The Inside Track

Alumni Insight: An Unexpected Journey into Corporate America feat. Olivia Valcarce ’15



Olivia Valcarce graduated from Hamilton in 2015 with a degree in Sociology. She currently works as an Editorial Assistant with Scholastic, located out of New York City. \

I never thought that I would work in corporate America. What an intimidating phrase; it calls to mind stiff white offices, people scurrying around with coffees and lots of yelling. At least, that’s what it sounded like to me. New York, still the hub of the U.S. publishing scene, seemed like the corporate city to match, complete with all of that coffee and yelling. By the time I entered college, publishing, as a career path, had only occurred to me in an abstract way. I was a girl who loved books, and I knew someone made them, presumably in big glass offices in the middle of New York. I didn’t particularly think I would be one of those people.

Hamilton is what changed my mind—specifically, one person at Hamilton, who had a conversation with me when she saw the nerdiest of book-related posters in my freshman year Major dorm room. That conversation became a coaxing to email someone, to intern, and to try, just for a summer.

And that internship led to my current job at Scholastic Inc. where I make books for kids.

Publishing is a little bit corporate, and New York is a little bit crowded. Overall, there is less yelling than expected. Exactly as much coffee. I couldn’t know what to expect from the industry or the city without spending time here. Children’s publishing is its own little niche, a community I am slowly becoming more a part of, from editor-agent mixers (look into literary agencies, really) to book release parties to the gossip bandied about in the hallways. “Networking” became less scary when I began to meet the real people that word is code for; I can always depend on those people to love books as much as I do. Children’s publishing is deeply a community of stories and of people. Though held up by corporate structures, the real work of my office occurs in communication and relationships. Perhaps this is true of any corporation; I find it especially apparent when I am surrounded by gem-bright children’s books and the people who like to write and nurture them. The corporate ladder still intimidates me, but at least I can see where it goes, and I know the people who are on it with me.

As always, when I consider publishing I find myself also reflecting on New York City. The industry is all tangled up with the asphalt and steel and glass and history here. The city isn’t quite what I expected either. I know New York has a mystique that attracts lots of people from afar. Maybe you’re one of those people; I wasn’t. I had to learn that visiting the busiest sites as a tourist is so utterly different from living here day-to-day (honestly, locals avoid Times Square at all costs). There really is always something to do, but it’s alright to stay in anyway. The subway is pretty much always crowded, but there’s a sort of peace to be found moving in parallel with so many strangers. I’ve found that the beauty in a place so big is that, even if you have to put some work into the carving, there’s a little spot for everyone.

I suppose this is a long winded way of saying: Intern if you can. Don’t rule anything out. Apply for summer internship scholarship money. Let a job surprise you. Let its locale work its unique magic. Maybe, like me, you’ll find yourself saying, I don’t dislike it the way I expected to. Maybe you’ll say, I could love it here someday. I think I’ll try.


Alumni Insight: How an extracurricular led to a meaningful career path feat. Cailin Chang ‘13


Cailin Chang graduated from Hamilton College in 2013 with a degree in Chinese and minor in Communications.

Life after Hamilton may seem either too far away or frightening, depending on how far along you are. But as someone who is on the other side and currently in a role that has nothing to do with her major (or minor!), here are a couple of facts you should keep in mind:

Your major might not have anything to do with your career and that’s OK.

Back in my junior year at Hamilton, I was the first Member-at-Large within the Campus Activities Board (CAB). When I got the position, I made sure to learn the ins and outs of the board, eventually becoming a Co-Chair by senior year. Within two years I had learned how the biggest events on campus came to be, from brainstorming to execution to breakdown. I developed skills and gained experience by working on almost every event. When CAB managed to bring Macklemore at his peak popularity for Class & Charter Day, I knew that I wanted to work in the events industry and experience that same adrenaline whenever I could within my career.

When I was interviewing for my first job out of college, I always brought up my experiences in CAB. While it may only seem like a non-paying campus activity on paper, it was so much more than that. CAB represented the willingness to be a team player, a strong work ethic, and reliability — all qualities that most jobs are looking for in their candidates. I was able to provide anecdotes from my experience within CAB and relate how the skills I learned would help me succeed in the role that I was interviewing for.

Eventually I landed at my current job, where I work in events within a finance company. If you were wondering, I majored in Chinese and minored in Communications, further proving the point that you don’t need to find a career related to your major to succeed.

