Abby’s Alumni Story: Future CEO Bounces Back

Abby Williams is a PSU alumnus with an inspiring story of persistence and adaptability. We did a student story featuring Abby a couple of years ago, and wanted to follow up and see how she was doing in her career.

While she was in school for her Bachelor’s in Business: Marketing and Advertising Management, she interned for Blount International, a manufacturer that focuses on outdoor equipment for gardening and landscaping, like chainsaws, bars and log splitters. Here she discovered that she loved working in the corporate sector and for larger companies. She was recruited for a full-time position just weeks before her graduation in Spring 2019 and started working there the week after commencement. As an Associate Global Product Manager, she had an impactful experience leading product strategy and implementing changes in an industry. 

Unfortunately, like so many others, when COVID-19 started in early 2020, she went through a furlough period for three months and was eventually laid off. 

“I was trying to figure out what to do to keep myself occupied. I started putting out feelers for non-profits that may benefit from my skill set during a time when organizations have an abundance of needs. I found non-profits that needed help with marketing, and ultimately partnered with Rahab’s Sisters and The American Cancer Society. I went through a journey to find a meaningful job, and eventually found one in October!”

Her new job is with Improvizations, a software consulting firm. She said she was drawn to the role because it was an opportunity to fine-tune her project management skills. She now works in a hybrid role combining project management and product marketing. 

“Working in consulting is also a great way to work with different industries and learn technical nuances.” 

She said that PSU helped her bounce back. “I was able to reach out to Audrey Pond, a friend and academic advisor, to talk about career paths when I was unemployed. And, I still keep in touch with Cliff Allen, the Dean of The School of Business . I know I can reach out to them any time because they genuinely care about the success of their students.”

Right now, because most professionals are working remotely, many companies are trying to engage the community over webinars. Webinars can cover a wide variety of topics, including what the company does, their impact, and projections for their industry. These virtual meetings are a unique opportunity to communicate with companies. “I attended several of those during the pandemic and they were super valuable. Not a lot of people go to them, but senior leaders host these webinars and you can ask them questions directly.”

If you’re in Portland and looking for a job, she recommended using staffing firms like Boly:Welch. You can send your resume to them and they will give you advice and help you get interviews with all kinds of companies. 

Her advice to students is “Use the companies that we have here and the huge network. PSU is uniquely in the middle of a city and you can work with large businesses through capstones and internships.” After all, her internship got her the first job out of college. “Go to career fairs. All professors have or have had jobs and careers. Networking with them is vital because students can get access to a lot of connections. You can also start with advisors in the School of Business to make connections.”

I asked her what her long-term career goals are and she immediately said “CEO! All jokes aside, there is immense value in marketing, no matter what position you are in. We will see a shift in the value of marketing for businesses over the coming years. Usually people in positions of power have finance or supply chain backgrounds, but marketing should be a central part of business. The voice of the customer should be the focal point in every decision and I know this will increase over time.” Ultimately, she would like to do this for a company that gives back to the community. 

There’s no linear path to your career goals. Abby’s story of creativity and persistence is a reminder that there will always be challenges in your career path but with commitment you can adapt and keep moving forward. Our community at Portland State supports our students throughout their time as a student and as a professional.

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