From Penn to DaVita

by Olivia Blaber, COL ’17

At Penn, many students are compelled to have a plan towards career success mapped out freshmen year. Deviating from your path can be a frightening move. However, taking a risk and allowing yourself the opportunity to grow and explore can be just as rewarding as it may seem daunting.

I came into Penn positive I wanted to be a doctor and had mapped out how I would get there. However, my junior year I took a healthcare management class that opened my eyes to the array of opportunities to affect change in healthcare. I wanted to explore those opportunities outside of a clinical roles. Still, I was wary that it would not be the best way to position myself for medical school, and I was even more concerned that it would lead me to change my path entirely.

I scoured PennLink (the job board prior to Handshake) for a healthcare related business opportunity and landed on the analyst position with the Redwoods Leadership Development Program at DaVita. This fortuitous find could not have been more impactful. To me, three things ultimately differentiated this experience. The first was that DaVita, as an enterprise, shared my passion for improving patient care. Second, the Redwoods Program afforded us immense exposure to senior leadership and high impact projects. Finally, the support network and emphasis on personal growth and development far exceeded my expectations.

I was weary that at a large, for-profit company the experience of individual patients would become obsolete. However, part of DaVita’s mission is to be the Provider of Choice and its first core value is Service Excellence. What I learned was that these words are more than just a tag line, but a compass driving the direction of business decision. I was surprised to learn that the CEO, Kent Thiry, begins every earnings call with clinical outcomes and by the amount of times I was in strategy meetings where patient impact was the first consideration.

Further, the exposure my intern cohort had to senior leadership from every arm of the enterprise was incredible. The open dialogue channels with leaders who shared lessons learned from their careers was invaluable as I grappled with how to navigate the beginning of my own career journey. Even more exciting for me, was the opportunity to work closely with members of the leadership team. As an intern on the corporate strategy team I worked on a project to develop a five year growth strategy for one of DaVita’s smaller strategic business unit. The learning curve was steep at first but resulted in the confidence to actively contribute in working sessions with the business unit’s CEO.
Finally, the support network developed by the Redwoods team was a resource I had not expected to receive in the corporate world. The summer started with a comprehensive training period that ranged in topics from a business overview to honing hard skills in excel. Support did not cease when training did, but rather the Redwoods team was constantly setting up career development sessions and checking in to make sure our development goals were being met. Outside of the formal Redwoods team, everyone I encountered at DaVita was excited to offer up their career learnings and help me think through my options.

At the end of the experience, I had accomplished my goal of branching out from my initial career path. But I had also learned that I had an appetite for the challenge that strategy work presents and an excitement about systematically transforming healthcare. I was not content to let the learning end there and reflecting upon the differentiating qualities of the Redwoods program, I decided to come back full-time. In my role today, I am constantly challenged to push the bounds of my comfort zone and continue to be rewarded with increased aptitude and confidence.

What I learned at Penn that led to a career in Presentation Design

by Amy Singh, COL ’14

Back several years ago when I was a freshman at Penn, I had no clue what I wanted to do after graduation. I was completely ready to pursue my major in Japanese and minor in Fine Arts, but beyond that I didn’t know what my future path would be. I was considering everything from teaching, to translation work to going back to grad school to study Japanese in more depth, but the best answer I could’ve given you at the time would be that I really wanted to do something creative, that allowed me to combine my arts background with my interest in writing. Little did I know I would end up doing exactly that at an international UK-based company called BrightCarbon.

Welcome to the world of presentation design. In the world of niche industries and jobs, this is one that many people don’t realize exists. Ironically, there are tons of people working in marketing, sales and training whose main task is creating presentations for their teams, bosses or clients. People working in these fields may have different backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common, which is that most likely they have limited training when it comes to creating PowerPoint presentations. Because of this, many companies desire assistance with creating compelling, visual presentations, which is where the Presentation Design agency comes in. Part of this assistance is physically creating the slides themselves, but there are other aspects that come into play. For example, there’s also developing presentation messaging (similar to writing a script) to help companies position themselves as industry leaders, sell products, and explain concepts. And the last role at BrightCarbon is the role of Visualization Consultants like myself, which involves taking messaging and coming up with visuals for slides that communicate those messages well. Since this last role is what I am most familiar with, I wanted to dig a little deeper and get into what specific skills I learned at Penn that helped me become a Visualization Consultant, and what skills are useful to build if you are interested in a similar type of position.

