on the West side. I use social media as a way to keep in touch. I try to e-mail people directly when there’s something to celebrate or acknowledge. I’m in several industry networking groups, and I try to help where I can. I think this is one area that I’m still largely figuring out, so if anyone has suggestions I’m happy to hear them.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    I’ve had a variety of mentors over my years. I think this industry, more than many others, relies of recommendations and mentorships more than others. Having people advocating for you is currency that’s very hard to buy. My mentors have helped me get jobs, helped me network, and offered me some of their credibility while I worked on building my own. A couple of my mentors have become my colleagues, which is a really interesting experience.

    But I’m always really cognizant and respectful of people’s time, and I try to pay people for their expertise when I can, even if it’s only a little bit. People really appreciate that, and it’s a good statement of intention.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    I could probably write a book about this subject! But the entertainment industry is tough. It is unforgiving. It is not a meritocracy. It likely actively dislikes you. Be prepared for that, and be honest with yourself. Be prepared to work and struggle for longer than you’d like.

    But if you have a passion for it, if you really work at building your network and finding your tribe and people, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience. Also, be flexible—take opportunities as they come, even if they don’t quite look like what you wanted or expected.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing? 

    I’d love to see this kind of Expert Reading catch on in a major way in the industry. I think every big production company and studio should follow in Monkeypaw Production’s [Jordan Peele’s company, which produced GET OUT and US] example and hire a “Cultural Executive” who does exactly what I’m doing (and more), but is integrated into the company’s structure/hierarchy.

    Also, it’s lucrative! Diversity demonstrably translates into money—all the numbers and research backs this up. A Cultural Exec or an Expert Reader will always be cheaper than losing the interest of potential viewers.

    (Monkeypaw’s exec, Kamil Oshundara, is an engaging artist in her own right—recommend checking out her work.)

    Personally, I’m working on securing financing for a couple of projects I love, and developing a couple as a writer.

    Story published in February 2020.

  • William Fischer (’16)

    William Fischer (2016 BA in Economics)

    Business Advisor for the Peace Corps in Colombia

    Tell us about your current job employer and what you’re currently working on.

    William Fischer headshot

    I am a business advisor for the Peace Corps in Colombia working in the CED (Community Economic Development) Sector. There is often a bit of confusion about how the Peace Corps works so I can provide a short description. Your contract with the Peace Corps is for a total of 27 months, 3 months of language and technical training followed by 2 years of service in your site, which in my case is Corozal in the Department of Sucre, Colombia. The Peace Corps has 5 different sectors, Agriculture, Community Economic Development, Education(generally teaching English), Environment, and Youth Development.As a business advisor I work promoting economic development through various methods: teaching entrepreneurship and financial education in high schools, working with the Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (effectively the Colombian community college system) to attach an entrepreneurship curriculum to classes, advising small businesses and micro entrepreneurs, and various secondary projects.

    One of the benefits but also challenges of this role is the flexibility in your projects. Right now I am coordinating with a US NGO to build a basketball court in my town, helping a local farmers coop obtain seed capital to start a new line of business, structuring an alliance between the local university and the Peace Corps, and writing a grant to build a store in my high school where students can sell their own art.

    What personal and or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading you to where you are now?

    Prior to the Peace Corps, I worked as an investment banking analyst for Regions Bank in Atlanta for 3 years. I had the luck of being placed in the restaurants group, which provided the amazing opportunity to learn the ins and outs of an industry that plays such a big part in all of our lives. As I approached my two- year mark at Regions, I decided to look for a new challenge. I had actually spoken with a Peace Corps recruiter at the Wake Forest career fair when I was a senior, but at the time decided to pursue finance because I felt I did not have any useful skills or experience to bring to another country and I wanted to go down the investment banking route. Fast forward to June 2018 and I figured I was in an ideal spot in my life to apply to the Peace Corps as I know had some experience, had saved some money, and felt ready to challenge myself.

    During my free time in Atlanta, I volunteered as a budget coach for Habitat for Humanity and as a Big Brother for Big Brothers Big Sisters. My enjoyment of these experience also helped influence my decision to join the Peace Corps.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your “first real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    By far the most challenging aspect was getting used to being more of a self-starter and pro active. It was a little bit of a hard transition going from classes where the professor gave you your curriculum with all the assignments to having to ask my bosses for projects, tasks, etc.

    However this was great training for the Peace Corps as you very much need to be a self starter here. In Colombia we often say “sin pena” which can be translated a number of ways, but often, as “don’t be embarrassed”. It’s something I say to my students all the time when they don’t want to participate in class and to anyone who wants to practice their English with me because people are often very hesitant to put themselves out there and potentially fail. But it’s also something I apply to my job on a daily basis. For instance, I wanted to start teaching at a second school in a rural part of my town. So I literally showed up, went to the principal’s office, introduced myself, explained what the Peace Corps was, shared about our entrepreneurship and financial education curriculum, and that I wanted to teach at their school. One week later, I was teaching three classes three days a week.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal habits after college (finances, health, values, work life balance)?

    I’d offer two finance tips: 1) match your 401(k) and 2) make sure to save some of every paycheck for a rainy day fund (or a join the Peace Corps fund).

    Always find time for fitness. I think exercising daily is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health. At Regions, I had a great work culture where we were able to workout at the company gym during our lunch break and then eat at our desk. In Colombia, even though the heat can be unbearable (I live on the Caribbean Coast), I have continued with my workout routine. I started running half marathons in Atlanta and will be attempting my first marathon in Medellin next September. Also meal prepping is great for your wallet and waistline.

    Finding or maintaining work life balance can be a challenge with certain jobs. My advice is to find hobbies that give you something enjoyable to look forward after the workday. It has to be a hobby that’s not just watching Netflix at your apartment.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you.

    I participated in the Wake Forest Mentoring groups and the conversations we had helped me evaluate my career direction and give me the impetus to finally apply to the Peace Corps.

    I’m also a huge fan of peer mentoring. When I was doing research on the Peace Corps I spoke frequently with another Wake Forest alum and friend of mine, Maddy Eldredge, who is currently doing economic development work in Costa Rica for the Peace Corps. Listening to her advice and experience helped solidify my decision to apply to the Peace Corps. Additionally, upon arriving in Colombia I discovered another Deac, Andrew Koch, had recently completed his Peace Corps service. I reached out to him, discussed his time in Colombia, and received great advice on how to be a volunteer in Colombia. He is also on the board of a microfinance organization and I’m currently looking for partners in my community to use their funds.

    What advice would you give to current wake forest students and or young alumni who are about to start their first professional job?

    Be proactive, put yourself out there, and don’t be afraid to ask for help (but when you do ask for help make sure you’ve tried to solve the problem multiple different ways on your own).

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    At the moment my plan is to get my MBA when my Peace Corps Service ends in June 2021. Before I left for Colombia I took the GMAT so I would not have to worry about studying for the exam while I was in country. At the moment the only thing that concerns me is that I’m looking at a lot of northern schools and I am slowly but surely adapting to the tropical climate here.

    Story published in February 2020. For current updates about William, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Emily Schemper (’13)

    Emily Schemper (2013 BA in Religion, Politics & International Affairs)

    Director of Corporate Partnerships at Susan G. Komen in Dallas, Texas

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Headshot of Emily Schemper

    As Director of Corporate Partnerships for Susan G. Komen, I build new national corporate partnerships with companies that want to help make a transformational impact in breakthrough breast cancer research and quality care for all. I forge these collaborations by developing authentic and meaningful strategies that align with a company’s unique capabilities and interests. This can range from cause marketing activations to employee engagement to fully integrated fundraising campaigns. Right now, a black woman in America is 40% more likely to die from breast cancer than me, just because I’m a white woman. This is unacceptable to me, and I’m proud to work to deliver direct patient services and achieve health equity through partnerships that move the needle. As the global COVID-19 pandemic rages on, life seemingly feels on hold, but breast cancer is not cancelled. Hundreds of thousands of men and women are counting on Komen to march forward, and I’m passionate about finding partners who want to be bold with us and create systems change.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    I started my career at ESPN in New York City where I analyzed media consumption trends and audience behaviors, steering strategic decision-making for a variety of properties across ESPN and ABC platforms, including the NBA and College Basketball. Working for the Walt Disney Company was a wonderful experience, but I had a strong personal desire to work in the social impact space and really live out Wake Forest’s Pro Humanitate spirit. I brought my experience in media and marketing at ESPN to Social Capital, an agency in Chicago for national and global nonprofits, and served as a strategic advisor for leading causes and their corporate partners. Prior to joining Komen, my husband and I spent a year in North Carolina where I managed ESPN’s partnership with the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    My first “real world job” was as an Executive Assistant in New York City that one can only describe as very “The Devil Wears Prada”. I was in the role for three months before securing a job with ESPN – such a short time period that I don’t even put it on my resume anymore. Despite the many challenges and lack of sleep, it ended up being the best bootcamp and entrance into the real world that I could have ever asked for. I gleaned a lot of insights from things that I simply wasn’t exposed to in a formal internship program. Soft skills like the art of navigating gatekeeping, how to think like an executive and anticipate their needs, how to write a brief, how to properly answer the phone and speak to board members, and even the simplest of tasks…how a staple should be positioned in the corner of documents. It’s these small, polished details that I think have actually set me apart in my roles and helped me find success in the working world. Needless to say, I have a lot of respect for executive assistants now and make an extra effort to be appreciative of them!

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)? 

    Self care is incredibly important. Nobody is going to look out for you except you. I had the blessing of a wonderful corporate culture at ESPN when I was first starting out, and our leadership strongly encourage work/life balance. I’ve found that ironically, it’s the times that I take a little mental break, even just a quick walk around the block or signing off for the evening, when the “a-ha” ideas come to me for a project and lead to success. While at Wake Forest, I remember Dr. Jarrod Whitaker encouraging our class to go outside and just sit with concepts and our thoughts and ideas to build our critical thinking skills. I recall Dr. Ulrike Wiethaus teaching us meditation skills to clear our heads before jumping into the day’s agenda. These are skills that I hold onto to this day – and they work!

    I also think it’s incredibly important to stay true to your values. The worst advice I’ve ever received is that you should have a job before you leave a job. If you’re like me, you might end up being faced with an internal workplace culture or circumstance that directly conflicts with your principles, and if you don’t change course fast, it’s going to be very difficult later. Not taking a leap of faith is sometimes riskier than believing in yourself and taking a chance. The real courage in life is to stand up for what you know is right for you.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I definitely recommend using LinkedIn in combination with the Wake Network tool and hunter.io when it comes to building professional relationships. Don’t be afraid to reach out to introduce yourself to fellow Demon Deacons and say hello, even if you don’t know them personally. Sure, you might not get a response every now and then, but more often than not, people are willing to chat for a few minutes over the phone or meet up for coffee.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you? 

    Dr. Betina Wilkinson at Wake Forest has been a wonderful mentor to me. After taking her Racial and Ethnic Politics class my sophomore year, Dr. Wilkinson brought me on as her summer Research Assistant. We co-authored “Taking a new perspective to Latino racial attitudes: Examining the impact of skin tone on Latino perceptions of commonality with Whites and Blacks” in American Politics Research which we then presented it together in New Orleans. This also led to an opportunity to edit her book “Partners or Rivals?: Power and Latino, Black, and White Relations in the Twenty-First Century” after I graduated. It was this research experience that really stood out when I was interviewing with ESPN and why I landed the job. Dr. Wilkinson was an amazing professor and mentor throughout my time at Wake Forest and beyond, and I’m particularly grateful that she took the time to really get to know me on a personal level. She came to my wedding and we exchange Christmas cards every year. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her and highly recommend her classes and writings!

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

    As you start out in your first professional job, focus on building a skill set. My path didn’t make sense to a lot of people, and I received quite a bit of push back in interviews while finding my way. At 22, I was advising NBA executives on which teams I thought should play on Christmas Day to boost viewership and engage sports fans. Did that make any sense to people on the outside looking in with my background in Religion and Political Science? Absolutely not. But ESPN trusted my research skills and analytical experience from my time as a student research assistant at Wake to do the job and do it well. At 25, I was sitting in the offices at UNICEF sharing my recommendations on how to build out a robust cause marketing campaign for their partnership with Lucas Film and Target that would drive partner ROI and raise significant funds. Did I take a single course in business? No. Had I ever worked on cause campaigns before? No. But I had learned so much about marketing, sales, and media in my time at ESPN that my insights were valuable and my perspective was fresh. It’s all about transferable skills.

    Two other pieces of advice. First, say yes when someone asks you to complete an assignment – don’t be too good for a task. Be willing to roll up your sleeves, learn, and be a team player with a positive attitude at any stage in your career, even if that means making copies or putting on the pot of coffee for the office. Second, take a Duarte presentation training in your spare time. It will serve you very well no matter your background or industry.

    Story published in June 2020. For current updates about Emily, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Bryce DelGrande (’14)

    Bryce DelGrande (2014 BS in Political Science)

    Manager Customer Success at Shoobx and Fellow at Underscore VC in Boston, MA

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    headshot of Bryce DelGrande

    I spend my days supporting the startup ecosystem in a variety of different capacities.

    At Shoobx, where I lead our customer success and go to market efforts, we help companies raise venture capital efficiently by facilitating the generation, execution and organization of legal documents for scaling businesses. Generally the financing process from a term sheet to close and money in the bank can take 6-8 weeks and cost $50k-$150k+. This process diverts the whole executive teams attention and in poor situations can eat through several months of runway.We’ve seen financings through Shoobx close as quickly as 2 weeks and cost up to 50% less. By allowing teams to focus as much of their time and capital on the business we can maximize the chance of continued successfully.

    Underscore VC is a Boston focused VC firm whose uniquely positioned to support startups at the earliest stages through their operating experience and community network. As a fellow, I’m working to grow their core community specifically customer success leaders and entrepreneurs, as well as supporting their portfolio companies and helping validate potential investments.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    I originally started my career in politics, higher education and non-profits, but started working alongside the tech community while at United Way to develop new engagement models for their fundraising efforts.

    I was fascinated by how these companies and founders operated, quickly working to solve difficult problems in unique ways. Eventually I joined Gravyty, a company in the higher education and non profit fundraising space, as their second hire to run sales and customer success. I learned and incredible amount before joining Everfi, a much later stage company who raised more than $250M before I joined.

    In leaving Everfi I tried to be very intentional about the stage and industry of my next company, as well as how it positioned me long term. I talked to more than 30 companies to find the right fit and fell in love with Shoobx’s mission and the opportunity to work closely with so many incredible companies like Toast, Day Zero Diagnostics and Firefly health.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    For me it was realizing that what excited me and what I thought excited me were not the same. I started at Wake intending to go to med school, then ended up in other ‘for the greater good’ industries, but ended up realizing solving the world’s problems was frustratingly bureaucratic and what I actually wanted to do was create solutions to challenging problems.

    My first jobs were more so an exercise in learning what I didn’t want to do both role, industry and strategically than they were being excited about what I was doing. Accepting that was difficult.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Empathize with your future self, but make adjustments as you go.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I’ve spent a lot of time learning from smart people and asking them to connect me with smart people they have learned from. It’s also been helpful to understand what is valuable to them to try to facilitate mutually valuable conversations.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    There’s been a long list of impactful mentors and advisors throughout my career both inside and outside the WFU family. I’ve leaned on them heavily when thinking about career moves, but more so in sourcing knowledge, learning new skills and navigating the ever changing challenges of working in startups.

    Both the Wake community and Boston tech community have a mentality of paying it forward, so having the opportunity to learn from folks who have been there is huge. It’s also been fulfilling to be carry this torch any provide my own insights to founders who are scaling through stages and challenges I’ve seen first hand.

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

    Create a hypothesis and test it. Your first job isn’t going to determine the rest of your career, but it can help you find out what the next step should be. Iterate and refine with each step.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    Ultimately I hope to either start my own company or move into venture capital. The Shoobx team and product are incredible, but working here and with Underscore also gives me compounding experience by seeing the challenges that founders navigate on a day to day basis.

