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Summer Industry Exploration Series Gives Students Career Insight

The series allows students to learn directly from the experience of leaders working in multiple sectors.

Top row: Baily Faller, Elsa Jensen. Bottom row: Emma Kruus, Will Sternberg

Top row: Baily Faller, Elsa Jensen. Bottom row: Emma Kruus, Will Sternberg

McIntire students have many potential career paths available to them when they graduate from UVA. As the Commerce School prepares them with skills that are highly applicable across a wide range of industries, options are numerous, and opportunities can come in many forms. With so many possibilities ahead, the insight and guidance of McIntire alumni can make all the difference for students seeking credible answers.

That’s where the Summer Industry Exploration Series comes in.

Now in its third year, the series, created in partnership between Commerce Career Services and the School’s Advancement team, is led by the McIntire School of Commerce Advisory Board and the McIntire Young Alumni Council. Offering students the chance to learn directly from the experience of leaders working in multiple sectors, the 2022 edition of the series delves into nine different industries, with sessions examining private equity, sports and entertainment, venture capital, accounting, analytics, law, marketing, product management, and healthcare.

Owen Rankin (McIntire ’82), Founder and President of Over the Horizon Strategies, serves as a discussion leader in the Summer Industry Exploration Series, and this year, led the conversation on marketing with Katherine Gruneisen (McIntire ’16), Budweiser Brand Director of Communications Marketing.

“I find the marketing sessions to be critical, as the job searches in this area often do not have the same organization as you would find for investment banking, accounting, or consulting,” Rankin says.

He believes that the informal format of the series, and its combination of young and more experienced alumni sharing perspectives, makes for an engaging environment that empowers students to more directly gather more information about their areas of interest.

 A Private Matter

Baily Faller (McIntire ’24) attended the first of the virtual events, a session on private equity. The Greenville, DE, native, who plans to concentrate in Finance and Management, says that though her McIntire prereq courses didn’t specifically cover private equity, people working at all levels across the industry rely on the business frameworks and analytical thinking skills that she developed in those classes. “It was very reassuring to learn that gaining a broad knowledge and skill base as an underclassman is translatable to a lifelong career path.”

Alumni hosts Kelly Pease (McIntire ’16), Vice President at TSG Consumer Partners, and Erin Russell (McIntire ’96), independent Board Member and former private equity professional, emphasized the importance of networking. It was reminiscent of an exercise from Faller’s Foundations of Commerce course that required her to conduct an informational interview with an unfamiliar person who was established in their career. “Practicing cold-calling and gaining insights from people you aspire to be are excellent ways to learn more about roles in which you could see yourself and firms for which you could work. Erin and Kelly echoed that proactively seeking knowledge from others is imperative to being successful in private equity,” Faller says.

She also found Pease and Russell’s explanation of the industry recruiting timeline a bit surprising, as she discovered that planning begins much earlier than she had previously thought. As such, Faller expects to rely on Commerce Career Services both before and after graduation.

Career Opportunities

Will Sternberg (McIntire ’23) attended the session on business-related positions in sports and entertainment. He found the experience helpful, as he came away with worthwhile advice: “It is really difficult to enter directly into this field, and you are better off trying something that will be useful when an opportunity arises, like finance,” he says, explaining that the information he gathered supplemented well what he has been learning across all of his McIntire classes thus far.

The Finance and IT concentrator particularly enjoyed hearing from Cecil White (McIntire ’15), an Agent with the WME talent agency, and the discussion about his professional journey. “He didn’t have a traditional route into the industry and is now super successful,” Sternberg says, noting that the details about White’s background provided valuable perspective about the sometimes indirect path many take to break into the sports and entertainment industry.

The venture capital session appealed to both Elsa Jensen (McIntire ’23) and Emma Kruus (McIntire ’24).

Jensen, a Finance concentrator from Palm Beach, FL, says that the discussion enhanced her McIntire coursework by drawing upon many basic financial metrics and concepts she learned, while exposing her to new information about the VC sector.

Kruus, who plans to concentrate in Finance and Marketing, says the session helped her connect what she learned in class to potential career paths. “I remember learning in COMM 1800 [Foundations of Commerce] about entrepreneurship and what makes a good entrepreneur—but it was helpful to see entrepreneurship from the side of venture capitalists who fund the startup of new businesses,” she says. “I found myself looking at information that I had learned in class from a new point of view.”

Rich Diemer (McIntire ’80), Co-Founder, Co-Chair, and Treasurer of CAV Angels, ran the VC session with Solomon Hailu (McIntire ’15), Partner at March Capital. Diemer recounted how Hailu pivoted from a start in investment banking into VC by “aggressively marketing himself to Tusk Ventures and ultimately into his current role.” He says that Hailu’s story embodies “the passion and perseverance necessary to enter a highly desired industry with not very many job opportunities,” and made a strong impression on the mix of undergrad and incoming M.S. in Commerce candidates attending.

For his portion of the session, Diemer focused on CAV Angels, a not-for-profit with a primary mission of education in the area of early-stage, pre-seed, and seed investing, focused on supporting the UVA entrepreneurial ecosystem; he explains that it gives all McIntire students the chance to get a taste of working in VC with hands-on experience.

This was the second year Diemer has taken part in the series, as last year, he spoke with Accounting students, his area of concentration as a Comm student. Beyond explaining the benefits of CAV Angels, he finds that participating provides an avenue for him to positively impact students through the continued virtuous cycle of support and shared knowledge. “To me, it’s all about the opportunity to give back to the School and University that gave me the tools and network to steer my own continuing personal journey in the business world, and interact with—and hopefully benefit—today’s students who are entering a more complex environment than what I faced.”

For Jensen, an important takeaway from the VC session was her excitement for what lies ahead for her professional life. “I am always looking for more ways to incorporate my B.S. in Commerce with my second major in Foreign Affairs and minor in Sustainability. I was enthusiastic to learn about financial careers that support startups, which might include emerging climate-positive technologies worldwide.”

Kruus said that seeing the diversity of career trajectories was reassuring and one of the most worthwhile lessons to emerge from the session. “Not everyone had the same path, but everyone ended up in a position and a job that was right for them.”

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