Your campus jobs, however, may actually be helpful in your job search.

I loved working on campus because there were so many jobs that Hamilton had to offer. At one point, I was balancing three jobs: tour guide, IT consultant, and peer advisor at the Career Center. These three jobs definitely helped me find my footing in job interviews and in my positions. Giving tours on campus allowed me to work and polish up on my public speaking skills. I always had to be and think on my feet whenever I received questions about the college. Working as an IT consultant gave me exposure to the Adobe Suite, for which I am eternally grateful for, considering how important programs like Photoshop and Illustrator are now. And of course, working at the Career Center definitely helped me improve my resumes and cover letters. Eventually I learned how to network successfully and how to present myself during interviews, which only helped boost my confidence in my job search.

When I accepted these jobs on campus, I didn’t think about how they would affect me in my post-grad life. However, perhaps this is something you can be aware of when applying for jobs on campus. In addition to thinking about what you can provide for your campus job, think about what your campus job can do for you.

Quitting is not failing.

If you are not a good fit for your first job out of college, it’s okay. The times are different, and no one stays within his or her first job for more than 10 years anymore. However, most people who change jobs already have another job lined up when they quit. I did not, but I still survived.

Quitting my first job without a backup plan is probably still the craziest thing I have ever done, but looking back now, I still have no regrets. I learned a lot about myself during my unemployment, which fortunately gave me the confidence I needed in my job interviews, when I had to explain why I quit my first job without a second one lined up.

I quit because I realized that I was not a good fit for my role. It was unfair to the team and myself to keep working when it was clear that I was no longer passionate in my role. I tried several different tactics to make it work, but in the end, quitting was the best decision for everyone.

I do not, though, recommend ever quitting a job without a second one lined up unless you are financially stable and mentally prepared to be unemployed for a while. Being unemployed can take a toll on your mental health, so it is important to surround yourself with hardworking friends and be willing to accept rejections or no responses from job interviews.

As hard as going through unemployment was, I still don’t consider it failing because my determination to find another job doubled once I accepted it. Within a week of updating my LinkedIn status to an enthusiastic job seeker who was interested in working within the events team of any industry, my inbox piled up with job interview requests! I accepted the job offer at my current company and the rest is history.

Work-life balance is real thing! Once you find it, take advantage of it.

While I was unemployed, I promised myself that once I found a new job, I would pursue acting on the side. I had completely forgotten about it during my first job, and I didn’t want that to happen again. Sure enough, once I hit my first year at my current job, I joined a community theater. In one production, I was the stage manager, assistant director, and an understudy, all while still working my 9-5 job! Since rehearsals were on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 7:30-10:30PM, I made it work. That season was the busiest that I had ever been, but theatre is something I am passionate about and it didn’t hurt that it gave me an opportunity to leave my work on time.

It’s hard to remember when you begin working, but you are allowed to have a life outside of your job. Taking care of yourself is extremely important, so don’t deprive yourself of fun activities for a project that can wait until Monday. Do something on the side that you are passionate about, and who knows, maybe that side project may lead you to your next job!

Alumni Insight: Embracing a Career in the Pharmaceutical Industry feat. Meghan Hover Szczech ’06

1592f8eMeghan Hover Szczech graduated from Hamilton in 2006 with a degree in Economics and Spanish. She has worked for four different pharmaceutical companies in the 11 years since graduating Hamilton. She graduated with an MBA from Rider University in 2009.


I vividly remember my Freshman Orientation at Hamilton and visiting the professors at the Welcome Tents with my parents. One conversation that particularly sticks out was my conversation with Professor Jeremy Medina (Spanish). During this conversation, I shared with him my plan to major in Spanish and Economics and then go to law school to become a sports agent. His advice was “explore different things; you may change your mind”. At that point of time, I was adamant that I wouldn’t. I interned with two minor league baseball teams after freshman and sophomore year, researched my dream job, visited the Career Center, and found various Hamilton alumni who were happy to speak with me about their careers as sports agents.


As I entered my junior year, my parents suggested I work with contracts to see if I enjoyed contracting as that is a huge part of law school and being a sports agent. The path I chose to explore this through was actually at a pharmaceutical company. While I was there, I learned about what they did, talked to a lot of people about their career goals and their career paths, and had the opportunity to speak with a variety of attorneys within the company and outside of the company. The consistent thing I heard was to be really sure you wanted to go to law school since it’s a lot of time and money/student loans to decide after three years of law school or a few years into working that you don’t like it.


