Many business executives will tell you that nothing beats hands-on experience, and two University of Nevada, Reno students were recently given the opportunity to find out just how true that is.
Farahida Jamaluddin and Robert Reed, two graduate-level accounting majors, were selected to participate in the first University of Nevada, Reno Executive Mentorship Program. They travelled to Seattle for a two-day experience shadowing executives from Coinstar, a coins-for-cash vending machine company and parent company of the well-known RedBox kiosks, and Aegis Living, an assisted-living community with 33 facilities in three states.
Each student spent one day with Saul Gates, chief accounting officer at Coinstar, Galen Smith, vice president of finance for Redbox, and Sonia Jain, Coinstar treasurer. Then they spent one day with Dave Eskenazy, chief financial officer at Aegis Living and Director for Coinstar. Eskenazy is an alumnus of the University of Nevada, Reno College of Business and helped create and fund the program to give students an idea of "a day in the life" of modern business. The program was created by Jeff Wong, Department Chair of Accounting after a conversation he had with Eskenazy at last year’s College Honors and Awards Banquet.
"I am involved with two companies and I have many contacts involved in others," Eskenazy said. "It just occurred to me that this would be a great experience for the students, one that I did not have."
The students were able to meet the individuals that Gates and Eskenazy work with on a daily basis. Both students commented that they were surprised how many meetings there were to attend, and that they were able to sit in on every single one. Reed was also able to visit a construction site with Eskenazy.
"It was very different from school," Jamaluddin said. "I learned that you should always think ahead when it comes to making any decision because it could not only effect you, but others as well. I saw how executives expect a certain level of work from their people and they bring people up to that level because of it."
Reed explained watching Eskenazy handle different situations, including those of crises, and appreciated how he handled them quickly and in an appropriate way. He said it really opened his eyes to the kind of knowledge you need to have as a vice president or corporate executive.
One lesson Jamaluddin and Reed took from the experience was that their dreams weren't as far out of reach as they may have thought.
"I liked seeing something I could potentially do in my future," Reed said. "It seems like an attainable goal now. It gave me a lot of motivation and it pushed me to realize that I do have enough knowledge, and can gain the knowledge, to become a CFO in the future. I don't think I could have ever done this if it weren't for this program."
Eskenazy was very pleased with the students' reaction to the experience and hoped they were able to imagine themselves in a way the classroom doesn't always provide.
"I think it was like the difference between high school football and the NFL, in that the game speeds up more than they could realize," Eskenazy said. "I hope the other takeaway was how human interaction, teamwork and culture work together in a way that defines success. This is not about individual intelligence, but about how people work together in a cohesive, collaborative way. I think it also gave them a chance to imagine themselves in this environment and how it would feel to them as they move through their careers."
Greg Mosier, College of Business Dean, is grateful for the chance to offer this type of program that allows students to experience a working environment from a corporate level.
"Learning opportunities like these provide outstanding experiences for our students," Mosier said. "The ability to interact in a professional setting with our successful alumni and supporters is invaluable. We appreciate Dave's willingness to help foster these experiences."
Eskenazy, Jamaluddin and Reed all expressed confidence that the program will continue to grow and offer students the chance to learn from other business executives.
"This was just a test, and I think it worked well," Eskenazy said. "I think we can take many more students, not just from accounting, but from marketing or other business disciplines, and expand beyond our two companies. I am very pleased with the outcome."