Cathy Anderson

At first glance, Cathy Anderson hardly appears capable of a furtive takeover of a company, yet that is precisely what she did. In 1997, upset with what she calls “ethical issues” in the San Diego chamber of commerce, Cathy moved the San Diego Film Commission, the organization she still heads, literally in the middle of the night. Through coordination with her fellow employees, who were also perturbed by issues of ethics, Cathy managed to secretively make autonomous a government funded organization, and neither she, nor her employees, ever missed a paycheck.

After graduating from college with degrees in film and theater, Cathy became quickly disillusioned with the meager compensation offered to the regular folks who tread among the stars. She left the industry to teach, but thanks to the support of her husband, who insisted she do what she love. This led her to a volunteer position with the film commission, from which she established herself as an invaluable leader.

She advises that only through communication was she able to earn the trust to take control in 1997, and suggests that all aspiring leaders focus on their communicative abilities. San Diego is lucky to have Cathy, and the $80 million dollars left in their community last year alone, by film, print and television crews capturing the beauty of what lies south of Hollywood.

Billy Beane

The Road To General Manager

At age 18, Billy Beane had more hype surrounding him than LeBron James did coming out of high school. Scouts would flounder to his high school and drool at the opportunity of drafting the 6′4, power hitting sensation. The New York Mets got that opportunity, taking Billy with the 20th pick in the first round of the 1980 baseball amateur draft.

The draft simultaneously opened a new door while closing another for Billy. He had always planned on playing pro baseball, but his ideal plan always called for a career to come after college. Now he was forced to make the decision to either leap into baseball, or go to school first. He chose to start playing, a decision that he regretted when he realized that he would miss out on the college life he had always envisioned for himself.

Billy climbed the minor league ladder to make his first Major League appearance in 1984, four years after his journey began. For parts of the next six seasons, Billy would play for four different teams in 148 games, hitting 3 home runs and compiling a truncated .219 batting average.

After ten seasons of professional baseball, Billy entering spring training during what was supposed to be the prime of his career. At this time, a unique opportunity arose.

“I was literally on that field back there (points to A’s spring training practice field) in 1990, and I had a conversation with Ron Schuler, the soon to be GM of the White Sox. He started talking to me about an opportunity, and I said hey, it’s something that I’m interested in. He said yeah, you’d probably be good at it. So I said how about now? The next day I was an advance major league scout.”

Moneyball author Michael Lewis describes this decision to abruptly end his professional baseball career as similar to a movie star walking off the set to be a production assistant. But the three years he would spend as a scout would start his pursuit of a passion that went back to when Billy was a kid playing pseudo-fantasy games.

In 1993, Billy was named Assistant General Manager to then GM Sandy Alderson. Sandy would prove to be a key mentor in shaping Billy’s innovative managing style. He prepared Billy to take over the General Managing position in 1997. After two losing seasons, Billy implemented the entrepreneurial strategies that would reclassify his Athletics team from under-achievers to “winners.”

The Entrepreneurial Approach To The Game

When Billy took over the general manager position for the Oakland A’s in 1997, his situation was (and still is) similar to that of an ambitious entrepreneur going up against a company like Microsoft. He had little resources to work with while facing major league competition. As Billy put it in our interview:

“It was a negatively unique situation in the sense that you have a limited amount of resources and you’re in a small market, but at the same time it’s an opportunity that gives you a complete artistic license to do whatever you want. We knew we couldn’t run our team like the New York Yankees. But we knew we had to find our niche, and we knew we had to find our gaps in the marketplace.”


Faced with this “survival of the fittest” scenario, Billy and his team found their niche to not only survive, but single-handedly change the way baseball execs manage the game. Their niche, which they would soon become famous for, was explored in the best selling book Moneyball by Michael Lewis. They focused on more obscure baseball statistics that other teams took little notice of. Suddenly, stats such as on-base percentage held a value greater than batting average. Walks became just as important as singles. Strikeouts were a big no-no.

The concept was constructed after Beane began to draw upon the success of others outside of the baseball industry, such as Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway. His goal was to exploit the opportunities in baseball much like Warren Buffet did with early hedge funds and to steer away from the stereotypical template that ran so many organizations in baseball. This was innovation at its finest.

As a result of his innovative approach, the A’s haven’t had a losing season since 1999, winning 4 American League Division West Titles on a payroll under a third of that of the storied New York Yankees.

Pursue The Passion Advice:

PTP: What kind of advice would you give to someone who is trying to identify and ultimately pursue their passion?

BB: “Don’t necessarily work towards the end. The end is determining what kind of grade you’re going to get, then what kind of job you’re going to get by virtue of going to a specific school. I’ve got a brother that has spent his life playing guitar and surfing. And everyone wondered what he was going to do, and you know what, he’s doing just fine. He followed his passion, found a way to make a living, and ultimately has been successful. The advice I’d give, if you love art history, major in art history. Because you’re going to be good at art history, and someone is going to find a way to pay you for it. As opposed to saying that I want to be an electrical engineer because it makes a lot of money. Ultimately, there’s a short shelf life to that. To me, it’s the process of learning, and if you enjoy that, the world is at your feet. The process is most important, not the end.”