I still elected to take the LSATs and apply to law school during my senior year and was accepted into a law school program. However, when it came time to return the acceptance and send my deposit, there was something holding me back. The company I had interned with had a college hire program that would allow me to see what working full-time in the Pharma world would be like. My law school acceptance deferred, I started working for a big pharmaceutical company a few weeks after graduating Hamilton.


The working world was a lot like my experience at Hamilton; you could be as involved as you wanted to be, which I loved!  Being busy is something I like, so I volunteered for every group I could and took every opportunity to learn. Within my own department, I helped make process improvements, learned new systems, and brought energy only a 22 year old can bring to a group who had been there a long time. The first year came and went quickly and I was hooked. In the next four years, I was promoted twice and learned about different groups where I could expand my knowledge and skillset about pharmaceutical contracting.


Although I never pursued my law degree, continuing my education was still important to me. I was fortunate that my company was supportive of a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) and helped me pay for it. After a year out of Hamilton, I started my MBA classes at night time and I was able to complete my Masters in two years. I will admit that I really focused on school those two years, but I was completely able to handle a full-time job and the education. Hamilton really had taught me how to be efficient and adaptable and many of the concepts that we had reviewed in the classes at Hamilton seemed familiar to me.


I had been at the company five years when I got a message on LinkedIn from a recruiter. I was happy where I was, I wasn’t looking to change, and quite frankly, I was in a comfortable, safe spot. But, I figured I’d at least listen to what she had to say. There was a start-up biotech company who was looking for a Senior Analyst with my skillset. There was a lot of risk in it, but after much deliberation, I took the risk. I’m not a risk taker so it was very scary, but if there was ever time in my life to do this, it was now. Well that decision is easily the best decision of my career. Within my new role, I was able to still manage what I had known, but learn about the distribution and reporting of pharmaceutical products and also patient assistance programs. Did I know anything about either of these things? Not a thing, but I was willing to listen, learn, and work hard. This startup was a great spot to be exposed to so many parts of the pharmaceutical world and from a career standpoint, I was also able to be promoted twice more in two and a half years.


One thing I can share about the pharmaceutical industry is there can be some instability with the startups, but it is also the best way to get lots of different experiences if you are willing to work hard. The startup I was working for was going to be sold and for me, it was the right time to start thinking about other options due to my long commute and my upcoming wedding. Again, the LinkedIn message I got from a recruiter had perfect timing. There was a mid-size pharmaceutical company located 10 minutes from my house looking for someone of my position.


Company number three allowed me to learn how to set up nursing support programs and learn the buy and bill space of injectable pharmaceutical products. I was there almost a year when I received a phone call from my boss from the start-up. He told me that he had the perfect job for me at a company that was a small-to mid-sized company ready to experience huge growth potential. You will quickly learn once you get a boss that you trust, he/she will be your boss forever and you will always accept their guidance for your career development.


In May 2014, I started my job at my current company. It has been a great fit for me since I can lead my own department, including day to day operations and strategy for future enhancements. My group is responsible for helping patients understand their insurance coverage for our products, get help paying for their medications and apply for free products. I’m fortunate that what I do does have an impact on people who need medicines to help them with their diseases. When you get a letter from a patient, caregiver, or even physician thanking you for how you’ve helped, it is one of the nicest things you can hear and you realize we really do have an impact on people’s lives.


Looking back now to my freshman orientation, I still remember my conversation with Professor Medina, and he was right. I’m glad I kept my mind open to learning new things, talked to people, and was flexible with my master plan before executing it. I am so grateful that I wound up in my job and have a career that I can truly make a difference to a patient’s life.


The four things I would encourage everyone to do at Hamilton and their careers when they graduate:

  1. Say yes (even if you’ve never done something before)
  2. Keep Learning
  3. Take Risks (good risks that will push yourself outside of your comfort zone)
  4. Ask Questions (ask Hamilton Alums, family friends, friends, etc. to talk about their careers and what they like and don’t like).  

By doing these four things, you can easily guide yourself to the right industry or job for you.

Alumni Insight: Investment Management Consulting at a glance fet. Conor Collins ‘14

Conor Collins graduated from Hamilton in 2014 with a degree in Economics and minors in collins3Hispanic Studies and Biology. He currently works as an Investment Management Consultant at FactSet.

