EU alumni perspective: Lauren McCreight, Olivia Gorman, Emily Bye from the Principal Financial Leadership Program
Graduation Year: 2014
Major: Finance & Management
Current Position: Leadership Development Program Associate
City and State: Des Moines, IA
Graduation Year: 2017
Current Position: Leadership Development Program Associate
City and State: Des Moines, IA
Graduation Year: December 2017
Major: Business Management
Current Position: Leadership Development Program
City and State: Des Moines, IA
Tell us about your career and what you do now.
I work for Principal, a financial company, at their global headquarters in Des Moines, IA. Currently, however, I’m on an assignment in New York City working with our investments and, specifically, our exchange-traded funds! I’ll back up a little bit…upon graduation, I accepted a position as an associate in Principal’s Leadership Development Program, which is a three-year rotational program where you develop as a leader and get a holistic view of the company. So far, I’ve worked in Marketing, Insurance, Investor Relations, Finance, and am currently working with our ETFs (exchange-traded funds) as mentioned above. One of the things I’m most thankful for are the opportunities that come with being in the Program and working for a global, well-respected company. For example, during my time in Investor Relations, I had the opportunity to collaborate with our executives to host and attend our Investor Day in New York City for investors and analysts on Wall Street. I geek out about stuff like that.
I work at Principal, also known as Principal Financial Group. I am in my first year of Principal’s three-year Leadership Development Program (LDP). This is a customizable rotation program with rotations lasting four to nine months. I am close to finishing my first rotation which has been in the Global Center for Brand & Insights (corporate marketing). Acquiring a position in the Global Center would have required 3-4 years previous experience, but through the program, I have been able to work there for the past six months. I have been very fortunate to work with multiple teams across the Global Center. I have been working on projects with our Sponsorships Team, Advertising Team, Search Strategy Team, Market Research Team, and the PR & Content Strategy Team.
The fact that EU grads currently occupy about 21% of the program definitely speaks volume about the education EU is providing. Also, that’s three of us out of around 1,200 applicants between the four classes (one LDP class per year). We are so excited to have Emily join in January, and I know we will be going back to EU next fall to do recruiting for the 2019 class.
After graduation, I will be working for Principal Financial in Des Moines, IA. I will be involved with the Leadership Development Program which is a three-year rotational program that teaches Principal’s next generation of leaders the ins and outs of a global financial services company.
What is your favorite memory from Evangel?
I had so many wonderful memories at Evangel. Academically, I was stretched and challenged. Spiritually, I grew like never before. But my favorite memories involved the people. I am still best friends with my friends at Evangel. I remember late night runs to several Chinese restaurants and ordering crab rangoon to see which ones were best when we should have been studying for finals. I remember racing to Starbucks and back to class with friends (that was when there wasn’t one on campus!). Being in a setting with godly friends who encourage you and challenge you is priceless.
That’s a tough one. I’m not sure I have a single favorite memory, but I do have a favorite collection of memories. As most EU business students are well aware, Strategic Management has a huge project due at midterms. My team project team was super fun to work with. Caroline Woosley, Ben Davis, Michael Finch, and Anastasia Lewis made the project much more bearable. So, my favorite EU memory consists of all the super late nights in the computer lab with those four wonderful people. There were a few times where we did more laughing than working.
It’s hard to choose a favorite memory from my time at Evangel. Every semester was full of great friendships, opportunities, and experiences. If I had to narrow it down and choose my top memory, I would have to say my trip to Dallas with the Evangel Enactus Team. We took a 3-day trip to Dallas to compete in the regional competition. We met with alumni, went to fancy dinners, played Top Golf, explored downtown Dallas, and participated in team bonding. Enactus has provided me with so many great memories here at Evangel.
How did Evangel help you identify/develop your calling?
Evangel helped me identify my calling by reinforcing that whether in ministry or not you have a unique, God-given purpose. Growing up I always wanted to be called into the ministry but I didn’t feel a strong confirmation towards becoming a pastor or missionary. Evangel helped me realize I am in ministry; it just looks different than what you would think! The professors, staff, and even my peers encouraged me that I can make a difference with the talents God have given me.
Through my management and leadership classes with Professor Dana, I became more self-aware and realized that I wanted to be a formal leader. Dana helped me understand that leadership is a skill that needs to be continually worked on. That is one of the reasons I applied for the LDP.
I loved all my business classes at Evangel, but that was also my problem. There wasn’t a specific area I knew I wanted to be in. Luckily, Lauren McCreight came with several other LDPs and recruited at EU the fall semester of my senior year. They explained that the program was an opportunity for those that wanted to be in business, be a leader, but had not identified their “fit” yet. This program was an opportunity for me to explore multiple areas of a huge corporation while also developing my leadership skills. Evangel not only made me aware of this opportunity, but also prepared me for it.