Anna Belyaev

The day before we were to depart for Chicago, I emerged from Trader Joe’s into the blistering triple digit desert heat in Phoenix, talking with Type A’s CEO Anna Belyaev with my phone pinched between ear and shoulder while clutching an armful of groceries.

“Uh huh. Yeah. That’ll work. 8:30 Thursday morning at the Westin? Great, yeah, yeah, we’ll see you there,” was what my end of the conversation was like as I opened the trunk to my eyesore of a ‘95 Mazda Protégé.

Once I got into the driver’s seat, I quickly scribbled our 21st interview of the week into our frenzied Chicago schedule on my receipt with a black Sharpie.

Flash forward to Thursday morning at 8:30, at our business office headquarters, Starbucks. Daniel and I casually wait for Anna as I read over notes from and Daniel sips his coffee.

Fifteen minutes go by and I’m beginning to get annoyed with Ms. Belyaev, who I’m thinking could be the second person to stand us up on the tour. I phone the person who referred me to this irresponsible CEO and received the phone number (that I did not bother to write down or save originally) to reach Anna.

I receive a pleasant answering machine with Anna’s voice telling me to leave a message, so I do at 8:50 am to see if she would care to join us for coffee this morning.

At 8:52 my phone vibrates and I answer to hear a slightly agitated female voice exclaiming that yes, she would like to have a cup of coffee, and that in fact, she had been waiting for a half an hour at the West Egg (not the Westin, or Starbucks) and was now en route to her office. But, she could change her route and meet with us briefly if we would still like.

Immediately I begin to think of how much a dumbass I am for not getting information correct.

This story is a perfect example of the two way street of communication, and I am the character that does not know the road rules. In this writeup I could talk about how interesting Anna is, how she majored in Slavic linguistics and has a passion for Russia, actually living over there for a while and witnessed the struggles the Russian people. Or I could expand on her ambitious goal of creating 10,000 jobs for people in her lifetime (right now she has created enough jobs to feed and support 15 families). But instead, the message that hit home with us was about simple communication, and the importance of perfecting this skill.

Anna’s message was that simple communication is the key to all changes. Communication can be in the form of body language, or in can be through conversation, which is really all you have at times. She pointed out that people often have conversations with themselves, but a conversation with yourself isn’t really communication and won’t be responsible for changes. Through conversations with others, you have a network of people to hold you accountable, and having that network can be the motivating tool to help you reach a goal.

On the way to reaching the potential for excelling in the area of communication you have to portray confidence, because the biggest obstacle is yourself and not being brave enough.

The basis for this advice is that simple conversation goes a long way. It may sound obvious, it may sound repetitive, but take a minute to look at the importance of communication in life. I know that I overlooked the issue, and as a result we could have never met Anna and heard her advice because of my lack of simple communication.

Rachel Begelman

Rachel wanted to do something entrepreneurial when she decided to get her MBA at the University of Chicago. That something she was looking for turned out to be, an online service that provides personalized, confidential dating & relationship advice. She created the site with a friend after identifying the lack of relevant dating & relationship advice on the Internet. And it’s true! If you type in dating advice into google, there are endless links leading you to sites, such as eHarmony or None of these sites allow users to ask direct questions 24 hours a day, with real-time responses.

Rachel’s career path to began after she received bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami. She found work at The Advisory Board Company in Washington, D.C. There she wrote papers and did research for Fortune 500 companies for three years. She then decided to go back to school. She went to the University of Chicago to work towards her MBA in entrepreneurship.

While in school she accepted an internship at a technology company despite her lack of knowledge or love for the field. She figured, ‘hey, why not try out this internet craze? She learned to love technology and thought about the many ways that she could combine technology and entrepreneurship. She worked at a startup company called, her first real experience that combined her two newfound interests. Unfortunately, did not last. Rachel found herself moving onto another startup, which again, did not survive. Still, Rachel could not find it in herself to abandon her two passions. Not knowing what else to do, she moved onto the next opportunity that presented itself to her.

Eventually, the idea of Econfidant sprouted when her friends told her that she was great at giving relationship advice. She researched the idea for almost a year. She found that there was enough of a market for that type of service. She also found a willing business partner in one of her friends who wanted to take the leap with her. In January of 2006, opened for business. Unlike her past experiences the industry, Rachel’s idea proved to have longevity.

In our interview with Rachel, we discussed her take on college students today. She explained that most students don’t understand the business world and the leaders that reside within it. Her advice is to talk to as many people as possible about what the different types of positions entail in business in order to understand what is available out there. “You have to get experience,” she told us in an almost pleading manner.

This type of advice is what Pursue The Passion hopes to give to students and other aspiring people. What we noticed is that students are generally not motivated to go and get the experience that Rachel talked about, despite having endless amounts of opportunity while in school. So we’d have to agree with Rachel. Look into getting those experiences that will help you grow as an individual, as well as compliment your resume for the job searches that await you.

