Recent alumni recall what shaped their careers before, after graduation

Tess Cassidy talks on a Zoom call

When Tess Cassidy graduated early with her supply chain management degree from the Farmer School of Business in 2016, her first decision post-graduation was to take a walk. A long walk.

“I took almost a gap year off and I hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. It took me a little bit over five months, and luckily, the company I interned with was willing to still give me a full-time offer after that,” she remarked.

Deepika Hebbalalu took what some would call a more typical path to business, which could be surprising since she was a psychology major, only minoring in management leadership. “I started my career in an HR rotational program at Nielsen. It was a two year program, which took me to several cities. So I started in Cincinnati, moved to New York, moved to Singapore and then back to New York,” she said. After Nielsen, I moved over to Anheuser-Busch about a year ago, where I’m in a global HR role.”

2017 marketing and interactive media studies graduate Elana Ross went straight into advertising after graduating from FSB. “I started at a company called MediaCom, doing media buying for Anheuser-Busch. I moved over to another account and then I went to Dentsu Aegis, doing the global media strategy for Anheuser Busch,” she noted.

The three women took part in the Farmer School Career Services’ third Coffee Chat, having a virtual conversation with students about their experiences and how those experiences and decisions shaped their current careers.

“My first internship was in research and development, and I think sometimes internships sort of show you what you do and don't like,” Ross recalled, noting that most of the people she worked in that internship were considerably older than her. “Then I did the Hong Kong internship program through Farmer and I interned in public relations, which I loved. That kind of exposed me to the whole advertising industry. But within advertising, I still wanted to do something that was a little bit more analytics-based. That’s how I got into media buying, which is the strategy side of advertising and understanding who the consumers are, where they consume media, what types of creatives make the most sense, things like that. So it's really fun.”

Hebbalalu said she came to Miami for premed, but discovered that her passions were stoked not by the classwork, but the extracurricular activities she took part in, such as being a resident assistant, a student orientation undergraduate leader, and a study abroad program through the Farmer School.

“So I pivoted my major and minor to psychology and management, which then led me to my career in HR,” she remarked. “I always thought it was hiring, firing, payroll, benefits, but it's a very nuanced function in many organizations. In the rotational program, I had the chance to explore what I liked and what I didn't like, so that's how I kind of figured out my career. It wasn't through my classes, but through my extracurriculars that I eventually found something that I'm super passionate about.”

Cassidy said that her time on the Trail was pivotal to her experiences post-graduation. “One of the reasons I hiked the Trail is because I wasn't done learning. Yes, I wasn't reading books and building my educational skillset, but I developed so much more as a person in those five months on the Trail,” she said. “Developing and adapting to my environment and really valuing people for who they are and building my trust in strangers. So many of those skillsets have become so important in the workforce now, and that's what employers love to talk about. They love to hear about my Trail experience.”

Hebbalalu explained that she found that her time at the Farmer School taught her to work with diverse groups of people, gave her leadership opportunities, and helped her learn how to learn. “I think you learn a lot of great things in the classroom that are important, but one of them is just how to pick up new information and how to problem solve and find a solution from that,” she said. “I think about my capstones and seminars and how valuable they were to me. When you're in a rotational program or moving jobs or moving roles, you have to pick things up quickly. Companies are very complicated and nuanced in the way they're structured. Sometimes they change -- reorganizations and restructures are always a thing, so being able to pick up on that quickly, be proactive and fill the gaps is definitely a good skill to learn.”

Ross said she found that some people may not have the optimal mindset for seeking out mentors while in college. “Mentors don't necessarily have to be a pipeline to a job - I think that that's one of the biggest misconceptions. Some of my closest mentors have been people in totally different industries, but the advice that they give is their perspective, which I think is really, really great to have,” she pointed out. “I know at times people have been apprehensive about mentorship programs if their mentor isn't specifically in their industry or they don't see it as a pipeline to a job. But a mentor should be someone who really can give you valuable advice and ground you.”

All three women said that the coronavirus crisis is impacting business in unprecedented ways, but also noted that opportunities still exist, both now and after the crisis passes. “My advice would be to really take advantage of this time that you have. Of course, it's under not great circumstances, but it's also very atypical for people to have this time to get creative on opportunities that they can pursue and reflect,” Hebbalalu said. “Now that maybe you've lost an opportunity that you had, really reflect on what you want out of the next one. You can keep networking with people or reach out on LinkedIn. Just because the roles are paused where there's a hiring freeze at certain companies doesn't mean that they don't want to hit the ground running when everything opens back up.  So I don't think it's a time to take a step back, but really double down on your networking.”