Alums share career lessons

Panel fielded questions before meeting with students.

Adam Loyd
April 18, 2019
A student and alumnus chatting

A group of eight accomplished Exeter alumni returned to campus last weekend to speak to students about their careers and how Exeter prepared them for the years that followed.

The alumni fielded questions in panel form in Assembly Hall before breaking out into smaller groups for continued discussion. The panel was comprised of: Matt Carty '90, Brad Gibbs '88, Caroline Gillespie Greer '83, Mai Noguchi Hubbard '99, Byron Kalogerou '79, Dylan Leavitt '07, Brian Shactman '90 and Janney Wilson ’83.

Senior Evan Vogelbaum was curious to know what the panel valued about their Exeter experience and how the lessons they learned while on campus prepared them for their respective career paths. For Shactman, a morning news anchor at NBC Boston 10, it was persevering through an especially difficult French class as an upper that fostered a conviction of self-assurance. “The confidence it gave me to be able to get through anything was so empowering, that no matter what I encountered, I could get through it,” he said. Kalogerou, an attorney and partner at McDermott Will & Emery, echoed Shactman’s sentiments. “When you walk out of here, you’re going to have a level of confidence that will serve you for the rest of your days.”

Alumni speak on a panel at Exeter

A popular theme throughout the discussion was the importance of college. Lower Julia Lynch asked the panel specifically, “How much does college affect your life?” Carty, director of the Lower Extremity Transplant Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, encouraged students to make their college choice based on what is right for them and not based on name recognition. “I have no idea where any of the people I work with closely went to college,” he said. “It’s not like we sit around comparing pedigrees.”

During the breakout sessions, students had a chance to interact with the panelist in a more intimate setting by conversing in smaller groups. Topics discussed in the breakout groups included college internships, navigating life as a post-grad and the importance of mentorship.

Wilson, executive dean at Harvard Kennedy School, touched on the uncertainty of what she called the “deep, dark days” that follow college graduation.

“I found it a really difficult transition, because your whole life you’re on this track, you go to high school, then college and then what?” she said. “I had no clue what I wanted to do when I graduated college,” Wilson continued. “I thought I was going to go work for the State Department and solve world peace.” She went on to explain how her path led her to a career in business and eventually academia, a departure from her initial plan, yet ultimately satisfying.

Janney Wilson speaks on a panel at Exeter

Leavitt, a video producer and founder of Studio Dylan, advocated for the importance of college internships saying, “I found in doing my internships what I liked and didn’t like.” She reaffirmed Wilson’s call for patience in early stages of post-grad life saying the launch of her career trajectory “wasn’t immediate.” “My first summer out of college I didn’t have a job, I lived at home,” she said. “I had kept in touch with people I interned for when I was in college, and so because of that, they called me up when the opportunity arose.”

Gibbs, a lecturer in the Economics Department at Brown University, suggested students think “strategically” about their summer college internships. “It’s important to build those connections early and have a diverse variety during your summers,” he said.

Greer, managing director at Commonfund, encouraged students to seek mentorship calling it “extremely important,” while also acknowledging the process of finding a mutually beneficial mentoring relationship can be tricky. “The difficulty with mentorship is that it’s not assigned to you, you have to choose your mentors and they have to choose you,” she said. “It’s a two-way street.”

Following the breakout session, Hubbard, managing director of IMPAQ International, reflected on why it’s important to come back to campus and interact with students. “I wanted to be here to speak to the point that there’s no one right path in life and you can pursue whatever you want.”

Alumni gather for a photo during Career Interest Night