By Stephanie Brand and Jacob Rich
Every year, the new T&M class is given a glamorous introduction into the program by way of corporate site visits. During the typical spring semester, a weekend is spent taking the new class to different corporate sponsor facilities around the midwest. The trip provides the students a glimpse into what their next two years will hold; unique exposure to the corporate world, meaningful relationships with peers, faculty, and industry professionals, and boundless opportunity. However, as with all aspects of our lives, the realities of a COVID-19 world have forced adaptation. Determined to provide as similar an experience as possible, the T&M community worked together to pioneer the first-ever virtual corporate sponsor trek for class XXVI. Trading in a seat on a bus for a bedroom, home office, or spot on the floor, and facility tours for Zoom calls and breakout rooms, we began the week eager and open-minded.
Day 1 – Synchrony & Caterpillar:
Our virtual trek began with words of wisdom from upperclassmen and faculty on how to get the most value out of this experience, and we then quickly jumped into our first corporate sponsor session with Synchrony. We had the chance to hear from T&M students and alumni currently working at Synchrony, and learn about the many career opportunities they have to offer. To emulate the full corporate site visit experience, the corporate sponsor talks were interspersed with opportunities for social engagement amongst class XXVI. Our second corporate sponsor for the day was Caterpillar. Caterpillar operates on the desire to create solutions that, “Help Customers Build a Better World.” This is evidenced by the company’s emphasis on sustainability while responsibly producing innovative technologies.
Day 2 – Boeing:
The second day of our virtual trek started with a question: how did you prepare for today? Our answers prompted a discussion about the proactive steps we could take to create more meaningful engagement with each corporate sponsor. Bringing concept to action, we then split into breakout rooms to research and prepare for our coffee chat with Boeing. We then had the opportunity to hear from Erica Hackett, a Boeing Trade Control Specialist, and T&M alum Alex Immekus, a participant in Boeing’s Business Career Foundation Program. During these unprecedented times, Boeing’s commitment to their company values was manifested through their reallocation of resources and efforts to help communities across the world combat COVID-19. Hackett and Immekus shared the fulfillment they derive from working for an innovative company that generates great value, and also discussed the numerous opportunities at Boeing that are available for T&M students. Following a debrief, day two ended with Ilalee Harrison James hosting a networking workshop, sharing her insights on how to best develop and navigate meaningful relationships with corporate sponsors.
Day 3 – BP, Abbott, & John Deere:
Our first virtual site visit for day three was with BP. While recent circumstances have inspired new normals across a variety of industries, BP began redefining ‘business as usual’ long before. As discussed by Anthony Valente, T&M Board member and Business Development Programs Manager, BP has been reinvented as an energy company with the ultimate goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. BP is taking the initiative to lead the industry towards universally sustainable practices. BP’s commitment to positive social impact has been further demonstrated by their pandemic response of donating jet fuel to facilitate the distribution of PPE. Following a quick debrief and a few get-to-know-you break out sessions, Abbott joined our Zoom call as our second corporate sponsor of the day. As a healthcare company, Abbott has been uniquely impacted and involved in the global response to COVID-19. The company has had to shift production to meet exponentially increased demand for nutritional and diagnostic products. Our last corporate sponsor session of the day was with John Deere. John Deere is a world leader in providing innovative technologies and services that enable the success of individuals who are ‘linked to the land.’
Day 4- Motorola Solutions & Anheuser-Busch:
We began the last day of the virtual trek with Motorola Solutions. The company slogan “We help people be their best in the moments that matter the most,” has taken on particular relevance. During the pandemic, this is the moment that will matter the most, and Motorola Solutions’ products are crucial for the communication necessary to handle times of crisis. To close out the virtual trek was Anheuser-Busch. Damola Oshin, Sr. Director Zone Brewery Support, discussed the importance of not letting a crisis go to waste. Amidst the chaos, Anheuser-Busch is searching for opportunities to create present and future value by repurposing factories to use unused alcohol for hand sanitizer and generating future business plans that will meet the changing demands of the post-pandemic consumer.
As the week came to close, the thread of values connecting students, to faculty, to sponsors, was abundantly clear. In times of turbulence and uncertainty, the T&M community has been unwavering in its resolve to generate continued value. While it is unfortunate that class XXVI did not have the opportunity to partake in in-person corporate site visits, the virtual trek offered an opportunity to view the T&M program through a new lens. Although we couldn’t experience company cultures in person, it is an even greater testament to their cultures that the authenticity of each corporate sponsors’ dedication to creating a positive social impact was manifest through Zoom calls. Although forced apart, the T&M community continues to come together.
Stephanie is currently in T&M Class XXVI and is a sophomore in Systems Engineering & Design.
Jacob is currently in T&M Class XXVI, a sophomore in Accounting, and has recently accepted a consulting internship at the Polsky Center at the University of Chicago.