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Joan Snyder (left) and Jessica Zolomij

Job Offer

It’s 3 a.m., but Jessica Zolomij isn’t sleeping. Instead, she is rehearsing answers to questions she may face at tomorrow’s job interview with the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.

There is no rational reason for the Pitt senior’s concern; she is well prepared for her interview. For the past few days, she has been wading through Eli Lilly’s promotional literature, studying industry trends, and researching products. She’s worried, though, because in the limping economy, there isn’t exactly an overabundance of pharmaceutical sales jobs—especially for new college graduates who’ve majored in communications. Most pharmaceutical companies prefer candidates with degrees in the natural sciences like biology or physiology.

Despite the dead-of-night hour, Zolomij decides to call the one person who can help her with a question that has her particularly worried. That person is Joan Snyder, who was a year ahead of Zolomij at Pitt and has worked at Eli Lilly since graduating. The two became friends during their days together on the Blue and Gold Society, a program sponsored by the Pitt Alumni Association. Now, Snyder has become more than a friend to Zolomij. She is her mentor. It was Snyder who made sure Zolomij’s résumé made it into the right hands. And it has been Snyder who has given her the inside scoop on the job, the company, and what to expect in the interview.

“I’m so sorry to be calling so late,” Zolomij begins, “but I need your help.” After Zolomij explains the situation, Snyder offers an answer to the question bothering Zolomij. “Thank you so much,” she says and hangs up the phone.

The next day, Zolomij is very pleased with her performance during the interview. Two months and a few more interviews later, Zolomij hears the good news—she got the job. During her first day of training, she learns that she beat out an estimated 4,000 candidates for the position.

“Joan coached me through the whole thing,” says Zolomij (CAS ’02) about her February 2002 interview. “I was constantly on the phone with her asking, ‘What do I need to know about the company? Help me understand this product. What are they looking for?’”

What Snyder (CBA ’01) did and continues to do—and consequently what Zolomij is also now doing—is lend a hand to a member of the Pitt community searching for a job. Because so many in the “Pitt family” helped her, and because it benefits her company by having a steady stream of talented candidates, Snyder made it her personal goal to refer 10 qualified Pitt alumni or students to Lilly each year. In three years on the job, she estimates that it has been well above 30. Zolomij was the first.

“Now my manager comes to me specifically, all the time, when recruiting for open positions, because he knows I have a very large group of contacts with a lot of different backgrounds from the University,” says Snyder.

What Snyder and Zolomij are doing is at the heart of what the Pitt Alumni Association plans to do more of in the coming months and years—help alumni explore career options. In an attitude study conducted in 2002-03, the association learned many things about the wants and needs of the 230,000 Pitt alumni scattered around the world. The most notable finding was that alumni across generations would like to see the association help identify more job opportunities for graduates—a sentiment shared by alumni from several other universities who also participated in the study. So the association, in cooperation with the Career Services Office, is beefing up existing programs and adding new ones to address this issue, says Leland Patouillet, associate vice chancellor and executive director of the Pitt Alumni Association.

One new alumni association service being explored is an online career database that enables alumni to log on and access the site from anywhere. It would allow graduates to find other alumni in almost any vocation who can be contacted for career advice or assistance. If, for instance, a journalist were relocating from Philadelphia to Seattle and wanted to contact writers in that area, he would be able to type in the appropriate information and instantly receive a list of contacts who meet the profile.

Also, the association is once again sponsoring a career-exploration symposium, called Pathways to Professions, on the Thursday before Homecoming weekend. The association is also working with Career Services on the annual October job fair, which alumni are invited to attend, and the creation of career networking workshops in cities around the country with the help of local alumni clubs.

“My hope and dream are that there’ll be lots of Joan Snyders,” says Patouillet. “People who’ll take this on as a personal goal. The point being, nobody gets to where they are, professionally, alone.”

This is a point not lost on Zolomij, whose nascent career path is covered with the footsteps of other Pitt alumni and faculty and staff. “To them, [helping me] was really no big deal. To me, it changed everything. They changed my life. If they had not opened up their homes to me, or their time, I would not be here. I know that for a fact. I hope to one day have the same effect on someone else’s career.”
—Mike Ransdell


Koral’s Korner

The Talk of the University

Mimi Koral

I may not see so many graduates up close and personal during the summer, but my sources keep me up-to-date, and our alumni are busier than ever. Ross Musgrave (MED ’43) reports that Tim Eberlein (MED ’77, CAS ’73), Bixby Professor and chair of the Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, now edits the prestigious Journal of the American College of Surgeons. Conrad (Dan) Volz (GSPH ’02, ’97; CAS ’93) is directing a major scientific expedition on Amchitka Island, Alaska, investigating the potential health and ecological consequences of the release of radioactivity from our nation’s largest underground nuclear explosion. John Swanson (ENGR ’66), founder of ANSYS, was awarded the John Fritz Medal by the American Association of Engineering Societies: This honor is considered to be the highest award in the engineering profession. Steve Burke (KGSB ’92, CGS ’88) has been named chief operating officer of Comcast Corp. and is still president of Comcast Cable, too. Genentech founder Herb Boyer (FAS ’63, ’60) won the $1 million Shaw Prize, which he will share with his research partner, Stanley Cohen, for work in recombinant DNA. Boyer also won the 2004 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research with Cohen for pioneering work in genetic engineering.

And Our Alumni Are Prolific: John D. French (FAS ’78) has had Drowning in Laws, a book on labor law and Brazilian political culture, published by the University of North Carolina Press. Katherine A. Furlong (SIS ’97G, CAS ’92) and her husband, D. Scott Lyttle, have a new baby boy, David Andrew Lyttle. He was born on February 4, 2004, in Bethlehem, Pa., and, according to Furlong, “He bounces!” This was from a class note posted to the Pitt Alumni Online Community. Let us know what you’ve been up to by going to www.alumni.pitt.edu and clicking on the Community link.

That Crazy California Contingent: The Bay Area Pitt Club has been going gangbusters with NASCAR races, ball games, golf outings, dinners, and picnics. Some of those attending the picnic were Joel Bennett (CAS ’39), Breanne Caution (CAS ’01), Kara Erdodi (LAW ’02), Bill (CAS ’74) and Kathy Fulcher, John Guzik (KGSB ’58), Ron (ENGR ’83) and Robin Matusof, Waynica McLean (GSPIA ’03, CAS ’99), Bay Area Pitt Club President John Racioppi (KGSB ’80, CAS ’79) and his wife, Mary (CAS ’89), and Pitt Alumni Association President Keith Schaefer (CAS ’71). Football great Tony Dorsett (CAS ’77) was honorary event chair for the June San Francisco-area golf outing where the club presented a $10,000 check for the club’s endowed scholarship fund to Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement Al Novak.
— Mimi Koral,
CAS '75, Director of Alumni Communications


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