The skills I use on a daily basis range from customer relationship management to reading comprehension to writing to more technical and Microsoft Office-related. Because this is a wide range of skills, the relevant classes are also varied, ranging from English to fine arts to business to technology-related. When combined, having some expertise in each of these areas will give you a great basis for working in presentation creation.

Writing

The most obvious skill that has helped immensely with my day-to-day is a solid foundation in writing. The type of writing that I use is different from writing a short story in Japanese for example, but nonetheless is related to the type of writing skills you build at Penn. When you learn how to structure arguments for a piece of writing with an introduction, main points and conclusion, you are inadvertently learning how to write an effective presentation. So many sales presentations we see are poorly structured, and follow a ‘We-we-we’ theme, meaning that they focus solely on how great the presenter is, and don’t actually get into what the value is for end users. In addition, more often than not content is disorganized, arguments are repetitive or presentations become too chart-heavy and end up being ineffective. A lot of these issues would be avoided if the messaging adhered to a solid structure, the same way a good story does, which is one of the things I got a solid understanding of between my various college seminar classes I took at Penn.

Reading comprehension

Another really important skill that I use every time I come up with visuals for a slide is analyzing text and thinking critically about what its key messages are. Because the average presentation will have 20 or more slides chock-full with text, going through each slide in detail could end up taking a lot of time. However, by putting into practice some of the methods I used at Penn (for example, breaking down information by highlighting the key sections, and skimming instead of reading) I’ve been able to shorten this time considerably. Being able to pick out key bits of information also helps with developing visuals for slides. Slides that are too information-heavy are not effective because the audience just ends up tuning out the presenter and reading the information on the slides. However, by focusing only on key points, you can create much clearer and effective presentations, that get your messages across to the audience. Many seminar classes in the college give you a taste of this type of reading analysis, which can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of your slides.

Business

As with any job, being business savvy comes in real handy. At Penn, some of the most useful classes for a career in presentation creation would be at Wharton. For example, marketing would come in handy for making sales presentations, since these presentations involve selling products and knowing how to communicate their value to end users. To add onto that, learning how to manage customer relationships is useful and knowing how to figure out what customers want and how to delight them with great customer service can never hurt. In general, learning how to communicate effectively in written and spoken word is crucial to collaborating on a presentation, which is definitely something that you can develop in different Wharton classes.

Graphic design

For people interested in working on presentations, taking a class in digital design can be useful down the road. If your main task is to create tons of PowerPoint slides, knowing how to lay them out, what colors look good together, and how to alter images in Photoshop can be very useful. Most people will say that they don’t have time to learn these types of skills, but if you learn how to do these kinds of things once, you will be able to make huge impact on the quality of slides you create. Introductory design classes at Penn will teach you design foundations which can be used to for things like using images effectively in your presentations, creating engaging PowerPoint templates and laying out your content so that it’s intuitive. This will make your presentations look one-thousand times better and also makes them much more effective. (To learn more about how to do great PowerPoint design, check out this article!)

Technology

The last important foundation for making presentations is to get a good handle on your weapon of choice, namely Microsoft PowerPoint. I learned many of the basics from a class I took in high school that focused on learning Microsoft Office, however, by the time I started working in PowerPoint full time there was still a lot more I had to learn. The best methods for learning all there is to know about how to use PowerPoint to its full potential would be to take online classes like BrightCarbon’s PowerPoint Master Classes, which can help you master a lot of the rarely-taught features of PowerPoint. Once you get in the swing of using more of PowerPoint’s functionality, it begins to come to you naturally and you can create more advanced and more effective presentations quicker and more easily.

Conclusion

I never thought I would end up making PowerPoints for a living, but you’d be surprised how many people do just that. These people might have different titles, like ‘brand manager’ or ‘product marketing manager’ or even ‘visualization consultant’, but in the end there are many careers where you may end up creating presentations frequently. Presentation design really is a lesser-known but massive industry with lots of job opportunities for designers and liberal arts graduates in general, and it really is great, as long as you don’t mind staring at PowerPoint for hours at a time. No matter what your degree may be, having a foundation in certain areas, namely writing, reading comprehension, business and design as well as technical skill (or the ability to learn) can take you very far in developing high quality, visually-effective presentations, and will help you shine among others as a presentation master.

