The Defectors, Series 3: Meet Corey, Ashlie, Mike, and Liz

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I feel like I keep reliving the Anger Phase of the SA Break up a lot due to my job. I’m privy to a lot of salary information in a lot of different fields due to being in staffing.

-Mike Conte, Staffing Professional and Proud Defector

In this week’s edition of Defectors in Conversation, you get the pleasure of time with Corey, Ashlie, Mike, and Liz.

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Corey Allen (CA) is a Campus Recruiter at Wayfair in Boston. He graduated with his Masters from Northeastern’s College Student and Development program in 2014. From 2014-2017, he worked in Residence Life at Northeastern University and the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Ashlie Baty Petz (AP) is a 2012 graduate of Florida State Higher Ed. Her background lies in Leadership Development from Florida State and Boise State. She formally left the field in 2015, and currently serves as a Program Manager at Micron Technology (Fortune 500 company in tech and semiconductors, aka computer chips).

Michael Conte (MC) is a Senior Staffing Manager at Professional Staffing Group in Boston. He spent almost a decade in Residence Life, from Grad Assistant to Associate Director, and worked heavily with Summer Conferences as well.

Liz Rader Haigler (LH) is currently an HR Operations and Human Resources Development Manager for Halliburton. She graduated from BGSU’s College Student Personnel program in 2013, and worked in the functional areas of New Student Orientation/Services, Admissions, Fraternity and Sorority Life, Campus Activities, Student Conduct, and Residence Life.

Get to know them and their wisdom this week in Defectors in Conversation!

Briefly, what got you curious about “breaching the bubble” of your former field/work?

MC: The first thoughts came in when I had a hard time breaking out of Residence Life. I felt pigeonholed, and was barely getting interviews for entry level Advising Jobs, I was getting worn out on living in a Hall, being on call and missing so many life events and the less then stellar pay. On whim someone told me I would be a great recruiter and that’s were the bug first got in my ear. I saw too many of my friends get raises, big title changes etc, and there was just not that in higher ed. I worked hard too. Where was my bonus for running a Res Hall that brought in 4 million a year? Or my bump in pay for running around all summer being a main point of contact supporting a Summer Housing Program that brought in close to 800k?

AP: I was living paycheck to paycheck. If I became sick or had an emergency, it would have all gone on credit cards with no plan to pay them off. I was sick of having a masters and getting paid like shit.

MC: Glad to see I’m not the only one who had the money issue. I feel like I keep reliving the Anger Phase of the SA Break up a lot due to my job. I’m privy to a lot of salary information in a lot of different fields due to being in staffing. I get blown away and frustrated. Routinely I see people who graduated with a BA with 3-4 years of work experience make close to what I was making with a Masters and 9 years in the field, sometimes more.

LH: I was working in Residence Life in Dallas at the time and it was a mix of things that started my journey “out”. I LOVED my SA role at the time, but my partner was offered a new role in Houston. I knew I would need to find something new shortly. Since I had to make a change, I thought why not see what else is out there? I knew there were parts of my passions and personality that Student Affairs was not fulfilling for me. Some of the work I loved most felt like a hobby and something I could do outside of work.

While searching, a friend of mine who worked at Halliburton sent me the job. The role would be designing and developing competencies, driving the program, and supporting the product service line training framework. I thought, I know nothing about the Oil/Gas Industry but I do know people, people development, and how to help people learn. I can learn the rest. They were willing to take a chance on someone who had a development background versus a technical one (like engineering) because they were looking for something different. I now have worked there since 2015, have loved it and regret nothing.

CA: After I graduated from grad school and began working in higher education full time, I began to feel notice the transition from student to professional. I no longer was the super involved student that had pride in the change they were accomplishing on campus. Also working in Residence Life at the time, I felt that living on campus was beginning to become a burden. There were long hours, the pay was low, and there did not seem to be any opportunity for growth at the institution I was working at. The next solution that came to mind was to change schools! That will solve everything. It did not.

I was working in Residence Life at a completely different institution in a different city and had the same feelings. I then began my job search online and noticed a significant amount of Campus Recruiting positions from large companies. I made it a goal to sit back and reflect on my transferable skills and began applying. Months later, I got the job I’m in now.