    Story published in March 2020. For current updates about Bryce, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Molly Bolton (’10, MDiv ’14)

    Molly Bolton (2010 BA in English, MDiv 2014)

    Staff Chaplain at Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    headshot of Molly Bolton

    I work three days a week as a staff chaplain at Cleveland Clinic Fairview, a regional hospital that is part of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. I am a clergyperson ordained in my own tradition who provides spiritual and emotional support to people of any or no faith tradition in a clinical setting. In my current role, I spend much of my time preparing and leading Spiritual Care Groups for the Pediatric and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit. In these groups, I use poetry, art-making, play, and mindfulness to offer consolation and coping skills to young patients. My other time as a chaplain is committed to being on-call, which means I respond to urgent spiritual care needs such as end-of-life care, pregnancy loss, and emotional support for staff.

    I am also self-employed as a spiritual director and spiritual care educator. As a spiritual director, I companion people as they seek to grow spiritually. I also teach classes and lead groups on using poetry as a tool for spiritual care. I am currently working on taking my poetry-writing practice seriously and figuring out the new (life-giving!) balance of being a part-time chaplain and being part-time self-employed.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?
    A little while after my sister had a miscarriage, she and I worked together to create a ritual to honor her grief. We included her spouse and expanded the ritual by inviting some of her friends who were experiencing grief from miscarriage and pregnancy loss too. We had a small service with candles, flowers, and reflections on her back porch. Through this ritual, I experienced how meaningful it can be for us to create these embodied and compassionate spaces for one another. I understood in a new way how my passions — centralizing the experiences of women and LGBTQ+ persons, being with people authentically, creative expression, experiencing the healing wisdom of a community — can come together in the art of spiritual care.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    The most challenging aspect of my job is witnessing the way systemic oppression manifests in suffering in individuals’ lives. For example, working routinely with young people in the psychiatric unit leads me to ask questions such as “what have we done to the world that so many young people are experiencing such devastating anxiety and depression?”. I navigate this challenge by practicing the cultivation of hope and through discerning what I *can* do. Reading the work of sages and radicals, practicing meditation, working to undo my own racism, practicing yoga, listening to the young patients I am with today, being an advocate for justice in my corner of the world — these things that I *can* do. These are the things that help me cultivate hope.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Chaplains & spiritual directors hesitate to give advice. We prefer that you become curious about your own Inner Wisdom and your own sense of calling. So I guess that’s my advice — become still enough to notice your heart’s desires. Here are some practical tips for doing that:

    • Spend time in quiet with your phone and computer in the other room. Notice if you have the desire to “fill the space”; see what happens when you don’t.
    • At the end of the day, reflect on where in the day you felt a sense of connection and belonging. On the flip-side, notice when you felt a sense of being “tuned-out”.
    • Practice mindfully moving your body in some way that calls to you — dance, yoga, tai chi, walking in nature, riding your bike.
    • Create time for creative things you enjoy simply because you enjoy them.
      Delight in cultivating meaningful friendships and show up for the people who are important to you.
    • Ask yourself: What is my dream for the World? Take your dream seriously. See if there is a way you can work with others to manifest this dream.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    Have you ever heard that the best way to make a friend is to be a good friend? I do my best to be a good colleague and collaborator. This means learning how to mindfully give and receive feedback, taking responsibility for what is mine to do, giving credit where it is due, noticing how my way of being in the world impacts other people, and learning how to have a sense of perspective.

    My life is richer because of my relationships with bioethicists, social workers, poets, hospice caregivers, educators, sage spiritual directors, and advocates. Though we have different areas of expertise and different roles, we all desire for people to be compassionately cared for, which means we have a shared sense of purpose. I have found that if I am mindful about being a kind colleague, and if my colleagues and I have a shared sense of purpose, then the network maintains itself.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    There is a poem by John Fox that begins “When someone deeply listens to you it is like holding out a dented cup you’ve had since childhood and watching it fill up with cold, fresh water.” The magic of being deeply listened to by my teachers and supervisors — Chris Copeland, Mark Jensen, Kelly Carpenter, Daeseop Yi — has allowed me to name and honor my own journey. It has invited me to be one who learns the art of listening deeply. Also, the example of women who boldly and compassionately plant their gifts in the world — Jill Crainshaw, Wendy Farley, Kim Langley, Michelle Voss Roberts — has given me the courage to do the same.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    I have found that nurturing my own spiritual practices, along with being a part of a compassionate community are the most important aspects to flourishing as a spiritual care provider. Reading works by anti-racist authors and scholars of color has also proven invaluable.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    Teaching is one of my favorite aspects of my vocation. I would love to grow my ability to offer group spiritual direction, lead retreats, and teach workshops on topics such as grief, poetry, and spiritual practices.

    Story published in March 2020. For current updates about Molly, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Liz Piontkowski (’16)

    Liz Piontkowski (BA 2016 in Psychology with minors in Entrepreneurship & Social Enterprise and Global Trade & Commerce)

    Director of Operations at SmithBrown Marketing in Charleston, SC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Liz is a White female, with curly blonde hair, she is wearing pink lipstick on her big smile

    I work for SmithBrown Marketing a female owned lead generation consulting firm. I am our Director of Operations and we are a small business which means I wear many hats and no day is the same. Right now, we are lucky to have stayed status quo throughout this year. Our team is taking our growth from the past few months and using it to put the pieces in place for us to fill our funnel right now and grow in recovery. What that means for me is I’m building out processes for us to better service our clients as we grow and I’m hiring a variety of people to join our team! (If you’re looking for a role in the marketing world (or you know someone who is!), reach out on LinkedIn!)

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    My first job taught me how to manage up, a skill you may read about in school but not something that you can learn before being in a work environment. Managing up to me means taking initiative and responsibility for providing a solution to obstacles in your company that may not be in your traditional job description. It helps you learn and grow in beneficial ways for the latter parts of your career.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    Figuring out how to balance client expectations versus what was humanly possible to do in a 40 hour week. I learned a great deal about working with people, both externally and internally, that have continued to serve me today. 

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    It doesn’t hurt to ask questions, especially about finance, and then ask them again and again until you understand.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    LinkedIn is my first line of defense and then I always try to go to one ‘event’ a month. It’s not easy, especially right now but events are always happening and it’s one thing you can do to help yourself and it was how I made industry friends early on.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    Yes and my Wake mentors hold a special place in my heart. They get where you come from, have been in your shoes (late night in the ZSR cramming for a big test) and always want to help you grow. These are the same kind of mentors I seek out in my current professional life. 

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

    Your network is your most important asset. Your skills will not matter and will not help you get your first job. Yes, I said that. You should still send hand-written thank you notes, be timely, and be scrappy. But your network will help you get started and then help you propel your career.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I’ve always wanted to manage people but its not something you necessarily are exposed to early on in your career. I’ve been intentional in building towards that goal by helping with intern programs at my company, getting involved in mentoring, and continuing to build my network.

    Story published in September 2020. For current updates about Liz, or to reach out about out open positions, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Mallory Allred (’16)

    Mallory Allred (2016 in Art History & History)

    Assistant Director at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    headshot of Mallory Allred, who has curly blonde hair and is wearing a big smile

    I’ve been in my current role at Wake Forest for a year and am loving it: every day I get to work with institutional data and create complex data models which result in powerful, real-time data visualizations.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    The first six months were a difficult transition. I had a month off between graduating and starting my job. Full-time work was a radically different pace than anything I had encountered before. But, I learned that Wake had taught me the skills I needed to persevere through something tough and how to take control over the situation around me.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    You’re going to have to be flexible and allow yourself a lot of grace while you find your new rhythm. Rely on things you’ve always liked to help you re-center yourself when you feel out of touch with your own needs. Oftentimes, you’ll find a system that works for you once you’ve already messed up — i.e. I completely forgot to pay a bill on time before I found the spreadsheet system that has worked for me for the last three years.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    At first I was quite nervous and found myself missing all my friends who had left Wake Forest. It took me a while to gain my footing and start reaching out to people and groups which interested me, I had to learn to go at my own pace. The best thing I did was adopt a dog: it got me outside and connect with the rescue she came from and people were always interested to hear about her!

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    Yes! I have found or have been approached by so many people who are willing to mentor me. Mentoring has been a life changing thing for me: it built confidence, helped me find structure, and learn to trust that there were folks who were willing to offer constructive criticism because they fundamentally cared about my growth.

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

    Give yourself some time to adjust to so many new things and try to find someone who can act as your mentor quickly. Embrace your mistakes as teaching tools and seek guidance from others when you get stuck: never underestimate how powerful saying “I don’t know but I want to find out” can be or how hard it is for others in the work place to say.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I want to keep progressing along the recent trajectory I’ve set for myself, and I realize that will require additional education at some point. I’m reaching out to folks who inspire me and asking them for advice. Often, they in turn give me action steps and points of growth. It’s been incredibly helpful.

    Story published in September 2020. For current updates about Mallory, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Cary Lambert (’13)

    Cary Lambert (2013 BA in International Affairs)

    Brand Manager, Gaming & Esports at Nike in Portland, OR

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Headshot of Cary Lambert

    I’m currently employed with Nike as the Brand Manager for Gaming & Esports on our Global Influencer Marketing team. Many people see my team as exciting because we’re the ones who lead relationships with some the world’s top artists, designers, and entertainers, such as Travis Scott, Virgil Abloh, Stüssy, and Tom Sachs; but I think my job is cool because I get to interact with professional esports players like Faker, Uzi, Ning, and Nadeshot. My journey at Nike began on the Global Brand Innovation team in June 2019, where I focused on understanding and learning more about the relationship between improved physical fitness and athleticism as it relates to gaming. This all comes from a quote by Bill Bowerman that we live by at Nike, which states: “If you have a body, you’re an athlete”. Earlier this year, the VP for my old department retired, and I moved to Global Influencer Marketing to help lead the partnership strategy for the space. To date, we currently have relationships with T1, Vodafone Giants, Furia, SK Gaming, and the LPL. It’s an incredibly exciting position and I look forward to what’s to come.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    Before Nike, I worked as a Gaming & Esports Manager for Ubisoft, where I led communications and marketing efforts for the Rainbow Six: Siege Pro League in Montreal, QC. As a native North Carolinian, the weather in Montreal was a pretty incredible difference from what I was used to growing up (and was the ultimate reason that I sought out a new position) but it was an incredibly fun experience. I traveled to over 8 different events across multiple different countries. This position was so incredibly different from my current position in regards to how quickly projects move. Real-time esports is probably one of the quickest-pace jobs that you can have, as opposed to working at Nike where work can tend to move very slow because there are many people and teams working on a project. It’s great to have experience in both worlds because you really get an understanding of which environment you work best in.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    I’d say the most challenging aspect for me was having to learn a new language to be able to work. In Quebec, you must legally be able to speak French not only to gain a work permit or have permanent residency in the province, but also to work legally. Having taken Spanish at Wake and all throughout high school, I knew very little French upon moving to Canada. I spent a full year at McGill University learning French at one of their continuing studies programs. Learning a new language in an environment where you’re completely surrounded by that language does help to speed up the process, and I was able to pass all necessary tests to be able to begin working in the province after about a year.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    My advice, and this may sound a little privileged coming from someone who has turned her hobby into her career, is to make sure that you have things that you’re passionate about outside of work, something that fuels you on a personal level. Know what you’re passionate about, and work to make those passions successful realities. I received plenty of bad advice about the importance of getting a “good job” and making a ton of money. I was following a path that didn’t excite me. In my sophomore year, I had a pre-law internship in Washington D.C. at Georgetown University. The dean of the law school told the interns that we should not go to law school if we didn’t want to be lawyers. The words weren’t directed at me, but after he said them, it was so incredibly clear that I didn’t want to be a lawyer.

    I’m really grateful for that moment, because it caused me to think about what truly made me happy. After that summer I dove into my passion: I began writing for different gaming blogs, developed my own column on MMOs, and put all of my efforts into the competitive World of Warcraft scene. I became a volunteer staff member for a WoW website called Open Raid, I raid-lead a US top 50 guild, and created a YouTube channel dedicated to helping other people on the game get better at my class. I did all of these things on the side. These activities fueled my passion, and eventually helped me get my first position in esports. I was much happier working in a space that I loved than I would have been doing something that didn’t make me happy. I believe you absolutely do better work when you’re doing something you’re passionate about, or when you have something to look forward to every day. Whether you’ve made that a part of your career or it’s a major part of your time outside of work, I just encourage people to find their passion and make sure they don’t ignore it.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    One of the great things about my job is that a lot of people see my title on LinkedIn or hear about it due to word of mouth, and I get asked to have coffee with people all over the company who just want to hear more about what I do. I think for a lot of people at Nike who may consider themselves “sports traditionalists” or old school fans of sport, esports and competitive video gaming is something so crazy and outside of the box for them, that they want to learn more about the space and the role Nike is playing. Because of these quick chats over coffee, I get to learn so much about the different parts of the company that I might never have been exposed to otherwise, and I find that really neat.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    I have not! I’m not sure if there were too many people deep into the gaming & esports space at Wake during my time there (2009-2013), but I hope that I can fill that gap and serve as a mentor for current and future students who are looking to move into the industry.

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

    My advice would be to find work that you are excited about and understand your skill sets. For example, if you’re incredibly skilled with numbers, but want to get involved in the esports space, look for esports organizations who may need help with accounting or payroll. My next piece of advice is to do things in your free time that you can use on your resume. You’ll fuel your passion and also create a concrete trail of experience that you can show to future employers. I would also encourage you to determine what a “north star” position for you could be, and take jobs that can help you gain the necessary experience to reach that north star, even if it’s not the most perfect fit right out of the gate. Employers are looking for employees with experiences that their team doesn’t currently have; so gaining experience in roles outside of your ideal industry can give you an edge over other candidates.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I have a very simple goal: to make a meaningful and impactful difference on the lives of gamers. The reason I chose Nike over other companies who were pursuing me at the time is because I believe Nike has the right power and influence to make a meaningful difference in the lives of gamers. Nike is also incredibly passionate about the voice of Her, working to create positive opportunities and meaningful change for women across the world. Encouraging and empowering women who are passionate about gaming and esports is incredibly important to me and I’m glad to be a part of a company that shares the same values as I do.

    Story published in July 2020. For current updates about Cary, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Jasmine Little (’13, JD’ 16)

    Jasmine Little (2013 BA in Political Science, JD 2016)

    Defense Counsel at US Army JAG Corps in Fort Stewart, GA

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Headshot of Jasmine Little, She is wearing a suit and smiling.

    I represent Soldiers accused of crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice in Army courts-martial (trials). I advise clients on the intricacies of their cases, prepare and argue motions, and defend my clients in contested cases through trial advocacy.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    After graduating from Wake Forest and later Wake Law, I worked on Capitol Hill for a few months before joining the Army JAG Corps.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    Time is a limited commodity. When I first started working, it would shock me that, at three or four in the afternoon, I’d look up and realize “I haven’t done anything I set out to do today.” By the time I had gone from meeting to meeting, put out “fires” in the office, and taken calls on late-breaking cases, the day would be over. The key, I quickly learned, was to be intentional about allocating quiet time to focus on tasks. The best time to get actual work done is before the workday begins when you’re fresh and ready to start the day.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Above all else, your health has to be your number one priority. If you are constantly tired or not eating well, it will not only affect the quality of your work on the job, but also your interactions with friends and family and your ability to enjoy life. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule is important. Financially, investing and saving are key, and not always something recent graduates may be thinking about. It’s about taking care of obligations (rent, utilities), allowing your money to grow, and backing away from financial “wants” and prioritizing “needs.” Taking these steps in your early 20s will literally pay dividends later.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    In the JAG Corps, attending legal seminars has provided me a broad network of peer attorneys. It’s one thing to ask for advice from your supervisor or coworkers, but it’s great to get a fresh perspective on an issue from someone with whom you’ve developed rapport who doesn’t necessarily work in your office. Usually the seminars have been one- to two-week training events where I’ve had a chance to build true friendships with people across the JAG Corps. I also cannot say enough about WakeNetwork, which allows you to meet and network with fellow Deacs in major cities near you. I’ve found WakeNetwork to be great for socializing and reminiscing about shared experiences with fellow Wake alumni.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    I have several mentors in my professional life, some of whom are fellow Deacs. It’s great when you have someone in your corner who can say to you: “I’ve done this before. Let me show you what traps you’re about to fall into” or “here’s how to succeed in this situation.” When I get advice from them, I feel a sense of certainty and confidence in their guidance because I trust where it’s coming from. My mentors have impacted the trajectory my career has taken because not only have they given me a roadmap to follow, but they’ve also provided me the tools needed to get to where I am now, and to where I’d like to go in the future.

