Thursday evening, a presentation entitled “Finding Your Passion within the Business World” was headed by several organizations and sponsored by the Rutgers-Camden School of Business. The event was held in the Campus Center’s multipurpose room. Seeking to compel students into discovering what they want post graduation, the event saw four panelists with lucrative careers provide feedback and encouragement to those looking to see what it takes to succeed in today’s society.
Beginning at four o’clock, students were given the opportunity to network with several companies before the introduction to the discussion. Members of Beta Alpha Psi, the Accounting Society, the Career Center, the Ecommerce Society, Rutgers-Camden’s Management Association, Marketing Association, MBA Association and Academic Services Office were all present and networking with potential candidates before the discussion began.
After a welcome from Jason Marsdale, President of the Marketing Association, the newly crowned Dean of the School of Business Jaishankar Ganesh opened the floor by introducing the guest speakers and heating the conversation by talking about the meaning of passion in the work world.
“In this economy, getting a job is difficult. I’m so happy our students are not just happy about getting a job but getting a job they are excited and passionate about rather than finding themselves very good at a job but not passionate about it,” he said. “You then have a small but happy group of those who are both extraordinarily good at what they do but it is also their passion. Our speakers are going to teach us how we can light ourselves on fire with passion.”
First introduced was James Harte, the Executive Director of 601 Information Systems LLC who graduated from RU-C in 1997 with degrees in accounting and finance. Harte spoke about the differences between having to choose between working from the get go for a large firm or being a “big fish in a small pond”. He talked about being offered a job in Public Accounting at Bowman and Company but then explained that wasn’t his passion.
“I knew what I was passionate about was put in my head at Rutgers,” he said before explaining how his love of technology led to him playing a role as the second member of the companies IT support team in 1998 before becoming head of 601 in 2005.
Raluca Ratiu, the Senior Manager for Trading Managed Account Solutions at Lockwood Advisors Inc and a RU-C graduate in 2001, talked about her experience coming into the finance world. After describing interning for Merrill Lynch her senior year, Ratiu described her early frustrations.
“It was like nothing that I had expected and I remember crying about what I had gotten myself into,” she said. She then talked about going back to her boss and explaining her concerns over a potential inability to sell products over the phone.
“I ended up interested in trading securities and my boss’s partner was a broker. I now oversee close to 100 thousand accounts,” she said.
Linda Verba who serves as TD Bank’s Executive Vice President of Store Operations and Service Programs talked about jumping from getting a degree in Education from Penn State to career now. “All jobs are about people skills, managing up, down and around. Growing up I didn’t think I’d be a banker, but when you’re in a leadership role coaching becomes part of your passion. I believe it is all about the customer and people skills that separate the ranks in fate from leadership,” she said.
Fourth, Angelo Scialfa, President of Fox Run Group spoke of his leap from a career in being a radio DJ to sport’s marketing and advertising.
“My story is different in that my passion was listening to music but I found work as a DJ to be boring. I loved the music but the job wasn’t my passion. I then got involved in marketing and research. I absolutely love sales and marketing,” he said.
“My passion right now is working with companies and helping them succeed. I fell into my passion.”
Next, Moderator Ganesh opened the floor for students and faculty alike to ask the panelists a series of questions. Questions ranged from the differences between jumping from a large to a small company, asking about mentorship, how to integrate passion with technology all the way to the best advice that the executives had ever received and what their professional flaws are, along with how they deal with those flaws in the business world.
“Jumping from being a big fish in a small pond starts with personality,” explained Harte. “I knew when I was here I had alumni connections and was an involved student. I ended up taking a lower salary from a larger regional firm and don’t regret it for one minute.”
Ratiu added, “My experience here put me in a similar boat on deciding whether to go with a small or a large company. I went with a small money management firm in downtown Philly where I grew so much.” She went on to explain what working in a small company did for her.
“When you work for a small business your office might be right next to the CEO’s. You are amid a family atmosphere, and when I graduated Rutgers I was able to see what any department did and how to blend in.” She said.
