The art of the 30-minute conversation is a skill Jake Harwood '14 mastered while working as an Admission intern during his senior year at Whitman. As part of his internship, Harwood interviewed prospective students trying to get to the core of the student's persona during a brief 30-minute window.
"I got very comfortable talking to people with different levels of engagement, different levels of interest, and I would try to tailor the conversation to convey the information I needed while answering their questions," Harwood said.
But despite his daily conversations about the passions of others, after graduating Harwood had no idea what he wanted for his own life.
A cold email from Epic, a health care software company, started Harwood down the path to his career today. The email advertised a position as a "software quality assurance tester." Harwood said he had little interest in the role, but he decided to do the phone interview for practice.
"Halfway through the interview the woman who interviewed me was like, ‘You would be awful at this job, but there is this thing called project management and I think you would be very good at it,' so she switched my application track. I ended up accepting a job with them, and spent my first four professional years in health care tech."
A politics major and history minor at Whitman, Harwood found that many of the skills he developed in these departments helped him in his position at Epic.
"Whitman puts a big emphasis on defending your ideas and talking to people about them. Doing a senior thesis and an oral defense was one of the most important things I could've done," he said. "It prepared me to get into a room where I had an objective, an hour and a bunch of people who were smarter than me. I had to figure out what I was going to do - how do I run this conversation, convey the information that I need to, and really defend my ideas?"
His time at Epic was a great professional growth opportunity, Harwood said, because it immediately threw him into high impact situations, teaching him how to run a project day-to-day, encouraging him to think long term, and giving him ultimate responsibility to own the outcome of his work. One project included partnering with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to rethink the way the clinic triages, prioritizes and coordinates care for over a million patients from 138 countries each year. After four years at Epic, Harwood was ready to move on. He moved to Portland, Oregon, to build a stronger relationship with his brother, sister-in-law and 2 ½-year-old nephew, and for a job that involved considerably less travel.
Harwood used the network of connections he developed at Whitman and Epic to land himself a role at Slalom, an industry and technology consulting firm with clients across the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. At Slalom, Harwood is a project manager overseeing software upgrades for a utility company, as well as a program manager for a health care practice portfolio.
After settling into life in Portland, he has had time to reflect on the career path that got him where he is today.
"I remember emailing the people I used to work with in the Admission Office and thanking them, telling them I couldn't imagine doing what I've done without the experience I developed encouraging people to talk about themselves and understanding their motivations in a conversation" he said. "Whitman put an emphasis on actively participating in discussions, talking about your ideas and being ready to defend them. You are not just listening to a lecture, you are thinking critically about the next step."