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

    You are more ready than you think you are. You’re not too young. You’re not unqualified. Be confident in your education and training, be ready to learn, and be open to constructive criticism.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    Upon leaving the JAG Corps, my long-term goal is to run for political office at the local or state level. To that end, my more immediate goal is to gain experience in policy and legislation and to build a stronger network in my local community.

    Story published in October 2020. For current updates about Jasmine, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Bonita Brown (’95, JD ’97)

    Bonita Brown (’95, JD ’97)

    Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at Northern Kentucky University in Alexandria, KY

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Bonita Brown headshot, she has chin length, dark hair. She is wearing a suit and a pearl necklace, and a smile!

    NKU is a growing metropolitan university of more than 16,000 students served by more than 2,000 faculty and staff on a thriving suburban campus near Cincinnati. NKU offers 90 bachelor’s degrees, two associate degrees, 24 graduate programs, one Juris Doctor, a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. As the Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, I serve as the Assistant Secretary to the Board of Regents, I advise the President and the Executive Leadership Team, and I lead the University’s Strategic Planning Process, which has a singular focus on Student Success. The uniqueness of the singular focus on the Strategic Plan is most exciting to me. While we all know that Student Success is the goal of all universities, the opportunity to infuse student success strategies into the very fabric of the university’s planning process is significant.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    I could not have planned my career path if I had wanted to. I began my career in the legal field where I worked as a corporate attorney in DC. While I enjoyed that, I felt as if something was missing. On a total whim, I applied for a position as the staff attorney at Livingstone College. During the interview, the new President told me that she did not want me to be the attorney, and that she wanted me to be her assistant. I was immediately offended because I thought she wanted me to be her secretary. Little did I know that being an Assistant to the President at a college meant being the chief of staff or the right hand person of the President. I accepted the position, loved the work, and that set my path in higher education. Since that time, I have served as General Counsel, Chief of Staff and Vice President at Universities in NC, Texas and now in Kentucky. Wanting to take a break from the campus, but still wanting to be connected to the world of higher education, I secured positions at two national non-profits organizations in Washington DC that focus on student success. One position was at The Education Trust, an organization that works to close opportunity gaps that disproportionately affect students of color and students from low-income families, and the second at Achieving the Dream, the nonprofit leader in championing evidence-based institutional improvement for community colleges. In both of those positions, I led efforts to work with colleges and universities on the ground to implement best practices in student success. My passion is leading efforts and developing frameworks and creating the environments that enable significant numbers of students to obtain a post secondary degree.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    The most challenging aspect of my job is the sheer volume of work. As the Chief Strategy officer, I am invited to numerous conversations on campus to provide advice and guidance. At the same time, I am also leading the work to create the University’s Strategic plan, which entails getting significant input and buy in from across the campus and planning the Board of Regents meetings, ensuring compliance with Open Meetings laws. On top of all of this, I also have to be ready to mange or address any “surprise” challenges that pop up on a campus on a daily basis. The volume of the work is the most challenging aspect of the job. I think I navigate the challenge by trying to stay organized, prioritizing the work and building allies across the campus. I know who I can call on and rely on to assist me in different aspects of the work, and that is an invaluable asset to have. I also rely on my people skills and my years of experience. And—-to be totally honest, some days I just have to scream, take a deep breath, and then get back to work! Every day is a new day!

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    I would advise them to manage their expectations. Imagine the life you want to live and work your way towards that. Don’t expect to start at the top. Be willing to put in the work and gain experience along the way. You will need that experience when you get to the top! Take your health seriously. Burnout is real and it’s takes time to bounce back once you hit the wall. Spend time with your family. Your jobs will change, but you will always need your family. Spend your money wisely and save money for a rainy day.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    I build my network by connecting with colleagues and asking questions. People love to talk about their work and their experiences, and there is a lot to be learned from their stories. I also follow the leaders in my field. I read their articles, attend their sessions at conferences and try to make a connection when possible. Maintaining networks is a little harder, but I try to stay in touch with people I’ve met over the years. Whether its on social media or a quick email or seeing them at a conference, it’s always good to stay in touch because you never know when they could assist you in your current role or help you obtain your next role.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    Mentoring relationships are key. I don’t think I would be where I am today if I did not have a mentor that recognized my talent and pushed me to do things outside of my comfort zone. My mentor also hired me for different positions and recommended me for others. It is important that you have someone in your corner that will do this for you and that can provide you with advice. In turn, I also serve as a mentor. I have helped several of my mentees secure positions and I often get calls from them to discuss work situations. These mentor relationships are key to a healthy and satisfying career.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    I would advise them to study the industry, and decide which aspects interests you the most. Higher Education employs all skill sets–from accountants, to attorneys to counselors to Vice President and President level positions. There are also numerous national non-profit organizations devoted to higher education that also provide unique career paths. I would advise applying for your first position to get your foot in the door, and then being deliberate about the career path you want.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    That’s a great question. I ask myself that all of the time. I think the logical next step for me is to be a University President. I have the experience and have taken all of the professional development opportunities that have prepared me for that step. I think it’s just a matter of timing. I would also consider being the CEO of one of the higher educational national non-profit organizations. I also have a JD so I could also return to practicing law or consulting. Having options is the key!

    Story published in November 2020. For current updates about Bonita, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Meredith Bragg (’14)

    Meredith Bragg (BA 2014 in Political Science & Minor in Entrepreneurship & Social Enterprise )

    Account Executive Global Sales at Dow Jones in New York, NY

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Headshot of Meredith Bragg

    I’m an Account Executive at Dow Jones. I manage a $3 million+ book of business consisting of international Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 corporations in energy, retail, financial, professional services, legal and technology industries. I grew my book of business by over $900,000 in my first year at Dow Jones. I focused on bringing relationships from my previous sales career into Dow Jones through referrals and made a conscious effort to connect with all current clients in the book of business I was given. That meant weekly phone calls, follow up emails, time in person and on the phone, to ensure all tenured clients were comfortable with me as their new Account Executive. I lead with relationships. No client wants to do business with someone that is a “virtual name” or face; they want to know the person you are and ensure that you understand them as a person and their business. That is the foundation of all successful business partnerships. Because of this, I was able to exceed my quota in the first year by 250% for new business and my retaining business quota by 110%. I was the #1 seller on our team and awarded “Global Sales Rookie of the Year” internationally  as a first year seller at Dow Jones.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    My career was not linear in the least bit. I always wanted to work in NYC, and had zero connections as I grew up in MD. I interned in the city at Conde Nast and I fell in love with the city. When I graduated in 2014, there weren’t any open positions in the department where I interned previously, so I took a job at a recruiting agency. It wasn’t my calling, but it paid the bills. Networking is everything! I kept up with those who I worked closely with at Conde Nast, and after 9 months at the recruiting agency, Conde Nast reached out to me with a Managerial position in Sales & Marketing. I certainly cut my teeth in this role, both in the politics of corporate America and performance metrics. While I found marketing interesting, I realized sales was my calling. I joined a new start up, and sold events for Bloomberg for almost 2 years before moving on to Data Sales at Dow Jones.

    The biggest takeaway from my career transitions: your personal network is everything! I got my first internship and ultimately the job at Conde Nast (Golf Digest) because of a Wake Forest alumna that was three years my senior and is still a dear friend (Trish Gillis ’11). She helped me navigate the NYC job market and acted as a mentor in the process. From then on, I never forgot the power of relationships and navigated each career move the same way. People who know you from a personal level can propel your career in unexpected ways. I still have made it a mission to not lose touch with those who I reported to and worked closely with.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    Wow! What an understatement! Moving from MD to NC to NYC was an eye opener; cut throat doesn’t even begin to describe it. I learned that unlike in a classroom, nothing is linear. There’s no syllabus, no “if you read these pages and write this paper, you’ll get an A”. I was always an overachieving student, but the real world isn’t structured that way. I realized early on that at the end of the day your performance, the numbers you put down on paper (in my realm of sales, of course) and your integrity pays off in the long run. Your character in the worst and best of situations defines yourself as a person and professional. Wake Forest breeds people of character; in NYC there are many people who lack character. Maintaining your Wake Forest values in a rat-race corporate environment naturally makes yourself stand out.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Living in New York City, in particular, makes it hard to find a “healthy balance” in my opinion. It is a city created by over-achievers. Much like Wake Forest, but without the great climate and outdoor space! There’s an “always working” mentality that is omnipresent. The key to not burning out and doing your absolute best is being able to disconnect at some point every day. This lesson took me a while to realize. Personally, I carve out 1 hour a day minimum for an outdoor walk or run, a cocktail hour or dinner with a friend or an organized activity like the book club I recently started with 14 friends who were a hodge-podge of friend groups. Finances are crucial here – the exorbitant cost of living is brutal; especially for your first year out of college. My best advice is: don’t take Ubers during weekdays; take the Subway. Don’t order Seamless; learn to cook. These are things you’ll hear from your parents (I know), but I wish I had listened to this advice my first year and saved even more, because it adds up in the end.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I find it’s easy to make acquaintances but difficult to forge true friends in New York. I was fortunate enough to live with a fellow Wake Forest alum for a few years when I first moved to the city (Mary-Kate Miller ’14) and created my own network of friends from the various companies I worked with and mutual friends along the way. In fact, two of my best friends to date, are women I met in a NYC bar…when we were both waiting for the rest of our individual friend groups to arrive. Here we are 6 years later and still friends! Best advice is to put yourself out there, always be willing to branch out of your “immediate bubble” because you never know who you’ll meet. NYC is the perfect environment for offering those opportunities. Additionally, as mentioned, I realized I had so many fantastic friends who were in their own “individual friend groups” I decided to start a book club and intermingle the different groups which was the best decision!

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

    Your first job doesn’t have to be your forever job, in fact, with our generation it most likely won’t be. I took a job to get me to NYC with intentions of moving on to find my dream job. It took a while, but the more you build your personal network, the more it will benefit you. The people you meet every step of the way can help you find the best corporate environment for your own individual success. Remember, nothing is handed to you – you have all the opportunity in the world if you keep pushing. Bottom line: never settle, keep asking “why?” and “what if?” Whether it’s a promotion, better accounts, more responsibility, ask for it. The worst thing someone can say is no. Then you just pivot! 🙂

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    After exceeding my quota this year by over 250% and landing the largest deal of our team during COVID-19, I’m more invigorated than ever. I will continue to grow my book of business, pursue leadership opportunities and further my path towards management. My goal is to be a Sales Director at Dow Jones, which will provide more female leaders in the workspace. I’ve expressed my goals to upper-level management, and their support will allow me to act on my goal and continue to perform in my everyday sales role while mentoring new hires. If I didn’t have mentors in my past sales role to teach me the best methods of overcoming adversity, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I genuinely enjoy paying it forward.

    Story published in October 2020. For current updates about Meredith, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Eric Slotsve (’14)

    ric Slotsve (BA 2014 in Art History)

    Consultant at Boston Consulting Group in Copenhagen, Denmark

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Headshot of Eric Slotsve, He is White with dark brown, short hair. He is wearing a white button down shirt and suit jacket, and a smile.

    I’m a Consultant at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Denmark, focused primarily within the Healthcare practice. I support private sector companies and government organisations across a range of topics, including Pharmaceutical and MedTech growth strategy, healthcare provider operations, private equity acquisitions and valuations, and global health strategy. While my work is focused within the Nordics and Europe, I’ve had the opportunity to support a variety of clients in Asia, Africa, and North America.

    With the recent Covid pandemic, I was able to prioritise my passion for public health and join one of our global health teams supporting Covid initiatives across low and middle income countries. While incredibly challenging, it’s highly motivating to directly see the work we’re doing as it results in real treatments mobilised to healthcare facilities and communities that need aid.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    I attribute my entire journey into consulting – and post-Wake trajectory in general – to our provost, Rogan Kersh. After I returned from a year abroad in Europe and Australia, he graciously offered his time to speak with what was then a very conflicted Pre-Med student about the future after graduation. He helped expand my view of what it means to be involved in healthcare — and that becoming a physician was not the only way to be involved in this space. He encouraged me to explore the option of graduate school in the public health / public policy space, and I happily pursued the Health Policy programme at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service – where he was formally the associate dean.

    My time in graduate school further expanded my horizons, and I ended up stumbling quite late into my last year into the prospect of management consulting. Through months of networking and sneaking into business school seminars, I was connected with a recruiter for McKinsey & Company’s Healthcare practice in New York. Some pleasantly persistent emails later, I wound up with a first round interview that turned into a job offer I joyously accepted.

    McKinsey was incredibly formative in my first couple years from graduate school, and helped solidify in my mind that management consulting was a really cool learning opportunity that could be transferred anywhere. I decided to try my hand at applying this learning, and left to pursue an early stage healthcare start-up in Washington DC. While time at the start-up was exciting and varied, I found myself missing the structure and strong network of a much larger company. Additionally, I had been yearning to get back over to Europe from my undergrad days.

    A little while later, my partner had gotten a job in Europe, which allowed her to be much closer to her family in Germany. I took that as good of a sign as any to take the leap and look across the pond for opportunities on the continent. I received the offer to work with BCG Denmark on a Wednesday, and by that Sunday I landed in Europe with four suitcases and an AirBnB reservation.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    The hours and pace are quite challenging in management consulting. You’re often working over 80 hour weeks, and prior to Covid, you spent a good amount of time on top of that in airports, trains, and cabs. What’s helped me keep sane is focusing on the things outside of work that bring me joy, which for me is a range of choir rehearsals, ultimate frisbee practices and tournaments, and purposefully spent weekends with friends and loved ones. Being mindful about the time spent away from my laptop has helped calibrate me on what matters, and helps prevent me from getting into a spiral of all work and no play.

    Covid has presented a new challenge to this, because I now go from my bedroom to living room and then back again. But I have gotten in the habit with some nearby colleagues to do regular walking coffee-breaks along the harbour — and truly unplug during those times.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    My advice is two-fold: 1) make sure you aim to keep balance in your life by focusing on what energises you outside of work; 2) watch your spending now that you have a steady income, and never try to “keep up with the Jones’”.

    I touched on the first point in the previous question, but it is incredibly easy to completely let your life fly by. Especially for those who are even somewhat ambitious, the drive to do more or work for that promotion can result in a very successful life on paper, but a lonely one in reality. There are far too many senior leaders in consulting who quickly made it to Partner, but all they do is go from client to client. A close mentor of mine said that what clicked for him is when he and his wife were applying to foster a dog. In the application, you need to put how many people live at your residence. His wife put 1.5. That was the moment he found that he really needed to change something in his day to day, otherwise his life will just be work.

    On the second point, the advice comes from both myself and a number of friends who have made this error. It’s easy to start thinking you can splurge on purchases, or that you need to get the latest gadget or membership to the coolest gym. These expenses add up quite quickly, and in a couple months, typically nobody cares about that trend. Don’t put yourself in unnecessary debt, and start developing a healthy relationship with your money. This is something I myself am still working on, but is something I wish I took to heart when I was younger.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    I love meeting people and learning more about them. I find it’s a lot easier to follow-up with people if I genuinely like them; then it becomes more like catching up with a friend. Don’t underestimate how far a simple email check-in can go, or silly Slack message to co-workers you may have met on a training long ago. Don’t be afraid to just send a note on LinkedIn (or other platform) if you’re trying to learn more about a company or job. People tend to love talking about what they do (as is evident here!).

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    I mentioned Kersh earlier as a key Wake Forest relationship early in my career. I have since been fortunate to pick up a number of mentors and friends across graduate school, past jobs, and networking groups. These relationships have been critical in so many ways, from quarter-life crises trying to figure out next steps to celebrating new job offers. Your mentoring group will help you weather all that life throws at you and can be pivotal in putting you on a track to your goals. I firmly believe I would not be here if it weren’t for all of the brilliant mentors I’ve had in my life.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    Let’s grab a virtual coffee together! I would be more than happy to speak with you about it. More broadly, I would say just reach out to someone who currently has a job you’d want to explore at your desired company. Ask them for a quick 15-20 minute chat about the role, company culture, etc. The worst they can say is “No” or not reply — in which case you’re where you started. So you literally have nothing to lose except the few minutes you spend writing the note.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    I eventually would like to get back to the US, ideally still working in healthcare. I would love to eventually transition my experience into working at the State or Federal level. Pursuing public office is a bit further out, but certainly a target for the next chapter of my life.

