The seminar opened with the president relaying club information before students jumped into questions. James D’Arecca, chief accounting officer of the pharmaceutical company Actavis, was asked about his company’s recent acquisition of Allergen Inc. “I believe this deal will have an incredibly transformative effect on our company. Our company will increase in size although it will require a lot of effort to integrate the two companies and change our infrastructure,” D’Arecca said.
Melanie Nicholson earned her Bachelor of Science in accounting from Rutgers University before working for her executive MBA at Cornell. Nicholson received several questions on the challenges she faced and what she gained by going back to school. “It was definitely difficult, but I always knew I had to go back to school to get my MBA…It is crucial to go back to school because it allows you to look at companies on a much broader scale,” Nicholson says.
The panelists agreed that switching companies as a public accoun- tant is simple, since the foundation of skills are transferable across industries. Karachun described how her work history includes leasing, telecommunications and the pharmaceutical industry. “You figure out ways to educate yourself in the industry-specific fundamentals,” said Karachun.
The executive also allayed student concerns about the possibility of working with highly competitive and cutthroat colleagues.
“There may be people who do not help you because they are all about themselves. But that is not conducive to a good working environment, and while those people may achieve some success they ultimately will not go far,” Karachun said. She emphasized how crucial it is for students to demonstrate the willingness to learn and work together in order to achieve success in the workplace.
The questions then shifted toward the career advancement and the deci- sion to change jobs. “When I moved into investor relations, I agonized and had sleepless nights over my decision. But when I look back on it, this role changed the way I thought about my job,” Karachun said.
The other panelists agreed whole-heartedly, mirroring Karachun’s responses. “Don’t be afraid of failure. The fear of failure holds a lot of us back, but you have to trust yourself and your belief that you can succeed,” Nicholson said.
The session closed with final advice from D’Arecca. “Manage your career and always look for further opportunities to develop your skill set,” she said.