The Path Forward

The Alumni Job Shadowing Program gives current Holy Cross students a chance to explore potential career paths before graduation, and allows alumni to give back to the next generation.

The Center for Career Development Alumni Job Shadowing Program began in 2000, and in the 16 years since, it has provided students with opportunities to shadow and network with Holy Cross alumni.

Students are matched with alumni for a half- or full-day visit during school breaks. Alumni host students at their place of employment and coordinate opportunities for students to see what they do on a daily basis. Students are able to connect with professionals, attend meetings and learn more about their hosts’ places of work, all while gaining first-hand perspectives of a job or industry of interest.

Students who participate in the program express sincere gratitude for the opportunity to connect and shadow Holy Cross alumni. They see in practice how strong the Holy Cross network, which they often hear about, truly is. More importantly, the students gain exposure to a job or career field of interest. Through this experience, they are able to ask questions and reflect upon their visit as they discern what career path they would like to pursue. Whether they leave the experience knowing they want to pursue a career in the industry shadowed or not, students walk away with more knowledge about jobs, industries and the professional world. 

—Melisa Alves ’06, assistant director of the Center for Career Development

During the 2015-2016 academic year, approximately 225 students and 205 alumni participated in the Alumni Job Shadowing Program. HCM asked two of these pairs to tell us more about their experience.

Olivia Lau ’17, mathematics and computer science double major, reflects on her shadow day with Thomas P. Joyce Jr. ’82, president and CEO of the Danaher Corporation:

As a mathematics and computer science double major at Holy Cross, I know that many career paths can fit my educational training. While my training might be highly technical, Holy Cross’s dedication to the liberal arts has instilled in me the importance of exploring multidisciplinary applications of my skills.

Edward Soares, associate professor of mathematics, introduced me to the Alumni Job Shadowing Program with Thomas P. Joyce Jr. ’82, president and CEO of the Danaher Corporation. Danaher, a large business in the U.S., coordinates the design, manufacture and marketing of industrial and consumer products. Its hundreds of subsidiaries use mathematics and computer science in conjunction with many other fields to create products used in biomedical testing, mass spectrometry and dental imaging systems, among others.

During my two-day experience, I travelled to Chaska, Minnesota, with Mr. Joyce on his company plane, to attend operations and strategic meetings at Beckman Coulter, a Danaher subsidiary. While there, I attended meetings with leaders in senior management of both Danaher and Beckman Coulter as they discussed the company’s financial and innovative status compared to other businesses in the industry. Walking into the conference room, I was nervous to meet the top executives, but the feeling diminished after Mr. Joyce introduced me to the attendees. I sat next to Mr. Joyce during the meetings as he quietly explained some basic information that I needed to understand the presentation.

We also got a tour of one of the laboratories, where a new blood testing machine was being tested. In their “obeya” room (Japanese for war room) room, the plans and goals of the project were posted on the walls. This was an example of the Danaher Business System, an effective technique where past, present and future goals of a project are detailed on the wall so that team members know the project and their specific tasks.

Between the meetings, I got a chance to interact with senior vice presidents of several departments and learn about their various roles, daily tasks and work-life balance. At the end, I came away with some valuable insights about the importance of effective teamwork and the structure of upper management.

While shadowing Mr. Joyce, I learned about the internal workings of a large corporation. Although my personal career path will start out on a more technical level, I benefited from seeing executives work together to shape a company’s future. The things I learned about the structure of a large company, teamwork and effective communication will help me serve as a well-rounded team member in the future and make the presentation of my technical work fitting for management to endorse.

Shadowing Mr. Joyce at the Danaher Corporation provided opportunities for career discernment that could not be reproduced in an academic setting. The experience of observing business management from a top level showed me leadership skills that will prove useful in my career path. I hope to manage a team once I’ve gained enough experience in my field.

Shadowing Mr. Joyce gave me an eye-opening model of success that will influence my management abilities. The two days I spent learning from Mr. Joyce and the Danaher Corporation were a highlight in my liberal arts education at Holy Cross.

