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Watson Executive-in-Residence Program Alumni Panel

Oct 28, 2019

Watson Executive-in-Residence Program Alumni Panel

Credit: Michelle Glitzer. Past Watson scholars gave advice on entering the workplace as part of the Watson Executive-in-Residence program. From left: Francis Arnold ’16, Jessica Rotondo ’17, Nico Sferra ’17 and Steven Wodock ’07).

By Michelle Glitzer ’20, marketing and communications intern

Each semester, the Watson Executive-in-Residence program brings an executive to Delaware Valley University for a presentation about his or her career. So far, 26 executives have visited DelVal as part of this program, sponsored by Dr. Thomas Watson ’57. Rather than an executive lecture, this semester provided students with the opportunity to listen to alumni discuss their career paths since graduating from DelVal.

The alumni panel included four past recipients of the Watson scholarship.  A business student is chosen every semester to receive a scholarship and introduce that semester’s executive to the school. More than $120,000 in scholarships has been provided through Dr. Watson’s program. This semester’s scholarship recipient was Mario Nigro ’19 (Dec.).

Dr. Watson wanted the tagline of this semester’s presentation to be “Come and see what your future looks like.” The goal of the alumni panel was to talk openly about the transition from DelVal to a career.  Lawrence Stelmach, an associate professor and co-chair in the Department of Business and Information Management, asked the alumni panel questions about their first jobs, internships and mentors.

Panel members included:

  • Francis Arnold ’16, Chief of Staff at Vanguard
  • Jessica Rotondo ’17, student at The University of Baltimore School of Law
  • Nico Sferra ’17, analyst for strategic accounts at AmerisourceBergen
  • Steven Wodock ’07, Chief Financial Officer at Fox Group

All of the alumni spoke of mentors they found in professors and other connections through DelVal. They encouraged students to meet with professors outside of class because they are able to provide long-term support.

The panel members found their first jobs in different ways. Arnold landed his first position with Vanguard through one of DelVal’s job fairs. Rotondo, although currently in law school, received a position at a law firm because of a summer law program, an opportunity presented to her through a fellow student.

 “Don’t discount your classmates,” said Rotondo of the peer connections formed in and out of classes.

Sferra obtained his job by networking with past teachers and community members.

Wodock did cold-calling to try to find a job, which was a difficult process.

“Every position has come from a warm introduction,” Wodock explained.

A student in the audience asked the panel about the process of switching jobs without burning bridges. Arnold’s advice was to remain direct and open in all conversations. He has switched roles within his current company and explained the importance of “playing offense” and being intentional about the moves you want to make in your career. Wodock reassured students that switching jobs is not a bad thing; there is a level of respect for people who recognize that the company culture is not a good fit.

When discussing teamwork, Wodock stressed the importance of valuing others in a company.  

“The moment you think you’re the smartest person in the room is the moment you’ve lost,” said Wodock.

Sferra told the audience what he has learned about expectations during his career.

“You have to live up to what you said you could do,” said Sferra.

He encouraged students to start practicing for their careers now.

“Ask questions, work ahead, and learn how to work well with others,” said Sferra.  

An important part of his career has been learning how to develop a niche for himself while also understanding the full scope of the business.

Students responded positively to the new presentation structure. Jake Ryan ’20, a business administration major who is specializing in sports management, found the panel to be relatable and helpful.

“I thought the Watson presentation was very informative,” said Ryan. “It gave students some insight on what to do before graduation and shortly thereafter when looking for a job.”