    Story published in February 2021. For current updates about Eric, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Kate Brogan (’10)

    Kate Brogan (BA Biology 2010)

    Public Affairs Specialist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Washington, DC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    headshot of Kate Brogan, she has strawberry blonde hair and is smiling

    I work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is the agency responsible for everything from issuing daily weather forecasts through the National Weather Service to regulating the multi-billion dollar U.S. commercial fishing industry. As a Public Affairs Specialist, I work with a team to answer journalists’ questions about NOAA’s science and stewardship, and provide the media and public with information about the exciting work happening at the agency through social media, online content, press releases, and events.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    Growing up in New Jersey, and spending a lot of time at the beach, I knew from a young age that I wanted to protect the marine environment. After receiving my Bachelor’s degree at Wake, and spending a lot of time in college scuba diving, I pursued an interdisciplinary Masters degree at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, which allowed me to focus on the public policy and communications aspects of the marine and coastal conservation. I worked for two years as a Communications Specialist at the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve, a coastal research and education program, in Beaufort, North Carolina, which really highlighted the importance of engaging directly with the community on research and conservation projects. When I went to work for NOAA in Washington DC a few years later, being able to tie all of that previous experience together was critical, and I was fortunate enough to have a strong network of support from both Wake and Duke in the region to offer guidance and share their perspective.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    NOAA is a large agency, with 12,000 employees, and an incredible range of important work— everything from mapping our nation’s coastlines to launching satellites into space to observe Earth. Sometimes it is challenging to coherently tell NOAA’s story, because there are so many parts to what we do!

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    I would recommend finding a job that aligns with your values, and that you have some natural ability for. If either of those are out of balance, you will be miserable going to work each day, and it will affect other parts of your life (personal life, mental health) as well.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    I am lucky enough to have friends from my freshmen dorm at Wake that I text with almost daily. Knowing that we can share a quick text with a funny story has made being home-bound during COVID-19 much easier. I am also involved in the alumni board for my graduate program, and that has been a great opportunity to connect with leaders across the environmental field who are interested in similar issues.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    I have not had many formal mentors, but I do like to ask specific people in my life for “gut-check” advice, and without them really knowing it, that small brain trust has probably shaped a lot of my career decisions.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    My suggestion would be to be open to all the possibilities of the environmental sector. Each environmental challenge we face is an opportunity for committed students and young people to be the solution.

    Story published in February 2021. For current updates about Kate, visit her LinkedIn profile.

  • Kevin Smith (’12)

    Kevin Smith (2012 BA in English and Political Science)

    Corporate Associate at Goodwin Procter LLP in Boston, MA

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Headshot of Kevin Smith, he is wearing a light blue/gray suit and clear rimmed glasses.

    I am a Private Equity and M&A associate at Goodwin, a global 50 law firm based in Boston. My practice focuses on mergers, acquisitions, and private equity and venture capital. I advise clients on transactions across a range of industries, including technology, life sciences, healthcare, and manufacturing.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    Prior to law school, I worked in nonprofit development. My career began at Wake in the Office of Advancement as an alumni giving fellow. When I moved to Boston, I was eventually bitten by the tech bug and joined the business development department at an emerging cyber security company.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    My first job provided me the best of both worlds: exposure to real professional challenges while also remaining tethered to the support system and wealth of resources at Wake Forest. Making the case for why to support Wake Forest came naturally but as one might imagine, making direct asks for money was a bit intimidating. I learned that focusing on forging the interpersonal connections eventually makes the ask become a more organic aspect of the conversation and I believe that this lesson is generally applicable.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Stay connected and interested in what your classmates and peers are doing, be supportive of their endeavors but never get caught up in comparing experiences. I ran on the varsity track team at Wake so I often revert to cliché phrases from the sport — one I truly stand by is “run your own race”.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    There are far too many people to name but I would be remiss to not give a special shoutout to my mentor and friend Professor Beth Hopkins. As a trailblazer both within our alumni community and the legal community more broadly, I can always rely on her for sound advice and support. The last time I was on campus was this January to join her and others in commemorating the 50-year anniversary of the integration of women’s residence halls at Wake Forest. My heart is still full from that experience.

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

    In your field of choice, there will likely be a playbook written for you that is linear, tried and true. Feel free to modify that playbook or completely rewrite it. In fact, the most selective graduate and professional schools and employers covet candidates with non-traditional backgrounds and experiences. I went to law school with art historians, teachers, veterans, chefs and even a golf-course designer. Each brought something special to the classroom.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I am passionate about leveraging the law to facilitate radical innovation and economic growth within underrepresented communities. Corporate law is probably not the first discipline that comes to mind when thinking about effecting social change but I am confident that by honing my craft, I will become a greater advocate and catalyst in my community and open doors for others to do the same.

    Story published in November 2020. For current updates about Kevin, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Sophia Bredice (’15)

    Sophia Bredice (BA 2015 Biology & History)

    Assistant Director of Client Services in Information Systems at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Headshot of Sophia Bredice, she has long blonde hair and is smiling

    I manage a team tasked with improving the user experience for technical and digital initiatives on campus and leading communication and change management for technology implementations (most recently our new learning management system, Canvas). We have been working on creating a digital internal conference experience showcasing the creative and collaborative use of technology on campus, TechX, which launches in March.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    I was an intern at the Government Accountability Office for a summer during the Wake Washington Program where I participated in the review of confidential government technology initiative. I was able to work with a cross functional team to evaluate the program, identify areas needing improvement, conduct interviews, and write the official review. I believe this experience got my foot in the floor in the IT world when interviewing with the IS department.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Challenge yourself; you really do not know what you like and how you want to live your life until you try new things. For example, give yourself a goal, like saving XX per month, working out in the morning, connecting with family and friends once every day. That goes hand in hand with making sure you are not too hard on yourself when something does not work out. You have time to build your routine and find out what works for you.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    The first year of so of my job, I took a part time job at a restaurant to expand my circle and make a little extra money – it was a very rewarding experience. I also started playing intramural sports to build connections with people outside of work.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    I am very fortunate to have been mentored by many people at Wake Forest. It is invaluable having a support system and sounding board to help navigate tricky work and personal waters. Trust is the key to these mentorship relationships, especially when you work at the same place as many of these mentors. I always know I have a place to turn and my experiences and challenges remain with them.

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

    Be present and save your voice – have your actions make your first impressions. Be truly present in your meetings and when working with people, show people you care about the work, see an opportunity and volunteer to work on it. You will not have all the answers. Take the time to learn the culture and be mindful about when and what to speak up about – silence is a powerful thing! It shows restraint and thoughtfulness.

    Story published in April 2020. For current updates about Sophia, check out LinkedIn.

  • Rosa Garcia (’14)

    Rosa Garcia (BS 2014 in Chemistry, BA 2014 in Spanish)

    PhD Leadership Development Program at BASF in Charlotte, NC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Headshot of Rosa Garcia, she has dark brown hair and is smiling

    I am in BASF’s PhD Leadership Development Program (LDP), a program consisting of three 8-month assignments. The experiences I have gained from this program range from being an R&D Scientist for Automotive OEM Coatings to being a Market Analyst for Claus Catalysts to being a Technical Specialist for Nonwovens. In my current assignment as a Technical Specialist, I support product development to obtain the performance properties our customers need for their nonwoven products in the filtration and glass mat markets. 

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    Prior to joining BASF as a PhD LDP, I was a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry at NC State University. I knew I was interested in a job in industry, but I was unsure of the company and position. By attending career fairs during my time at NCSU, I learned of BASF’s PhD LDP and I engaged with BASF employees to learn more about the company, the culture, and opportunities for chemists. In my final year as a graduate student, I applied for the program and I happily accepted the offer.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    In my transition from academia to industry, I needed to learn how to onboard quickly to be an effective team member in a short time period as my assignments are only 8 months long. When I was in graduate school, I would search for articles to understand the scope of the work and its limitations. Google was also a very handy tool. In industry, you have to get the background and direction of a product/project through colleagues and you have to be strategic with what information you can get from who based on their role and responsibilities at the company.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    When I was an undergraduate, I read a book (The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–and How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay), and off the top of my head, I recall education, health, and love being life-defining aspects. A few years later, I see why these aspects matter and how they can shape the rest of your life. Check the book out.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I love BASF for multiple reasons with one being their Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). By being actively involved in ERGs, you can learn more about the group and create close relationships with your colleagues. Sometimes, colleagues go from being colleagues to being a family and this relationship goes a long way.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    Yes, I have a mentor in my professional life who has been an invaluable resource with wise advice. From the very beginning, she emphasized the importance of a developmental plan that focuses on the soft skills. As an individual with a PhD in Chemistry, she mentioned that I can, without a doubt, learn the technical skills, but soft skills require attention and development, especially when working with complex audiences. I have also learned to reflect on experiences which has lead me to a better understanding of who I am and what I want to work on.

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

    In life, there is no set path in how you get to your final destination, if there is a final destination. It is a process that you’ll take step by step. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself in situations and question how you got there. But, I challenge you to ask yourself what is the silver lining in this situation and how can this be a stepping stone for my next role?

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    Based on my experiences in my three assignments, I have discovered what I find rewarding in a job. I really enjoy being a Technical Specialist, and I would love to land a position where I can develop and improve products for the customer. I am actively working to land a technical role close to the customer as my next position.

    Story published in April 2020. For current updates about Rosa, check out LinkedIn.

  • Katie Wolf (’13)

    Katie Wolf (BA 2013 in Studio Art & Art History)

    Assistant Director at Hanes Art Gallery WFU in Winston Salem, NC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Katie Wolf Headshot

    I am the Assistant Director of the Hanes Art Gallery at Wake Forest, and I work to support WaketheArts – a movement to infuse the arts into many aspects of the Wake Forest experience. Currently, I’m developing programs for students to gain experience in visual arts administration.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    After graduation, I managed the stArt Gallery, Wake’s student art gallery, as a Presidential Fellow. Before then, as an undergraduate, I benefited from internships – most memorably at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum. It was there, when I was checking the condition of Lady Gaga’s preserved meat dress (it has been “jerked”) that I learned how important a sense of humor is in balance with high professional standards.

    These internships were invaluable in learning what I was good at, what I might not be good at, and how vastly different work cultures can be. As I organize internships now, I am more aware of the privilege I had to be able to work without pay, and I’m committed to supporting students in obtaining compensation for their work through class credit or grant funds.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    I really struggled establishing myself as a professional. My professors were suddenly my colleagues and my classmates were my work-study assistants. I learned a lot about boundaries that first year – I had to set strict rules for myself in order to put myself in a professional mindset.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Since graduating I’ve become passionate about personal finance and financial literacy. Money can be such a taboo subject, and it can feel uncomfortable to talk to friends or family about your financial foundation. However, as a new graduate this is the absolute perfect time to learn as much as you can and set yourself up well. One of the most important factors to financial independence is time, and today you’ll have more than you ever will. You’re welcome to email me if you want to talk about your situation – judgement free.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I was lucky. I was welcomed swiftly into the Winston-Salem arts community by a group called Art Nouveau Winston- Salem (ANWS), a group of young professionals sponsored by the Arts Council. The group’s mission is to get young people more involved in Winston’s art scene, and I made wonderful friends outside of the “Wake bubble”. It can be challenging to make friends post-college, and I was lucky to find a group like this. I encourage you to find groups and committees in your town supporting organizations that are meaningful to you. Plus, the organizations need your time and support.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    I have been mentored by countless Wake Forest faculty, staff, and administration – honestly, too many to give proper credit here. I am especially grateful to Paul Bright, Leigh Ann Hallberg, Morna O’Neill, Allison McWilliams, Gordon McCray, and Allison Perkins. They often anticipate what I need before I know myself – they are the more experienced runners of the marathon that generously give me water from their own cups.

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

    Up until this point, you’ve likely been running sprints from one year/semester to the next – capping off each with a measurable “win” or “loss”. It’s important, now, to switch your mindset to running a marathon. It’s a totally different way of exerting energy. The biggest mistakes I’ve made professionally have happened because I was trying to go too fast. The most important thing you can do is to show up everyday and take one deliberate step at a time. Also, it’s important to find joy in whatever you’re doing. Time goes by quickly.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    In December, I will complete an MBA with a Nonprofit Management Concentration from UNC Greensboro, and I am committed to supporting the financial sustainability of artist and arts organizations in North Carolina. My goal in my current work is to help students gain experience in arts administration that will help prepare them for fruitful and fulfilling careers. I plan to work more specifically in development, programming, or financial services in support of financial literacy.

    Story published in March 2021. For current updates about Katie, visit her LinkedIn profile.

  • Natalie Wilson (’19)

    Natalie Wilson (BA 2019 in Sociology with minors in Interdisciplinary Writing and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies )

    Marketing Strategist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    headshot of Natalie Wilson, she has short brown hair and is wearing fun earrings, a bright coral shirt and a big smile

    I work as a strategist in the marketing and public relations department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I work closely with my team, as well many others across the 70+ person department, including art directors, email and web developers, and more.

    In my role, I’m responsible for internal and external communication strategies to share the really incredible research coming out of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s, one of the top NIH-funded pediatric research institutes in the country — which means I get to interview a lot of amazing people, read a lot of exciting manuscripts and articles, and learn a lot of interesting things! I work with researchers to promote their grant awards, publications, presentations, and more and help them keep their pages on the hospital’s website up-to-date.

    As I work to build relationships with faculty members and the staff within their labs, learn about their work, and connect with them for updates, I can help ensure their findings and accomplishments are showcased in all of the appropriate places — in email newsletters and print publications distributed to employees at the organization; in our blog for parents and families, 700 Children’s, and our peer publications, Pediatrics Nationwide and PediatricsOnline; on digital signs displayed throughout campus; on our website, NationwideChildrens.org, and our SharePoint intranet pages; on the Twitter channel that highlights the work of our faculty, @NCHforDocs; in the news; and more. I write and produce content for these channels, have written executive communications, and manage and produce a biweekly newsletter for research staff.

    I really enjoy the amount of writing and editing I get to do in my role, how diverse my projects and responsibilities are, and how much I get to learn about science, medicine, technology development, and research. I’ve also been involved with diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives both in my department and within the larger organization, which is really important to me. And I serve on the department’s Culture Core, so I get to coordinate volunteering opportunities and fun events like our holiday parties!

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    I graduated in 2019, then worked as a Wake Forest Fellow in the Office of Personal and Career Development before moving to Columbus, Ohio, and joining Nationwide Children’s in 2020.

    As an undergrad, I grew and developed my passions — for storytelling, for relationship-building, for journalism and critical media literacy, for identifying inequities and working to achieve social justice and equity — and developed the skills I could use to advance those passions — writing, research, photography, journalism, and more — through the courses I took (both within my major and minors and outside of them), the activities I was involved in, the and the professional experiences I gained. I was a writer and editor for the Old Gold & Black and gained marketing experience as an intern for a nonprofit entrepreneurial incubator downtown, Winston Starts, and working for the law school’s Office of Communication and Public Relations. I love working with kids, so I served as a Big Sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters and worked or volunteered at several other camps and programs for young students. I attended and volunteered at the BRANCHES Social Justice Retreat, and I was involved in the Winston Salem Foundation’s Women’s Fund and Winston-Salem Innovation Literacy Project.

    Until my current role, all of these experiences seemed more connected by the kinds of work I was doing than the topics I was working on or the “why.” But now I’m working in a role and for a place that seems to pull everything together. I read and write about research. My work supports children, health equity and social justice. Even my experience with startups is relevant through my work telling the stories of technologies developed at Nationwide Children’s.

    In undergrad, I probably wouldn’t have guessed that my first job experience after moving away from Winston Salem would be working in medical or scientific writing — the only science course I took at Wake was astronomy! — but it’s a really great fit and challenges me in new and exciting ways. Plus, as a kid, I was always a science nerd. I feel like this role has given me the opportunity to connect with long-held curiosities and interests that had fallen to the backburner.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    I think one of the biggest challenges has been not being on the set academic calendar I’ve been on my whole life — there are short and long term projects, and there are certainly benchmarks throughout the year, but I don’t have certain courses each semester and there are no summer and winter breaks — and there aren’t really “grades” on assignments or at the end of a set period, at least in the same way there were in college. So the “Work Forest” work ethic doesn’t automatically transfer to your professional work. College keeps you busy for weeks at a time, but then you’re given the space to pause, get a grade, and take a break. It can be so easy to fall into that fast-paced, middle of the semester work mode — keep your head down and grind, let projects and deadlines and weeks come and go, push onto the next one and the next one — without really slowing down or looking up to seek feedback or fully process all you’ve accomplished and how to improve the way you organize and approach your work.

