RDS networking trip to Seattle and Portland is a real rainmaker for students

The weather might have been wet in January during the Pacific Northwest Networking Trip to Portland, OR and Seattle, WA sponsored by the Robert Day School of Economics and Finance at CMC. Nonetheless, it was also “raining” connections for the group of students that participated in the event, which was inaugurated in 2013 with a networking trip to Seattle.

According to Kevin Arnold, Director of Graduate Programs at RDS, no trip to the northwest would have been complete without a healthy dose of cold January rain, which the group experienced in both cities. “Nonetheless, the students bonded quickly, made a great team and learned a great deal while representing the best of CMC with professionalism, engaging questions of presenters and a consistent openness and enthusiasm for learning something new at each visit,” he said.

Since that first trip in 2013, the networking pilgrimage to the northwest has included Portland. The combination of Seattle and Portland takes advantage of the cities’ growth as business sectors and home to both large companies as well as up-and-coming businesses.

The group of 15 networkers included two sophomores, seven juniors, three seniors and three graduate students enrolled in the Master’s Program in Finance at RDS. The group arrived in Portland for their first meeting on January 10 and completed their networking on January 15 in Seattle.

Highlights of the trip included individual interactive virtual reality demonstrations at Microsoft, crawling through the cockpit of an airplane at Alaska Air and engaging with expert panels on private wealth management, commercial banking and philanthropy. 

Arnold said the most colorful and one of the most motivating experiences was meeting with Henry Albrecht ’91 at the Limeade company he cofounded and which now supports a diverse group of clients with expert resources that include tailored software development programs that support employee health and well-being.

“I participated in this trip for several reasons,” said Cole Mora ’17. “ I consider the Northwest home, and the chance to get to know the professional side of it was incredible. I knew that RDS would give us unique and valuable opportunities to meet professionals from across a variety of fields, and we were not disappointed. Not only did we have the opportunity to meet and network with talented and inspiring individuals, we were able to learn about how different businesses are organized, how they function, and why they do what they do. I wanted to learn and be exposed to new people and ideas, and this trip provided all of that.” 

For some students like Emily Chambard ’16, the networking trip also provided a chance to hone important skills. For her it was mindfully maintaining an “active listening presence” during informational meeting sessions. 

“The week was long, but I made a point of identifying unique points of interest in each session that not only helped me remain engaged but generated genuine interest that I was not expecting to have in several of the firms we visited,” she said. “I was also struck by how applicable my skill set could be in many of the firms that I had previously conceived as simply finance-oriented. I found the Networking Reception in Seattle to be especially valuable – talking to alumni was very grounding in that it gave me a vision of recent post-graduate life and dispelled some of the illusion of the ‘right’ path to take following graduation. More than anything, the trip got me excited about moving into the work world and being able to tangibly employ the soft and hard skills I’ve been developing during my time at CMC.”

The invitation to apply to attend the networking trip was extended by RDS to a wide range of students that included Robert Day Scholars as well as students who had expressed prior interest in internships or full-time employment in the Northwest.

Arnold along with Beth Walkenbach (CMC Alumni Relations) accompanied the group to Seattle and Portland. The networking visits to various companies were coordinated by the Interim RDS Director of External Relations Marisa Walter and Interim RDS Executive Director Michelle Chamberlain. 

According to Arnold, their extensive experience and knowledge of industries and relevant points of contact, including alumni, enabled the students to meet with a wide range of professionals, from young entry level analysts and consultants to very senior corporate officers.  “It was particularly educational to visit an amazing cross-section of industries,” Arnold said.

Portland company visits ranged from environment-focused organizations such as the Oregon Angel Fund and The Climate Trust, to energy industry data experts at Ecova, supply chain managers at Bridgewell Resources and Public Affairs experts at Gallatin Public Affairs.

And no trip to Portland would be complete without visiting both Adidas and Nike. 

Seattle similarly offered a diverse set of learning opportunities that included Alaska Airlines, J.P. Morgan, Russell Investments, Jones Lang LaSalle, and Limeade. Students were able to engage junior and senior consultants at West Monroe Partners and Accenture, as well as visiting and touring the market giants of Amazon and Microsoft.

“CMC alumni were involved in nearly all visits in some capacity, along with several proud CMC parents,” Arnold said. “On Monday and Wednesday nights, Beth arranged alumni receptions in Portland and Seattle respectively where students met some of the company visit hosts and a much larger group of alumni in more informal and enjoyable settings.”

According to Paul Reynolds ’17, the value of the Pacific Northwest Networking Trip is in its introduction to a wide variety of companies. “Visiting and meeting employees of various companies allowed me to gain knowledge that I could not have discovered simply by reading their website,” he said. “The trip also connected me to alumni in a wide range of different industries, further expanding my networking circle, which I believe will be very beneficial to me in the future.”

Julia McCarthy ’18 agreed. “The opportunity to get to know other CMCers and alums with similar interests is extremely valuable because it gives you an insight into the type of people you could be working with in the future,” she said. “I would absolutely recommend – instantly – any RDS networking trip to other students.”