I thought, I know nothing about the Oil/Gas Industry but I do know people, people development, and how to help people learn. I can learn the rest. They were willing to take a chance on someone who had a development background versus a technical one (like engineering) because they were looking for something different.

What was your biggest fear in making the jump? Comparatively, what were you really confident in?

LH: I didn’t know what the environment would be like, I didn’t know if people would be cold or managers would only care about deadlines, metrics, and moving up. When you are in Student Affairs often your passion and drive to do your work is based on wanting to “develop/support students and their experiences.” What would be the mission where I was going? Making money? Could I get behind that? Turns out I love the work and the company has been such a great experience. For sure it’s hard and many days I am stressed to my max- but the challenge, pace, and opportunity to be innovative keeps me here!

What I was confident in was my strategic/innovative thinking, that I knew best practices in people development, and I think student affairs work teaches resiliency, problem solving, and team work. So- even if I had a learning curve ahead of me, the skills I was bringing to the table could help get me through it.

MC: My biggest fear was that is was all new. I had only known 5 Years of Retail at CVS and Higher Ed. What would a corporate office be like? What was the day to day? What’s the lingo?

I was really confident in my people skills. I know how to talk to people in a variety of roles and situations. I was also confident in my adaptability.

CA: My biggest fear​ at the time was potential future regret. I was only in higher education for 3 years professionally and only worked in Residence Life. Thoughts going through my head were: “What if I want to go back into higher education?” “Did I just waste time/money going to grad school?” “Where will I live moving off campus?” “Did I have enough money saved to make this transition?” I think most of my fears were centered around my personal life transitions versus the actual job and its functions.

Since the campus team was new at Wayfair, and I was the only one on the team that had a background in higher education, I was confident that I could bring knowledge and experiences to the team that they were unaware of. This has played to my benefit when it comes to creating those networks of colleges/universities that we hire from.

Thoughts going through my head were: “What if I want to go back into higher education?” “Did I just waste time/money going to grad school?” “Where will I live moving off campus?” “Did I have enough money saved to make this transition?” I think most of my fears were centered around my personal life transitions versus the actual job and its functions.

AP: [My] biggest fear was losing part of my identify. I have always identified as a teacher/educator/servant. Would I still feel this way after making the jump? (answer turned out to be a YES, thankfully).

[And] my confidence? I am resilient. I know I could get through just about anything with my new role. I also knew my thought process and education mindset would be a welcome influence at my new company.

What challenges did you have as you adjusted to your new role and new environment?

AP: This might seem trivial but it is true: No one cares where you went to school and everyone has multiple degrees. Most people do not know what Higher Ed or Student Affairs is unless you give specific general examples (like Career Counselor or Academic Advisor). With this, people do not understand my background or career before I started working at Micron.

Other challenges: I am the youngest person on my team by about 15 years. My company is around 14% women (globally). I work at a very global company but only speak English. I work in a cube and have a cube-mate.

LH: Corporate environments can be VERY fast paced in some ways but when you work for a Global Company things can also move slowly. Everything needs stakeholder engagement and approvals and you have to consider your workforce/audience in all you do. I had to learn quickly not only about the business but what things will and won’t work based on the end user. I also had to adjust to the company “type”.

Just like Higher Ed institutions, companies have types too. Different personalities, different environments, goals, and values. Navigating a new company and understanding what they value in your work, your personality, and how it determines success was all part of my adjustment. Ditto to Ashlie- I was the youngest person on my Global team- they didn’t care where I went to school or what I did in my past. I had to create proof points and show them what I could do right then and there. Past accomplishments or laurels meant ZERO.

CA:DATA. DATA. DATA. Coming from a higher education background, all the data I had worked with in the past was qualitative that centered around feelings. Not that corporate doesn’t care about feelings…wait, they don’t- haha!

All the data in my new position had to be quantitative and tangible. So quickly learning how to pick up Microsoft Excel to prove to my stakeholders that I was making progress was the biggest challenge. Learning how to create pivot tables, VLoookups, and charts weekly was something that was challenging at first. Another challenge was my personal passion surrounding diversity initiatives. Everyone in corporate preaches diversity and social justice, but you don’t see much action behind it. So navigating my position to find opportunities to incorporate that into our hiring processes and into the culture was a challenge.