    I’m still working on this — and open to learning more every day! — but I think that it’s important to develop opportunities for reflection and feedback outside of formal performance reviews and build space and time on a regular basis for organizing the tasks you need to do and reviewing the work you’ve done.

    It’s also important to really try to set some boundaries, take time off, and give yourself breaks, since they aren’t built in to your schedule in the same way. And having a resume dump kind of document where you jot down your responsibilities and projects as you complete them can be helpful for professional development and just helping you see and process and bask in all you’ve done. I also have a “kudos” folder in my Inbox where I save copies of emails where I’ve received compliments or notes that have made me feel proud of my work — it’s great to click through when you feel overwhelmed or sidled by imposter syndrome.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Give yourself grace — about personal life, professional life — everything! You might want a meticulous budget, amazing sleep hygiene, perfect morning and night routine, three nutritious and delicious meals a day, daily connections with friends new and old… but you’re probably never going to have any one of those things “perfect,” let alone all of them, immediately and all at once. It may take years to figure out what matters the most to you and which strategies work the best for you.

    After being out of college for almost two years, I feel like I’ve developed some strategies for saving and spending that I feel really good about, but some of the other personal goals I have are total works in progress, and some I’ve let go of completely or haven’t really started working on. You’ll figure it out, but it will take time.

    Plus, whether your room is cluttered or organized, your bedtime is consistent or irregular, your budgeting spreadsheet has every purchase logged or you use an app to just keep track of your bills and savings — there’s no moral value to any of it, and you’re not worse or better than anyone else for having any of it together. I guarantee others around you have less together than it looks like — which means that not only should you give yourself grace, but maybe having every single thing Pinterest-perfect isn’t even as necessary or important as it seems. Habits and routines are really, at their core, functional, things to help *you* feel well and happy, manage challenges, live out your own values, and get through each day — you owe those things to yourself, not to anyone else.

    And you don’t have to embark on your journey to finding those things alone! Connect with the Alumni Personal & Career Development Center, talk with a counselor, watch tutorials on YouTube, compare notes with friends — there are people who are in your shoes and have been in your shoes and are here to help.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I moved to a new city and started my new job in late May 2020… so, “COVID times.” I’m so grateful to have been able to be hired and found an apartment I love in an area I love (all virtually, so I really lucked out!) in such a volatile time in the market. I saw the challenges my peers and new grads were having with finding and landing opportunities, so even though I haven’t made the personal and professional connections I would’ve liked as I’ve worked from home and prioritized following CDC recommendations, I am grateful to be employed and healthy and vaccinated. And I’m looking forward to start building more of those relationships next year by going back in to the office, joining clubs and activities or taking classes, volunteering, etc.

    Staying in touch with a few friends from undergrad and from my year after graduation I spent as a Fellow before moving to Columbus has been really important to me during this time. During my Fellows year, it was so great to have a built in cohort to hang out with. But living with roommates also gave me new friends, and I got to know people who worked around campus. There were even some new friends I made that I didn’t even meet or become close with until later in the year.

    But even in a formal program with a group of my peers and so much support, making friends still requires putting yourself out there — think back to your first weeks on Wake’s campus, and every time you joined a new class or club. You have to ask the group chat if anyone wants to go out for Mexican on Friday after work. Stick your head in the cubicle of that colleague to ask them to walk to lunch with you. Ask your apartment neighbor for their number, or ask that person you volunteer with if they want to come over and watch that TV show you both raved about. A lot of this kind of meeting and going out hasn’t been totally possible or appropriate in the last year, but that means that in the coming one, there will be many people who are in new cities and looking for new friends, just like you and me — we’ve got this! (And I haven’t totally ruled out using Bumble BFF…)

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    I’ve been fortunate to have several fantastic mentors as a student and young professional at Wake Forest. Several professors and colleagues talked me through career decisions and gave me personal and professional advice. These mentors taught me about their lives and paths and helped me reflect on what I enjoyed, what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go. A few gave me some tough love — encouraging me to take on my job search more seriously and with more focus, pushing me to take advantage of opportunities when I was nervous, helping me wade through workplace politics and navigate the aftermath of failures and mistakes, asking me to do challenging self reflection, and empowering me to learn to say no and set boundaries.

    I think the biggest impact of all of that “tough love” and of these relationships, though, is how they’ve impacted my self confidence. Sometimes you need someone to tell you that, whether you realize it or not, they’re hearing you talk yourself into or out of job opportunities because imposter syndrome is making you weigh your options differently. Sometimes you need someone to tell you you have to go to talk to that dream employer at the career fair, and they’re going to ask you how it went. Sometimes you need someone to tell you that it’s okay to consider what’s important to you when moving to a new city for a new job, even if you’re worried what others think of your decisions. Through my conversations with my mentors, I leaned out of my comfort zone. I did things I’d been too nervous for years to do — successfully! I got better at saying no and asking for help — because I got more confident that I knew my own skills, workload, and worth enough. I got better at reflecting on what I truly want to do — because I felt more confident in affirming my own values and desires for my life, speaking up, and telling my story authentically. I still have so much growing to do in these areas, but mentors can help you recognize your starting point and be accountable.

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

    I’ll reiterate — give yourself grace. Pressure can seem to come from everywhere — family members, friends, or others on social media. You owe it to yourself to cut yourself some slack.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I grow through all the ways my role challenges me to learn new things and take on new responsibilities every day, and I keep track of the skills I’ve gained and the new things I’ve accomplished. Through my job, there’s also a formal goal setting process annually that I just went through and found really useful, so that will help frame how I improve in my role and how I grow personally and professionally over the next year.

    But I’ve been giving myself a break from thinking about long-term career goals and plans. While I know I’m still growing and learning every day, and I want to lean into that and seek out those opportunities, after spending years of high school, college semesters, summer internships, etc. focused towards the next stepping stone and trying to figure out “what I want to be when I grow up” and where everything fits in to my dream path, I’m choosing to give *myself* grace. Especially in these strange pandemic times, when a lot of things I looked forward to enjoying in my first years out of college and in a new city and job have felt like they were put on pause, I’m giving myself permission to just enjoy my role and be excited about, proud of, and happy with where I am.

    Story published in May 2021. For current updates about Natalie, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Caroline Li (’19)

    Caroline Li (BA 2019 in Computer Science)

    Software Engineer at Attentive in New York, New York

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Headshot of Caroline Li, she has dark hair and is wearing a white shirt and a smile

    I work at a text message marketing startup in NYC. I am a frontend engineer, which means I build the part of a website that you see and interact with.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    Right after college, I was a software engineer at Capital One in northern Virginia. For my first job, I wanted the ability to work with different technologies to figure out what I liked, at a company that cares about diversity and inclusion. Working at a large corporation provided plenty of support for me as a new graduate. I learned that I liked frontend development, but I found myself wanting to see how teams build and scale a product from scratch (which is hard to get at a company of that size). My first job helped me outline what I wanted in my next role.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    I think a lot of fresh graduates are eager to make an impact out in the “real world,” but there is only so much you can do in an entry-level job. In the beginning, I struggled with feeling under-challenged and bored at work. I eventually realized how lucky I was to work for an organization that made room for personal development. I had the time and resources to learn how to write code well, read up on the latest technologies, and get involved with company initiatives like mentoring summer interns and teaching middle school students how to code. The skills I gained have been so beneficial for me in my personal and professional life.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Learn how to cook a few healthy-ish meals that you actually like eating. Make time for the people you care about. Finally, find a few hobbies you like; find a hobby that’s good for your mind and a hobby that’s good for your body.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    I like meeting people through friends! I didn’t know anyone when I was moving to the Washington, DC-area, so I asked my friends if they knew anyone they could introduce me to. This works great for making personal and professional relationships. It’s easier to form a connection when you already have something in common.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    Wake Forest has so many amazing professors and students who are willing to guide you and vouch for you, and the staff at the OPCD continue to be fantastic resources even after graduation. I could go on about the impact these relationships have had on me. Thanks to these mentors, I figured out what to study in college, made connections with alumni, attended tech conferences I otherwise wouldn’t have, and landed an internship and my first job. They’ve helped me feel confident in myself and my career.

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

    After your time at Wake, it can feel like you’re in uncharted territory figuring out what you’re supposed to do with your life. Someone has been in your shoes before. Talk to people (WFU alumni, or even someone whose LinkedIn profile interests you). It’s all about getting more information. If your first job doesn’t work out, now you have a better idea of what you’re looking for next.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    There are a few ideas I have for my future. I would love to work on public interest technology. I would also like to eventually branch out from engineering, so I might go back to school at some point. Right now I am focusing on learning as much as I can to be a better technologist.

    Story published in May 2021. For current updates about Caroline, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Tiffany Newsome (’13)

    Tiffany Newsome (BA 2013 in English with licensure in Education; MSA 2017 in School Administration; Ed.D Candidate 2022 Educational Leadership & Cultural Foundations )

    Principal of Rashkis Elementary at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in Durham, NC

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Headshot of Tiffany Newsome. She has dark hair and skin, and is wearing a smile.

    I am currently serving as the principal at Rashkis Elementary, which is located in Chapel Hill, NC. My school is a very diverse school with diverse needs. Currently, we have been tackling learning in the blended environment, which means that many of our students are either at home learning from a remote location or they are in-person. We are navigating the challenges of technology all while making sure that we are maintaining a rich and engaging learning experience for all of our students.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    I have always loved helping people. I remember tutoring other students while I was in high school. I found joy in it. I loved working with people who had been struggling all year long, but then at the end of the year when they passed their End of Grade Tests, they were filled with so much excitement and relief. I also served as a camp counselor and Residential Adviser for Duke Youth Programs. DYP, as it was affectionately called, is a summer program located on the campus of Duke University. This camp really gave me the boost of confidence that I needed to know that I was a leader and that I loved to see students learn and grow. After high school, I went to Wake to study Chemistry initially because I had a love for science as well and had done a science program that got me national recognition. However, during my sophomore year, I realized that my passion for education was much stronger. I pursued English and Education instead. I was offered my first job in Wake County on an early contract in February 2013 before I graduated from Wake. I taught for two years, and others began to see that I was a leader and was destined to do more than just be a teacher. I went to grad school at UNC and obtained my Masters in School Administration. I got a job right out of the program and began my career in administration. I have worked at the high school level, middle school level, and elementary school level, which gives me a well-rounded experience.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    You are high in demand as a principal, which is great but can seem overwhelming at times. Before you complete a task, you may have several more that come up that seem just as important. Managing my time to get everything completed in a short amount of time can be difficult because you do not get more time to yourself. In order to do this, I live by the google calendar and task managers. These tools are super helpful with keeping me on task.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Start early and don’t wait. You are in the best place to make a difference. You don’t have to have it all figured out. You do have to have drive and determination. You have talents right now that you can use to help you make your mark in the world.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    I make it an investment to attend at least one event per month where I can meet other people in my field. Most of my connections come by talking to be people who know other people who have a similar interests. I also like to go to conferences as well.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    Mentorship is a topic of heavy interest for me. My research interests are centered on mentorship particularly for African American women like myself. I would say mentorship has had a major impact in my life. Many of my supervisors have been mentors, but I have also developed peer mentors along my journey in education as well.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    After I obtain my doctorate, I hope to establish my consulting business in education. My desire is to contract with organizations across the world. I also have interest in being a faculty member at a university that has a strong education program.

    Story published in May 2021. For current updates about Tiffany, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Corey Pegram (’13)

    Corey Pegram (2013 in BS in Business & Enterprise Management)

    General Manager at REVELxp in Winston-Salem, NC

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Head shot of Corey Pegram. He is wearing a button-down and suit jacket, and a smile.

    Our REVELxp Winston-Salem office focuses on two business lines, Tailgate Guys and PRE Event Rentals. Through Tailgate Guys, we partner with athletic departments (including Wake Forest) to sell and manage premium tailgating experiences for their fans, alumni, and ticket holders. We also assist the athletic departments in creating new hospitality areas that enhance the fan experience. On the PRE Event Rentals side, we work with universities, sporting events, local schools and festivals to provide them with their event equipment needs. My role is focused on revenue generation and business development in both business lines, including a few very exciting new hospitality areas that everyone will see at Truist Field this fall!

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    Wake Forest has played a huge role in all of it! As a student at Wake, you’re surrounded by motivated people and encouraged to step out of your comfort zone, including studying abroad, which was absolutely incredible. All of that encouraged me to try new challenging things after college, such as start a small basketball recruiting business and later move to Phoenix, AZ for a job with the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. My wife Kathryn (’14) and I met at Wake and now have a 5-month old daughter Nora, so to now return back east with her in order to be closer to family and raise her in the Winston-Salem community is truly a dream come true.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    Prioritizing. We are a small office and there are a lot of opportunities and challenges that come up every day. I’ve always been someone who hates saying “no,” and I try not to, if at all possible, but that requires a lot of discipline in focusing on the most important task at hand. In my previous job, this was taught as the “WIN” system – What’s Important Now. I try to be as fully present as I can each day so that I have the clarity to know what is the most important task that must get done now.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    I think everyone should have a set of personal values, and I think to create those personal values everyone needs to spend a lot of time truly getting to know themselves. There are always going to be trade-offs in life, so when making tough decisions I find it helpful to have a set of core values to help make them. Mine are integrity, family and self improvement. They factor into every life decision I make.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    I try to get to know people on a personal level as best I can. Asking questions about other people’s lives and truly caring about what they have to say is probably the most important skill to networking in my opinion. This helps establish a real connection, and odds are there are some common interests and/or life experiences to talk about!

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    I learned in grad school to have a “personal Board of Directors,” a group of close people in your life with whom you can share challenges, seek advice, and even some times vent about things. Mine are my wife, my parents, my siblings, a couple really close friends, and a former boss. They have helped guide me in big decisions and challenging situations.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    Say yes to opportunities and be proactive about finding them! I think all of us working in sports realize how challenging it was to break into it, so we have the desire to help those who are trying to do the same. Reach out to us and ask to connect for a conversation!

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    Being a good dad and husband is number one on my list right now! Developing a strong community here in Winston is also very important to me, and on the career side, I just want to do the best possible job I can in my current role.

    Story published in August 2021. For current updates about Corey, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Sydney Bailey (’12)

    Sydney Bailey (BS 2012 in Business Enterprise Management, Concentration in International Business, Minor in Global Trade & Commerce )

    Strategic Leadership Development Program at  Edwards Lifesciences in Orange County, California

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Headshot of Sydney Bailey. She has long, blonde hair and is wearing a black suit jacket, blue shirt, and a big smile.

    I work at Edwards Lifesciences, a global medical device company dedicated to developing technologies focused on structural heart disease and critical care monitoring. I am part of Edwards’ Strategic Leadership Development Program, which is a two-and-a-half-year post-MBA development program where I rotate every six months through business units and functional areas contributing to projects in Strategy and Marketing. I feel so privileged to be working at a mission-driven organization dedicated to helping patients around the world.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    My career path has been a bit unique, in that my first job after graduating from Wake Forest was assistant manager of a Target store. It was an incredible experience and the best lesson on leadership and resilience, but it wasn’t my passion. I love to travel, so when I was thinking about my next move, I was looking for a global organization where I could gain exposure to business across borders. I spent six years at a global commercial insurance company, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, in Chicago, in a few different roles: underwriting, strategy and client management. While I was there, I also had the amazing opportunity to do an overseas assignment in London. After leading a team, working in a variety of roles that allowed me to expand my skillset, and an international experience, I felt like I was at a point in my career where I was ready to spend time reflecting on my next steps and investing in my personal development.

