Silicon Valley’s best and brightest businesspeople gathered at Kalamazoo College April 7th and 8th for the College’s inaugural Career Summit, a networking event intended to position K students for success in an ever-changing job market.
With the help of executives and venture capitalists, K students sought their “calling,” described by Career Summit organizer, venture capitalist, K alumnus, and trustee Brad O’Neill as “the inescapable pull toward a natural state of action.” The event catered to students of all academic backgrounds with the intent of inciting students to identify personal strengths and translate those into success in the professional world.
Going from ‘I’ve got an idea’ to ‘I’m doing it’ is the secret of being successful.
Panelists shared advice on careers, failure, innovation, and personal satisfaction during formal Q&A and informal networking sessions. Though participants were offered guidance and direction from experienced entrepreneurs, O’Neill reminded students that, “advice isn’t an answer, it’s a suggestion. The key is to run with it. Going from ‘I’ve got an idea’ to ‘I’m doing it’ is the secret of being successful.”
Students inquired about finding success in their first jobs during the opening panel.
Jeanne Blondia, K’87 and vice president of finance and treasurer at Stryker Corporation insisted that young employees must “find where they are needed.” “There’s no rubric for a first job,” business professor Dr. Amy McMillan later offered, evoking widespread agreement from panelists. Senior vice president of growth at SurveyMonkey, Inc. Elena Verna recalled her experiences at her first job, encouraging students to actively seek opportunities instead of passively waiting for assignments.
Topics quickly shifted to discussions on comprehensive career paths, with each panelist sharing the professional philosophies they exercise every day. For many, following or seeking certain inspirational individuals is more important than doing the same for a certain job. “Don’t worry about being liked [in the workplace], what you want is to be trusted,” explained venture capitalist Jeff Wycoff. Rather, according to Ed Hortelano, K’83 and global vice president for research and development of Loparex, professionals should “like the people [they’re] working with.”
Om Malik, venture capitalist and leading technology writer, insisted that when successful professionals “fail on something they love, they don’t feel that they’ve failed.” Malik added, “Scratch your itch…ideas come from everywhere, but understanding and putting it into practice is a skill.”
Kalamazoo College’s educational experience was also credited as influential in the success of alumni. “K helped with developing intellectual flexibility,” Val Cole, K’83, retired senior executive of Apple, Inc., consultant and philanthropist said of his K education, “but before you start [a job], write the review that comes at the end, and let your action speak louder than your degree.”
President Gonzalez concluded the Career Summit declaring, “I see this as a startup—in the next years it will grow and grow, and I’m grateful to work with the master of startups.”
Following the Summit, the “master of startups” O’Neill shared with The Index that the event “exceeded initial expectations” and that new ideas and improvements will be integrated next year. “The entire campus came together to put career development on the front burner, an encouraging start for what we hope will become an enduring element of K’s broader experiential learning initiatives.”
Regrettably, this year’s graduating class won’t have the benefit of experiencing future improved Career Summits. By Wycoff and Hartelano’s word, they ought to “do something uncomfortable each week,” because “the greatest growth opportunity comes when [they’re] uncomfortable.”