Katie Cordova

It’s funny how we can become so blinded by responsibility that we don’t realize how out of wack our priorities have become. Katie had her epiphany when she realized that she was rushing her daughter back to bed so that she could return to her open e-mail account. She realized then and there that she was putting Corporate America ahead of her own family. She needed a change.
Born into a “Beaver Cleaver” type of family in Iowa, Katie was raised by her parents, both of whom were public school teachers. Although careers in education had many benefits, large financial gains were not one of them. Deciding that teaching wasn’t for her, Katie opted for a career where the money was; accounting. Katie attended two colleges before finding the University of Northern Iowa accommodating. Majoring in accounting, she found that her college pushed students towards public accounting, a similar theme at most business schools.

But Katie wanted something different. She wanted to travel. She entertained interviews with public accounting firms, but found what she was looking for with Honeywell. The company is a diversified technology and manufacturing leader in aerospace products and services. They offered her a job with 80% travel. Her first Monday on the job she was on board a flight headed to Scotland. This trip would be the first day of a 13 year stint in Corporate America

She loved the competitive culture at Honeywell. She soon became addicted to the competition and became obsessed with outdoing those around her. Her career became her number one priority. She became so submerged in her work that she found herself unable to spend quality time at home with her family. Katie’s commitment to her status and sales number allowed her to excel with Honeywell.

She soon became addicted to the Honeywell culture, where achievement is paramount. After five years of loyal service, she left Honeywell for a job that paid a little more. Five months later she found herself on the Honeywell doorstep five begging for her job back. She was now back in the corporate life that she had grown so found of.

Whether it was her parents’ influence or growing appreciate for it, she found herself wanting to teach. Everyone she talked to told her that she had to go and get her PhD first., but the opportunity never really made it self available to her.

There’s a saying that Katie told me about how she came to be a teacher. She said that “when God closes a door, he always opens a window. But the hallway leading to the window is sometimes really long.”

Well, Katie went down the hallway and eventually exited out of the window. She was having lunch one day with an engineer, who expressed how he found accounting so difficult to understand. Katie volunteered to teach him accounting once a week during lunch. The engineer found it so useful that he brought his whole team of engineers along with him to these sessions. Katie was now teaching 20 engineers the ins and outs of accounting.

These sessions led to an official class, which Honeywell now offers their employees. A professor from Duke University was brought in to teach the class full-time. Katie and this professor communicated about the direction of the course, and in their discussions she found that he knew the department head of the business college at the University of Arizona, which, like Honeywell, was located in Tucson, AZ. She asked the professor for a letter of recommendation, the planets aligned and she now found herself an adjunct professor teaching a graduate level auditing class at the university level. Talk about a change!

She was still working at Honeywell and doing teaching on the side. She was told that it would be three years until she could be offered a full-time teaching position. But six months later, after receiving the Undergraduate Faculty of the Year Award in ‘05-’06, she was offered a full-time position teaching Governmental Non-Profit Accounting at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. I guess that window was wide enough to dive headfirst through!

Author’s Notes:

Back to the thought that people can become addicted to their careers. I find it funny because it seems like most people I’ve talked to have been addicted to their external accomplishments in their job, not the job itself. When I ask people about their careers, they tend to first point to their “accomplishments.” To an outsider like myself, these accomplishments are impressive, but they say tell me that you’re only as good as what you’re up against. And if you’re up against the other employees in the company, then your accomplishments are only good within that circle. Outside of that circle, what do people care that you were the top salesperson when it comes to KDR 610 weather receivers?

The point that I am trying to make with Katie’s story is that she came to realize that internal accomplishments outweigh and outlast external accomplishments. The way she kicked her job addiction was by finding that teaching satisfied her personally, unlike the monetary and competitive accomplishments she had while working for Honeywell.

And I hate to be cliché, but it seems like if we just let our conscience be our guide sometimes, we would realize what we want to do. After Katie decided to leave Honeywell, they offered to cut her hours down to 40, then 30, then 20, finally offering her consulting jobs to stay with Honeywell. But she just couldn’t do it. She feared that she would fall back into her routine and allow herself to be engulfed in her work again.

She didn’t talk to anyone from Honeywell for six months after she left. One month ago, she finally allowed herself to be exposed to the corporate culture again, when she went to a cocktail party to see some old friends. In comparison, it was like returning home to find your friends in high school still doing the same things they used to do.

Katie now feels as if a huge weight has been lifted from her shoulders. She does not regret staying with Honeywell and is thankful for the experience. When she talks about teaching though, her tone and expressions say it all. She has turned a new page in her life and has found the window at the end of the hallway. No longer do her summers consist of 60-80 hour work weeks in 110 degree desert heat. Instead, her summers are spent with her daughter, traveling to California’s Disneyland or back home to Iowa to visit the family.

Her advice to students:

“When you are deciding where to work, you are told it is a life decision, but it’s not. You’re young and if you don’t like what you’re doing then you can get out of the situation and still be 24 and have your entire life ahead of you.”