    An MBA felt like the right space to do that and I chose Notre Dame because I connected to their motto of “Business for Good”. Pre-MBA, some of my proudest and most meaningful experiences were volunteering with local non-profit organizations. I knew I was driven by a desire to help people, so I focused on finding a path where I could pursue that passion in the business world, and that led me to Edwards Lifesciences (our credo is “helping patients is our life’s work and life is now!”). I feel lucky to be surrounded by people who always keep the question “what is best for the patient?” at the forefront of the work.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    I would say, being new to healthcare and having been with Edwards Lifesciences for less than a year at this point, the hardest part of my job is ensuring that I set aside enough time for learning & development, particularly in such a complex space like Structural Heart Disease. The two rotations I’ve had thus far have been incredibly rich in that they have afforded me the privilege of working on our long-range strategic planning process in one, and the ability to connect with our customers directly in the other. I only have six months to make an impact in each rotation and I want to ensure that I’m adding value to my teams, so I work hard to execute on the projects in front of me, but I have to remind myself constantly that I’m very new to the industry. Time invested in learning the fundamentals of Structural Heart Disease is super important, even if it’s not directly relevant to the project I’m working on.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    In terms of values, a professor in business school shared a quote that I love: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I love this quote because it helps keep what we all do every day (both professionally and personally) in perspective. I truly believe that the decisions we make each day are having an impact on the world around us and I try to remember that, always, as I move through the world.

    In terms of developing personal habits, I am a huge proponent of work/life balance. Since I started working, I have taken at least one two-week vacation each year and it is so restorative. Early in your career, it’s easy to feel like you won’t get to where you want to be if you’re not seen as the hardest working (and as a result, you feel guilty for taking time off), but I’ve found that I’m a better employee when I know I have time to step away, reflect, and come back motivated and ready to tackle the work.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    I leverage LinkedIn often to keep up with colleagues I’ve interacted with over the years. It’s always fun to share congratulations with a former colleague on a promotion or career update, and it’s such an easy way to keep in touch. Also, if I come across an article that I think someone I know would enjoy, I’ll shoot it over via email or LinkedIn. Finally, I am a huge fan of snail mail, so if I have an opportunity to send a handwritten thank you note, I like to do that! It’s a nice way to make someone feel appreciated.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    I have had a handful of really important mentors over the years, both former bosses and peers. These people have helped me think through career moves and have given advice on how to navigate the balance between career ambitions and personal priorities. I’ve always found that it’s important to have someone you can talk with openly when you’re thinking about your next move.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    I am so grateful to be in the healthcare industry where the work I’m doing helps others. That passion is something I feel across my organization and across the industry, so I suppose my best piece of advice would be that if you’re interested in working healthcare, that passion is key. Make sure that shines through in your conversations, whether you’re networking or interviewing.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    I’m not completely sure what’s next for me, but I know that I’m personally passionate about and motivated by helping others and I will continue to make choices that allow me to serve others. For me, after business school, that meant finding an organization with a mission I believe in. In the future, I hope it means leading a team of people with the same goal. I love learning about other cultures and I love to travel, so a global leadership role in a mission-driven organization would be the dream!

    Story published in August 2021. For current updates about Sydney, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Jason Hooker (’18)

    Jason Hooker (2018 in Business & Enterprise Mgmt with Minor in Computer Science)

    Senior Data Analyst at Optimity Advisors in Washington, DC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Headshot of Jason Hooker, white male with blonde hair, wearing a blue shirt and suit jacket and a big smile

    I’m currently closing out my time at Optimity Advisors – a management consulting firm focused on healthcare digital transformation where I’ve worked as a data analyst in DC since graduating from Wake in 2018 – before going back to school. I’m excited to be joining Brown University’s Master’s Program in Data Science in the fall, and I’ll spend much of the next couple of months participating in their summer preparation program, where we’ll dive into various topics in math, programming, statistics, and ethics in data. I’ll also spend time enjoying some traveling and relaxation before a busy year.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?  

    I spent the bulk of my time at Optimity working on the analytics team of the digital experience program of a large healthcare payer. We tracked members’ behavior tendencies on the company’s online portal, monitored key performance indicators to measure the program’s performance, and created interactive visualizations that enabled our clients to keep tabs on the usage of their various online tools. I worked with analytical tools like Tableau and Google Analytics a great deal, and I was encouraged to go out and learn about other tools and gain new skills that would allow us to do our work more efficiently or provide new services, entirely. I enrolled in some free online data science courses where I learned the programming language R and the basics of topics like regression analysis and machine learning. Taking these courses, as well as being encouraged to apply what I’d learned on my actual project work, left me wanting more in data science and ultimately led me to the decision to pursue a graduate degree in the field. I’m looking forward to continuing down this path.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    One of the biggest differences between my first “real world job” and my experience at Wake was the lack of frequent measuring sticks for my performance at work, and I found this particularly challenging. At Wake and other schools throughout my life, I always had a good idea of where I stood given the number of graded assessments given to us. There were no such grades at work, so tracking my progress in various areas required more effort on my part. I learned the importance of taking ownership of my own professional development, in large part through setting goals and actively seeking feedback on my progress toward them from others.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Overall, I’d recommend making a conscious effort to take responsibility for all of these aspects of your life. It’s unlikely anyone will plan these things for you or hand you a syllabus to follow, so it’s important to set aside some time to decide how you want to approach each of these parts of life. Do some research – there are lots of books out there on these topics and more, as well as much more succinct articles online if that’s more your style. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help or advice, too; most people are more than willing to give it. Then, I recommend making an easy-to-follow plan for each of these areas. For finances, track your spending and create a (simple or in-depth) budget for yourself. For health, find or create an exercise routine and save some recipes for meal-prepping. For values, jot down those you’d like to uphold with some activities that practice them. For work/life balance, make a schedule for your days and weeks and try to stick to it, modifying it as you learn what works best for you. This sounds like a lot, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Making and following plans makes creating good habits so much easier.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    Last summer, I began thinking about ways I could make a change in my career and was looking for some advice throughout the process when I found Wake’s Young Alumni Mentoring Groups. I signed up, both for the advice and insightful discussion that would come from it and to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone – I’m so glad I did. Led by Megan Hoyt, our group had numerous meaningful conversations about work and life that I likely wouldn’t have had elsewhere. This experience was so helpful in figuring out how to navigate the changes I was mulling and making a plan for what was to come next. I have also been lucky to have some incredible mentors at work, both formal and informal, who have been sounding boards for any ideas that popped into my head, no matter the topic, and huge supporters of my professional and personal development. Having mentors like these has been invaluable – credit to all of them for helping me take the next step in my career.

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

    Dive in! The more you put into your first job, the more you’ll get out of it. Make an effort to get to know people in your company, involve yourself in work or activities outside of your daily role, and try to regularly push yourself out of your comfort zone – this doesn’t sound enticing, but the growth you’ll feel from it is extremely rewarding. Give all tasks your full effort, no matter how easy or difficult they may be, and try to learn something about your role, peers, company, industry, or yourself every day.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    With my near future being centered around the master’s program in data science, I’m now focusing on fully preparing myself academically in order to get the most out of this experience. After the program, which I anticipate completing in a year, I hope to find a job as a data scientist somewhere within the field of biotechnology in my hometown of Boston. While somewhat vague now, I plan to further define and work toward this goal throughout the next year using the strategies I’ve learned from my mentors from Wake and my professional life.

    Story published in June 2021. For current updates about Jason, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Tim Lee (’16)

    Tim Lee (2016, BS in Chemistry with a minor in Entrepreneurship & Social Enterprise)

    Senior Program Manager at Anthem in Atlanta, GA

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Man in coat and yellow tie

    I work at a Fortune 30 company that is changing the way we think and deliver healthcare to members in our communities. Many of my initiatives and programs focus on how to digitize the core business functions of a legacy payer. Likewise, how to enable new technological capabilities for the organization through start-up partnerships or hiring top talent while building relationships with doctors and nurses.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    When I was at Wake, I would volunteer during the summers at my hometown’s hospital to not only shadow doctors but also to observe how a health system operates. That interest led me to get a MPH (Master’s of Public Health) after graduation where I got the opportunity to work for some nursing executives at Emory Healthcare.

    The job was demanding but I learned a lot about operations and strategy from a hospital perspective. After a while though, I wondered what was the relationship like between hospitals and payers and decided to transition over to my current employer.

    At my current employer, I actually started out as an Innovation Consultant. I was focused primarily on understanding new disruptive technologies and how it could be applied to healthcare. I missed some of that direct interaction with nurses and patients during my time at the hospital though. But fortunately I found a way to be promoted into my current role where I must balance both the technology and the provider side of things. It is really exciting!

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    Learning to say ‘No’ when you want to be everything to everyone.

    Ironically enough, assuming you have a good and legitimate reason for why you’re saying ‘no’, people will often respect your decision.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Your health is your wealth.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    I use resources like the Wake Network or LinkedIn to mainly build my network. I also would suggest participating in local volunteer opportunities, attending your local church functions, or asking individuals to get coffee as alternative ways to build relationships.

    Furthermore, do not silo yourself and exclusively network with individuals who think like you or who are only in your industry. There’s a lot of cross-collaboration and lessons learned that one can leverage for their personal and professional growth.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    I still stay in contact with quite a few professors over multiple communication channels. I’ve primarily leaned on them for acquiring new knowledge and health trends, learning new skills and topic areas, and for navigating the ever changing workplace.

    And I’m hoping to pave it forward for others!

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    Network. Be open to meeting with people who may think differently or who may be in a different industry. You never know how something relates to another, and how an opportunity might arise.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    My future goal is to become a healthcare thought leader and to lead a healthcare organization that will improve health outcomes for the patients and communities that I serve.

    Currently, I volunteer at a refugee medical clinic during the weekends and I try to find time to publish articles within my industry’s leading magazines. But I think the most important thing to remember is to just take it one-step at a time. For me, this looks like reviewing my own personal goals every few months to see what progress I’ve made and where do I want to go next.

    Story published in October 2021. For current updates about Tim, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Aishwarya Nagar (’16)

    Aishwarya Nagar (2016, BS in Biology with minors in Religion and Philosophy)

    Research Associate at Iris Group in Chapel Hill, NC

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Headshot photo of woman in floral shirt with long dark hair

    I work as a researcher for a small women-owned consulting firm, Iris Group, that integrates gender and social inclusion into global health and international development projects. Currently, I’m conducting data analysis and preparing reports for a novel USAID-funded activity that improves menstrual hygiene management and women’s economic empowerment in Kenyan and Nepali workplaces. I’m also wrapping up an effort to fill gaps in global evidence on child, early, and forced marriage. On any given day, I’m supporting our projects through data analysis, preparing reports and presentations for stakeholders, developing communications strategy, designing gender-intentional interventions, and more.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    I was pre-med at Wake Forest and had fully curated my college experience to lead into medical school. However, it was difficult to balance my interest in the medical field with my personal passions of feminist & social justice advocacy without feeling like I was choosing one over the other. So, when some of my humanities and social sciences classes helped me learn about systems of injustice, power, and social inequalities – especially how they affect our health – I realized that my passions were more aligned with an emerging field: public health.

    After graduating, I worked as Wake Forest’s first Fellow for Wake Downtown, which prepared me to be an adaptable and quick-thinking “jack of all trades.” After that, I went to graduate school for my Master’s in Public Health, where I worked several part-time research jobs and completed a maternal & child health-focused practicum in Haiti in tandem with my academic coursework. These experiences proved to be excellent primers for working with complex and nuanced global health issues. One of my professors in graduate school worked at the intersection of gender justice, social justice, and global health, and I immediately knew that that’s what I wanted to do professionally!

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    When I transitioned to my first “real world job,” many of my anxieties were rooted in my status as an international student. It felt challenging to plan for a long-term career when I was constantly worrying about my next step and whether that would mean leaving behind all of my friends, connections, and resources in the US. Unintentionally, it taught me to make the most of every professional and personal opportunity I had and to build strong, authentic networks.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Learn how to set boundaries. Full disclosure: I am terrible at this! I find it very difficult to not work during evenings, weekends, and even during my paid time off. However, it is very important to learn what your boundaries are, communicate them, and enforce them consistently. We tend to glorify the idea of working beyond our hours and sacrificing our personal lives to work, but this is exactly the kind of thinking that has pushed me to the edge of burn out several times.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    I moved to my city a few months before the pandemic, so it has been challenging to make new personal and professional relationships here. I’ve enjoyed staying connected with local alumni, meeting like-minded people while volunteering with mutual aid organizations, attending conferences, and tapping into professional networks locally – as well as the “new normal” of making virtual connections.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    Absolutely. My mentors at Wake Forest did everything from counseling me through a problem to helping me explore potential career paths to asking me difficult, introspective questions. Not to mention – they are fantastic people with inspiring passions, interests, and journeys! My mentoring relationships have taught me about the value of building authentic connections with people not only because you want something out of them but, more importantly, because you’re curious about or inspired by them. They have taught me to be vulnerable and ask for help instead of trying to do everything on my own. They have taught me to value people’s lived experiences and to appreciate the diverse ways in which we can grow and learn.

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

    Don’t put pressure on your first professional job to be “the one.” For many people, career paths are not linear. You may need to do some trial & error, moving around, or trying out new (possibly unexpected) opportunities to figure out what kinds of workplaces, fields, and roles align with your goals, values, and needs.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    My goal is to continue working at the intersection of gender equality, social inclusion, and international development/ global health. I’ve been networking with people in my field, working my supervisors on opportunities to expand my skill sets, and learning from virtual webinars. In the public health, global health, and international development fields, there is always more learning to do!

    Story published in November 2021. For current updates about Aishwarya, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Ben Robb (’15)

    Ben Robb (2015, BS in Biology)

    Spatial Ecologist at U.S. Geological Survey in Fort Collins, CO

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Head shot photo of Ben Robb outdoors with mountains behind him

    I am a spatial ecologist working with the USGS in Fort Collins, Colorado. Our research focuses on the sagebrush ecosystem of western North America, the shrubland that lies between the mountain ranges in the west, and the wildlife found within the sagebrush ecosystem. This includes greater sage-grouse, mule deer, pronghorn, coyotes, golden eagles, and ferruginous hawks (among other critters).

    I love this landscape, in part because I did my Master’s degree at University of Wyoming studying pronghorn migrations through the sagebrush ecosystem. My job right now involves data management, analysis, and organization for a larger team of ecologists. This can be anything from organizing datasets on roads in America, to processing satellite imagery. So really it’s a good deal of coding, statistics, and generating maps. I think what I do falls into the “applied ecology” camp, working with the USGS to contribute to conservation and wildlife management.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    I hopped around a bit! The temporary/seasonal job circuit is very common in my field, which really helped shape to where I am today. In particular, I worked for a year as an intern at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, studying giant pandas and mule deer. That opportunity really laid the foundation for my interest in spatial ecology, GIS, remote sensing, and R. The professional network I built there (plus developing those skills) directly led to my graduate degree at Wyoming. Then that experience led to my current job in Colorado.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    The 9–5 work schedule. Something kind of nice about college was that after class, you could tailor your schedule to what would work best for you. Work when most productive rather than when you’re required. It was an odd shift to a regular work schedule where I was given the timeframe to work, regardless of whether that timeframe worked best with my productivity. It’s really taught me a lot about paying attention to my energy levels — I always crash in the early afternoon — and scheduling the day around my energy levels. Doing that has helped me prepare for my productivity dips by having tasks I can do with little thought/energy, and save the energetic tasks for when I’m most awake.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Every Monday morning, when friends at work ask what you did over the weekend, you should always have some adventure. I still struggle with work-life balance, but graduate school actually helped me appreciate that the two are not mutually exclusive. To be effective at work, you need to have a life. There are lots of ways to do this. But my favorite is every weekend, go on an adventure. Whatever that means to you.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    At least in my experience, I don’t think I’ve had many professional relationships that didn’t also step into my personal life too. Example: I just emailed a friend from Wake for statistics help for a paper I’m working on. But what’s fun about this is it means staying in touch with friends counts as networking (at least in my book). So stay in touch, reach out, and respond when others contact you (I’m bad at that last one still…). Within the workplace, I like the rule that you should never eat at your desk. Join coworkers. Socialize. It’s a great way to build community in your workplace, plus it keeps your keyboard clean. Now building personal relationships, I just moved to a new town so I’m looking for advice! But I’ve heard great things about adult kickball leagues.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    I don’t know where I would be without the mentoring I received at Wake…but it wouldn’t be here. Particularly in the sciences, mentoring is crucial to your career. That’s the purpose of your advisor in grad school. We’ve all been shown the ropes by someone else. If you’re interested in the sciences then you need to get into a lab. Learn from that professor what good science means, then build your career from there. I’m thankful for the mentoring I received at Wake.

