SLU-Madrid Alumni Share Expert Career Advice
Recent SLU-Madrid graduates shared advice with current students on how to launch their professional careers at the annual Alumni Forum, held virtually this year. Thomas Gargano ('19) and Cristina Bell ('20) discussed their personal experiences and offered useful tips on establishing a career path.
Gargano's first job after graduating from SLU-Madrid with a degree in international business was an internship at Deloitte within their Finance Transformation Department. Working with colleagues from all over the world made it a fun place to work and built upon the international experience he had while studying at SLU. While at Deloitte, he was approached by Accenture and offered a finance and risk analyst role within their Banking and Capital Markets Division. He accepted this position, while simultaneously undertaking studies in digital transformation and consulting at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in the evenings.
When the pandemic approached in March 2020, Gargano made the decision to leave his position at Accenture in order to move to New Jersey to take advantage of opportunities for remote work. He knew that finding a job during the pandemic would not be easy, and he felt fortunate to land a scholarship to take a digital transformation course with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which ultimately resulted in an analyst position with KPMG.
In his current role as a business analyst at First Derivative, Gargano works onsite at the client's office in New York two days a week and remotely three days a week. He serves as a junior project manager at the investment bank, focusing on the implementation of a Financial Regulatory Project stemming from the 2007 global financial crisis. His day-to-day activities vary depending on the task at hand; however, he stated that the most important skills to have in his role are communication, interpersonal and problem-solving skills.
Gargano's parting advice for current students was for them to show initiative and take advantage of internships. He reminded students that internships can often lead to full-time employment opportunities. He also encouraged students to use their connections through the University, family and friends. "The business world is competitive and it’s important to leverage all of the resources you have at hand," he explained. "Most of all, be persistent and positive," he concluded. "It will all work out!"
Cristina Bell, who graduated from SLU-Madrid in 2020 with a double major in communication and international business, currently works as a customization trainee at Mondelez International in the Madrid offices. In this role, she serves as the point of communication between the marketing department and distributors. She currently works with the suppliers, DSSMITH, Salvensen, and Smurfit Kappa, to find the best solution for point-of-sale displays. Much of her work concerns seasonal displays, such as the one they are in the process of rolling out for Suchard turrones for the Christmas holiday. She currently works with distributors in Mondelez's four main areas: chocolates, gum and candy, cookies and meals.
In her presentation, Bell discussed the selection process at Mondelez. She had to solve a case, take part in a group interview, go on a campus tour, and interview with the hiring manager. She shared an anecdote about one of the logic questions she was asked during the interview process: How many packets of baking powder were sold during the lockdown? The object of the question was not to find the correct answer, but rather to show the logic employed to determine an answer.
"It sounds cliché, but have fun and enjoy your free time now," she advised current students. "Make the best of your last year of school to take advantage of the resources you have on campus. Learn from your work and personal experiences to really find what you want to do."
In addition, she encouraged students to develop meaningful relationships with faculty and staff.
Luca Zocche, a current SLU-Madrid junior who attended the forum, commented, "The different speakers helped me to understand that not every job is for you. There should be no shame if you wish to go down a different career route. I also learned that the smaller the company, the greater the impact you can have on the team and company's mission."
Despite their different career paths, the presenting graduates agreed that SLU-Madrid prepared them to work with an array of people and to see the bigger picture in a globalized society.