Nicolaas Bloembergen

Nicolaas Bloembergen is one very smart man. In his little 86 year old, 5’ 5” frame, he articulately explained, in a Dutch accent, how he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1981 for his work with non-linear optics and lasers. He talked about other technologies such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and nuclear spin relaxation mechanisms with such simplicity and ease that it immediately made me wish I had better prepared for the interview. But how could I? This guy is a natural-born genius!

Nicolaas has helped develop a technology (NMR) that led to the development of MRI’s. On his ‘wall of fame’ in the Optical Sciences Building at the University of Arizona, there is an article referencing his “creation” of the non-linear optics field. This research was instrumental in developing fiber optic communications, in other words, the internet. His work with masers was later used in proving the Big Bang theory by detecting a “cosmic background.” This background is essentially a curtain of residual radiation from the Big Bang. Without Nicolaas’ maser, this astonishing discovery would never have been made.

Being an accounting student and receiving a “D” in the only science class I ever took, I was in complete amazement by his accomplishments. Even though I didn’t understand most of it. In preparation for the interview, I read some of his Nobel Prize speech, which began with him talking about “masers and lasers.” At the time, I thought it was just a catch phrase he used to capture the audience.

In the interview, I was taken back with the knowledge that he possessed and the accomplishments that he was a part of. After hearing about the Big Bang, MRI’s and the Internet, some of the biggest breakthroughs in the 20th century, I asked him about where technology was headed in the future. The conversation went something like this:

PTP: “So, can you kind of foresee, like, the future? Can you see where science and technology are headed?” (In other words: Are you God?)

NB: “Well, I uh” (thinking the question over) No. I can’t but I wish I could.” (Translation: No, I am not God.)

Nicolaas’ story is one of a Dutch immigrant who came to America and has contributed to some of the largest breakthroughs of modern times.

Born in 1920 Nicolass went to school in Utrecht and was the valedictorian at his high school. It was in his senior year that he decided he would study physics at the university level. In 1938, he enrolled at the University of Utrecht and majored in physics because it presented the biggest challenge to him. He is self-admittedly the type of person that welcomes challenges.

In 1939 World War II started and in the middle of 1943 the Nazis overran the Netherlands. Consequently, all of the country’s universities were closed. Fortunately for him, a few weeks previous he passed his final qualifying exam for his doctorate degree. This meant that he was no longer a student. He also avoided the Nazi mandated declaration of loyalty that students at the time had to sign. If they did not sign the document, they would be taken prisoner and forced to work as laborers in concentration camps.

He became a member of the fire brigade for a year, which allowed him to show his face without fear of the Germans. In 1944 he was forced to go underground to hide from the Germans until 1945. While in hiding he and his family survived off of tulip bulbs. They would boil them for six hours until they were nutritious enough for human consumption.

At this time he also read by the light of a storm lamp, which ran on heating oil. The Nazis had taken all of their kerosene. The lamp needed cleaning every twenty minutes because of the oil. It was by this dim lit fixture that Nicolaas taught himself quantum mechanics. Pretty amazing!

When asked how this experience shaped him today, Nicolaas said that more than anything it taught him to be steadfast and not give up or be discouraged.

In May of 1945, the situation in Europe was just as grim. Nicolaas longed to continue to do research physics. But where? On the advice of his older brother, he applied to three American universities including Harvard, UC Berkeley, and the University of Chicago.

He never heard back from Chicago and still holds a grudge against them to this day. He says that he has always responded to mail, no matter what, and thinks that everyone should do so as well. UC Berkeley said that they could not accept international students while the war was going on. This came as a shock to Nicolaas because he thought the war was almost over. He proved to be right, when two weeks later the A-Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Around the same time, he heard back from Harvard, who was the only school willing to take a chance on him. In early 1946, Nicolaas was headed for the United States.

He joined an elite group of people there and started working as a research assistant to professor Purcell. Purcell had just discovered nuclear magnetic resonance in condensed matter. This technology, also known as NMR, is used to study the molecular structure of pure materials as well as the composition of liquids. The discovery was notable enough to earn Purcell a Noble Prize in 1952. Nicolaas wrote his thesis on NMR, and his input is a part of one of the most cited physics papers in science, commonly known as BPP.

In the summer of 1947, a visiting professor by the name of C.J. Gorter invited Nicolaas to a postdoctoral position at Leiden, where he would earn his PhD. There he developed the nuclear spin relaxation mechanism, an accomplishment he says he values more than the Nobel Prize in Physics.

He returned to Harvard in 1949 and started working as a teacher. He remained there until June of 1990, when he was forced to retire because of school policy regarding age limitations. Despite Harvard’s policy, at 86 and at the University of Arizona, Nicolaas is jas articulate and on top of his game as anyone I’ve ever met.

I asked him about his Nobel Prize, and how it felt to win. He said that it didn’t make a difference really. The only difference it made in his life is that he learned how to say no because he was receiving all types of dinner invitations. I was thankful that he didn’t implement what he had learned towards our interview invitation.

In conclusion, Nicolaas is a man that lived through the largest-scale war in human history by living underground. He migrated to the United States, struggled through a language barrier and economic limitations. He has also contributed to society in ways none of us could ever imagine.