—Olivia Lau ’17

Thomas P. Joyce Jr. ’82, on planning a successful job shadow day:

“One of the wonderful parts about this program is that it is an opportunity for us to spend the day the way we normally would and have somebody get the chance to see what it is like. We wanted Olivia to get a chance to see life as it really goes on

We were fortunate that the week Olivia was available, we had two particularly important days scheduled. One was a full day that we spent in a business operating review, where we review the performance of one of our largest and most important businesses, Beckman Coulter Diagnostics, and the second day was a review of that same business’ strategic plan.

We happen to be headquartered in Washington, D.C., but we are the type of company where all the action is out with the businesses as opposed to at our corporate headquarters. So I thought it would be particularly interesting for Olivia to see our corporate team in action with a business, as opposed to in our corporate headquarters…She got a chance to see one of our biggest and most important businesses and two of our most important processes, a monthly operating review and strategic planning.”

Hafsa Sadiq ’19, biology major with a concentration in biochemistry, neuroscience minor, premed, reflects on her shadow day with Katie Benning, D.O., ’90, family physician at South Shore Medical Center:

Holy Cross is an institution known for its academic excellence in fields ranging from philosophy to chemistry. As a student who did not have an idea of my future goals or career options when I started my first year, Holy Cross has certainly provided me a clear vision through field-based programs.

Through my academic coursework, I was able to find my passion in the sciences and hoped to find a clearer vision for a career. I learned about the Alumni Job Shadowing Program through the Center for Career Development. This opportunity seemed to provide the means for me to seek more knowledge about various careers, such as health professions. I applied to the program to see if I could shadow alumni in the medical field. By having the experience to shadow health professionals, I hoped to have a better idea about my future aspirations in the health sciences.

Dr. Katie Benning ’90 is a family physician, a specialty devoted to comprehensive health care for people of all ages, who works at the South Shore Medical Center in Norwell, Massachusetts. By observing her daily routine, I learned useful skills and information about the profession.

When I met with Dr. Benning in her office at the start of our shadow day, we discussed the intricacies of a hospital and the requirements that she had to abide by in her work. She also had a series of appointments for the whole day that I could observe. Through these appointments, I observed various doctor-patient interactions and learned about a variety of medical procedures, such as physicals, through Dr. Benning’s explanations.

I admired her warm and cheerful greetings to each and every patient, as if they were her friends or family. In between the appointments, I asked her questions about various subjects, including her experience at Holy Cross and in medical school.

Shadowing Dr. Benning was a great experience. I learned first-hand what it meant to be a health professional. This experience inspired me to consider a specialty in family medicine and also made me recognize how enriching a career in medicine can be. Through her conversations with her patients, I learned the importance of interpersonal skills in the field. Overall, the opportunity to shadow Dr. Benning and follow her work routine has solidified my career choice in medicine.

—Hafsa Sadiq ’19

Katie Benning, D.O., ’90, on why she participates in the Alumni Job Shadowing Program:

“I had a great experience when I was looking into the field of medicine. I tapped into the alumni network, and I was warmly received when I reached out to some alumni to let me shadow them. They were generous with their time and it really impacted me. I wanted to provide a similar opportunity for Holy Cross students.

I love hosting because I never know what students are expecting. Some of them want to see something [a medical procedure] in person, and some just want to ask questions. Maybe they’ve never been in a situation like this, in the doctor’s office from this side, working with patients. I try to show that a family physician can play an important role in patients’ lives, serving as a guide in helping them make decisions about their health, while also being respectful of who the patients are and where they are coming from.

I typically sit down with the students at the beginning of the day and ask them if they are looking to have certain questions answered, if they are looking for a certain experience and what brought them to contact me. I really emphasize that this experience is is for the students to gain insight into whatever they personally seek; maybe they realize that they don’t want to go into this field, and that’s OK, too.” That is a good experience as well. I’ve hosted four students so far and absolutely plan to keep participating.”

Get Involved

The Center for Career Development is always looking for more alumni to participate in the job shadowing program–all class years and industries are welcome! Learn more at Current students can learn more and apply by logging in to Crusader Connections. ■