MC: I had a few challenges. Where I work is a very metric driven and public office. We would announce our goals, numbers all in front of each other. People know when you hit your stuff and when you don’t. Very weird at first. Also when you get a placement, you ring a bell and people clap. That was really interesting but become really cool after awhile.

Also, I no longer had my own office. In fact, no one in my company did, all open floor plan…the President/Owner could tap you on the shoulder and ask you a question…Another thing: the President knows your name and who you are. My First Friday there, I went to grab my lunch at a local place, and was pulled by coworker who informed me they buy lunch for us on Friday…then at around 4, saw three people walk in with 12 packs and I was tossed a beer…That was different. I got used to that pretty quick!

[My] biggest fear was losing part of my identify. I have always identified as a teacher/educator/servant. Would I still feel this way after making the jump? (answer turned out to be a YES, thankfully).

What skills served you well in your transition?

CA: Time Management/Prioritizing skills I gained from working in a variety of grad assistantships and ​my time in Residence Life. In corporate, it can tend to be fast paced all year round, so being able to manage my time wisely to make sure I get everything done has been useful in this position.

MC: Patience. Working with students taught me a lot of patience. Nothing much surprises me after working in Housing, so it helped when I would have candidates tell me outrageous stories on why they were going to be late

AP: Confidence and positive self-talk. I walk into the building every day knowing I am meant to be at Micron. I limit the “impostor syndrome” in my head and quickly built a network of people to help me throughout my transition

LH: Really learning the business. You would be amazed at the number of people who don’t know what their business does. Building relationships with key influencers and staying confident and focused on what I was good at- I didn’t know much about some of the technical aspects that I would be building development solutions for, but I did know I was good at facilitation and leadership/soft skills training. So I immediately jumped in to help in that area, so I could add value right away while I worked to learn/understand the things that were less intuitive.

What suggestions do you have for people nervous about (or struggling to) articulate their value “on the outside”?

MC: Everything is translatable…Students = Customers, being an RD is like being a Account Manager, Student Conduct is HR, Admissions is Sales, everything you have done has a “corporate” equivalent. They may not [be] a 1 to 1 comparison but it’s close.

Also focus on your hard skills, not our soft skills. All that Admin work you had to do? That is now way more important. All that paperwork, budgeting, invoicing, process flow you did get a program off the ground? Those skills are going to be way more important be the actual creativity of the program.

AP: Ditto to Michael. Change your language and drop the higher ed jargon. Know that you are not in this process alone. Many people have left the Higher Ed field before you and many will come after you. You have a network of people to lean on during your transition.

LH: Ask someone you know who is “outside” to review your resume and help pull out experiences or phrases that highlight things that a business would be looking for. Changes you initiated, metrics you helped influence, and experiences that show problem solving, ability to analyze and develop strategies. Your skills will serve you well no matter what type of company you are looking at.

Ditto to Michael- Students= Customers, programs=event planning/budget coordinating, Advising/Student Workers=Staff supervision and accountability. It’s just putting it in ‘corporate’ terms and dropping some of the SA buzz words (Intentional, Challenge/Support).

CA: Ditto to the [other] comments, but definitely have someone who is not in higher education look at your materials. After working in recruiting, there are several things I have noticed in the way corporate hires people. For one, I know this will be difficult, but going back to a 1 page resume is really important. The applicant flow in corporate is so large, and if your resume is longer than 1 page that actually may prevent it from being seen.

If you would like to represent all of your experiences still, utilize LinkedIn and keep all of your experiences there. ​To the everyday person, this tool may not be a go to, but as a recruiter we are on LinkedIn all day as we are going through candidates. Also back to the first question I was asked in my Finance class in grad school “Is a university a business?”. Reflect on this question, and try to see where you fit in that “business” and how it could translate to any future experience as well.


Special thanks to Corey, Ashlie, Mike, and Liz for sharing their time, energy, and wisdom with me for this series.