FactSet provides market data and portfolio analytics to financial professionals. As a consultant, it is your job to make sure that our clients are



getting the most out of the product.  Since FactSet is used across all verticals of financial services, you will be assigned to focus on either the buy-side (portfolio managers, wealth managers, etc.) or the sell-side (Investment banking analysts/associates, traders, etc.), and this will determine your specific book of clients. Through on-site trainings, web demos, and phone support, you become their go-to resource for all of their FactSet-related projects.

What I have enjoyed most about the role is the relationships that you form with your clients.  I have been visiting the same clients for over 2 years now, and have developed a deep understanding of each of their unique roles/workflows.  They trust me to help them analyze their portfolios and run company analysis, and it is satisfying to know I’m having a meaningful impact on their day-to-day responsibilities.

Alumni Insight: A teacher’s experience at the New England Center for Children feat. Marla Marquez ‘14

Marla Marquez ‘14 is currently studying for her MCAT. She recently was a Technical Research Assistant at Brigham Health in Boston. Additionally, she was a summer


 2012 intern and Level II Teacher from July 2014-August 2015 at the New England Center for Children (NECC).

As a 2014 Hamilton graduate, I began my journey in the “real world” as a Level I Teacher at the New England Center for Children (NECC). I had interned at NECC during the summer of 2012 and had thoroughly enjoyed my experience during the 10-week internship. As a Level II Teacher, I was placed in the Intensive Instructive Program (IIP) where students attend NECC weekdays from 9AM-3PM and work one-on-one with teachers. I was assigned to a classroom with six (one female and five males) 13 to 14-year-old students, and given a Case Manager position. A Case Manager is assigned a student whose case he/she is entirely in charge of; responsibilities include writing and implementing the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) and conducting behavior assessments to device scientifically-derived interventions for challenging/limiting behaviors. The age range I worked with was transitioning into vocational jobs, so responsibilities extended to finding opportunities for the student to trial and strengthen his/her vocational skills.

The students in my classroom had a wide variety of skills he/she worked on throughout my time at NECC. A few of my students went to an academic classroom that imitates a regular public school classroom setting to promote academic dependence. All the students had a variety of vocational jobs that varied depending on personal preference and skill (e.g. data input, recycling, preparing meals, etc.). My students also participated in the science fair, field day, field trips to museums/restaurants, and went out into the community weekly to work on tasks, such as purchasing items from a shopping list using a credit card. During my time at NECC, I took graduate classes and audited a thesis seminar taught by Western New England Professor, Chata A. Dickson, Ph. D, BCBA-D. I read up on all the latest research and collaborated with specialists and researchers in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to provide my students with the skill development and upmost independence possible to live productive and happy lives.

My time at NECC as a Level II Teacher was unlike any other experience I have had in my life. Children with autism exhibit impaired reciprocal social interactions, communication deficits, repetitive behavior, and often engage in a variety of challenging behaviors (e.g. self-injurious behavior, aggression, property destruction, screaming, etc.). My students had multitude hurdles to overcome every day, some greater than others, but I approached each student in an individual manner. To provide students with the academic skills to reach his/her highest potential, we used customized lesson plans and emphasized incidental learning in each curriculum. We used ABA to identify what motivates our students and thus implemented programs best suited for each child. I learned the importance of not only empirical data, but also an appreciation and compassion for the children. One of the biggest challenges children with autism and their families face is social stigmas and rejection. My students came in every day and were expected to adapt to the curriculum we created and act in accordance to societal norms. Although every day was not always an easy day for either the teachers or the students, both worked with one another and I personally, enjoyed every minute with the kids. My students opened themselves up to me in the most enlightening of ways: from a quick smile from a student who I thought did not notice my presence to a child sharing his most preferred toy with me. It was a tremendous honor to have worked with my kids and a remarkable entry to the “real world.”

Alumni Insight: Finding One’s Niche within Publishing feat. Alexandra Nasto ’13

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 1.16.31 PMAlexandra Nasto graduated from Hamilton in 2013 with a degree in Russian Studies and a minor in Studio Art. She is a Special Sales manager at Sterling Publishing in New York City, and when she isn’t traveling on business, she’s covering local events as co-founder of @queensofqueensny on Instagram.