Amy Singh is a self-proclaimed PowerPoint wizard and Visualization Consultant at BrightCarbon, an international (UK-based) presentation agency. After graduating from the college in 2014, she now spends most of her days planning her next Disney World vacation and also sharing the joys of PowerPoint with others.

My Career Path, from Accountant to Consultant to Professional Organizer

by Barbara Reich

My senior year at Penn was the first time ever that I didn’t have a plan. All I knew was what I didn’t want to do after graduation. I had explored career options within my major of psychology, eliminating one after another. I had considered law school, but concluded that a mountain of debt was too high a price for a degree that I didn’t really want. I thought about publishing, teaching, and advertising, but nothing felt quite right. Then, I heard about an Executive MBA program jointly sponsored by Price Waterhouse (now PriceWaterhouse Coopers) and New York University Stern School of Business. Depending on the semester, I would work or attend classes full or part time, and at the end of the program, I would have an MBA, no loans, and three years of work experience. I had never considered being an accountant, but I mailed a resume, secured an interview, took a train to New York City, and came back to Penn with a job offer. I was a little shell shocked, but it was a plan.

Unfortunately, the plan soon unraveled. I didn’t enjoy the business courses and had no passion for accounting. The months that I worked full time and went to school at night were brutal. I was staffed on a bank merger, working 12 hour days and weekends, leaving work to go to class, and returning to work afterward. I was exhausted and unhappy. And, since I had no time to even think about another job, I simply soldiered on, focusing on getting my MBA. At that time, I figured I could look to move internally to another area within PriceWaterhouse (an advantage of working at a large firm) while I came up with my next plan.

Before that happened though, fate intervened. In one of my MBA classes, I worked on a group project with a woman who was a human resources management consultant. Her job sounded compelling to me, and by the time the class met again, I had updated my resume for her. A few months later, I had a job offer from her firm, the Hay Group. I found the work interesting, and the culture at the Hay Group to be congenial and inspiring. Yet, after five years, I decided to move to a smaller firm where I would have a larger role. That, it turns out, was one of those mistakes that work out for the best. I soon determined that there was no reason to bring my clients to another firm when I could run my own. So, Resourceful Consultants, LLC was born and just four months later, my twin daughter and son were born.

During the next two years, I worked part time, picking and choosing clients that fit my lifestyle. Then, one day, I got a call from a former Hay Group colleague. She had a client who wanted to hire someone to organize a home office. Her words were, “Don’t kill me, but I gave him your number. You should do this.” And, so I did, and I LOVED it. I started calling myself a professional organizer, told everyone I knew, and soon had my second client. That person referred a friend, and each of those friends referred friends, and my business began to grow. Soon, I was meeting with two clients a day, five days a week, helping them organize their homes, offices and lives. In 2011, the NY Times wrote a two-page story about me and my business, and that’s when things really took off. Today, I’m the author of a book (Secrets of an Organized Mom), and have appeared on The Today Show, Inside Edition, Good Morning America, Fox News, and New York 1. In addition to the NY Times, I’ve also been in the New York Post, Real Simple, InStyle, People StyleWatch, Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens, AARP Magazine, and O Magazine among other publications.

When I entered my senior year of college, I had never taken an accounting course or heard of a professional organizer, so every job I ultimately held was unimaginable to me at the start of my search. I hope sharing my path will help others realize that it’s completely normal not to know exactly what you aspire to be. I’ve heard it said that if you do what you love, the money follows. I’ve also heard it said that if you love what you do, it’s not work. Both of those sentiments apply to my career, and I hope one day to yours.


More information about Barbara and her organization can be found at ResourcefulConsultants.com or Facebook.com/ResourcefulConsultants.