We asked for his advice regarding making decisions in life. His answer was put in a simplistic, matter of fact tone.

“Do what you want to do. Don’t give up and if professors argue against you, don’t give up. You have to be strong-willed and passionate about what you want, and if you are passionate about it, you are likely to succeed. Champions are not born, they are bred. Chess grand masters do it because they are motivated and they train to make brain circuits to help them succeed. If you train persistently, you persevere. In every experiment, it is 99% sweat, and 1% ingenuity.”

Laura Allen

Laura Allen started out wanting to be a journalist. She went to Eugene Lang College in New York City, where she received a partial scholarship majoring in writing and literature. It was there that she fulfilled her parents’ dream for her of getting a college degree. She was raised in your typical working class household; her dad was a mechanic and her mom worked full-time in a factory. She excelled in English, did well in things she was interested in, but did not do well in math and science.

After graduation, she interned at Spin Magazine. She soon found that perhaps journalism was not for her and decided to try Corporate America. She worked there and absolutely hated it! Now flash forward to 9/11 in New York City.

Living in the East Village on 9/11, with the economy already sliding, the inevitable happened. “It was just one really scary and crazy day. It changed my life.”

When Laura was working in Corporate America she was very well connected and frequently received emails from friends or acquaintances looking for a job. Most of the time she could point them in the right direction. After 9/11, Laura received desperate phone calls from very smart, very capable people that needed work badly. Unfortunately, during such a trying time she could barely hold onto her own job and couldn’t find anything for these people.


The aftermath of 9/11 further contributed to the troublesome economy. “If you were in sales and marketing, do you really want to call someone up and say “Hey we’ve got this great new adware product,” when the person on the phone may have lost someone? It was a tremendously hard time to do business. Companies and people were afraid and no one wanted to spend money. They didn’t want to buy new technology and products because the economy was bad and they wanted to save.”

After that day, Laura realized that the economy was going to take a very serious turn. Soon after 9/11, with her phone ringing and email box filling up with people looking for jobs, she decided that she needed to find a way to help people find these jobs. Her philosophy was that the only way people are going to find jobs is if they learn how to market themselves. She found that the biggest problem was the way that technical professionals communicated.

“It was Siebel Server this and Oracle backend that, and they weren’t connecting with people at all. People that were making a lot of money in the days now had nothing. Some had to sell their house and move home with their parents. So if you met someone out of nowhere they couldn’t communicate effectively because they were so used to speaking in technical terms instead of personal terms.”

The tipping point for Laura came when she picked up the Sunday paper of the New York Times and pulled out their weekly magazine. On the cover was Jeff Einstein. He had a bald head and wiry glasses which gave him a techie look. The headline read: “This guy used to make $300,000. Now he’s selling khakis at the Gap.”

“Up until that point I was in a very convenient denial about my own life. I was thinking that I know myself, I can market myself, I can find a job. But Jeff’s wife was going to leave him if he didn’t find a job. Anyone that was within the technology industry or any other industry read that article and realized that this was really bad. That was the tipping point that everyone realized it was worse than they thought.”

From that point on, Laura embarked on a “spiritual quest, where money was not the most important thing, but friends and family were.” She partnered up with her friend Jim Convery and the two began developing a formula that would help people be more confident and comfortable in their communication. Their invention was the 15-second pitch, a tool used to help people market themselves more effectively.

Today, many Corporate America burnouts come to Laura asking her how they can make a career change. Laura says, “You shouldn’t spend 20 years doing something that you don’t want to do.” People’s fears and anxieties of leaving a job for a passion that they have is something that propels Laura to want to do 15-second pitch.

Here are a couple examples of clients that she has helped.

A client of hers sells real estate during the day and at night she does performance art. On the weekends she is a painter. That’s three different pitches. This client would use each pitch in its appropriate settings. When she is trying to lease a home in the Upper East Side, she would use her real estate pitch. At an art gallery, she would use her painter’s pitch.

You might be wondering why people would return to Laura once their 15-second pitch was perfected. The answer to that question is that people often have more than one talent or passion. People return to Laura to perfect each pitch, where she has created the concept, that there is a ‘pitch for every niche.’ “Most people don’t give you 2 minutes. So give your 15-second pitch. You either make an impression or you don’t.” The 15-second pitch can be the difference.

Another client is a writer for Bloomberg. She was having trouble in Laura’s workshop, where she takes 5 to15 people and teaches them how to perfect their pitch. This client did her writing pitch but afterwards was still experiencing difficulty with her professional pitch. When Laura asked what was wrong, she said that she just wanted to be a wedding planner.

This is a common theme for Laura’s work, seeing someone that is in a job that they don’t like and they would much rather be doing something else. This has also been something the PTP team has come across many times, talking to people on the trip that want to pursue their passion but aren’t sure how.

Some simple advice on how to pursue the passion is if you have your day job, and start your passion on the side. Instead of quitting cold turkey, see if you even like doing what you envision. Also be sure to check to see if it will work financially.

