Thursday, June 8, 2017
Arthik Adla came to Virginia Commonwealth University to study biomedical engineering. He left with a business degree instead.
“My goals were to go to medical school, but after doing a lot of research and volunteer work at the hospital, I realized I didn’t want to do it,” said Adla, who graduated last month from the School of Business. “I needed to find a new passion.”
To find that passion, Adla switched majors, switched schools and completed two cooperative education (co-op) internships. Those steps helped him land a spot in a two-year project management development program at Capital One, which he will begin in July.
“I wanted to fuse my technical background with the business world, so I came up with supply chain management and project management,” he said. “That [decision] and my internship experiences helped me find my niche.”
A blend of business and engineering
Adla spent two years in engineering before he decided to switch fields. He met with Laura Lemza, assistant director of career and industry advising for the School of Engineering. Lemza connected Adla with a few people who worked in engineering sales. She also found a business class Adla could take before changing majors and recommended he attend the School of Business career fair.
Lemza believed Adla would find a home in either supply chain management or operations management — common overlap areas between engineering and business.
“Employers have communicated with us that they are looking for engineers in those fields,” she said. “I think as business has become so incredibly complex and detailed, hiring managers have found they need the analytical and data-focused mind of an engineer to help run it.”
Adla, Lemza said, had that attention to detail. At the business career fair, he secured a co-op that changed his future. The position was with West Rock, today the second-largest packaging company in the United States. The full-time, seven-month job allowed Adla to spend a semester out of the classroom.
“I was still in [the] biomedical engineering [program],” Adla said. “But I was learning a lot of the skills necessary to work in a corporate environment.”
Unknowingly, Adla also was laying the groundwork for his job at Capital One. A co-worker at West Rock had previously interned at Owens and Minor — a health care logistics company. Adla secured a project management co-op at Owens and Minor, where he connected with a colleague who previously had worked at Capital One.
By this point, Adla also had switched majors, enrolling in the supply chain management and analytics program in the School of Business. Lemza’s friend, Darlene Ward Thompson, is associate director of career services at the school.
Because Arthik went into engineering, he had a chance to build more technical and analytical skills that made him more competitive.
“Every once in a while you will see a student start with Laura and end up with me, or vice versa,” Thompson said. “Because Arthik went into engineering, he had a chance to build more technical and analytical skills that made him more competitive. A lot of students don’t have that multidisciplinary approach to internships. He really benefited from that.”
Adla applied for a spot in Capital One’s project management development program last September. He completed a phone screening and was invited to a final interview in October.
“They call it the ‘Power Day,’” Adla said. “You are led around the Capital One campus with 10 other candidates and taken to lunch. Then you go in a room and you have three one-hour interviews.”
Adla received an offer within 24 hours. The program is split into two one-year rotations in different disciplinary areas. Adla will spend the first year in Richmond. The program is a great way to test out different career paths within the company, he said.
“That’s the main reason I chose [this offer],” Adla said. “Coming out of college it’s tough to find what you are good at. Capital One really allows you to go through roles, travel, and experience different things.”
Lemza agrees. She said Adla had the right approach to switching fields of study.
“He’s the perfect career investigator,” Lemza said. “First you research online, then you go and talk to people who are in the field you are considering, then you try it — you do an internship. And that’s exactly what he did.”
‘I had this experience’
Adla examines his path to Capital One — meeting with Lemza, taking business classes, switching majors, applying for internships — and realizes it made him a stronger candidate.
“The real big thing was having those internship experiences — each opportunity was built from the previous one,” he said.
That first job at West Rock was a turning point, he added.
“I kind of didn’t want to do it because I had class and I wanted to graduate on time, but taking that semester at work — as opposed to just going to classes — was probably the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “I got a leg up on other candidates because I had this experience.”
“We probably would not recommend [enrolling in a major for two years and then switching],” she said, laughing. “But for Arthik I think it had to happen that way. When I looked at his resume for the first time, I thought he was bringing so much to the table, and that’s because he started as an engineering major. Arthik just did it all a little bit differently.”
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