Experiential learning and networking with alumni are among the great advantages of a Syracuse University education. The Martin J. Whitman School of Management’s Career Center typically organizes site visits to alumni workplaces in New York City each January in order for students to explore a range of career possibilities. Students have the privilege of interacting with Whitman graduates who are using their education in the workplace. While the pandemic put a stop to the in-person visits this January, that did not hold back the Career Center. Several virtual networking “trips” and events were organized for students, including a Business Exploration Experience with Unilever on Jan. 14.
Josh Fishman ’12 facilitated the Zoom event. Fishman started at Unilever as an intern while studying marketing and entrepreneurship & emerging enterprises at Whitman. Ten years later, he is Unilever’s senior brand manager for Suave and is also the chair of the Young Whitman Advisory Council.
Other alumni participating in the virtual event were Courtney Berger Grunwald ’12; Emily Egan ’15; Caryn Espy ’09; Kelley Long ’15; Zane Ludvigsen ’18; Jenna (Maldiner) Gartner ’13 (WHIT/NEW); Gail Martino ’90 (A&S); Suzanne Palentchar ’98 (MAX); Jen Pasqua ’94 MBA; Elizabeth Searight ’15 (NEW); Emily (Sherrin) Fishman ’12; Joshua Sternthal ’97 (VPA); and Danielle Zink ’13. Emily Shaughnessy, undergraduate career advisor at the Whitman School, who coordinated the event with Fishman, also joined along with Whitman’s Sara Garvey, associate director of corporate relations.
According to Fishman, Unilever’s vision is to be “a global leader in sustainable business” through its people, brands and companies. He added that the company is committed to improving the planet, enhancing health and well-being, using the company’s scale for good, and creating capability through life-long learning.
Fishman outlined seven job functions within Unilever that directly relate to majors at the Whitman School, including customer development, marketing, supply chain, research & development, finance, IT and human resources. He also engaged the students with a video outlining Unilever’s 161,000 employees, 400 individual brands, and products used by 2.5 billion people every day. Familiar were many of the U.S. brands under the Unilever umbrella (e.g., Dove, Hellman’s, Lipton, Klondike, etc.), but the students were also introduced to a scope of products produced around the world.
Though the Unilever employees on the call have been working from home since the pandemic began, Fishman gave students a virtual look at the company’s headquarters just outside New York City — complete with a hair salon, a free ice cream bar and a company store filled with Unilever products.
The Unilever team used a recent case study about bringing a product to market to show students how their various majors and interests could relate to the company’s diverse job functions. When the pandemic began, Suave, which was making hairspray among its many products, realized that it had the capabilities and packaging in place to pivot to manufacturing hand sanitizer — a product that had become in very short supply. Each of the alumni panelists shared how his or her role contributed to making that happen, and students gained a better understanding of how individual skill sets played a vital role in bringing Suave’s hand sanitizer to market quickly.
Students had the opportunity to ask questions of the alumni that ranged from details about their professional backgrounds to what clubs and activities they participated in at Whitman that helped along their career paths.
“Though, as a first-year student, looking for a job seems very far off, the experience really opened my eyes to the reality that Syracuse alums will be right by my side to support me through the process,” says Dylan France ’24, a finance major.
“The Unilever presentation was a perfect way to get my toes wet with outside companies and corporations that employ Whitman graduates,” adds Divya Gada ’24, who is a dual major in finance at the Whitman School and international relations at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. “For many first-year students like me, this was our first time interacting with alumni for career exploration. One of the most important take-aways from this presentation was that there are many alumni who are eager and willing to help current students and network with us. I look forward to joining other events similar to this to learn more from our alumni.”
If you want to learn more or host a future group of students, please email Sara Garvey, associate director of corporate relations, at email@example.com or Kara Primrose, director of career services, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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