On Oct. 26, representatives from the higher echelons of finance, entertainment, technology, and medicine gathered at the Rose Hill campus to share with students their lessons for successful careers.

The panelists, all members of the Fordham’s Parents’ Leadership Council, spent the evening reflecting on both the state of their own industries, and their personal career trajectories. A group discussion in the Keating First auditorium attended by 140 students was followed by breakout sessions in classrooms that featured non only the parents, but also employees of their respective firms who could also answer questions.

The evening featured:

-Richard Cervini, PAR ’19, Senior Vice President of Production and Technical Operations, CBS Television Distribution;

-Jeffrey Cusack, PAR ’19, Senior Managing Director, National Sales Manager, Nuveen Investment LLC;

-Marc Landanyi, M.D., PAR ’18, Chief of Molecular Diagnostics Service, MSKCC;

-Donna Morris, PAR ’19, Executive Vice President, Customer and Employee Experience, Adobe;

-Philip Rielly, PAR ’20, Vice President, President of Diplomat Specialty Infusion Group; and

Jean Wynn, Marymount ’80, PAR ’20, Managing Director and Head of Corporate Banking & Public Finance, The Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

Listen to the discussion:

A common theme for the parents, most of whom offer formal summer internships to students, was hiring. Morris suggested that graduates focus less on their resumes and more on their networks, particularly those they build and maintain on LinkedIn. Maintaining a robust digital presence is key, she said, to creating their own brand, irrespective of whether they’re an introvert or an extrovert.

Cusack noted that he’d landed nearly every job he had through a contact. But even then, he cautioned, you should go into an interview prepared to do more than just answer questions.

“For me, the interview doesn’t start until you ask me questions about my company,” he said. “I don’t even care if you’ve got information wrong; I just want to see you’re taking the initiative.”

Dr. Landanyi’s advice for succeeding in STEM fields was to seek out colleagues who are smarter than you. “Be aware of what you don’t know, and always challenge yourself to discuss topics that others know more about than you,” he said. “If you’re the smartest one in the room, find another room.”

Wynn said the financial sector is undergoing exciting changes due to increased digitization and an embrace of what she called a Silicon Valley kind of mindset. The Bank of New York Mellon Corp dates back to Alexander Hamilton, but is working with emerging technologies such as Blockchain.

“It’s quite challenging for institutions that are old and established to change their culture, but that can lead to a tremendous amount of opportunity for young people to come in and be a part of that change,” she said.

Rielly extolled the virtues of a liberal arts education, and suggested that would-be entrepreneurs need not know exactly what they want to do upon graduation. Find a company that you’re interested in, and really get to know the industry it occupies, he said. That way, you figure out how to build a better mouse trap, so to speak.

“Be a big sponge. Soak up everything you can,” he said.

Dr. Landanyi concurred, noting, “It’s never too late for STEM.”

For Morris, the panel was both a recruiting tool and an opportunity to share knowledge. Since she started attending in 2015, six Fordham students have interned at Adobe, and this year, Vanessa Gutierrez, a Fordham College at Rose Hill senior, became the first student to accept a full-time position there as a software developer for the firm’s creative apps team.

Gutierrez, a computer science major from Los Angeles, attended the panel two years ago. Although she’d only declared her major a few weeks before, she said Morris’ presentation intrigued her, and she made a conscious effort to be the last one to talk to her so Morris would remember her.

“It’s funny, because in my computer science class that semester there was a guy who sat next to me, and I would often answer questions he had,” she said.

“I was waiting to talk to Donna, and the guy was there also, sitting in the back. I said ‘Oh, are you waiting to talk to her too?’ He said ‘No, that’s my mom.’”

Gutierrez was actually in San Jose interviewing for the position during this year’s panel presentation; she starts in July.

“Events like this are great for getting our name out, particularly for students who want to come back to the West coast,” said Morris, adding that, at recruiting events, tech firms aren’t as well represented as finance and consulting firms.

“If they go to East coast for school, there’s a concern about coming home, because a lot of West coast jobs and internships end up going to students attending West coast schools.”


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Patrick Verel is a news producer for Fordham Now. He can be reached at [email protected] or (212) 636-7790.