Eduardo Da Costa epitomizes student leadership at Heavener. He’s a dedicated leader and member of the Business Administration College Council (President), Delta Sigma Pi (professional business fraternity), served on Heavener’s case competition team, and as a Career & Academic Peer Mentor—assisting fellow Heavener students acquire internships.

But when he enters Nielsen’s Watch Emerging Leaders Program in New York after graduation, he’ll be in unchartered waters. How can he continue to develop the leadership skills he’s acquired at Heavener?

“I’ve been thinking about that a lot because I’ll be moving to a place where I’ll be at the bottom of the ladder,” Da Costa said. “I’m worried I’m going to lose some of those skills I developed without an opportunity to put them into practice.”

A successful path to effective leadership was meticulously mapped out at the Heavener School. Students knew which classes to take, organizations to join and experiential learning programs to participate in to become leaders.

But what happens after they leave the Heavener School, and that path to leadership isn’t as clear?

Warrington alumni have successfully navigated that professional leadership path, and are here to provide valuable advice for Heavener leaders.

Finding her way

During her time at Heavener, Shruti Shah (BA ’15, BSBA ’15) was President of the Business Administration College Council, the umbrella group for Heavener’s 30-plus student organizations. It’s one of the School’s most prominent student leadership positions.

Shah still has the desire to lead, but the opportunities appeared few and far between when beginning a new career.

“I was leading groups of people, and now I’m at the bottom of the food chain,” said Shah, now a General Management Consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington D.C. “It was disheartening at first.”

Then, Shah took a deep breath, relaxed and made an important realization.

“For a long time, I thought that if I wasn’t in charge of a team, I wasn’t developing as a leader,” Shah said. “But that’s not the case.”

Advice from Shruti...
  • Share your aspirations and accomplishments: Shruti is assigned a career manager, and shares her successes, professional development activities and aspirations with her. By sharing these accomplishments and voicing her professional aspirations, Shruti has an advocate to promote her successes throughout the company.
  • Get involved: Booz Allen Hamilton encourages “functional communities” where employees discuss issues and strategies surrounding an industry-related topic. Seasoned consultants tend to be the group’s session leaders—a position Shruti aspires to attain. She makes it a point to attend these sessions, express her interest and expertise in these topics, and continue networking—behaviors that will enhance her stature in these groups.
  • Play to your strengths: Shruti’s current project has her on a communications team that is consulting for the U.S. government. Thanks to Shruti’s finance background, she is most equipped to deal with data analysis, allowing her to be an authority within her team.
  • Develop outside of the company: Traditional leadership opportunities can be limited for entry-level professionals at large companies. Shruti recommends seeking out those opportunities in other settings like nonprofit, professional or industry organizations.
  • Be patient: Heavener students weren’t organization leaders as freshmen so don’t expect to be a company leader in your first year. Master your job duties, continue networking, and keep your eyes open for leadership opportunities.

It takes more than hard work

Marc McGrady (BSBA ’07) made the impressive climb from Intern to Vice President in six years at Citigroup. Now, as a manager, he has a pretty good idea which young analysts will follow his lead.

“We’ll hire the great student with the 4.0 GPA, who does good work, and then goes home,” said McGrady, 31. “It’s not enough. You have to get to know the company and the managers. It puts you on a much more successful track.”

McGrady, a Vice President in Citigroup’s Global Market’s Airport and Aviation Group in New York, understands that some may mistake networking for being a brownnoser. But to differentiate yourself in a global company with more than 200,000 employees, creating meaningful personal relationships are essential.

Advice from Marc...
  • Improve time management skills: Investment banking professionals deal with 80- to 90-hour work weeks and significant pressure. Still, Marc said one of the major problems he witnesses are employees not making time for professional development. “You can never lose sight of developing your leadership skills. You have to budget time to go to that lunch session and reach out to people.”
  • Find mentors at various levels: Don’t settle for finding a mentor who has your ultimate career position. Foster relationships with professionals at multiple stages of your career path, and gain their perspectives.
  • Keep it simple: Networking with senior management doesn’t require a complicated scheme. “Knock on their door and say ‘hello.’ Let them know that you’re engaged. If you do that, you’ll be one of the first people that come to mind when an opportunity presents itself.”
  • Keep relationships outside your firm: Marc, one of the founders of the College’s Student Finance Group, has developed a network of vice presidents from other investment banks, and meets with them every month or so. Because they’re in competition they don’t share certain information, but they do discuss broad issues that affect their industry.
  • Raise your hand: Don’t be afraid to pursue an opportunity—even if it’s out of your comfort zone. By challenging yourself, you’ll send a clear message to management that you’re hungry and willing to work hard.

Picking his spots

Some equate brashness and volume with leadership.

Not Joel Lewis.

“Strong leadership isn’t necessarily the noisy, loud kind of leadership we’re used to,” Lewis said. “You can take the initiative to make things better in any role.”

Lewis (BSBA ’09) skillfully ascended up the ranks at Merrill Edge—Assistant Vice President in two years and Vice President in five years—utilizing just that approach. By mastering his daily duties and carefully choosing projects, he caught the attention of senior management.

Lewis, now a Vice President of Client Acquisition & Segmentation at Morgan Stanley in New York, endorses a focused strategy for new hires to exhibit and develop their leadership skills.

Advice from Joel...
  • Find solutions to interesting problems: A constant difficulty at Joel’s previous job was taking too long to process client paperwork. Joel asked one of the firm’s directors if he could look into the problem, and eventually developed a solution that was widely adopted. “I think that was a big part of making Vice President so early. It improved the level of trust managers had in me. It was a huge visibility win.”
  • Treat colleagues with respect...they could be your boss one day: Joel advocates developing relationships with all co-workers, no matter their standing or job title. “Peers become managers and managers become peers,” Joel said. “Treat everyone with a genuine interest and respect.”
  • Exhibit professionalism: Approach every assignment with professionalism—no matter its simplicity or importance. “Every task you get, big or small, is an opportunity to prove what you can do.”
  • Add a level of polish to your work: After Joel made a presentation for two managing directors at Morgan Stanley, one of them complimented Joel on the quality of his work. That managing director routinely enlists Joel’s help for his own presentations. “Everything you touch has your brand attached to it. You never know who will look at it.”
  • Pace yourself: Says Joel: “Don’t worry about rushing in and proving how smart and capable you are on Day 1. Really take time to learn and understand everything about the business.”