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NC State Alumni Share Career Insights

NC State Belltower
NC State Belltower

NC State alumni give back through donor support, shared expertise, and time.

Three of those – Grant Johnston (Poole College, ’95 and ’03), vice president at Formation Capital and a member of the NC State Foundation Board, has an endowed scholarship with Poole College that supports students who study abroad; David Fox, (Engineering ’94), a partner with Goldman Sachs, who previously served on the NC State Foundation Board, has established a scholarship endowment in the NC State College of Natural Resources in his father’s memory; and Richard Culberson (Engineering ’01), executive director at Cox Communications, has provided support for swimming – were also quick to answer a call to provide insight for students preparing for their future careers.

The three met on September 29 at Nelson Hall with about 50 NC State students for Career Insights, an event organized by Poole College for students interested in tapping into what the professionals had learned in their course of their careers. Following is feedback from several of the students who attended.

“I was at that event and enjoyed it very much,” said Vince Del Villar, a junior in business administration with a minor in Spanish. “This panel sparked my interest because investment banking is something that I’ve always wanted to learn more about. By the end of high school I had decided that I wanted to pursue a career in business, and banking was always one of my dreams. Getting to hear from actual investment bankers (and) NC State alumni was an opportunity that I could not pass up. I learned a lot and can’t wait to go to more panels just like it in the future,” he said.

Peter Renda, a senior in Poole College pursuing a bachelor of science in finance and a bachelor of arts in economics, said, “The alumni gave a lot of insightful advice about what employers look for, not only in investment banking, but at all companies. For example, he said, “They explained that what you have your undergraduate degree in is not as important as showing a strong track record of success, so study something you’re really interested in.”

Renda cited remarks by Fox, who emphasized “the importance of showing grit, determination, teamwork, and a growth mindset to future employers. His personal story (his four-year journey to win an Olympic Gold medal before starting a career) was a great example of how he did it,” he said.

Villar also found the speakers’ point that an undergraduate degree in one major doesn’t always lead to a career in that field.

“It amazed me to know that two of the three panel speakers that day (had been) engineering students here at State. Some people today can feel so pigeonholed into only doing things they’re comfortable doing. These gentlemen emphasized that versatility and an eagerness to learn is what makes one successful. These traits along with a teamwork mindset will get you far in your career, and far in your life. This was such an inspiring event and I’m glad that Poole works so hard to provide us with these cool opportunities to learn from our very own Wolfpack members,” he said.

The speakers’ message about diverse academic backgrounds in the workplace resonated with Destiny Deater, a senior in psychology at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “As a senior exploring careers outside of traditional psychology paths, I felt the session would be informative and helpful to discovering different careers outside of my field of study,” she said, adding that “the casual and unstructured Q&A with the alumni was very helpful. It created an environment where students felt comfortable to ask questions they may not have otherwise asked.”

One of the key takeaways for her “was this idea of a ‘pivot foot,’ or pivot point. While it’s good to remain grounded in what you want, be sure to look for moments in life and in your career where you can pivot, in order to learn new skills and gain new experiences,” she said.

Oliver Walsh, a senior in electrical engineering, said he attended because he “wanted to gain business advice and life insights from respected industry leaders. I learned that when you join a company, do the best job you can every day, even if you don’t particularly like the job you are assigned.” He cited one example from the panelist: “If your job for the day is to make copies, make the best damn copies anyone in the office has ever seen.”

Robert Goodnight, a junior in computer science, said he attended because he is interested in finance and consulting and wanted insight into how to get into these fields. His key takeaways from the panelists:

  • Don’t get discouraged because you don’t have a ton of experience in a field. Employers are often looking for students that are smart and able to be taught on the fly.
  • An alumni network is a valuable place to start because it can be easier to get interest from someone with whom you share something in common.

He also gained some foreign language advice: “If you want to learn another language, go to a country that speaks that language, and fully immerse yourself in the culture. It is the fastest and best way to learn it.”

This event was arranged by Poole College’s Office of Development and External Relations.