This year’s Career Conversations event featured notable Messiah alumni who are pursuing careers in the business world. Our panelists were Melissa Bell (Politics ’04), Alejandro Garcia (Politics & Economics ’13), and Amy (Pedersen) Killelea (History ’94).
The panelists first discussed how they got to where they are since graduating from Messiah. Melissa noted that in addition to attending the London School of Economics for her master’s degree in international relations, she spent two and a half years in Ukraine with the Peace Corps, working in HIV/AIDS prevention programs. She then moved into consulting, working with Deloitte in London, the Middle East, and Australia, where she now resides (she thus Skyped in at 4 am her time!) In Australia, Melissa co-founded The Terrace Initiative, the consulting firm where she now works. Much of her work is with oil and gas companies, and she has enjoyed creating “the kind of consulting firm I always wanted to work for.”
Amy graduated from Messiah with a history major and a double minor in political science and economics. After working in D.C. for a time, she pursued a Master’s in National Security Studies from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, focusing on Middle East terrorism. Her career has taken her to the staff of the National Security Council at the White House, to the defense of 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, and to facilitating naval exercises onboard a ship in the Mediterranean. Amy recently spent ten years doing consulting for Booz Allen Hamilton, and now works in consulting within the intelligence community. Amy explained that her work is helpful to companies and organizations because they sometimes need to be reinvigorated with ideas from the outside, and consulting helps them to assess their needs and accomplish their goals.
Alejandro started the Master’s in Public Administration program at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in Syracuse University the fall after he graduated. That October, he got a job offer from Deloitte, where he now works as a consultant. He is currently focused on developing transformation roadmaps for state and local governments as they seek to improve service delivery and efficiency. Alejandro, who is originally from Bolivia, admitted that living in America away from his family has been a challenge, but says that it has helped him to develop a sense of independence, and that he feels a special connection to parts of America now. He advised students that living abroad “is difficult, but it’s worth it.”
All three panelists readily agreed that their studies in politics and the liberal arts in general prepared them well for graduate school and their careers. Politics, in its essence, said Melissa, is about “who gets what,” and consulting involves the management of “who gets what.” A liberal education helps with the problem solving process and with bringing together disparate bodies of knowledge to make things happen. Alejandro noted that his degree in politics taught him how to learn to think through issues and made him a more capable, well-rounded person. Melissa is active in the hiring process at her firm, and says she looks for both experience and “habitual excellence”—well-roundedness in all areas of life. Amy, who has also had extensive experience in hiring, says that she too looks for people with broad capabilities, because she has to train employees in certain areas regardless of their academic experience. She agrees that her study of history, politics, and economics at Messiah taught her to appreciate nuance and to “look at a problem in its totality” rather than seeking easy answers.
A special thanks to our alumni who participated in this informative event, and we wish them the best as they continue along their career journeys! They are truly a testament to the possibilities available for Messiah graduates.