Furman Career Trek lands in Atlanta
It’s a tough call for Nathaniel DeSantis ’19, but after some consideration, he thinks the best part of his Paladin Career Treks trip to Atlanta last week happened first.
Attendance at the Atlanta Furman Business Breakfast, a regular get-together for area alumni, gave students a chance to mingle and connect with a roomful of established professionals and turned out to be the perfect launchpad for a whirlwind day that saw students usher in what Lauren Payne, director of the Malone Center for Career Engagement, hopes will permanently transform the Furman experience.
Payne came to Furman from the University of San Diego in the spring of 2017, in part because of the new ideas she brought to her new position. One of those is the concept of students getting the opportunity to learn about career opportunities through visits to companies and introductions to professionals working there.
Only Greenville has more Furman alumni than the greater Atlanta area, and few cities can boast being home to multi-billion dollar companies like Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-A and The Home Depot. Throw in a strong Paladin presence at each, and Georgia was the logical choice to test out the Career Treks vision on a full scale – especially once it became clear that Furman graduates were more than willing to help.
“Sometimes a challenge for a smaller school is employers aren’t as likely to come to your campus, so I think this is a chance for our students to still make connections at these Fortune 500-type companies by us taking them there,” Payne says. “Last year I had started doing some research on companies in the Atlanta area and getting a sense from students about what companies they might be interested in visiting … It all began with making some initial contacts with our alumni at these organizations, and they were all super enthusiastic about collaborating with me.”
After meeting more than a hundred alumni at the Business Breakfast, which was held in the Buckhead Club on the top floor of the 26-story Sovereign Building, the students headed to Coca-Cola in the heart of midtown. That was followed by a drive to Chick-fil-A’s wooded campus near the airport and capped by a tour of The Home Depot, just off I-285 near SunTrust Park, home of the Atlanta Braves.
Each stop featured a guided tour followed by a question-and-answer session with alumni working in the buildings. Chris Haines ’11, a finance leadership associate, spearheaded the students’ behind-the-scenes look at Coca-Cola, while Lauren Schneider ’08 organized the Chick-fil-A visit and Nick Millette ’12 did the heavy lifting at The Home Depot.
Haines, a longtime member of the Young Alumni Council, was eager to provide an opportunity he hadn’t had at Furman.
“To make something like that happen for the students with the relative lack of effort it would take me versus the impact it could have on them, it seemed like a bit of a no-brainer,” he says. “I was really trying to drive home that at a bigger company people are looking for cross-functional skills … I think a lot of students are trying to find that perfect role, and sometimes you just need to find a way to get past the front door and find different opportunities open for you.”
Haines was a political science major at Furman, while Schneider, a business administration major, is now a senior consultant on brand strategy and media. Millette, also a business administration major, is now a manager in assortment planning. Realizing his degree doesn’t necessarily lock him into a career path was music to DeSantis’ ears.
“I am extremely relieved, because I’m not sure if I want to go to grad school or not, so it’s nice to know that when I enter the workforce, it’s the skills I learn at Furman that are going to be more applicable than my major per se,” he says.
Payne hopes the success of the Atlanta Paladin Career Treks will blossom into multiple trips per year to other major business centers like Charlotte, Washington, D.C., New York City and Nashville. Currently, every major and every year is eligible, though priority will be given to juniors and seniors.
“If there’s another one, I would 100 percent apply again to go, because it was very, very helpful to me,” DeSantis says.