Graduates Reflect on Soderquist Fellowship Program
Alumni from the program tell of their experience
By Jessa Parette Eldridge '11
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Each year, candidates for the Soderquist Fellowship Program vie for selection, not just because the program is fully funded and includes a monthly stipend, but because it offers distinctly competitive edges: a stellar graduate degree, experiential opportunities and networking access to top executives.
The graduates of this program can boast of careers as attorneys, directors, talent developers, senior managers, designers, brand managers and more. A few share their thoughts.
Senior Director of Operations at Rockfish Interactive
Rockfish Interactive has quite a few well-known clients, most recently the Mitt Romney campaign. As a senior director, what is your role in projects?
I started off in client services doing relationship management, but that has changed. My role now is much more internally focused, so I’m responsible for making sure projects are staffed. This involves managing the internal systems to make sure we are efficient and projects have the right people supporting it.
How did you step into this position?
When I started we were 24 people and I was one of the first project managers, so I wore a lot of different hats. That was about five years ago. As a growing company there are a lot of roles that emerge as the company grows, and I have a knack for finding out what a company needs as it grows. We now have six locations and several offices. So, there was a great need for someone who could develop the infrastructure to manage things to run smoothly and handle the internal operations. I really liked that, had a knack for it and grew into the role.
Was there any aspect of the Fellowship that, once you were in the program, was unexpected or challenging?
Oh, good question.
You get exposed to the challenges that business leaders are faced with. They are never these textbook supply and demand challenges. They are people challenges like “how do I communicate so that I can help our company grow”, “how can I encourage my team”. Those aren’t’ things you learn in a classrooms. The experience built onto the textbooks.
The Soderquist Fellowship offers a lot of exposure and networking during the program. Were there any experiences that you distinctly remember?
I remember getting to meet the CEO of PepsiCo and other great leaders. The people who are so high up in companies and have so much real life experience. We got to visit with them and just talk to them. You don’t get that kind of experience at other places, I don’t think.
Did your experience in the program influence your choice in career?
I actually got connected with Rockfish through the Soderquist center. We were their clients at the time (they were building our website). I always knew that I wanted to work in a marketing capacity and the Soderquist center helped me make that connection.
What would you say is the biggest impact you took from being a Soderquist Fellow?
In the market today, one of the things that we have grown as a company, is that we want a people who have a few years of experience. This [Soderquist Fellowship] is good way to get that and it’s transferable experience. It sets you apart from someone who has just gone through an MBA program or an undergrad, because you work in a business setting and get valuable experience.
Project Coordinator at The Soderquist Center
What do you feel sets this program apart from other MBA programs?
There are a couple of things that stand out. First of all, the ability to work full time while in the MBA program is a distinctive. I am getting real world work experience, and putting that with what I am learning in class. The second thing that stands out is the international studies trips. I went on the trip to China in 2012, and was blown away. We were given access to people and places in China that I would never have been able to have access to outside of this specific trip.
So far, what has been some of the best exposure or experience and why?
It’s actually hard to narrow this down. One of the events that I coordinate the logistics for is the Soderquist Leadership Summit, which is a one night event only open to senior level executives. With that, I have been able to interact with lots of senior level executives, and sit in on sessions when they really wrestle with issues that they are experiencing.
Another great experience has been the large variety of customers I have been able to interact with. I have worked with engineering teams, Walmart supplier teams, healthcare teams, and college groups. I am much more comfortable around anyone because of this experience.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Haha…typical day… I’ll give you an overview of the past couple of weeks. On January 3-5, I co-facilitated a 3-day event for some college aged students. This involved presentation, facilitation, and experiential learning. On Monday, the 7th, I had meetings all morning, and then drove down to Little Rock for a customer event with a healthcare provider the next day. Wednesday – Friday that week was mostly spent preparing for an event on January 14-15, with some other customer meetings thrown in. Then, this week I had that event with senior level executives, and right now I’m playing catch-up on emails and event preparation.
What experience (in or out of the classroom) has been the most impacting so far?
One experience that really stands out was a random happening. About a year ago, I was at the event for senior level executives, and was asked to drive a participant back to airport. He was the president of a large mission organization, and I was able to spend 40 minutes picking his brain about what missions looks like today, and how I might best use biomedical engineering to glorify God. He had an incredible amount of wisdom and advice, and I still think back to that drive.
Jessa Parette Eldridge '11 is the staff editor and writer for university communications