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Importance of Networking Highlighted at BLISTS Alumni Panel

By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

From the importance of networking, to the benefit of joining organizations, to managing a dual major if possible, the choices made during in-college years have provided significant benefits to the work lives of several School of Information Studies (iSchool) alumni. They discussed how the decisions they made years ago have provided career advantages they have enjoyed ever since during a panel organized for BLISTS alumni weekend.

BLISTS, the iSchool’s Black and Latino Information Studies Support organization, hosted a full weekend of activities for alumni during Orange Central Homecoming Weekend on the Syracuse University Campus. For the panel, the iSchool welcomed back alumni Anthony Colon ’04, DuWayne Harrison, ’95, Nicole May, ’12, Alec Truitt, ’11, and Josh Frost, ’08 (pictured above).

Anthony Colon
Senior Analyst, Barclays Investment Bank, New York

An Information Management and Technology major at the iSchool, Colon said that in college, he “had servers everywhere” and believed then that banking was probably the least likely field he would enter.  “I was very tech oriented. I thought I was going to go into IT but it didn’t happen,” he related.

He ended up in the banking field and in his current career because of his little league coach, he related. Colon had kept in contact with his coach over the years. When Anthony graduated, that coach helped him get an internship. From there, Colon said, his banking career “kicked in.” 

Today, Anthony is responsible for closing high yield loan syndications of commercial paper for the world’s largest corporations at Barclays. He told the students that despite the fact he wasn’t oriented to the field, he has been able to succeed in banking because of skills learned at the iSchool. “When I was in college, if you told me what the Dow Jones average was, I wouldn’t be able to tell you if it was 100 or 1,000; now I’m so involved in that.” He advised students to “just study what you truly love, and wherever you work, everything will sort itself out. In fact, he laughingly added, he is called on all the time to fix his co-workers’ computer problems.  What companies truly care about, he advised the students, is “if you are motivated, smart enough, and if you can learn.”

Colon also discussed how networking is crucial to job hunting today because of the way hiring is done through online applications and electronic reviews of candidates. “Hiring managers are told to look for resumes with certain keywords, and  today the HR people reject people even with good credentials” because of that, he contended. Colon said that when he was in college, “I didn’t think networking was that important” yet at his company, “about 40 percent of the people there got hired because they knew someone or had someone who could vouch for them. Networking is how you’re able to get a job nowadays,” he said.

DuWayne Harrison
Manager, CIO Advisory Services, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP Financial Services

In his role at PwC, Harrison focuses on IT strategy and infrastructure. In the past 17 years, he has worked in just about every area of IT functions: servers, storage, backup, email, database, collaboration, high availability, virtualization, networking and systems management.  He holds more than 20 certifications from VMware, Microsoft, EMC, ITIL, IBM, and Cisco.

Harrison advised students not to be afraid to make transitions in their career if they feel change is in order.  Harrison worked for Microsoft in the days when Bill Gates, its founder, was there. When Gates left active management and the company “began to change from a startup to a traditional company” environment, DuWayne knew he wanted to look for a new opportunity. He ended up enrolling in the Executive MBA program at Cornell, and from there, went on to his current firm.

Also important, if students can manage it, he said, is having a dual degree and a language focus. Harrison’s B.S. in Information Management and Technology is enhanced with his bachelor’s in Spanish Language, Literature and Culture from SU. He also stressed the importance of learning how to network and in joining organizations where you can become known and validated for your character as well as your work skills. On networking, he suggested: “Don’t take easy way out; ­pick an event where you know nobody and come out of that event connecting with at least three people.”

Nicole May
Technology Consultant, Protiviti, Boston

As a technology consultant, Nicole performs IT Sarbanes Oxley audits, general computing audits and provides various other business solutions. She was an IM & T major with a Global Enterprise Technologies minor at the iSchool. She also holds a dual degree from the Whitman School of Management at SU in Marketing Management and Strategic Management.

Her advice to students is to learn to work in teams and to get team experience as much as possible while in college.  In the work world, that is all-important, she said. “You don’t even understand how important it is,” she emphasized. “You really have to get along with everyone in a work environment. You’re all a team and you work towards the same goal, so if one of you fails, you all fail.” She said while students may prefer to work with their friends in class, it’s important to team with people you don’t know. “Unless you’re planning to work for a company owned by you, operated by you, and you know everything,” you’re going to be working in teams,” she explained.

 Like Harrison, Nicole emphasized the importance of networking and joining organizations to meet people. She made students laugh in recounting her father’s oft-repeated mantra that ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ She said she looked askance at that advice for years until she found out how true it really is. Having only one hometown friend in her new city, Nicole explained that she is joining organizations in Boston to get to know people and to build her professional network.

Josh Frost
Manager, Product Development, Club Initiatives; Major League Baseball Advanced Media

Networking’s importance also was emphasized by Frost. He told the audience that a good way to develop skills for networking is to keep up with current news topics. Having some knowledge about a variety of current topics is a good way to find conversation starters in networking settings, he said. “Being well-read and knowing what’s happening in the news, it can be something topical. Having those kinds of tools in your toolbox lets you speak to a lot of different topics, and shows that you’re well-read. It’s a good skill but it will also help you work the room, he added.

Frost offered a way to start conversations by telling the audience about his favorite icebreaker question: ‘What brings you here?’ He suggested that students try to relate to others on a personal level, too. “Everyone’s just a person, start trying to make connections with someone on a personal level.  It’s valuable, even if you strike out sometimes,” he advised.

 

Alec Truitt
DoubleClick New Business Sales Account Manager, Google, New York 

An internship at Google during his college years helped Alec Truitt land a job where he wanted to once he graduated, Alec said. He suggested that students experience a variety of internships not only for the important aspect of skill development, but also to learn about various kinds of working environments.

During his experience at Google, Truitt said he enjoyed the atmosphere where “we were bringing in new ideas,” and that culture appealed to him for his career path. “I just really wanted to work in a place that was open to new ideas,” he said, so he pursued a position at Google after graduation. 

For the past year, Alec, who has a bachelor’s degree in IM & T and a minor in Entrepreneurship, has held a role as a manager in inside sales. He has been developing a new framework to analyze revenue and helping create a new strategy to grow market share.  As a student, Alec worked for SIDEARM Sports as a streaming media manager, coordinating setup and providing technical support from college athletic video streaming websites. He noted how that fact alone, coupled with some visibility he achieved during televised games, turned into something he could talk about when networking with others in his company.   

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