People also need to know what they want to do. Some clients come to Laura saying that they don’t want to do a certain thing anymore. “I don’t want to be a lawyer anymore, I’m done with that.” She looks at their resume. “Their resume usually tells me little because their past experience usually has nothing to do with what they want to do. I go through personal and professional experiences of theirs and see what we can use to help them get to where they want to go. I help them be realistic. Sometimes people come to me saying they want to make $100K working in a part-time non-profit position, maybe something with kids or the arts. There’s just no jobs like that out there. You have to go and create your own position if want to work like that.”

“People go from job to job sometimes. If you look at a resume, you can’t really tell what they were thinking going from book publishing to an ad agency to internet portal and then got involved in email marketing. That’s another way that developing a 15-second pitch helps because you have to explain that to someone when looking for a job.”

Sometimes Laura attends networking events and runs into people that are clearly unhappy with their jobs. The problem is that they aren’t willing to sell themselves. “I’m just an accountant, or I’m just a receptionist,” is what they might say. The 15-second pitch changes that. “Find that one thing that they like or are proud of in their job because you can’t sell desperation. I have had clients with an MBA from Harvard that are looking to go and get a PhD because they are afraid of getting out of the academic world. They are afraid that they will be looked at as different and not accepted as they are in their current bubble. But that is something to be proud of and you can tell people that about yourself!”

People are also constantly talking you out of your passion. “I really want to be a web designer but I can’t because there are too many web designers.” The scary part is when you tell someone that you are going to do something and then they try to talk you out of it. Everybody is a naysayer until they become doers.

For the students that need advice, here is what Laura had to say after her experiences in college and in working in Corporate America:

“Have a plan. Be realistic with money. Be realistic about student loan debt and credit cards. Be realistic with the amount of money you can make out of college, and budget your money related the kinds of items you buy.”

“I have a very strong word of caution for everyone that has graduated or is about to graduate. It goes something like this. When you are in college, people are paid to help you out. They are paid to give you advice. The minute you walk through that door of an interview for a company you are selling yourself to that company. Period. The End. I’ve had people come in to interview with me and people have asked “What can this company do for me?” No, no, no, no. “I’m really interested in expanding my horizons and learning more.” I don’t care. If I am interviewing you for Corporate America I do not care about your horizons unless they are specifically linked to you making me a ton of money or solving all of my problems. I do not care that you wind surf or ski or collect stamps. I do not care. Maybe if climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, perhaps you can work that in. People are not there to tell you about the company. They are not there to tell you about the position. Please at least know the position that you are interviewing for! You will look like an ass if you show up and you don’t know about the position. That disqualifies you, and resume goes straight in the trash. That is someone that hasn’t made the professional leap between college and the professional world. That’s what I would say.”

Please visit the website to learn more about Laura and 15-second pitch at

Lisa Brandsdorf

We met up with Lisa down on Fifth Avenue in New York City. We were running a little late after catching a bus. Unfortunately, once we got off the bus we had to walk three blocks in the pouring rain. And I mean it was pouring! Tamir and I tried to take cover as we made our way to her office on a Thursday evening and when we arrived we were sopping wet. After a futile attempt at drying off in the bathroom, and some odd looks from Lisa’s co-workers, we managed to start our interview with a sympathetic Lisa.

Lisa told us that she was a Theatre and English double major with a minor in Medieval studies at Drew University, an intimate liberal arts school located in northern New Jersey. After graduating and moving to New York City, she wanted a career in the theatre. She started working in stage management at the Lincoln Center in their educational department. At the same time she was also doing freelance stage management for dance companies. After a year and a half of freelancing, she realized that she needed a more steady paycheck to survive in the expensive city.

She went to work for an arts non-profit organization that had nothing to do with anything she’d done in the past. In her first month she got to yell at Tony Randall and apologize on behalf of her boss to Beverly Sills. She started to question what she really did for a living. After the non-profit failed to raise enough of the essential grant money, Lisa was laid off.

A friend referred her to a mom and pop comedy and music agency, where she worked for five years before getting laid off again. At that point she thought about leaving New York City to go back to school at Temple University to get her master’s in Medieval Studies. That’s when she opened the New York Times and saw an ad that would take her to where she is today.

It was an open sales position for an entertainment agent. She needed to find a position that could pay her bills but she wasn’t sure if she was qualified. She handwrote a cover letter and faxed her application materials to the agency, not really expecting to hear back. Two hours later the phone rang. They were looking for someone just like her that had experience in the college market. Ten years later, Lisa is the President of the University Division for the Greater Talent Network.

Her agency is the “Porsche” of the speakers’ world. She covers the “fun” speakers and her job is to book them at universities across the U.S.. Notable speakers include: Lance Armstrong, Donald Trump, Michael Moore, Ben & Jerry (who give away free ice cream at their speaking engagements), along with hundreds of others that appeal to college markets across the nation.

Lisa is excellent at getting on the phone and getting people to promise her huge sums of money to have a famous person show up at their event to speak.

When asked about her advice to students, here is what she had to say:

“Be polite to people on the phone and don’t chew gum while talking to them.”

