Early this January seniors from Ohio University Consulting Fellows took their annual trip. This year brought them to San Francisco, where they spoke with OHIO alumni at Xactly Corp., Apple, Google, Facebook, Zynga, and Twitter. The seniors, Kathryn McDermott, Hayden Humphrey, Nicholas Ferrara, Kailey Copelin, and Nicole Byrne had the opportunity to tour the companies, ask questions, and network with current employees. They were also able to immerse themselves in an entirely new business environment.
Ohio University’s College of Business offers a great deal of resources with a corporate focus. Traditional working environments, however, may not be the perfect fit for all business majors. Hayden Humphrey, an Honors Tutorial College business major, recalls an experience doing an IT audit. A company representative told him and the other students, “I don’t know how you guys do this—it’s really boring.” The other students laughed politely, but Humphrey remembers thinking, “No, this is really boring. I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to be in this type of environment.”
Consulting Fellows is one place to find an alternative; it provides students the opportunity to advise real clients on business and strategic issues and offers valuable networking through programs such as the senior networking trip.
“I joined because I have always been the person who is afraid of a cubicle life plagued by doing the same thing every day,” said Nicholas Ferrara, a management information systems (MIS) and strategic leadership major.
This trip expanded the students’ knowledge of possible workplace environments by immersing them in the laid-back but highly innovative world of social media, offering possibilities suited to a wider variety of students.
“It’s really interesting to see how different West Coast companies are from East Coast companies,” said Humphrey. “When you think about the types of companies that are on the East Coast, it’s a lot more financial services-oriented, insurance, Wall Street, a lot more fashion-oriented. It’s a little bit more based on who you are, how much you have, and what your rank is. The West Coast is a lot different: a little more idealistic, a little more how-can-we-change-the-world.”
Kathryn McDermott, an MIS and entrepreneurship major and managing director of Consulting Fellows at the time of the trip, was particularly struck by the difference in the everyday work environment. “It was just very relaxed,” she said. “It opened my eyes to a company culture you don’t usually see. You think of suits and business people but you go there [Silicon Valley] and these people are in jeans and flip-flops and t-shirts and its totally casual.”
This type of relaxed company culture is indicative of the high importance companies like Google and Facebook place on the happiness of their employees. Google makes an impressive profit margin, and spends this money by creating the very work environment that impressed the Consulting Fellows students. Employees can live anywhere in the San Francisco area and expect a Google bus, equipped with wi-fi, to pick them up for their commute. Once at work they can enjoy a fully equipped gym, an infinity pool, and food from restaurants and coffee shops, all free and conveniently located on the campus. Employees can even bring their families to visit, and dogs are always welcome.
Facebook adopts a similar approach. When asked about their favorite part of the trip, almost all of the students mentioned walking inside Facebook’s headquarters. “We’ve already been to four companies that day so nothing too special,” said Kailey Copelin, a sports management and MIS major. “So we walk through the building, and the first thing I notice as we’re walking through is this bank in the office building. And then we go outside and it’s like a town—they have a dentist, a barber, and an actual arcade. It was like one strip of tech Disney World. It was awesome.”
Humphrey, Copelin, McDermott, and Ferrara all report interest in working for the companies they visited, and recall advice from the Ohio University alumni they met. McDermott appreciated one reminder in particular. “Your first job means nothing about the rest of your life. If you hate it, work there for a few years, make the best of it, learn something from it, and move on,” one alum told her.
Overall, the trip reassured the Consulting Fellows that there are many possible paths to finding success. With relaxed expectations for starting out and a greater appreciation for the options they have to shape their careers, the seniors look forward to providing such opportunities to future members of Consulting Fellows. McDermott reports the group hopes to begin funding smaller trips to Cincinnati or Columbus for its younger members. Discussions about the next senior networking trip have also begun, with New York City mentioned as a tentative destination.
Article Written By: Hannah Koerner