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

    I’m a fan of Edward Abbey’s line: “Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can.” I actually had a riot after I graduated Wake, I had time to pursue what I didn’t have time for in college. So take your first job seriously, do good work, but also allow yourself to have fun.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    I really enjoy research in ecology, then applying what I’ve learned to help management and conservation. It’s exciting, and rewarding when other people find value in my research. That’s a vague answer, cause long-term I’m still working a lot of this out. I don’t know where I’ll be in 10 years. But I know what I’d like to be doing. So I’m always trying to learn new skills, and trying to produce new research. Right now, I’m doing this by trying (trying!) to publish my research from my Master’s, and my ongoing research at the USGS.

    Story published in November 2021. For current updates about Ben, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Kim Jones (’05, MaEd ’06)

    Kim Jones (BA 2005 in English, MaEd in 2006 in Teaching)

    English Teacher at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools – 9-12 in Chapel Hill, NC

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Headshot of Kim Jones, she is a Black woman with short blonde curly hair, wearing a black shirt and a big smile

    I am in my 16th year of teaching with Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools. I currently teach multiple levels of English 10 with a focus on World Literature. In addition to teaching, I work with students and district leaders on a number of equity-focused initiatives. Creating and maintaining classrooms, schools, and programs that are culturally relevant and responsive is a major personal passion! I’m currently serving on the Gifted and Talented Program Advisory Board, helping the district to equitably identify and foster the gifts, talents, and abilities of students from all backgrounds.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    I’ve always loved reading, and since childhood, I’ve had a passion for sharing my love of literature with others. I had incredible primary teachers who fostered that love and showed me the impact great teachers can have on a student’s life.

    The most significant motivator to my current career was my father. At 7 years old, I discovered my father was illiterate. I was shocked and saddened by this discovery. Shocked because my father had a high school diploma and was gainfully employed in a management position at the time. I was saddened to realize that same diploma had little to no value because the skills it was meant to represent were absent. My father, a 6’3 Black man with a warm smile, quiet demeanor, and friendly personality, had simply been passed along through 13 years of public school with little to no accountability for the quality of this education or mastery of skills. While teachers may have thought they were helping out a poor, young, Black man by giving him the diploma that would allow him to obtain one of the many factory jobs available at the time, they were not considering the long lasting impact his illiteracy would have on his future or that of his future family. Illiteracy is disability with constant and continual ramifications. From that moment forward, I knew I wanted to work in a profession that would help to address and prevent such a thing from happening again.

    My undergraduate experience at Wake Forest was a huge motivator in choosing where I wanted teach. As an undergrad, I remember discussing educational backgrounds with many of friends and peers. One of the most impactful facts that these conversations revealed was that most of my White peers had had few to no Black teachers in their academic career.
    I firmly believe “who you learn from” directly influences “who you believe you can learn from”. When students, even the brightest of the bright like those who attend Wake, only have White teachers, it deprives them of critical and beneficial experiences that come with learning from diverse instructors. Patterns create norms, and experiencing and appreciating the pedagogy, perspectives, and insights of Black teachers as a regular facet of education is critical for all students who want to succeed in an ever-diversifying world.

    With this experience in mind, I choose to work in college town with a legacy of investment in its public schools and academic achievement, but also one in need of more diversity in its teaching population. For the past 16 years, I’ve been able to teach and invest in the lives of countless, incredible students and in doing so enhance their vision of what an education and an educator can look like.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    The most challenging aspects of my career are the current increase in non-academic issues teachers are being asked to address and determining how to balance them with our instructional goals and responsibilities. The pandemic and the resulting transition to hybrid and virtual instruction exacerbated many social-emotional and psychological issues among students. When schools returned to “normal” in-person instruction, they brought these realities into the classroom with them and schools are having to revisit, revise, reassess, and reallocate resources to meet these unique needs.

    I, and most teachers I know, am navigating these challenges by focusing only on the most essential learning goals, prioritizing self-care and mental wellness, and building trusting, caring relationships with students that will allow them to reach out for help when they need it.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    There are an infinite number of responsible, healthy, moral, wellness sustaining choices you can make that will help your life. Sometimes the options can seem so massive that you may feel nervous about choosing any particular one to practice. Don’t be immobilized by choices! Pick a few things that will work within your current agenda and do them with fidelity. They will become the new norms of your life and the improvements they bring will also become your norm. Tackle a few at a time and regularly assess if they’re working for you. As your life changes so will the helpful habits you’ll need to navigate each phase. Keep your eyes, heart, and mind open and you’ll be ready to tackle them as needed.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    Shared interests and passions are the foundation of most of my relationships; I build my network based on authentic places of connection. From fellow teachers, to fellow equity advocates, to others invested in community service, I’ve built my professional and personal network with people who share and expand my passions and purpose. Professional conferences, community non-profits, and charitable civic events have all been great venues to meet new associates and have provided opportunities to maintain and foster those connections. While these spaces may feel overwhelming or the demographics of membership my seem alienating at first, it’s so important to engage with and contribute to such purpose-driven groups. From commiseration and encouragement over shared challenges, to pedagogical advice, sharing of best practices, and introductions to other educational professionals, my network has been an invaluable asset to my professional and personal growth.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    I was lucky enough to be assigned a phenomenal, veteran mentor teacher in my first year of teaching, and 16 years later, she remains a trusted and valued confidant and advisor. Mentorship is not simply for novice professionals; even the greatest athletes have coaches! Having a great mentor allows you to not only trouble shoot problems and ask for advice, but also to have someone who encourages your growth and professional development, even if it takes you in a new direction. My mentor was a major encouraging factor in my obtaining National Board Certification, taking on leadership roles within my school community, and gaining confidence in my voice as an equity advocate and change leader. Thankfully I’ve reached a point in my career where I can now offer similar mentorship to peers and young educators.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    If any current students or young alum are considering a career in education, I would definitely encourage them pursue it. Schools are one of the best avenues to truly work and live a life based in “Pro Humanitate”. The intellectual, personal, and social good that teachers can forge, foster, and facilitate in the lives of students and families is unmatched!

    With that said, there’s a popular quote that’s often shared in education circles, “Teachers don’t teach for the income, they teach for the outcome.” While the spirit of this quote is lovely, it also reflects one of the greatest challenges to a lifelong career in education: compensation. As a nation, we hold teachers in high esteem, but somehow salaries have yet to reach levels that reflect such veneration.

    I was incredibly fortunate to attend Wake Forest on a full academic scholarship as a Joseph G. Gordon scholar, and when graduate school came around, I was again blessed to be accepted into the Education Department as a Master Teaching Fellow. These two awards allowed me to finish both of my degrees with little to no debt. This economic freedom gave me the opportunity to pursue a career in public education.

    For any student or other alum seeking a career in teaching, take the time to actively research school districts and seek positions in those districts that have a clear history of financial investment in their schools and staff. Many communities have realized that competitive salaries are the best way to attract and retain quality teachers. Know your worth and seek employment in a district that does as well.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    My current professional development is focusing on enhancing culturally relevant and responsive teaching practices in the wake of the pandemic. New needs have emerged and teachers and schools must be prepared to meet them for all learners. This means investigating the ways that broad issues like academic anxiety, work/life balance, and other social-emotional issues facing students present themselves in underrepresented populations.

    Story published in December 2021. For current updates about Kim, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Laya Mohan (’17, MA ’20)

    Laya Mohan (2017 BA in Communication, 2020 MA in Communication)

    Associate Project Manager at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in Winston-Salem, NC

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Head shot photo of Laya Mohan, woman in black shirt with dark hair and smiling
    Laya Mohan (’17, MA 20)

    I currently work for Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist as a Project Manager in the CTSI (Clinical and Translational Science Institute). In addition, I work in tandem with Wake Forest Center for Biomedical Informatics by marketing and managing various core faculty projects, courses, and research. I also work with Informatics Team programmers to market and inform Wake Forest researchers of newly developed tools and resources to enhance their research. Lastly, I coordinate with external researchers for collaboration, brings guest speakers to lecture, and plans large scale events within the Center.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    I landed my current job during the pandemic. Landing this job was difficult as not many places were hiring.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    I think the most challenging part of my first “real world job” was learning to set boundaries. I started to become someone who said ‘Yes!’ enthusiastically as soon as any project came up, even if it was something I was not interested in. It made work difficult, and took a toll the quality of the work I delivered as I scrambled to get the job done. I learned that it is okay to say ‘No’, and I learned to prioritize the tasks assigned to me.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    “There is food at home” – This line has saved me so much money. It is so easy to just order takeout or UberEats when you are not feeling up to cooking. Meal prepping tasty and healthy dishes can encourage you to go through your groceries and save hundreds of dollars. Trust me when I say that veggies go bad quicker when you are the one who bought them.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    Making friends as adult is extremely difficult. You are not in forced social situations, such as in school or extracurricular activities, to meet new people. With that in mind, COVID did not make it any easier. It is important to put yourself out there and make connections where you can. It can be as simple as getting lunch with a co-worker or meeting someone new at a community event of interest. Whichever way you choose, the important thing is to put yourself out there.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    My most recent mentor is my current boss at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. She always sees the best in me and chooses projects that will challenge me as a project manager. This relationship has allowed me to see what my next steps would be in my company and my growth potential.

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

    Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone! You never know if you like something if you do not try it. A lot of jobs will ask for basic requirements, but they may hire someone who is willing to learn and has the potential to learn quickly. As long as you are willing to put in the effort and the labor, then the sky is the limit.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    Currently I am working on a second master’s degree in Health Informatics and Analytics. My current role at the Center for Biomedical Informatics helped solidify this new path for me. Even though my education is on the communication side, I enjoyed the chance to explore new paths and found something that I also enjoy in a completely different field.

    Story published in November 2021. For current updates about Laya, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Alex Koblan (’13)

    Alex Koblan (BA 2013 in Anthropology with minors in Psychology and Fine Arts )

    Head Bartender at Blossom Bar in Brookline, MA

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    Head shot photo of woman in floral shirt pouring a drink into a glass

    I am currently the Head Bartender at an award-winning tropical bar located inside of a Sichuan Chinese restaurant. In addition to welcoming guests on a nightly business and overseeing the success of daily service, I contribute cocktails to the menu and compete nationally in cocktail competitions.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    My time spent helping to run Boston-based breweries and distilleries helped lay a strong technical base of understanding for how alcohols of all types are crafted and ultimately, consumed. I had the opportunity to revamp the guest facing experience at a large craft brewery in New Orleans which gave me wonderful insight into more of the business associated aspects of engaging with the hospitality industry.

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    While I had worked in retail settings throughout high school, my first job at a large craft brewery was truly the first time I had worked in hospitality. There was certainly a learning curve to mastering the ins and outs of how to conduct business in a customer-facing manner. Ultimately, alcohol complicates the dynamic of this relationship. Providing a service to guests and customers is an exchange, but a delicate one in which the provider should be knowledgeable and warm while ensuring they maintain control in every situation. Learning how to control these situations required guidance and experience.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Don’t be afraid to ask questions – of everyone. Reach out to professionals in this field, ask co-workers and friends, listen to what your parents have to say. You probably won’t end up implementing the systems that work for them verbatim but you’ll get an idea of what will and will not work for you. Don’t stray from creating a system that works uniquely for your life and the variables you invite in on a daily basis.

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    The hospitality industry is inherently very social; both during the shift and after hours. It’s easy to feel over-extended when heading to networking events on days off or after a long shift. While it’s important to listen to yourself and your limits and recognize when you’ve had too much social engagement, it’s important to push yourself to connect with people in your network. I’ve found it can help to commit to a certain number of events a week or month and then sprinkle in fun, low pressure social outings when I feel up to it. Often times these last-minute meet-ups can be the most impactful. Try to talk to someone you haven’t met before.

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    I have had a few mentors during my career so far but one has been more impactful than the rest and continues to be a source of professional guidance for me. This individual saw potential in me during my first six months on the job and actively worked to engage me in professional projects and outings. Whenever we meet up for lunch or a beer they always ask me about my future plans and encourage me to work through important business questions about how to best ensure my future success. This individual has helped me gain an incredible sense of self-worth and confidence over the years and has helped hone me into a more savvy businesswoman. I continue to be incredibly grateful to this individual and have very much appreciated their trust and guidance.

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

    Remember that you have to start at the beginning. You cannot skip ahead to being the head of your department and I would remind you that it’s unlikely you have all of the tools you need to knock your first position out of the park. You are, however, hopefully entering into a field you’re passionate about with intelligence and curiosity. Ask questions, be present, and learn from any missteps you take. It’s inevitable that you will make mistakes as you settle into each new position you have – how you recover will make all of the difference.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    The more I learn about the hospitality industry the more I realize my future is wide open. Ultimately I’d love to own and operate my own establishment, welcoming guests to a space wholly of my design. More immediately I see myself continuing to compete in cocktail competitions – transitioning from the mid-level of competition to the higher echelon. As we continue to develop our cocktail program at my current establishment I’d love to acquire a James Beard nod or recognition from the Tales Of The Cocktail Foundation.

    Story published in November 2021. For current updates about Alex, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Natalie McKinney (’16)

    Natalie McKinney (BA 2016 in Sociology, History Minor)

    Public Information Officer at NC Judicial Branch (Trial Court Administrator’s Office- District 26) in Charlotte, NC

    Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.

    I work within the North Carolina Judicial Branch and my role is situated in Mecklenburg County. I am the Public Information Officer for the Trial Court Administrator’s Office in District 26. In my role as PIO, I am responsible for emergency communications and disseminating information to the general public. I also interface with local outlets of the media. In my role as PIO, I also operate as a team lead in our office; I have the privilege of leading our Community Access and Outreach Division. As the communications unit of our office, I often conceptualize my role as performing two imperative tasks:

    Brand Direction: how can we showcase what the Courts actually do in such a way that will, in turn, produce more confidence and trust in the Courts?

    Brand Protection: what policies need to be upheld/followed when interfacing with the media and the general public?

    Having a good grasp of our Judicial Branch policies and local rules is key to ensuring that I am attending to matters via a centralized lens and viewpoint. I am currently working on a communications plan.

    What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

    In my Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) program, I was required to complete an internship. My internship advisor impressed upon my cohort and I the importance of having an internship with broad experience within the public administration field. He mentioned that our internships shouldn’t be pigeonholed into what our academic concentrations. I knew that one of the best places that I could be was the City of Charlotte. At that time, there weren’t many graduate-level internship opportunities; but, through a chance encounter, the person who eventually became my supervisor arranged for me to serve as an intern that summer. From there, I was enthralled with public service and I began to think of my internship as not only an experience, but a path to a career. My internship with the City of Charlotte was extended twice and it eventually led to a full-time role! Although I’ve moved from municipal government to State government, I am still excited to serve my fellow man!

    What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

    I didn’t face as many difficulties in my first role out of college. I was working part-time at a museum – hello there, history minor 🙂 – while I finished grad school. I will say with my second role, however, the most challenging aspect was learning not to doubt myself. My leaders knew what I could do and produce. But, I needed to be assured of my capabilities. At times, I would second guess myself. Overtime, I learned that shrinking back wouldn’t stop the “show”; it would only delay my own growth. I learned to harness everything in me and press forward anyway.

    What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?

    Your vacation and sick days are part of your benefits package for a reason! Take them. Do good work. Be present at work. But, do not forget to look out for yourself. It is more than okay to step away from the “noise” of the office and take a few days off every now and then! There is no trophy for most vacation days unused! You will earn the time, so be sure to use the time. Also, if your employer provides access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), use it as well. Often, those resources are free and you can use most anonymously. Things like counseling, health management, nutrition programs etc. are traditionally encompassed in an EAP. Help just may be a phone call away!

    How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

    As cliché as it sounds, I have made professional relationships just by asking questions! Being intrigued by my colleagues and their journeys over the life-course of their career. For example, I asked how I could be part of a professional development group for an organization that I am part of. The chair of that subcommittee sent a warm welcome and guess what? I am in. Asking questions may seem like a passive strategy because it doesn’t seem aggressive enough, but I have found it to be the gateway of wisdom!

    Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

    Yes! I was blessed to be mentored by Dr. Alta Mauro (who previously worked in OMA) and Rev. K. Monet. While journeying through undergrad at Wake, Dr. Mauro and Rev. K Monet held space for me many times. As a woman of color in the workplace, the things I witnessed them accomplish felt empowering to me, then and even now. I still recall conversations I had with each of them. Gleaning from them was a pivotal role in undergrad and I am thankful to have had them.

