One of the most frequently lauded characteristics of a Kalamazoo College education is the longevity of its usefulness. “More in four, more in a lifetime” is a promise and reality for many K alums whose strong academic foundations and the personal networks created at K have paid dividends decades after leaving the Arcadian Hill.
But what about K’s value in those first few years after receiving a diploma? For an ever-expanding group of recent grads, like classmates (2009) Brad Flaugher and Will Dickson, Kalamazoo connections have been invaluable from day one. In addition to being classmates, the two share an undergraduate major (economics and business) and study abroad program (London, England).
The Worst of Times
In 2010, after earning his master’s degree in economic history at the London School of Economics (LSE), Brad planned to return stateside and find a job in finance. Unfortunately, the timing was not fortuitous. Facing the gale force headwinds of the worst American financial crisis since the Great Depression, Brad wanted to land in an industry that simply wasn’t hiring. According to Will, the market was “absolutely atrocious . . . probably the worst time ever for new hires.”
Luckily for Brad, Will had just the opportunity that Brad needed—his own. After beating the odds himself in 2009 to secure a job with the Minneapolis-based hedge fund Walleye Trading, Will opted to pursue a graduate degree in accounting at the University of Texas. Upon his departure from Walleye, Will recommended his classmate to take his place.
Will remembers “[Walleye] was a good opportunity for me, but to be honest, Brad was probably better suited for the position,” given his background in computer science. Because of Will’s endorsement and his own acumen in a competitive interview process, Brad was hired at Walleye as an options trader and programmer.
Paying it Forward
Brad later left Walleye. No worries, his K professional networking tree has continued to grow. Former classmates have become colleagues, and other K grads have turned to him for assistance in finding early breaks in their careers.
In 2014, while working to launch Redcurrent, a Twin Cities tech start-up, Brad reached out to computer science major Colin Alworth ’07, wondering if his fellow K graduate would join Redcurrent as a software developer. There was a “full-circle” dynamic at work here: years earlier, just before Brad decided on graduate school at LSE, Colin had offered him a job as a developer. At Redcurrent Brad was happy to return the favor and bring a talented K grad on board. Colin, who studied abroad in Madrid, continues to work at Redcurrent today.
Meanwhile Andrew Mickus ’12 (an interdisciplinary studies major who studied abroad in Caceres, Spain) credits Brad with helping him secure an internship at a London hedge fund, an experience that served as a catalyst for Andrew securing a position as a financial modeler at Fannie Mae. “Brad had an amazing willingness to ‘pay it forward,’” writes Andrew. “And he totally let me crash on his couch for at least a week in London.”
Now a senior engineer for AuDigent, an analytics-based digital advertising company, Brad works closely with another K grad, classmate and computer science major Jerrod Howlett ’09, who works for Google, Inc. Among other responsibilities, Brad purchases advertising for AuDigent’s music-industry clients, and “Jerrod makes me look good,” Brad laughs. “It’s great having an ‘inside guy’ at Google.”
A Much More Helpful Community
Reflecting on the significant role of K connections in the first few years of his career, Brad suggests that “it’s kind of crazy” how it’s unfolded. It’s not “that alumni just swoop in” with jobs gifted from on high. Instead, Brad feels he has organically developed fantastic career connections through his K network. “It’s turned out pretty well for me,” he says.
And Will, who currently works as a managing director of an investment firm in Detroit, is effusive in his praise for K alumni and their willingness to go the extra mile for their fellow Hornets. “With [the University of] Texas there’s a huge network everywhere, but no one returns calls or emails. With K it’s a much smaller community, but it’s a much more helpful community.”
NOTE: The College’s Center for Career and Professional Development provides alumni various ways to network with each other and with students. And the Alumni Directory is a great tool for alumni to keep in touch. Check out the directory and update your profile.