The professors and spiritual atmosphere of Evangel helped me to discover and develop my calling. At Evangel, there were so many opportunities for spiritual growth and development. Through these opportunities, I realized the importance of serving the Lord and using my God-given business skills for His kingdom. The professors that were intentional and spoke wisdom into my life so often also helped me to discover my calling. Each professor took the time to get to know me and my strengths. From there, they gave me advice on opportunities I should pursue and ways I could develop my strengths. Their intentionality in my life helped me to realize what I want in a career and how I can serve the Lord in my vocation.
How did your experience at Evangel prepare you for life after graduation?
Evangel prepares you for the hard questions and hard conversations. In the Bible, Jesus talks about how there will come a day where Christians will be persecuted. I’ve seen minor glimpses of that while working for a big company and in various cities I’ve traveled to for work. Evangel gives you the foundation to stand firm but to do so in love.
My experience at Evangel prepared me to be a leader. I did not realize this until after a few months in my new job. The classes I took developed my leadership skills. I now recognize how fortunate I was to learn about leadership from some amazing leaders who also happen to be professors at Evangel. I have even seen Principal’s HR implementing leadership lessons that I was already taught at EU.
Evangel also prepared me to be able to work in multiple business areas. My major was in marketing, but I also feel well-equipped to work in training & development, investor relations, recruiting, operations, and many more departments within Principal. You don’t want to be a one trick pony in today’s workforce. Being able to work in different areas of a business open opportunities for growth and advancement.
My time at Evangel helped me to prepare for my next step by teaching me spiritual maturity, organizational skills, as well as relational skills. All of the classes and extracurricular activities I was involved in helped me to develop strong organizational skills and learn how to relate to others and work with others in a group setting. The spiritual atmosphere of Evangel also helped me to learn integrity and strong core values which will serve me well in a business environment.
What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?
I would tell them a few things.
1) Don’t be afraid of getting out of your comfort zone. It’s a big world and you don’t want to settle. Go after the hard things and the jobs that scare you. Get back up when you fail. Be willing to move locations if God allows. If God ordains it He will take care of it.
2) You got a good education at Evangel. I remember being intimidated by the bigger schools, especially, ivy leagues. Don’t be. I had two people who work on Wall Street tell me they look for the private school or the person who has something different about them. You’re ready.
3) Start looking now! Apply to places now. You can always decline opportunities if life leads you somewhere different but start researching early and be in the application process by fall of your senior year.
There are a few things…
When you are applying for jobs and going through the interview process, always pray that God shuts the doors He doesn’t want for you and open the one He does. Finding a job is stressful, but putting it in God’s hands took a lot of the stress away.1 Peter 5:7
You don’t know your pay until you get your first paycheck. You can estimate all you want for taxes, 401(k), health insurance, dental, vision, disability, etc., but you won’t know your take home pay until you get that first paycheck. My advice, don’t buy the new car or super nice furniture or designer work clothes until you can make an accurate budget. Then you can see what you’re able to splurge a little on.
Lastly, create or use your network. I honestly don’t know if I would have made it into the program if it weren’t for Lauren McCreight’s and other LDPs’ guidance. Networking can get your foot in the door, and then it is up to you to sell yourself.
What would you look for if you were in a position to hire new graduates from Evangel?
I would look for someone who meets the standard of The Ideal Team Player according to Patrick Lencioni – humble, hungry, and smart. There’s a lot to be said for balancing confidence with humility. Any subject or skill can be taught but you can’t teach those qualities. Evangel produces students who have them – and companies are taking note. In fact, Principal has even hired two other Evangel graduates for the LD Program since I started. Our recruiter has gone as far to say that no other school compares to the quality of students we get from Evangel. This Program has hundreds apply and about a one percent acceptance rate so it really speaks to the quality of students at Evangel. I couldn’t be more thankful for the way Evangel prepared me for my career.
I would look at their experience. I would not hire someone who only took classes, even if they had an excellent GPA. What impresses an interview committee is when you took the classes, got a great GPA, and you played sports or had a job or an internship. This shows how driven you are, that you can meet deadlines even with a lot on your plate, and that you are adaptable. I would also be looking for leadership experience. This can be formal or informal. Lastly, they would need to have confidence. I know that interviews can be super stressful, but try to remember that no one can sell yourself better than you. If you find the confidence part difficult to do, try the fake it until you make it motto. I still use that motto when I have meetings with executives.
What advice would you give a current high school student preparing for college?
I would tell a current high school student that is preparing for college to get involved as much as they can and as early as they can. It’s the best way to meet people, develop deep relationships, and build your resume. You will build lifelong friendships and connections that could possibly help you in your future career. It’s also a great way to make Evangel feel like home.