On integrating their passion with their work, Angelo Scialfa talked about the interview process. “You are expected to be asked questions,” he said. “Why not turn that around and ask what the company’s needs are and if your ideas collaborate? It comes down to asking better questions,” he said.
“Do your homework on the company,” said Verba. “Spend your time wisely on where you want to work and you have to make sure the company’s culture and values are comparable to your own”.
One thing that all had in common was mentors over the course of their careers. For Verba, it was a boss who ended up becoming her sponsor after her jump to TD bank. Ratiu talked about a Rutgers professor whose office she visited frequently and whose good friend introduced her to her first job. Scialfa mentioned a long distance mentor (he was in NY, the mentor in Denver) and how it influenced him to eventually have his own “personal board of advisors”, that he can always count on for advice.
One of the more humorous interesting questions had to do with the best career advice each executive ever received.
Harte talked about working as a bartender at a Spanish restaurant while in school. “The owner of the company didn’t like corporate America and one day told me that whatever is keeping you from moving forward, what scares you to death, go to bed tonight, and tomorrow make that move.”
“You control your career, not your boss. No one else does,” said Ratiu. “About a year ago I was in that juncture of my life when I took hold of my career and followed my gut feeling.”
“First impressions are everlasting,” added Verba.
Both Verba and Scialfa also concentrated heavily on encouraging students to “personally brand themselves”. Verba maintained that it is up to the individual to create a brand and realize that even know brands do change over time they are still crucial. Scialfa mentioned his own personal presentation on branding and how he even encourages his children to introduce themselves to everyone when they enter a room.
The most versatile responses might have been when the professionals were asked about their biggest flaws.
“It’s that my passion for excellence can be overwhelming,” said Verba. “I have very high expectations for myself and those who work with me.”
Scialfa mentioned that earlier in his career he was overly controlling of those who worked for him. “You have to let people go out and do their job, do it well and look at the results,” he said.
“I have overcompensated for others,” admitted Ratiu. “I had to learn how to ask for help and what it means to be on a team.
Professor Ganesh then called for the end of the discussion and President Jason Marsdale gave a lengthy thanks to all for attending before ending the event with the raffling of an iPod.
The presentation was well received by students and faculty alike.
“This was a great event,” said Dean Ganesh. “We had an excellent panel that gave very relevant responses to the Q/A session.
Said Steven Byrd, the current Vice President of the Marketing Association. “This is all about finding your passion. We brought in executives from major marketing, management, finance and Ecommerce to educate student and help them discover what they like in the business.
“I think it’s great we can get the exposure of all these leading business people, take their experiences, as well as relate them to our lives and how we strive to reach that status in the future,” said Kevin Walsh, who will serve as Vice President of the Marketing Association next semester.
Katie Walsh, the General Assembly Officer for the Marketing Association mentioned, “I know one of the main topics is to get students comfortable networking because a lot of times they can be timid and it is important to be able to talk to people”.
Attendees of the event spoke about their reasons for coming out to hear from the panel.
Heather Lowney, a political science major, stated that “I’m friends with most of the marketing association and wanted to get advice on getting a job especially in the bad market. Everybody needs to be business savvy, including arts and science majors.”
Arif Mortuza, who is majoring in accounting, said that “I’m here because I found out about this from my professor and would like to gain some insight in the business world.”
Sehrish Khan, who is studying management, stated that “I’m thinking about going into accounting. I’m here today to see what kinds of jobs are out there and how to get myself out there.”
Jessie Armstrong who is the Sustainability Officer at Beta Alpha Psi, told Gleaner staff that “We’re trying to recruit interested members in our honorary association for accounting and finance majors. Getting people to join and pledge to be a member of the association is good for the resume and teaches leadership.”
By the event’s end, the most optimistic words might have come from the President of the Marketing Association himself.
“I think today was the beginning of what hopefully will be an annual event. Today’s professionals provided our students with a competitive advantage,” said Marsdale before adding, “Find what it is that energizes you or makes you excited and turn that into a profession.”