Putting experience to work

Putting experience to work

Marsha Shaw recently landed a job as an employer and payroll reporting analyst with the Massachusetts State Retirement Board. Her responsibilities include processing pension plan enrollments for new state employees and assisting retired employees with enquiries about their pension benefits.

It’s a career move Marsha had long sought but that always seemed just out of reach—until she found Career Collaborative.

Learn how Joana Nushi achieved her dream of home ownership

Learn how Joana Nushi achieved her dream of home ownership

Nearly three years ago, Joana Nushi and her husband Armand moved to the United States from Albania. Shortly afterward, she found work as a teller at a local bank but she longed to work at a larger bank where she would be able to build a career. So she left her job thinking that it would be easy to find another one. To her disappointment and surprise, she searched for weeks without getting an interview, much less an offer. In this interview, Joana explains how she came to Career Collaborative and how it changed her life. 

Meet Robert F. Smith—Our 2018 Leadership Breakfast Keynote Speaker

Today he’s a billionaire businessman and philanthropist who makes the cover of Forbes and is the subject of lengthy profiles in the New York Times and the Washington Post. But Robert F. Smith knows, as do our successful program participants, how important persistence and making a good impression are to one’s career.

Growing up in Denver, CO, the son of public school teachers, Smith became interested in computer science after taking a course as a high school junior. He contacted Bell Labs, which had a research facility nearby, and asked if they offered internships. The company did, Smith was told, but only for college seniors. Undeterred, Smith called Bell Labs every day for two weeks to ask for an internship interview. When the human resources director stopped taking his calls on day two, he simply left messages with a receptionist. After two weeks of unreturned calls, Smith changed tactics and began calling every Monday, dutifully leaving his name and number. Five months later, Bell finally called him back when an MIT student failed to show up for their internship. They needed Smith to start right away. He wound up sharing an office with a chemical engineer who would become his mentor.

“The persistence to get that job led to me working at Bell Labs for the next four years, becoming a coop student, and ultimately finishing with a degree in chemical engineering from Cornell,” Smith said in a 2015 commencement address at American University. “All from being persistent.”

We’re thrilled that Smith will be the keynote speaker at our 2018 Leadership Breakfast on Oct. 12. The annual event highlights the impact of our program, and celebrates the hard work and contributions of our participants, volunteers, and supporters.

Smith is the founder, chairman and chief executive of Vista Equity Partners, an investment firm with over $30 billion in capital commitments that specializes in buying, growing, and selling off software companies. Under Smith’s leadership Vista has become known for its unique hiring practices: rather than recruiting tech savants from the ranks of the Ivy League, Vista looks for workers who demonstrate leadership potential and innate analytical skills using a personality test that gauges technical and social skills along with interest in the arts and humanities. The result, as the New York Times noted, is that Vista jobs often go to unlikely candidates who turn out to be very successful:

“One of Vista’s best software salesmen used to be a roofer. Another previously worked at a Verizon store, and went to making $240,000 a year, from $22,000. In Iowa, a pizza deliveryman took the Vista aptitude test, got an A, and was offered a job paying $43,000 annually.”

“I look for a complete package. When someone is a complete package, they are more engaged, more excited, more passionate about what they are doing,” Smith explained to the the Washington Post of his hiring practices.

Smith is also a social-justice minded philanthropist with a particular interest in creating opportunities for women and African Americans. He attracted a great deal of attention for his $20 million gift to the Museum of African American History and for becoming the first African American to sign the Giving Pledge, in which he committed to contributing half his net worth to philanthropic causes during his lifetime. Through his Fund II Foundation, Smith donated $27 million to the Susan G. Komen organization, which funds research into the cure and prevention of breast cancer, and contributed $50 million to an effort to increase the enrollment of women and minorities at Cornell’s College of Engineering.

In addition to his business and philanthropic ventures, Smith serves as chairman of Carnegie Hall—the first African American to hold the post—and chairman of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. 

We’re excited to learn more about Smith’s inspiring story and learn more about what it takes to build a successful career—no matter our educational background or experience. We hope you are, too! Tickets and sponsorships are available online. Or you can be in touch with our Executive Director Susan Yule if you have any questions. See you in October!

Experienced finance executive pays it forward

Heidi Lewis Ivey has been a Career Collaborative volunteer for nearly eight years, preparing participants for job interviews, presenting during Lunch and Learn sessions, and leading business learning workshops. 

Heidi found Career Collaborative while working at Bank of New York Mellon, where she was a vice president of investment manager services and looking for opportunities to mentor young women just starting out in the banking industry. As a Black woman in a profession overwhelmingly populated by white men, she faced additional obstacles to success outside of the simple challenges of the work.

“I really wanted to help a Black woman just starting out who could learn from my experiences so they wouldn’t have to walk the same route I walked,” Heidi says. 

As a VP, Heidi was well positioned to offer someone else the guidance and mentoring she lacked as a young professional. While she never did find an organization that matches experienced businesswomen with younger women, she did find Career Collaborative, where she has not only had the chance to work with Black women but has found “the opportunity to work with people of all races and ethnicities to be incredibly fulfilling.”

The Career Collaborative approach to career readiness also matches Heidi’s. “What I really like about the program is that the people who come to Career Collaborative have to do the work to succeed,” says Heidi, who is now a business engagement manager at Wells Fargo. “I’m a firm believer in the old saying that if you give a man a fish he'll eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish he'll eat for life.” 

That work—teaching people the skills they need to achieve independence through a career—is something Heidi excels at. She recalls a recent coaching session with a woman who had an excellent résumé and in-demand skills. “I really couldn’t figure out why she didn’t have a job,” says Heidi, noting that program participants sometimes need assistance explaining gaps in their work history or coaching on how to demonstrate that they’re qualified for a job—but that wasn’t the case with this woman.

As they went through the mock interview, Heidi asked why she had left her last position. With that question, “everything about her changed,” says Heidi. “Her facial expressions changed, her body language changed, and I knew there was a story behind why she left the previous position.”

So Heidi stopped the interview and asked what had happened. The woman confided that she had made a mistake that resulted in her firing. “I listened to her story and I said to her, ‘You're going to have to deal with that. You're going to have to go home, sit with it, come to terms with it and figure out a response because as soon as I asked you the question everything about you changed.” 

Heidi also told her that her inability to explain why she had left her last job was preventing her from getting a new one. “I told her that while she was saying one thing her body language was saying something else.” 

Heidi also discussed the woman’s plight with the career counselors at Career Collaborative, explaining that the woman’s inability to reckon with her firing was holding her back. They also strategized with Heidi about ways to help, and shortly after that breakthrough the woman landed a new job. 

Given her enthusiasm for helping others jumpstart their careers, it’s not surprising to learn that in addition to traditional volunteer tasks, Heidi also served as a mentor to a Career Collaborative participant, meeting with her monthly after she finished the program until the woman moved from Boston.  Heidi was thrilled to attend her mentee’s college graduation from New College of Business and Finance, in 2012.

In her role as a business engagement manager, Heidi manages Wells Fargo’s technology projects pipeline, ensuring that lines of businesses get funding for their projects. When she’s not reviewing funding pitches, Heidi often spends time engaging her colleagues in Career Collaborative volunteer projects. In the coming weeks a group of co-workers will present “Hands on Banking,” a Wells Fargo program that teaches the basics of personal financial management, such as budgeting and the proper use of credit.

She also talks up the organization every chance she gets. “I tell everybody I know about Career Collaborative, and each time somebody says they're looking for a job or they need help, Career Collaborative is the first place I recommend,” she says.