Four alumni from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business shared their executive experiences with students as part of Executive Insights held April 13 at the Nebraska Union. The event is an ongoing series initiated by the School of Accountancy and Department of Finance, intended to engage all University students with executives through panel discussions and networking sessions.
Featured executives included Andrea Gronenthal ’91, ’92, partner and tax performance advisory with Ernst & Young, Tom Henning ’75, chairman, president and CEO with Assurity Life Insurance Company and president and chief executive officer of Assurity Group Inc., Michael Johnson ’81, associate director with Accenture and Jane Miller ’84, chief operating officer and executive vice president with The Gallup Organization. Interim Dean Kathy Farrell facilitated the panel discussion.
“Find a job you believe in,” said Miller during the panel. “Once you believe in what you’re doing, it makes a significant difference in the excitement you feel every day when you wake up knowing you’re contributing to something greater than just yourself. You’ll be creating a greater good not just in your community, but in the world.”
Henning echoed Miller’s sentiment. He believes once students understand themselves, they will find their passions more easily.
“One of the most important things you can do is understand yourself and your strengths,” said Henning. “Focus on areas of strength. Understand your weaknesses but don’t try to fix them. It’s important to pair up with someone who will help you with your weaknesses through self-awareness. One of my objectives every year is to do more and more of what I’m good at, and less and less of what I’m not good at.”
Johnson explained his evolution in the information technology field happened gradually. He said the field a student chooses to major in is only a beginning.
“Make a list of all the things you like to do,” said Johnson. “Your degree gives you a background but it’s not always where you ultimately want to go. I found a passion in information technology. If you asked me when I came out of college could I have gotten into any of my jobs I would have told you ‘no,’ but through that passion I’ve ended up getting everything I ever wanted from it.”
The executives stated how internships are a key component to finding a passion. Gronenthal emphasized it is important to be more than a piece of paper to potential employers.
“An internship is a channel to explore companies and narrow the field,” said Gronenthal. “It helps students match themselves better with where they want to work. When you go to an internship you need to have all those baseline things such as a résumé, but also go in with the idea of showing off your personality. It’s important because that can be a differentiator both in terms of how you will fit in a company and why you want the job. Your personality can show your passion to the people making the hire.”
More than 150 people attended the event, including more than 100 business students. After the panel, a networking session helped students build their professional network by talking directly to panel members, College of Business faculty and other professionals in attendance.