Puja Thapa / Administrative Executive Editor

Lonnie Hiltz

Equinox Staff

A panel of KSC alumni spoke at the Mason Library about careers in banking for the latest addition to Keene State’s Career Speaker Series of lectures on preparing students to become professionals.

Starting in 2014, Keene State College has hosted a series of lectures about pursuing careers in various fields and how the college prepares students for work after graduation. On the evening of Tuesday, February 18, 2020, Careers in the Industry of Banking became the latest lecture in this series, as well as the first one to take place in the Spring 2020 semester. Later events planned to take place this semester will host discussions covering careers in the fields of journalism and education, as well as a generalized lecture on how to approach starting a new career. As the Keene State website describes, the event sought to highlight the variety of careers available in the field of finances and the large 

network of people who work to make banks successful. The event occured in the lecture hall on the second floor of the Mason Library’s Cohen Center. The event began slightly after 6 p.m. Tom Cunningham, a Tampa University graduate also involved in finance and economics, joined a panel of the four alumni from Keene State College: Sarah Rosley, Heather Scheck, Danielle Ruffo and Heather Paight. The lecture hall filled quickly with interested students in majors ranging from communication to biology and nutrition. After introducing themselves, the speakers each described briefly their career histories, the jobs they have held in the field of banking and how their interests in banking in developed, as well as their experiences at Keene State and how their majors and studies have aided in them in their current roles.  

“Look to your strengths,” Ruffo said when she gave her advice. “Find something that you’re really good at or that really interests you.”

Daniel Henderson, who began the Career Speaker series and intended to host the event, could not attend because of an injury, and substitute Steve Fortier led the discussion instead. Fortier prompted the guest speakers for more information about their times in college, sparking a story from Rosley about her struggles with public speaking and how she has pushed the boundaries of her comfort zone in her career. When asked what they considered the most important takeaway from the evening’s seminar, Rosley and Paight both named the need to network and communicate, and Paight emphasized how career development can become a major stepping stone for overcoming shyness and social anxieties. 

“I kind of got into this job because I knew it was a great opportunity to get out of my box,” Paight stated. “I’m pretty much comfortable with it now, but still, I did struggle. It’s like with any skill.”

Scheck described her experiences as a non-traditional student and taking time off from school to gain work experience. “There’s no straight path,” she said when asked what she considered the most important advice. “I really didn’t have a clear career path.” 

Cunningham highlighted the importance of extracurricular activities and part-time jobs in developing practical skills, describing how his past summer jobs and internships helped him gain experience and begin to build his career. A small discussion occurred about the software and programs used on the job and how skills with technology have become critical to banking in the current era. 

The speakers took various questions from the audience and spoke about the importance of being willing to start a conversation and reach out to potential employers. Scheck and Rosley both brought up how much those who work in smaller banks value community and courtesy, stating small gestures can have a large part in building good communication and working relationships. 

“Small talk,” Scheck said. “Basic small talk. It sounds small, but it can lead to more.”

Rosley mentioned the importance of efficiency on the job, considering the competition with larger banks faced by local ones. The discussion with the alumni also addressed various factors that can affect the workplace, such as mental health, culture and social media, as well as offered advice on how to prepare for a job interview.

The event wrapped up around 7:15 p.m. Among the students in the audience, Heather Schofield attended along with her biology professor, Karen Cangialosi, and several other students taking the course. Schofield said she first heard about the lecture from Cangialosi and hopes to attend other events in the series in the future. Schofield described the discussion as an introduction to the world of business, as it gave advice applicable to many fields of employment. 

“The panel kept mentioning how having a solid background with extracurricular activities, gaining a mentor, working while in school and networking are all important aspects to build your career platform, regardless of what field you go into,” Schofield said, summarizing what she took away from the event.

Doris Martino, from the same biology class, also attended the lecture. Martino stated she had no plan to enter the field of banking, but hoped to learn more about it. 

“I was surprised to learn about the strong sense of community in banking,” Martino said. Much like Schofield, Martino said she appreciated that the advice given at the lecture could apply to those working in other fields of employment as well, such as how the panel emphasized the importance of networking and communication.

Lonnie Hiltz can be contacted 

at LHiltz@kscequinox.com