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GEMS program takes students to SpaceX, NFL, URW

GEMS program takes students to SpaceX, NFL, URW

The program provides gifted and highly motivated business students with the resources to harness their leadership potential and assist them in creating a uniquely purposeful and authentic career.

10.09.23
GEMS program takes students to SpaceX, NFL, URW
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MARSHALL MONTHLY BRINGS YOU ESSENTIAL NEWS AND EVENTS FROM FACULTY, STUDENTS, AND ALUMNI.

Guiding Exceptional Minds to Success (GEMS) is a highly selective early career development program that offers exceptional Marshall and Leventhal students in accounting, finance, and business, firsthand exposure and networking with professionals in leading industries, customized mentoring and unparalleled professional presence, and leadership training

“I created GEMS because I think a lot of learning obviously happens in class, but a lot of it also happens outside the classroom,” said Assistant Professor of Clinical Accounting MICHAEL PARANAL MBT ’06, who is director of advisory in the United States for Unibail-RodamcoWestfield (URW).

“The goal is to help propel our students toward meaningful and impactful future careers.”

The first cohort visited firms such as URW, SpaceX, and the NFL and SoFi Stadium, meeting with professionals from new associates all the way up to the C-suite, many of whom are Marshall and Leventhal alumni. Accounting majors Nikki Tran ’23 and Cole Engleman ’23 share their experiences with GEMS in our Q&As. The second cohort started fall 2022.

Nikki Tran ’23

What did you learn on your site visits?
The on-site visits offered us tremendous exposure to the deeper culture and environment of each company. We had firsthand exposure to experienced professionals who offered us insight into potential careers in various industries. With the culmination of on-site tours and speaker panels, we had exclusive opportunities to learn about each company through a holistic perspective and hear directly from the professionals about their experiences. We learned about topics such as work-life balance, imposter syndrome, how to secure an offer, and identity in the workplace. Most often, professionals will reiterate this notion that you don’t know if a career is right for you until you try it, but GEMS definitely offered us an opportunity to walk in the shoes of these professionals and get a real sense of what these careers would be like.

“The goal is to help propel our students toward meaningful and impactful future careers.”

— Michael Paranal

Assistant Professor of Clinical Accounting 

What was the highlight of the program for you?
The highlight of the program has definitely been Professor Paranal. He has never failed to show how much he cares about cultivating the next generation of leaders and professionals. His charisma, wisdom, and accomplishments have been the centerpiece of this entire program. Throughout the past year, I’ve gotten to know Professor Paranal more as a mentor and feel that he has so much to offer the broader Marshall/Leventhal community.

Did you have a mentor in the program?
I had an incredible mentor, Sonia Endler ’97, EVP of TV finance at MGM, who has been instrumental in my professional journey. Being able to learn from someone as accomplished as her was pivotal in my ability to develop myself as a professional and a leader. I learned a lot about navigating the entertainment industry as a woman, building confidence, marketing myself, embracing opportunities, work-life balance, and leadership. Her advice continues to resonate with me and helps guide my everyday decisions within my academic, social, and professional life.

How has the program helped shape your career goals?
Through GEMS, I had the opportunity to learn about various industries, ranging from commercial real estate to the entertainment industry. It helped me clarify my professional goals as well as solidify my confidence for pursuing a career within public accounting. I definitely had an opportunity to learn more about myself throughout this process and recognize how I could transform my passions into a career.

Cole Engleman ’23

What did you learn on your site visits?
Having the opportunity to speak with employees working in various industries offered me insight into the diverse and extensive nature of job opportunities at any company. For example, I was unaware that the position of vice president of planning and culture existed at the NFL, but our contact with the company, Alissa Lieppman ’04, shared with us her role and experience with the company. I realized after meeting her that nuanced, often overlooked positions create a wonderful work environment and boost productivity in a company.

What was the biggest takeaway?
My biggest takeaway was asking CFO Bret Johnsen ’91 and his panel of staff about their experience moving away from public accounting to their role at SpaceX. The opportunity to ask such an acclaimed staff questions was an extraordinary experience, and they left me with many useful insights. The staff and Bret informed me that many of them enjoyed their time in public accounting, but ultimately you must decide how you want your career to develop.

What was the highlight of the program for you?
All of the venues we visited were phenomenal, but the private tour of the NFL and SoFi Stadium felt surreal. Walking through broadcasting rooms, entering secret VIP lounges, standing at the podiums in the team press conference rooms, and learning about the construction of the stadium was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Did you have a mentor in the program?
My mentor was Sarah Lichtmann BS/MAcc ’10, a senior manager at the EY San Diego office. I went through the recruiting process for accounting last semester, which consisted of several applications, networking events, and interviews. Sarah was an excellent guide throughout the process, offering me advice on how to prepare my resume, stand out during my interviews, and leave a positive lasting impact on the companies offering me positions.

How has the program helped shape your career goals?
I have always had an interest in biotech and aerospace, and the visit with SpaceX affirmed my beliefs that these are industries where I would be passionate about my work. I held a position at a medical device manufacturing firm that produced coils to prevent strokes, and every day I loved going to work because my actions were contributing to the company’s success and aiding the lifesaving process. Although I was not directly designing the medical equipment or manufacturing products, I was on the same floor speaking with the engineers daily, in both professional and personal settings, and it was exciting for me to be in the environment. I realized through the SpaceX visit that during my internship with PwC I wish to continue working for clients in these industries and potentially transition to a role at a company in the field later in my career.