Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

MSU Alumni: An Interview

My sisters and their friends have always inspired me. Being so much younger, I’ve been given the rare opportunity to learn and be mentored by such wonderful and intelligent women in various industries. My sister Maria and her best friend Kara both started their careers here at Montclair State University as biology and business majors. This is our interview, from my family to yours, where we discuss their favorite memories, how they got to where they are now, and advice for current students.


HCM: How did your classes prepare you for entering the workforce?

MA: My biology major provided a well-rounded view of the science field. Biology is the basis of most pre-med courses or lab work if you decide to do that and/or other science fields. It can help you navigate towards future endeavors. For instance, some of my friends went to med-school or grad-school to work in specific positions such as lab work. To me, my biology degree showed my employer I had the necessary background for the job I was applying for.


HCM: What was your favorite class at MSU?

MA: Genetics because we did an experiment on calculating phenotypes based on physical traits using fruit flies and breeding them. Another favorite was anatomy because I loved my professor and it makes all the difference in the world.


HCM: What was your favorite memory from college?

MA: Too many to count…I made a lot of good, lifelong friends. Meeting people from different backgrounds, it gives you different views of life that’s more invaluable than school itself.  By being in study groups I learned how to associate myself with positive, driven people who shared common goals and I hold that mentality to this day. Lastly, since I put myself through school, it was my first accomplishment where I learned if I put my head to something, I can accomplish it. In the end, there’s no excuse and it’s your determination that will decide your success no matter how humble your beginning may be.


HCM: Did you keep in touch with friends you made and how did you do it?

MA: Yeah, you really learn with classes, activities, work, and personal obligations how to really prioritize your time. If something is important to you, you will make time. Bottom line. My dad told me something that always stuck: if you don’t take care of something or someone they will leave you, be it your car or friend. That mindset can really make a difference.


HCM: What advice do you have for those graduating?

MA: Don’t lose your drive and motivation. You’re gonna face a lot of no’s in the beginning, but that should fuel your motivation; don’t let it discourage you. Everything works out for a reason. While we all have our dreams of getting a grand job with an amazing salary and benefits, just remember everybody started somewhere.

For example, when I first started I interviewed for a clinical research cancer center and I knew NOTHING about clinical research in oncology. However, I took ownership of what little I did know and had to offer, and didn’t portray myself as something I’m not. When asked why I should be hired, I was honest and acknowledged I did not have that specific background, but I can guarantee I will learn and I will work hard. She hired me on the spot. That mentality has been invaluable to me throughout the years from working in the cancer center to working in the pharmaceutical industry and now being a clinical research scientist. It’s about being humble while being confident in owning what you know. It’s your drive and willingness to learn no matter how much success you’ve already attained; people are more amenable to teach someone who wants to learn as opposed to the one who thinks they know everything. And always think of your five-year plan. Learn your role, master it and then make your plan for your next step. It will keep the fire in you and help propel you forward.


HCM: How did your classes prepare you to enter the workforce?

KDW: I don’t know if it’s necessarily the classes, but the experience in its entirety. Working full-time and going to school full-time, I’ve learned to juggle and prioritize. It’s taught me to be resourceful and to own my career just like I owned my academic success.  


HCM: What piece of advice do you wish someone gave you while you were in school?

KDW: Enjoy the ride. Don’t take life so seriously and embrace all of the struggles and emotions that come with being in college, but don’t waste time on things that don’t make you happy. There are few things in this life that aren’t fixable, in the meantime work hard and play harder. Try everything at least once and say yes to new adventures, you never know how one decision can change the course of your life.


HCM: To what do you owe your success in the finance industry to?

KDW: Asking for everything….it’s your career and it’s your responsibility. Ask for feedback on things you can do better, ask for the job you want, ask for guidance when you don’t understand. Know that there is always something to learn and that we can always strive to be better.  

The other thing I would say that has made a difference for me are mentorships. I have been very fortunate to have had many mentors both personally and professionally. People to bounce off my “grownup ” problems to and people to point out the things that I’m not considering.  


HCM: When you were a student, did you expect to be where you are now?

KDW: Yes and no. There are a lot of aspects of my life that are according to plan. I wanted to be “suit” in the city (check), I wanted a nice house (check), to get married and have kids (check). But I wasn’t expecting the journey that led me here. Whatever I thought about how my life and my career were supposed to be has changed very drastically over the years. What you dream up and what reality you make almost never match, but sometimes when you earn your place it’s even better than you imagine.  

Public relations major, writer for Her Campus, and social stylist for the Gap. Also an avid lover of corny humor and a good cup of coffee. 
Similar Reads👯‍♀️