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

    Be teachable. No matter how far you go in the C-Suite or how many degrees you acquire, always be teachable. You can still learn things and take on new perspectives if you are open to do doing so. Imagine you are a sponge. While sponges can be used for cleaning, their primary purpose is absorption. When you walk into positions with that mindset, I believe it broadens your horizon and it will allow you to glean from everyone.

    Be dependable. Be someone people can bet the house on. You may never know the impact you leave on your team or supervisor just by being dependable. Yes, your degree and ability matter too, but it’s always nice to have dependable co-laborers! That never goes out of style.

    Don’t be afraid to change your language. Instead of saying “Oh, I’m the (insert job title)”, try saying: “I serve as the (insert job title)”. Why? Because the way we frame things matter. Even if you are in a role that you don’t particularly enjoy, “serving” in that role will help breed a feeling of purpose while you’re still there and, it will encourage you to keep doing your level best until the next career door opens.

    What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

    I don’t know what all I’d like to do outside of government just yet. At one point, I entertained being a City Manager or another sort of ranking administrator. So we’ll see what all the future holds. Until then, I intend to keep learning and operating right where I am!

    Story published in August 2022. For current updates about Natalie, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Charles Gibson III (’09)

    Charles Gibson III (BA 2009 Music Major, English Minor)

    Chief Diversity Officer at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, NC

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Headshot of Charles Gibson, he is a Black man with short hair, wearing a suit, green and yellow tie, and a smile.

    I lead efforts to foster a welcoming climate for faculty, staff, and students at Lees-McRae College–a small, private liberal arts college in the North Carolina high country affiliated with the Presbyterian Church founded in 1900. My main priorities at the moment are to fine tune the strategic framework for inclusive excellence I developed that complements the college strategic plan, and to continue building the infrastructure of the first diversity, equity, and inclusion office at the college.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    During my time at Wake Forest, Dr. Barbee Myers Oakes (BS ’80, MA ’81) was my advocate. Her professional example inspired me to pursue a career in diversity, equity, and inclusion work with a specialization in higher education. I also had my first experiences in higher education administration as a student leader at Wake Forest. I served as coordinator of the Board of Investigators and Advisers and Co-Chair of the Honor and Ethnics Council under the leadership of Dean Harold Holmes. Since leaving Wake Forest, I have completed three graduate degrees in higher education, held several positions in higher education administration, and worked as a corporate management and human resources consultant serving Fortune 500 companies until returning to the higher education field in my current role.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    People in most need of assistance sometimes hold preconceived notions about what I do that keep them from seeking me out. In response, I do my best to increase awareness about what I do, who I serve, and how I can help.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    Follow your instincts. You know yourself better than anyone else. Do not attempt to please others by choosing to do something you feel is not right for you. There is a peace that comes from following your instincts that is priceless. A peace will be felt in all areas of your life (work/life balance, health, finances, etc.).

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    Throughout my life, I have attempted to be as open as possible to new experiences. Consequently, I meet a range of interesting people. I build relationships by taking a true interest in what others say. I purposefully and meaningfully engage in conversation. I am also very intentional about staying professionally connected (mostly via LinkedIn). I send the request on the spot from my phone, instead of waiting until after the fact. After that, I check in periodically. Doing this has enabled me to turn what likely would have been fleeting, tangential encounters into strong personal and/or professional relationships.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    Mentors see in you what you do not or cannot see in yourself. Dr. Barbee Myers Oakes (BA ’80, MA ’81) saw my true passion–and encouraged me to be purposeful in exploring it. Dr. Oakes was the inaugural Chief Diversity Officer at Wake Forest. I am the inaugural Chief Diversity Officer at Lees-McRae. I am very proud to be part of her incredible legacy.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    It was my Wake Forest experience that led me to my current industry. I thought I was headed to law school until my mentor opened my eyes to a career path I had never considered. Take an honest inventory of your college experience. What did you enjoy most? The least? Figure out how to incorporate what you enjoyed most into what you choose to do for a living. That is what ultimately led me to where I am today. Diversity, equity, and inclusion professionals are needed across sectors. I have experience in non-profit and for-profit sectors–this was also unintentional. Someone in corporate America saw something in me, and asked me to consider consulting. Life is the most interesting journey you will ever take. Do not be afraid to take the scenic route or a shortcut every once in a while. It will all balance out, in the end.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    My only goal is to keep doing what makes me feel fulfilled and happy. I have recently developed an interest in higher education law. I may elect to explore that more purposefully in the near future. Regardless of what life may bring my way, I know the foundation laid during my formative years at Wake Forest will remain “constant and true”.

    Story published in April 2022. For current updates about Charles, visit his LinkedIn page.

  • Lauren Luneckas (’09)

    Lauren Luneckas (2009, BA in Communication)

    Executive Director at The Children’s Museum of the Upstate in Greenville, SC

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    I am currently the executive director of The Children’s Museum of the Upstate (TCMU) in Greenville, SC. My core responsibilities center on driving the strategic direction of our organization, working closely with our Board of Directors, advocating for our organization and our industry, and ensuring our talented and creative team members have the resources they need to be successful. We strive to create a community of compassionate problem solvers through intentional and inclusive play, and my job is to ensure we are consistently delivering on that mission.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    I’ve heard it said that some careers are ladders and others are jungle gyms, and mine has certainly been the latter! I do not have a museum background but am extremely grateful for the ways my professional experiences and personal passions have aligned in my current position. I began my career as a Fellow in Wake Forest’s Office of Advancement and from there spent over a decade in the corporate world in various sports marketing, communications, and management roles. I discovered I had an aptitude for business and a tremendous interest in organizational management. Outside of work, I was consistently volunteering my time in support of early childhood education efforts. It was good fortune that the (unexpected!) opportunity to combine my professional interest with my personal passion presented itself, but I am proud that I recognized that moment and was courageous enough to pursue what was, on paper, an extremely unconventional career move.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    Leadership can be lonely. As the senior leader in my organization, I do not have an internal peer network to rely on. Overall my work is incredibly fulfilling, but by its very nature, the role can be taxing, and at times, isolating. I think it is critical to find trusted mentors who provide valuable guidance and much needed perspective. It is also hugely helpful to connect with peers at other organizations with whom you can collaborate, ideate, and, occasionally, commiserate. Industry associations can be wonderful starting points for this type of networking.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    I adore the Moravian motto, which I first learn at a Wake Forest Lovefeast: “In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; and in all things love.”

    I try to apply this philosophy to all aspects of my life – personal and professional. Deciding early what your personal essentials and non-essentials are will help to prioritize your time and resources and build your habits in ways that best serve you. It’s okay if your essentials don’t look like someone else’s – in fact they probably won’t, and arguably shouldn’t. Design a life that works for you and then use those essentials as your own North Star. And, importantly, give yourself grace through your growth and life’s ebbs and flows. “In all things love,” applies to how you should treat yourself, too.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    Building and maintaining relationships takes intentionality. As my career has grown so too has the “busy-ness” of my daily calendar. To ensure this doesn’t inhibit my relationships, I plan early and often to connect with my network by blocking time on my calendar for in-person gatherings, virtual meetups, or phone calls. I treat these as I would any meeting and do everything in my power not to reschedule them. The investments I make in relationships have shown considerable returns time and time again. Prioritize this time, and I am confident you will not regret it. I never have.

    Tell us about your mentoring relationships. What impact have these relationships had on your career and life?

    Mentors are such a gift, and I have been fortunate in ways that humble me to have had consistent mentorship from leaders I deeply admire during my career. My mentors have challenged me, comforted me, gently nudged me, and sometimes not-so-gently pushed me outside of my comfort zone. They help me make sure my own essentials remain at the forefront of my work and life, and, perhaps most importantly, they have shown me possibilities about what I could pursue, accomplish, and achieve that may never had occurred to me without them. One of my deepest desires is to, in time, provide to others what my mentors have provided to me. It is too great a gift not to pay forward.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    Stay curious and in a perpetual state of learning! The museum industry in general, and children’s museums in particular, require a continual sense of wonder. It is very well-suited for liberal arts students in so many ways. While there are certainly exceptions, for many roles in our industry there is no prerequisite course of study. It is an industry that welcomes versatile backgrounds and wide-ranging experiences and perspectives.

    Are you an accounting major who adores early childhood education? Great! An early childhood education student who cannot quite envision yourself in a traditional classroom setting? Awesome! A theatre major? Fantastic! Or a communication major, like me? Wonderful! These are just some of the backgrounds that lend themselves well to children’s museums.

    I encourage any student interested in this line of work to volunteer or intern at a museum. Experience the world of museums and look for roles that resonate most with you. As you better define your interests, you will find better and better contacts and increasingly more specific feedback to help you achieve your goals. If an immersive experience is not available to you, simply talk to/Zoom/email/LinkedIn as many museum professionals as you can. I have found this industry to be wildly collaborative and supportive of young talent. What a benefit to you – capitalize on that!

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    I have always loved learning and desired to lead people and solve problems. I feel incredibly fortunate that my current role allows me to do each of these things daily, and I am certain that these will always be central to my work.

    At TCMU one of our six core values states, “We are compassionate problem solvers.” My current focus is on leading well and relentlessly tackling challenges in my community and for my internal team in a caring and compassionate manner. There is so much important and exciting work ahead of us. I am grateful to see a Pro Humanitate-filled future in my current role that allows for continued personal growth and development in service of others.

    Story published in July 2022. For current updates about Lauren, visit her LinkedIn page.

  • Aubrey Sitler (’11)

    Aubrey Sitler (2011 BA in English and Spanish)

    Associate (Homelessness Technical Assistance) at Abt Associates in Chicago, IL

    Tell us about your current job role and employer. What are you currently working on?

    Technically, I’m an Associate at Abt Associates, but my more meaningful title is “homelessness technical assistance (TA) provider.” I support communities nationwide in building systems that will equitably and effectively end homelessness, ensuring that people who have experienced homelessness hold authentic decision-making power throughout the design, implementation, and ongoing improvement process. Most of my work is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but I sometimes work on projects funded by states, local governments, or philanthropies.

    I’m currently our team’s youth homelessness TA lead, so I spend most of my time working with communities that are part of HUD’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP). This program provides funding and TA to effect transformative change in each recipient’s system dedicated to youth and young adults under 25 without a parent or guardian with them. Our role as YHDP TA providers is broad and deep. We provide technical expertise in the weeds of what HUD funding can and can’t be used for, and we help to hold the big-picture vision of what it will look like to end youth homelessness. We uplift core principles like authentic youth collaboration and racial, LGBTQia+, and intersectional equity, and we facilitate planning and training sessions with up to hundreds of communitywide partners. The work is complex, always moving, and challenging. I love it.

    More broadly, Abt Associates is a public sector consulting firm and federal contractor that specializes in research, evaluation, and implementation (that’s what I do as a TA provider) across domestic and international policy fields.

    What key personal and/or career experiences led you to where you are today?

    I’ve always been compelled to work toward justice. And by “justice” I mean actual justice – fairness, equity, moral rightness – not the brand of justice our justice system promises but often fails to deliver on. For a long time, I thought I would be a lawyer, but during my senior year at Wake, I went on a school-sponsored service-learning trip overseas that changed my course. During this trip, our group bore witness to some pretty heinous situations – among them, we saw a group of women with disabilities receive electroshock treatment while they were awake, with no muscle relaxers or other interventions to alleviate the pain. It still gives me chills to remember that day, in part because there was absolutely nothing we could do to stop it (we did try). There was no law or person protecting these women from this treatment. There was no justice for them in this situation. It made me realize that, while working within the law holds some specific types of power, it didn’t allow for the type of advocacy and systems-change work I wanted to contribute to.

    Two years after graduating from Wake, I began a dual master’s degree in public policy and clinical social work (MPP/MSW) at the University of Michigan. When I would tell people what I was studying, many raised their eyebrows at me, wondering what a super micro-focused degree (clinical social work) could possibly have in common with a super macro-focused degree (public policy). I’ve always maintained that these fields are inextricable from each other: you cannot possibly make good policy if you aren’t connected to the people most impacted by those policies on the ground. I wanted to enter a field where I could help be a bridge between the critical work that’s happening on the ground and at the people making decisions at the highest levels of policymaking and program design. I started at Abt shortly after graduating with my MPP/MSW in 2016, where my current role is in many ways exactly what I envisioned.

    Between college and starting at Abt, and well before feeling equipped to advise people on program and system design and implementation, I had numerous other experiences doing direct-service and policy work that continue to inform how I approach my work today. Most formatively, I worked at a day center for adults with developmental disabilities, I facilitated domestic violence intervention groups with perpetrators, I worked as a case manager for adults with major psychiatric diagnoses in Melbourne, Australia’s public mental health system, and I worked in the policy and strategy division of a state-level veterans’ agency. Each of these experiences and fields overlaps with each other and, of course, with homelessness.

    What is the most challenging aspect of your job? How do you navigate that challenge?

    Homelessness is a high-stakes issue. People die on the streets across the country every day, and many more people endure acute and ongoing trauma from sleeping unsheltered or being unstably housed. I work with so many people who are committed to providing care to and advocating for policy and funding solutions for unhoused folks on every level, but often it doesn’t feel like enough. Often, it feels like the institutions and systems that cause homelessness will always be working harder and smarter than we are. When I log off of my computer for the day and walk by the encampment that’s a few blocks from where I live, or notice that more tents have popped up in the park along the lakeshore, it doesn’t feel like we’re doing enough. When it’s February in Chicago and I go to meet a friend for brunch, I invariably pass at least one person who slept outside in negative windchill overnight, and it doesn’t feel like we’re doing enough. The juxtaposition of unhoused folks’ ongoing reality and my extreme privilege for getting to work and take home a salary in this field is challenging and, at times, painful to sit with.

    At the end of the day, though, I remind myself that this work and this movement are not about me. I am not solely responsible for why people experience homelessness, nor could I ever be solely responsible for the solution. I focus on what I can control – treating the people I encounter in my neighborhood with dignity and respect, and spending my time at work making space for and uplifting that core value of ensuring funding gets to and power sits with the people closest to the pain of homelessness. To loosely quote Ron Chisom, co-founder of the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond: “People don’t need programming — they need their power back.” I am committed to playing my part and being a cog in a wheel of the movement that’s trying to make these institutions and systems function differently – to institutionalize housing as a human right.

    To that end, those moments when it feels like we’re not doing enough then become reminders of why it’s so imperative to keep showing up each day.

    What advice would you give to Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

    True work-life balance can be elusive, but it is possible. I’ve learned that it’s easy for me to fall into a pattern of living to work, which is a recipe for misery. To combat this, I’ve learned to be intentional and strategic about how I spend my time both on and off the clock, ensuring that I’m spending more time on things that give me energy than those that suck it away. I also prioritize doing something life-giving every day – running, cooking, painting, playing the piano, boxing, calling a friend I haven’t seen in a while, taking a long walk with my golden retriever, Poppy. Never let your loyalty to a company or job outweigh your loyalty to yourself. You are the only one who is ever going to have your best interests at heart, so set the boundaries you need to prioritize your humanity, health, and mental health; no employer is going to do that for you. Know your values and your worth, and don’t settle for a working environment that dismisses either of these.

    We know that relationships are important for any kind of development. How do you build and maintain your network?

    It’s important to me to build authentic relationships with the people I work with and encounter professionally. For me, this means finding people in my vicinity whose values and orientation to our world align with mine, and getting to know each other through the context of whatever work we share. This naturally leads those connections to be relational, trusting, and centered in our shared humanity, rather than being transactional.

    What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are interested in working in your industry?

    Find your learning edge and lean into it. Consider what specifically compels you about the work to end homelessness, identify the strengths you bring to the table, and get involved – volunteer at a drop-in center, contact a local service provider to ask about job opportunities, and get to know your neighbors experiencing homelessness. There is room for everyone at the table who wants to contribute to the movement to end homelessness.

    What’s next for your career? What future goals or plans are you pursuing?

    I don’t anticipate leaving this field or Abt any time soon. In a lot of ways, my current role is exactly what I’ve always wanted to do, and there’s enough variety in the types of TA we do at Abt to keep me invested and learning for a long time. I get to work with inspiring and brilliant people on a daily basis who are committed to making our world a more just place and dismantling white supremacy culture in the systems we build, and I foresee being energized by the importance and challenge of this work for a while.

    Story published in August 2022. For current updates about Aubrey, visit her LinkedIn page.