“If you have an appointment with someone, call or email them to confirm before you go.”

“Don’t send “cute” emails in a business context.”

“It’s better to be the best, most conservatively dressed person in the room than the most memorably dressed.”

“Find stuff that makes you want to get up in the morning, and even if you don’t think that it will be a good career move, do it.”

After the interview, Lisa was kind enough to supply a book to us entitled “What Should I Do With My Life?” by Po Bronson. The book is very similar to what we are doing and I encourage any of you that like reading stories about the paths of people to pick up a copy today. Also visit his website, he has some very inspiring stuff on there so check it out at

Andrew Ackerman

On a rainy day in the middle of summer in New York City, huddled under the umbrellas that we bought on a street corner for $2.99 each, we made our way to the CBS building at 51 W. 52nd Street, the home of Cushman and Wakefield. Cushman and Wakefield was founded in 1917 in New York City, and is the world’s largest privately held real estate firm. Since its inception almost eighty years ago, it has now expanded to doing business in 192 cities in 58 countries, with over 11,000 employees. One of those employees that is about to take the world by storm is Andrew Ackerman.

After spending some of the fourth of July weekend with Andy in which we were able to have some fun on his boat on the Long Island Sound, meeting him at the office was a different story. Instead of “Andy” coming out of the black marble high rise CBS building, it was “Andrew Ackerman” extending handshakes and hellos with us. Of course he was still “one of us,” but the 23 year-old Sports Management major out of Ithaca College was all business in his conservative suit, neatly ironed white shirt, $130 tie, and his dad’s Rolex watch.

He has been with Cushman & Wakefield for two months now, and has quickly learned that the commercial real estate business is all about first impressions. You have to always be looking your best because you never know when a client could be ready to be shown a property and ready to deal.

After making fun of him a little bit for being “business like” and asking about the Rolex, we crossed the street to a local deli and got some sandwiches for the interview.

Andy started out at Ithaca College as a linebacker on the football team, where he enjoyed playing and watching sports and majored in Sports Management. Thinking that a job in sports was best for him, he managed to land an internship with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to see if he fit the profile. After being sure that he wanted to land a job in sports before the internship, the experience he saw there was that people in the industry had low pay, working 9-5, and evaluated Nielsen ratings. How boring! He came to the conclusion that he did not like it after all and wished to pursue something else.

What this did for him was save six months for him after graduation, where he would have started in sports and been unhappy and essentially wasted time finding a career that fit him best. This example is applicable to all college students considering entering a field or a career, where you should gain experience before you make up your mind on what you want to do. I think that what Andy did with getting the internship and realizing that the business side of sports wasn’t for him despite his love for the physical side of the game is something that all students should do while opportunities are available in school.

So Andy graduated college, and set off to go on a road trip through the West Coast, starting in Seattle and going down the California Coast because he had never been to California (sounds familiar). After the trip, Andy returned to New York City where he proceeded to interview for jobs.

He found a home at Cushman and Wakefield, where he beat out guys that had gone to Harvard, Princeton and other Ivy League schools. How did he do it? “You have to be very honest with the person you are interviewing with because they can see right through you if you’re not. You also have to let them know that you are coachable, and willing to learn. You have to have a personality for the job you are applying for, and in this job it is outgoing and thick skinned. Also, at the end of the interview try practicing saying “I want to work for you. You won’t find a harder worker than me, I have loyalty, I’m coachable, and I will work hard for you.” If you can say this and follow it up with a good firm handshake at the end, then there’s a good chance you’ll get the job.”

Now Andrew is in a job that he takes pride in doing, where he works at a brokerage that he feels is responsible for contributing to rebuilding the economy after the 9/11 strike. His job has the possibility to make a lot of money by leasing out space to clients, and also allows him to utilize his entrepreneurship skills because it is like he is running his own business. His job is to find clients that would want to lease a space, and once he starts to find those clients he can expect to see those checks rolling in. Not bad for a guy that failed his driver’s license test twice before passing.

One piece of advice that he gave us before we were done with the interview was this:

A way that he tries to find clients is to give them phone calls and informs them about available space in the city. I have found his methods both useful and humorous. One tip is to call before 7:30 am, before the secretaries are there so you can talk directly to the CEO of the company. “Once the secretaries are there, they won’t let you talk to them.” The second tip is to call a number that is not the CEO’s number but is within the office, so that when the call is transferred it shows up as an in house call to the secretary.

Hmmm. Definitely helpful for those that cold-call people, like the PTP team.

Ford Burkhart

I first saw Ford speak in September of ‘04, at a speech/workshop that I attended while a student at the University of Arizona. The workshop consisted of an enthusiastic Ford teaching writing basics to a majority crowd of journalism students, as well as talking about the New York Times. Somewhere during the speech he mentioned that if any of us were out in New York and wanted to stop by that we should show up around 5 PM. He explained that this is when they have their coffee break after deciding what will go in the paper the next day. I made a mental note and stored it somewhere in my memory bank.