Since Hamilton is one of the premier writing colleges in the country, I’m often asked for advice from students who want to enter the publishing industry. The overwhelming interest seems to be in writing and editorial positions, but I landed in a pretty unique role within the Special Sales department at Sterling. The most rewarding part of Special Sales is that we’re finding non-traditional ways to get books out there to consumers, which is increasingly important in our digital age.


My love of writing was the reason I chose to pursue a career in publishing, but my path was pretty unconventional. I studied Russian and Art at Hamilton, and I spent my senior spring with the Hamilton in NYC program interning in the Russian Art Department at Christie’s. I enjoyed my work in museums but decided I wanted to explore other opportunities in the art world, and although I loved working with Fabergé and other Russian works of art, I realized I was just as passionate about writing about them. I secured a post-grad internship at Art in America magazine in SoHo, and right away I knew I wanted to pursue opportunities in publishing.


Publishing sales departments are split between Trade Sales (book chains Barnes & Noble, book distributors like Baker & Taylor, indie book stores) and Special Sales (pretty much every other non-book channel). I began my career working with our national retail channel in Special Sales with accounts like Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel, stores that carry books but are not traditional bookstores, and I’ve since taken on managing several other channels, including our entire Online, Mail Order and Premium & Custom Publishing business. I also cover our Export market in Asia and travel to international trade shows. My day-to-day is so varied that I’ll go from planning themed flash sales with Zulily, to pitching key authors to QVC, to pricing out a custom edition for exclusive distribution in India. Custom publishing is my favorite part, since it involves so much creativity. I’ve partnered with brands on custom books to use as gifts-with-purchase or free e-book downloads, and I get to work closely with editorial and production to create these editions – something you wouldn’t necessarily think of as a sales role!


A liberal arts education is a gift because it allows you to explore a variety of interests, but can feel overwhelming if you’re nearing senior year without knowing exactly what you want to do next. My advice, if you know you’re interested in publishing, is to learn as much as you can about the publishing process and try out internships in different departments. As a creative person, I didn’t realize I’d find the business side of publishing to be so fulfilling, yet the creative background I cultivated at Hamilton has proven to be my greatest strength in this field.

Student Insight: Why Knowing Yourself will turn you into an oracle (sort of) featuring Nico Yardas ’18

Nico Yardas ’18 is a World Politics major and a Discovery Team Member at the Career Center. Nico shares his insight about his path to “knowing thyself”.

γνῶθι σεαυτόν is the motto of our school, but it was also one of the maxims inscribed upon NicoYardasthe forecourt of the Oracle of Delphi and translates roughly to “Know Thyself.” It is fitting that such a phrase should be associated with the future vis-à-vis the Oracle, and even today – when we no longer consult the drug-induced ramblings of a priestess when we have an important decision to make – that advice rings true. Knowing your interests, your abilities, your morals, your work habits, your best and worst attributes, the list could go on and on, is the critical foundation of internal stability and fundamental to taking full advantage of the opportunities available to you.

A brief example from my own experience is how I came to major in Classics. I came to Hamilton intending to double major in World Politics and French in order to join the Foreign Service, but I found myself unsatisfied with my French class first semester of Freshman year. So I enrolled in Intro to Ancient Greek, having previously tried to teach myself the language in high school, to explore an area of history that has always fascinated me. I loved the course, and toyed with the idea of pursuing a French and Classics double minor in order to go abroad my Junior spring. Yet I decided to drop French second semester of Sophomore year, abandoning the idea of going abroad; I had traveled a lot previously and decided that focusing on my studies would be of greater benefit to me.

Halfway through the second semester of my Junior year, I am happy to report that I made the right decision. The hunch I had as a Freshman to pursue something that had always interested me has evolved into a passion for the Classics and set me on a completely different path than the one I had assumed I would follow. I do not know where I will end up, but I am happier for it as I am engaged in studies that I am actually invested in, and looking to expand my experiences with an internship related to the intersections of my two majors. I would not be where I am now had I kept with my plan from Freshman year, but I took the time reevaluate the assumptions I had made about myself, and found them wanting. That is one the most important thing about knowing yourself, the ability to reevaluate what you thought you knew about yourself – the things you assumed would be a good fit for you and it turns out you were wrong – and come to a revised conclusion.

Contact the Career Center or participate in one of our Know Thyself programs designed to help you Find Your Future. 

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