The 7 Most Important Lessons I Learned at Penn (and How They Apply to the Job Search)

by Monika Haebich, COL ’15

There is a lot that an undergraduate education at the University of Pennsylvania will teach you. Want to talk about Pataphysics or Premodern female authors, the nerd in me would be happy to talk. But while you’ll find the classroom lessons at Penn invaluable, it’s the lessons that extend past the chalkboard that you may find the most helpful in your job search. As I exit my undergrad experience at Penn and enter the perils of the “real world,” here are the lessons I’ve come to value the most:

1. There is no script.

Regardless of the career paths that others may choose, you define your own success. Reflect on and recognize your strengths, and use them to your advantage. Moving to Atlanta to pursue a career at a startup may not have been the typical Penn trajectory, but at a university where every student is truly extraordinary, it would be reductive to define a single “Penn path” as the one for every student. Write your own script, and don’t be ashamed of the path you choose.

2. Don’t expect anything to be easy.

There will be times when it feels as if nothing is certain, but if there is one thing that is sure, it’s that your senior year, you will be faced with uncertainty. Not everyone will have a job or school lined up by the beginning of senior year, the beginning of the spring semester, or even by graduation, but really think about what you want to do post-graduation, and be confident in your strides towards that. It’s okay to feel lost; it’s okay to be scared, but know that everything will be okay. Nothing remarkable will ever happen within the confines of your own comfort zone, so push yourself, and know that you are not alone.

3. Ask for help; it’s easier than doing it alone.

Always use your resources, and ask for guidance, advice, feedback, and help when you need it. While there may be times when you feel behind, remember that you are all going through this together. I made my first mistake when I, like many others, attempted to go through the job search and OCR alone. Without consulting Career Services, my friends, my family, or my professors first, I became overwhelmed with possible career trajectories and devoid of a sound understanding of what I really wanted to do. Reach out to your friends, your family, your loved ones, your professors, and listen.  Requesting the guidance or assistance of others is not a sign of weakness; it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. Seek constructive criticism, lift each other up, and be of and ask for help when you can.  Really, not everything is a competition.

4. Don’t take “no” for an answer.

In whatever you choose to do, there will be people who tell you “no.” Don’t let insecurity or a fear of confrontation prevent you from getting what you deserve. Proceed with confidence, and the world is yours.

5. Surround yourself with the people who motivate and inspire you.

Inspire yourself everyday. Whether it’s with the people on your team, in your sorority, or in your office, surround yourself with those who will encourage, nurture, and inspire your growth. Faced with different job offers, I knew I would end up at my current startup, rented., after realizing that I had surely found a supportive and incredibly inspiring team. Even before accepting the offer, I had more guidance from the team than I could have expected. Taking the time to address my concerns, speaking with me on multiple occasions, and referring me to all the resources I could possibly want, rented.’s CEO,COO, and Vice President of Marketing all proved early on that I had found my new team.

Look for the workplace that will transform you for the better, and never underestimate the importance of a supportive team.

6. You’re here for a reason.

Sure, a title and degree will afford you many opportunities, but it’s your drive and passions and desire to achieve that brought you here in the first place. Remind yourself of the bigger picture, and remember all of the things that brought you to where you are now.

7. There’s always more to learn.

As inspiring as a Penn education is, it is also humbling. Each class is a reminder of just how much of the world is left for you to explore, and that learning certainly shouldn’t stop after college. Even in my first, short five months here at rented., the lessons I’ve learned about new industries, my work, and myself have proved to be invaluable.

Learn from every obstacle, challenge yourself to broaden your understanding of the world, and know that Penn will always be home.

Monika graduated from Penn in 2015 with a B.A. in English concentrating on Literary Theory and Cultural Studies and minors in Consumer Psychology and Fine Arts. Originally from New York, Monika now lives in Atlanta and enjoys photography, polo, and traveling in her free time. She is a Marketing and Sales Associate at Rented.com.  You can read about a typical day in her life at our @PennCareerDay Storify page.

Embracing Uncertainty

by Naz Ozbek, COL/WH ’14

If you’re reading this blog, it means that you know the ins and outs of the Career Services website, which means that it’s either not your first time here, or even if it is, it certainly won’t be your last. It also means that, just like a good majority of your friends, you’re scouring for a summer internship or a full time job, depending on what year you’re in.

