EU Alumni perspective: Lauren Simms
GRAD YEAR: 2013
MAJOR: Communication Studies
CURRENT POSITION: Executive Assistant to EVP, Chief Commercial Officer, President of Highway Services at J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc.
LOCATION: Rogers, AR
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CAREER AND WHAT YOU DO NOW.
Before I explain what I do now, let me go back to 2013. A week after I finished my bachelor’s degree at EU, I moved to Orlando, FL to pursue a dream of working at Walt Disney World. I worked at the Magic Kingdom in various roles and learned hospitality and customer services in both unique and powerful ways. After 2.5 years of magical moments with the Walt Disney Company, I came back home to Missouri – but not before I started writing a children’s book, based on true, and very inspirational, events.
One pure leap of faith later, I followed my family down to Northwest Arkansas. I applied to J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc. and was hired on as a Recruiting Coordinator in Human Resources. A year later, I was promoted to a Recruiting Manager. In the 1.5 years that I was in Recruiting, I recruited for Intermodal, Dedicated Contract Services, Final Mile, Safety, and Engineering & Technology; I also oversaw our College Summer Internship Program, funded by our CEO. A lot of people asked me, “Lauren – how did you land at J.B. Hunt after Disney World?” I joked and said, “I went from pumpkin carriages to semi-trucks – both modes of transportation, except we have the upper hand at J.B. Hunt, because we can haul more!” But the serious answer was that after a lot of research, J.B. Hunt was a company founded on faith, with simple roots, who valued its people, its service, and its commitment. J.B. Hunt was a company I wanted to stand behind and be a part of.
In January, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime – which was becoming the Executive Assistant to Shelley Simpson, who is J.B. Hunt Transport’s EVP, Chief Commercial Officer, and President of Highway Services. Not only do I support her, but I also organize conferences, customer forums, budget meetings, driver events, and quarterly rallies. In addition, I get to manage a team of five amazing ladies. One of the best aspects of my job is that I, along with my dream team, plan and execute over 20 Employee Appreciation events for 3,500 employees per year.
Growing both in size, and in our efficiency to do innovative things, the best really is to come! I can’t wait to see what’s ahead for my career at J.B. Hunt.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY FROM EU?
All of my favorite memories are encompassed in all that I was involved in at EU. I made the most out of my time! I worked in Admissions and Marketing, was a Student Host, blogged for the website, was a member on the START team, and served on the Fashion Fever Committee. I developed close relationships with the faculty and staff — and walked away with some of the best friendships that will last a lifetime.
HOW DID EU HELP YOU IDENTIFY OR DEVELOP YOUR CALLING?
I was beyond blessed to have some of the best professors in the world, who did, in fact, develop my calling; one, in particular, was Dr. Mark Kelton. My very first class at EU was Public Speaking – at 8 am! Cruel, I know. I sat on the very back row of Zimmerman 101, while my nerves were doing high-performance summersaults in my stomach, and in walks, Dr. Kelton – dressed in khakis, a button-down, and a navy-blue sports coat.
His eyebrows raised over his glasses, before he said, “For those of you on the back row, make sure you’re paying attention because I call on everyone – even if their hands aren’t raised.” Gulp. If you’re wondering, I almost lost my Chick-Fil-A Chicken Mini’s when I gave my first speech. But through Public Speaking, two changes of my major (Education > Social Work > Communication Studies), and way beyond that, one thing was constant – the investment that Dr. Kelton made in me.
Did my speaking skills get better, you ask? Thankfully, yes – and that’s what we call grace, my friends. During the last semester of my senior year, after years spent under Dr. Kelton’s leadership, I was on the Forensics team, and there was an opportunity for four individuals to go to the International Speech Tournament in Antwerp, Belgium. By some act of Jesus Himself, I was one of those four … and it was a trip I’ll never forget. I brought home memories, souvenirs, and an “Outstanding Senior” plaque.
On my graduation day, Dr. Kelton came up and said, “Wow, I can’t believe how far you’ve come; I still remember that timid little freshman, who sat on the back row. I’m so proud of you, Lauren.” I remember tears welling in my eyes, and at that moment, I knew that I would’ve never had that at any other university. I would’ve never had a professor that poured into me like Dr. Kelton did, and still does.
Not only did he end up being my most favorite professor, and academic advisor, but he’s still someone I regularly visit and communicate with. For what it’s worth, every time I get up to speak, whether it’s in a boardroom full of executives or a large group of high school students touring our facilities, I remember my first speech – and I remember those EU professors that built me.
HOW DID YOUR EXPERIENCE AT EU PREPARE YOU FOR LIFE AFTER GRADUATION?
EU is set apart from other universities because it integrates both faith and education. For me, personally, this was my biggest takeaway after graduation. How do I keep Christ at the center of my life, apply what I’ve learned in the last 3-5 years at EU, and still stay true to the person that God created me to be?
Pray. Trust. Go.
Life, and especially the working world, can be a little scary and a whole lot intimidating outside of EU’s beautiful campus. Expectations are high, and the unknowns are REAL – but when most graduates are normally fearful, I was confident. Why? Because I knew my foundation, and the walls built at EU were unshakeable.
Sometimes going to Chapel seems like a chore, especially when you have a ridiculously hard test you need to study for, but take advantage of them. Some of my best moments were spent in that assigned chapel seat because no matter how stressed I was when I walked in, I was always better when I walked out. *Carl the Clocktower chimes in the background*
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A CURRENT STUDENT PREPARING FOR THE WORKFORCE?
- Stay planted. Raised in Springfield, MO, it was a definite culture shock moving to Orlando, FL; however, it was such a positive thing for me, because my relationship with God became my own. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t surrounded by people who were all running the same race with the same end goal in mind. I was questioned, I was persecuted, and I was tested – but I remained planted. And you know what? It’s a tremendous opportunity to be light in a sea of people who’ve functioned in the darkness for too long. When you go into the workforce, there might be times when what you stand for is questioned, but never forget the roots you have planted. Besides, what plants can grow without light?
- Work hard. When you’re applying for a job, don’t expect to walk into a higher-level position right after college, and become a CEO in 2 years. Be realistic in your expectations and know that it’s okay to start at the bottom – because this is often where work ethic is showcased the most. A lot of times hustle will get you places that talent never could. “BTGT” is a phrase that we use often at J.B. Hunt – meaning, “Be The Go To.” Work hard, be willing to do tasks that are outside of your job description, and always be the person people want to go to. Hard work pays off.
- Be yourself. This one is important. Be confident in who you are, and what you have to offer – and on the flip side, know who you’re not and what you could improve on. Your calling, your purpose, and your qualities are all unique to you – so don’t sell yourself short, but continue to consistently better yourself and your abilities. People need what you bring to the table.
WHAT WOULD YOU LOOK FOR IF YOU WERE IN A POSITION TO HIRE NEW GRADUATES FROM EU?
Prior to my current role at J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc., I was a Recruiting Manager in Human Resources – where I reviewed hundreds of resumes per week and conducted countless phone interviews. Some of the first things that I looked for on a resume of a recent graduate was: 1) Did that person have an internship throughout college? and 2) Did that person donate any of his/her time in the community? Take advantage of the internship opportunities while you’re in college because you will learn a great deal about yourself, your purpose, and the working world. However, more importantly in my book, take time to build your character – because integrity isn’t something that can be taught in a new hire orientation; it’s at the very core of who you are and how you’re remembered.