The Graham School Professional Development Certificates hosted an Open House on the sixth floor of the University of Chicago Gleacher Center on August 12, bringing together prospective and current students, instructors, and alumni to share experiences and discuss the upcoming academic year’s course offerings and events. In addition to the excellent networking opportunity offered by the lively setting, with stunning views of the Chicago River and tables amply stocked with summer refreshments and food, the afternoon included a talk by Jordan Basile, a PDP alumna and 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 Honoree, whose presentation focused on the role community has played in her career and to her present position at Google as a Product Marketing Manager.
“Every successful person I know can name at least one person who helped them get to where they are today,” Jordan said. “What’s tricky, of course, is that you can’t just walk up to someone and ask them for their help. In my experience, the most natural way to discover that person is to cultivate relationships and engage communities like the one here this afternoon.”
Describing the disruptions she faced early in her career resulting from the recession, Jordan went on to relate how, after graduating from college in 2008, she lost her first job in the wake of the Tribune bankruptcy. After a period of what she called “relentless networking,” Jordan was able to land back on her feet in an analyst role at Starcom, a media-buying agency, which she described as a wonderful experience.
“I managed search for some of the world’s largest companies and learned a tremendous amount,” she said. “And yet after a while I could feel my learning start to plateau and I began to feel a little boxed in. I tried to take on various leadership roles, but my experience was still too specialized to break through. Fortunately, that’s when a teammate told me about the Professional Development Programs at the Graham School.”
As a student in the Marketing certificate, Jordan learned about analytics, social media, and mobile, while also getting an opportunity to flex her right brain by learning about branding. The broad set of skills she acquired was instrumental, she said, in paving her way to take on more senior roles, both immediately and after leaving the program.
“But what was most helpful,” she added, “was finding a community of people with similar goals in life. That’s what really set the stage for the progress I’ve made in my career since my time at the Graham School. Not only am I still in touch with my classmates, one of whom I brought onto my team two years ago at Google’s headquarters, but both my analytics and mobile instructors have been pivotal to guiding my career onto the path it’s on now.”
Concluding her presentation, Jordan placed special emphasis on the importance of being a team player when it comes to building and being a part of successful communities. If someone pays it forward for you, she said, you have to extend olive branches yourself by figuring out ways you can help others.
“To those of you still early in your career,” she said, offering her final words of advice, “push yourself to network and find a community and listen to how you can help achieve a common goal with those people. And if you’ve already had a big break or two, make sure to pay it forward by taking an active role in building those communities.”
In brief comments following Jordan’s, Mary Morley Cohen, Associate Dean of the Graham School’s Professional Programs, urged everyone present, to engage in a networking exercise, and speak with three people they didn’t know prior to coming to the Open House.
“Mary’s suggestion was a great way to give everyone present a sense for what Jordan so effectively captured about her PDP experience,” said Karine Bravais, Associate Director of Professional Development Programs at the Graham School. “We have fantastic instructors imparting the most up-to-date knowledge and skillsets, but the opportunity to expand your community is also a critical asset our students leave with. As Jordan described in her presentation, sharing your experience with people from different backgrounds and areas of expertise, as you tackle problems in the classroom or come together with common goals outside, can be an unparalleled way to grow professionally and personally.”