If you’re anything like me when I was going into my third year (and most Penn students trying to find jobs are), you may be asking all sorts of questions to yourself. Why didn’t I get that interview? Why didn’t they call me back? My friend got an offer but I didn’t. What could I be doing better? Do I really want to be in finance? What should I be doing with my life? etc. etc. These questions may be of varying natures and severities, leading all the way up to a small existential crisis.

There’s only one piece of advice that I can give you, and you need to believe that it’s true, because it is—even if it doesn’t seem like it right now.

Here it is: Everything will be okay.

I’ve been in your shoes and I know exactly what it feels like. I applied to all the consulting firms my sophomore year to get a summer internship. Deloitte, BCG, Bain, Accenture. You name the company, and I’ve probably applied for an internship there. Not because I was dying to be in consulting, but because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I was going along with the famous OCR trend. Being an international student was an added challenge, as it was hard to find companies who were willing to sponsor my visa. After not getting a single invitation for an interview from any of the places I applied to, I entered a phase of self-questioning and doubt, and hours of Skype conversations with my parents to help me figure out what it was that I was missing or could be doing better.

After much discussion with my parents and days of self-pondering, I realized that I didn’t want to be in consulting or banking. In fact, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew what I didn’t want to do. So I decided to spend that summer with my family at home in Turkey.

The next year, the pressure was on again. Except, this time, I was a step ahead as I knew what types of jobs I was definitely not going to apply to. This was a huge step and relief as it meant that I would basically not be going through the OCR experience again. I wanted to try out an internship doing something creative in marketing, which meant that I would be applying to ad agencies or the marketing departments of some of my favorite brands like Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks. This time, however, I went through a different type of challenge as I was submitting my application not through Penn, but through each company’s own careers website, or via direct emails to individuals. My dream was to work for Disney in Los Angeles, both because I’m a huge Disney fan, and because I wanted to experience living in LA to see if it would be a good fit for me in the long run. In January, I applied to about 10 roles on their website. 4 months passed, and a week after school was finished, I still hadn’t heard back from any of the places I had applied to. All of my friends had their summers lined up and had left Philly to go home before moving to New York or wherever else for the summer, and I decided to visit my best friend at home in St. Louis. Long story short, I got an invitation to interview via Skype for the Digital Marketing team over at Disney/ABC while in St. Louis, and a week later, I got a call saying I got the job.

I didn’t have a car (I didn’t even have a US driver’s license), I had never been to LA before, and I didn’t know where I would live, but I accepted the offer thinking I’d figure everything out when I got there. Which, luckily, worked out. I met some great people and had a great internship that summer.

I had a very similar story for finding a full-time job for post-graduation. One of my managers at Disney, who had moved over to Netflix, referred me to an agency in New York. They got in touch with me in May, and I landed my job a couple of weeks after graduating. By this point in time, I had learned to live with uncertainty, so the “not knowing” did not bother me as much as it used to. This doesn’t mean that I sat back and waited for the stars to align so that something would magically come my way, but rather, that I did everything I could do on my end of things, and had a little faith that something would eventually come along.

It’s hard to think of the bigger picture when you’re going through a rough patch. One thing I’ve found helpful is to stop for a second when things get overwhelming and ask myself the following questions: will this matter a year from now? Five years from now? Is it a realistic thought that I’ll be unemployed for the rest of my life? Most of the time, I laugh at myself because I realize my worries are groundless. Chances are, yours are too.

Right now, I’m working at a co-working space that caters to individuals in the creative industries. I left my job at the advertising agency because I realized I don’t want to be in marketing. Right now, I’m happy with where I am, and I have a pretty good sense of what it is that I want to do with my life. However, it’s because I didn’t get an internship in finance or consulting (which would’ve tied me to a pretty set, straightforward plan for the next couple of years), because I took some risks and tried different things, that I realized what I do not want enough times to realize what I do want to do.

So please don’t worry. You’re at a very good school and will eventually be employed. Maybe it won’t be five months before the internship is actually supposed to start, but that’s not how real life works anyway. Something will eventually come along, and if that something doesn’t work out, another something will. Don’t worry. Uncertainty can be a good thing. Teach yourself to embrace it.

Naz Ozbek graduated from Penn in 2014 with a BA in Sociology from the College of Arts & Sciences and a BS in Economics, Concentrating in Marketing, from Wharton.