Flash forward to a Monday on Fourth of July weekend, when no one in their right mind is working. Looking for interviews, we managed to book one that morning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was soon thereafter cancelled. I was beginning to feel that we had lost a day that we could be talking to interesting people. Remembering what Ford had said at the workshop, I dialed 411, asked for the New York Times and then Ford Burkhart. The phone rang, as they tend to do, and a familiar voice answered. The conversation went something like this:

“Foreign Desk.” “Uh, yeah, hi is Mr. Burkhart there?”
“This is Ford.”

“Oh! Hi my name is Brett Farmiloe and I’m a student at the University of Arizona and”

“You’re not calling from the Alumni Association are you? You guys are always calling to ask me for money! Well, I have a meeting in a few minutes so make it quick.”

“Uh, actually I was just calling because I saw you speak a few months ago, and you gave a speech on effective writing. Anyway, in the speech you said that if any of us were ever in New York to stop by the Times and say hi. Well, we’re here! We are actually working on a project where we are interviewing people that have interesting careers that have a passion for what they do to see where they were at our age, how they got to where they are now, as well as some job related questions. Would you be interested in meeting with us today during your coffee break?”

And so it went. Ford was very enthusiastic about our project and impressed by our willingness to take the risk of cold calling him. All of the sudden we were rushing out of the Met Museum to catch a subway to the “Gray Lady,” also known as the New York Times.

We arrived at 229 W. 43rd St. and after a security check in, common to every building in New York City, we headed up to the 3rd floor. After a ten minute wait in the lobby, we were pointed in the direction of the Foreign section. There, we were greeted by a wide-eyed, copy editor responsible for covering events in Iraq, Israel, for America’s most prominent daily publication.

After making small talk, Ford took us on a tour of the Times. He noted that the business office is one of the largest in the newspaper industry because they have to compete with the Wall Street Journal. He was sure to point out the laid back culture of the Times. The business structure there is not the hierarchial structure that you might expect. Management’s responsibility is to make sure that the best and brightest are working at the Times, similar to a sports environment, writers are scouted and invited to be part of their team. The writers, many of whom are not journalism majors, are responsible for finding stories that hit a homerun with readers, day in day out. Overall, it is a very balanced office that has a horizontal philosophy, where everyone is equal.

Ford’s story began when he was a “dazed, sleepy-eyed freshman” back in the early 60’s, at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Back then the only thing to do in Tucson was to drive up and down Speedway and drink milkshakes.” One day the young freshman was begrudgingly walking to class when he came across a teacher that encouraged him to enroll in his writing class. Curious as to why the teacher was so enthusiastic and passionate, Ford enrolled.

On the first day of class the teacher walked in and said, “Good morning, I’m Sherman Miller. On the board are your beats. I’ll see you Wednesday.” That was the end of class that day.

The only problem was that no one in the class knew what a “beat” was. Ford walked over to the board and saw his assignment, “Sports.” Assuming that he was supposed to get a “beat” for sports, he walked over to the McKale Center and uncovered an incredible story about a player trying to play football despite being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.

So Ford wrote his story on the player, turned it in. He got the story back from Professor Miller who exclaimed that it was an extraordinary piece. From then on, Sherman Miller became Ford’s mentor. Ford responded by turning ordinary stories into exciting, adventurous write-ups.

Graduation came in 1963. Ford wanted nothing more to work at the New York Times. He wrote a letter to them saying he wanted to work, to which they answered, “we’ll keep in touch.” Ford did exactly that.

Over the next thirty years he kept in touch with people at the New York Times while teaching at the University of Arizona. In 1996 he expressed his lingering interest whie talking to a friend there at the Times. As it would turn out, the newspapaer had a copy editor position available. So Ford flew out to New York to start working at the place where he had dreamed of working since college.

Ford has been working at the Times for almost 10 years now and is planning on retiring soon. He is the copy editor for the Foreign Desk and gets to read all types of exciting stories written by reporters. Using a baseball analogy, his job is to turn doubles into homeruns. He is the third base coach, so to speak, who waves runners in for the score. Reporters write the stories, send them to the backfield editor. Fro mthere the stoires are sent to Ford’s desk. He is the last one to see them before the story goes in the paper.

Ford had lots of advice since he had years of experiencing teaching sleepy-eyed students like himself. Here are a few things he had to say:

“I believe that you meet a person and that person will have a large role in your life. It could be your friend, your wife, but for me it was my teacher, Sherman Miller. He thought me to believe in myself, that I could go from being a little green kid to what I wanted to be.”

The thing that I was able to take away from Ford was his philosophy of writing styles, and it has had an effect on the way I write. For example, he gave us his scenario of coming up with a title for a story, and started with a basic title of “Students Overcrowded at School in Brooklyn.” From there he went to “Schools Packed in Brooklyn” to his final title that I thought was so original and made a reader want to read to story. “Lunch at 10:17, Students are the Sardines.”

Ford made me realize that it takes a lor to make a story a home run, especially if its only a double. You have to be confident in your writing skills. The only way to do so, according to Ford, is to continue to writing. He advised that people should be excited about what they do.

“If you aren’t then you’re in the wrong type of business.”