A panel of nine Purdue alumni told their career stories and shared advice on postgraduate life for Purdue's Old Masters event Monday night.
The panel hosted alumni from different career fields, from cartoonist Mark O’Hare to president and CEO of Consumers Energy Patti Poppe. All alumni attributed part of their career successes to their experiences at Purdue.
Many alumni now hold job positions not associated with their initial college majors. O’Hare originally studied aeronautical engineering but now is in animation at Illumination Entertainment and is working on the third Spongebob Squarepants movie. He dabbled in comic art when he worked at The Exponent for part of his college years.
“It was scary to jump out of that skin and do something else,” O’Hare said. “But it was putting myself out there and trying something entirely new and just jumping into the deep end that really paid off.”
Similarly, Leslie Bottorff, the senior managing director of healthcare investments at GE Ventures, majored in industrial engineering. Through studying engineering, she said she gained fundamental problem-solving skills.
“I can honestly say that I leverage that skill and that capability every single day,” Bottorff said.
Jessica Salinas, a senior in the College of Engineering, said she found the alumni who shared experiences in switching career paths reassuring.
“They didn’t always go into what they thought they were going to do for the rest of their lives, or it all ended up changing and so that was really comforting for me, especially knowing next year I’ll be not in school, not doing things that I’ve been doing for the past four years,” Salinas said.
President of Holland America Line, Orlando Ashford, also said his ability to problem-solve, a skill he learned at Purdue, helped him in his career.
Many alumni said the “soft skills” they obtained in their education are applicable in their everyday jobs. Leslie Holland-Bartels, former Alaska Regional Director of the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage, said she took mainly science courses during college and wished she had taken more courses on social science and people management.
“It’s not all about science,” she said. “It’s about people.”
Cecilia Vigren, a freshman in the College of Health and Human Sciences, said she enjoyed hearing alumni speak about their connection with Purdue.
“I liked hearing how Purdue ... gave them the basis for what made them successful,” Vigren said.
Though the alumni ended up in many different fields, they seemed to apply knowledge gained at Purdue to various aspects of their lives.
“This is a tremendous place,” Orlando said. “Being a Boilermaker is an aspect that follows you all around the world.”