#TGW: Fair Game

Dec. 8, 2014

By Jon Cooper The Good Word

It’s not breaking news telling people that the best and the brightest come to Georgia Tech.

Just ask the coaches in any of the 15 sports teams that Tech fields.

Or ask representatives from the top national and local businesses. Twelve such representatives visited the Athletic Association last Tuesday to see for themselves as part of the third annual Georgia Tech Student-Athlete Career Fair.

“As part of our Total Person Program, the career piece of it is one of many pieces of it,” said Leah Thomas, Director, Total Person Support Services. “We get a lot of companies that reach out to us that want to get a hold of our student-athletes. This is a really good solution to do that, to bring them in, make it a small intimate event and give our student-athletes some really good exposure and experience.”

“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel so we partner with the Institute’s Career Development Program, they call it C2D2,” said Assistant Athletic Director of Special Projects, Doug Allvine. “They have recommendations and then we look at the distribution of our degrees and it’s really broad. We have a business component, an engineering component; we have a computer-science component. We try to bring in different companies representing different areas within the business world.”

Among the businesses that came to campus were AT&T, international consulting firm Ernst & Young, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, transportation provider Norfolk Southern, IT/Telecom expert Bomgar, and human resources giant World 50.

The companies offered student-athletes a golden opportunity to meet one-on-one, network and get a head start on their future. That there were only 12 made the setting a little more intimate and personal.

“It’s a little bit of a smaller setting for student-athletes to get to know the companies a little better than just the kind of like the speed-dating of the Georgia Tech Career Fairs,” said senior track/cross country runner and Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) President Morgan Jackson, who graduates next December and had Ernst & Young high on her list. “It is very convenient because it’s kind of like the final plug for anybody that needs to get an internship or even just practice. So we’re really appreciative for them to be here and really just for the experience. Even if we don’t have a major that they offer for internships it’s just good to talk to these people.”

“A lot of student-athletes don’t get the chance to go to the regular Career Fair so having all the companies here looking for student-athletes knowing that that we are is just a great opportunity,” agreed junior tennis player Megan Kurey, who graduates in May, 2016 and planned to talk to EY and AT&T amongst others. “I’m looking for an internship this summer and my concentration is operations and supply chain. So I’m looking for something in the business field but I’m open for anything.”

Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Francis Kallon, who graduates in December, 2015, found time to meet with several different companies, despite being in the midst of preparing for the ACC Championship Game. While the opportunity to knock off FSU was his short-term goal, the opportunity to meet people that might make his long-term goals reality was too good to pass up.

“It’s a privilege to be in this spot to speak to these people like we are today,” said Kallon, a media communications major, who talked with Norfolk Southern, the Atlanta Hawks, and Bomgar amongst others. “Today is very important to me because I have to prepare for what I’m going to do in the outside world. After football I have to make sure that I have a career.”

Several former Yellow Jackets student-athletes were in attendance, representing their companies and serving as examples of what the current Yellow Jackets student-athletes — Thomas said sophomores and juniors were required to attend but freshmen and seniors were encouraged to as well — can achieve.

Jeff Lentz and Jason Hill were teammates on the football team and even on the offensive line from 2006 through 2009 and Courtney Adler played volleyball, lettering in 1999-2000. All three relished the opportunity to come back and share their business world experiences and offered the advantage of being able to relate to what the student-athletes are going through.

“It’s a little ironic to have these conversations because I remember having them four years ago,” said Lentz, regional sales manager at Bomgar, where he has been for two years. “A lot of these student-athletes haven’t had these conversations with people before about jobs and internships. They don’t know what to ask. I think it kind of makes them a little bit more comfortable because they know they’re talking to a football player so they can kind of relate.”

“I think it puts them more at ease because it’s someone they can talk to,” said Hill, who will be at Norfolk Southern four years in January and currently is a transportation supervisor (aka train master). “It’s always a nerve-wracking experience when you’re talking to an interviewer or someone in human resources who can determine whether you get a job or not but when you talk to a former athlete who puts you at ease and just makes everything relaxing for you it’s an easier dialog. I think it’s a great experience for them. I see myself [in the student-athletes] but I see them with more opportunities than we had. I appreciate that they do have more opportunities than we had because we’ve paved the way.”

Adler believes that one of the most important things that current student-athletes can get from their predecessors is reassurance that they are much better prepared for their future than they might realize.

“I remember what it was like to be young and looking for a job,” said Adler, who recently was named partner at Ernst & Young and has been with them for 13 years, working both nationally and internationally. “I’ve had a few students come up to me and say, `I don’t have a lot of work experience,’ and I looked at them and said, `You DO have experience because what you are doing as a student-athlete is preparing you for a career. You need to start working on translating that and saying that the skill sets that I’m building and teamwork and working under pressure, those are going to translate easily into me being in a high-performing corporate environment.’

“I wish that I would have had more people tell me that when I was a student-athlete,” she added. “`It’s okay. It’s good that you’re here. Get more experience and be bold and put yourself out there and be willing to take on a challenge.’ That is what they’re already doing in athletics on a daily basis. I see myself and it’s just exciting to be back and give back.”

For more information about The Total Person Program, visit http://www.ramblinwreck.com/school-bio/geot-rice-total.html.

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