The Most Valuable Gift You Could Give to Young Professionals is Right Under Your Nose

Hear how two recent college graduates have been empowered to find the right career path and accelerate their personal and professional growth since entering Zebra’s hands-on Finance Development Program.

Young professionals work together in an office
by Monica Kielawa
July 23, 2021

More pressure than ever is put on young, college-aged adults to know exactly what they want to do with their lives. Many recent graduates feel obligated to choose a career path for themselves without getting a chance to test out first-hand whether it is a good fit with their skillsets or aligns with their personal and professional goals. (I should know - it wasn’t too long ago that I fell into that category).

While it’s great to belong to the bunch who has already pinned down what they want out of their career and the journey they’ll take to attain it, I want to tell those who aren’t quite sure where they belong yet that you’re not alone. The important thing to know is there are many great opportunities designed to help you discover which positions in your desired career field are the best fit for you. If you’re pondering a career in “something” finance related, Zebra’s Early Careers Finance Development Program is one of them.

This three-year rotational program exposes graduates to various functions of finance within the organization. It gives participants a chance to explore their potential interests in depth while getting to know the company better along the way. Building skills and experience from difference vantage points of finance by spending a year at a time hyper-focused on a specialization such as Financial Planning & Analysis, Internal Audit, Commercial Finance, Financial Reporting & Accounting, Treasury, or Global Business Services. This helps foster a well-rounded perspective when participants are determining where they fit best and can be most successful. At the end of the program, the graduates collaborate with the finance organization to determine which position best suits their skills and interests at Zebra.

What makes this program so special?

At a high level, it empowers early career professionals to explore their many different options in a real-world setting and learn more about their own potential and passions before committing to a specialized role long term. It is not just job training, though. It’s career enrichment, uplifting future generations of passionate business leaders to thrive within the world of finance.

As both Daniella Pierini and Tyler Decwikiel called out when we connected recently, there are authentic rewards that result from participating in a program that promotes rapid growth. They both interned with Zebra while in college and progressed along to the Finance Development Program in the last couple of years. Though the internship offered several hands-on learning experiences, the early careers program is fully immersive.

It Takes Time to Find One’s Path, So Why Not Use the Time to Explore Your Options?

According to Daniella, what makes this program so valuable and unique is how it’s segmented into one year-long rotations for a three-year period versus the typical six month-long rotations over a shorter two-year period, which is how many other companies’ programs are designed.

“Zebra’s program gives me more time between rotations, so I get the most accurate snapshot of what each finance role entails and whether it’s a good fit for me,” she says. “Because I’m able to stay in each position for an entire year, I can truly test the waters and discover what area of finance I’m most passionate about before making a long-term career commitment.”

Additionally, she said everyone she has encountered at Zebra has been willing to take the time to educate program members about their unique roles and experiences in finance and other functions – and everyone is always happy to help with daily tasks that extend beyond their core responsibilities upon request.

“We have been able to really get to know the company in a meaningful way, which is important to someone like me who wants to work in an environment that promotes agility and a strong work ethic,” Daniella emphasizes. “I’m glad to be partaking in a program with a company like Zebra that lives up to its values.”

Tyler agrees.

“The program offers great mentorship and the opportunity to challenge the status quo. This allows you to see the meaningful impacts from the work you put forth,” he explained.

 “Additionally, having the ability to network and learn from individuals who excel at what they do and are leaders in the industry is a unique benefit of the program.”

What’s most prominent in his mind is how the Finance Development Program helps its members challenge themselves to grow and strive for their career goals.

“There are always new challenges and initiatives that keep my work exciting and unique, and I take great passion in telling others about the products and solutions Zebra develops to help customers and front-line workers.”

An Experience That Goes the Extra Mile

On top of all the invaluable insight and experience gained from the rotational positions, members get the chance to create their own committees to coordinate philanthropy outings, partake in shadowing opportunities and participate in fun, organized social events. Daniella shared how she leads the Finance Development Program’s social event efforts, adding a new, colorful dimension to her rotational duties and giving her the opportunity to develop skills that can be applied more broadly in life.

“I’ve enjoyed the chance to add more variety to my day-to-day work by creating and spearheading these committees. Intermixing event planning with my regular finance tasks is helping me feel more fulfilled with my experience,” says Daniella.

The Finance Development Program’s alignment with Zebra’s EDGE Inclusion Network has created an even more welcoming environment for Gen Z and Millennial employees. Through EDGE, members are being equipped with resources unique to their needs as recent college graduates. In fact, as part of our EDGE Month celebration in July, Zebra has been hosting several events to connect our global interns and young professionals to a supportive community of mentors and peers who will ensure they are fully supported year-round. We have several Zebras who are eager to share their experiences with early career individuals and give them new opportunities to grow within the company.

As someone who spent nearly three years as an Early Careers Program Manager for Zebra’s Talent Acquisition team, I know it is vital to help all employees feel fulfilled by their work, especially those who are still discovering what it is that fulfills them. That’s why Zebra works so hard to create spaces and programs where employees like Tyler and Daniella can authentically connect with their colleagues and the company. When employees can relate to each other in some fashion, and when they feel fully supported by their employer on a personal and professional level, many report greater job and life fulfillment. This heightens the opportunity for individual growth and inspires greater learning from each experience.

Reflecting on a Lasting Impact

When asked to reflect on some hallmark takeaways that are relevant for any young professional who is trying to discover where they belong, Daniella shared some sage advice.

  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes because making mistakes is truly the best way to learn.
  • Ask for feedback. Whether it be after a presentation, on a project you executed, how you communicate, or something else. Hearing that direct feedback builds a positive relationship with your mentors and can only make your work stronger.
  • Try and stay up to date on new technology and work to understand new processes. The best way to do this is to read up on the industry you’re interested in entering. Stay curious!
  • Know your first job isn’t the only job you will ever have! Most companies (especially Zebra) encourage employees to consider rotating positions to improve job satisfaction and increase accomplishments.

In addition, Tyler emphasized that you should…

  • expand your skillset. Early in your career, it is important to work on both your technical skills as well as your other skillsets, such as presentation and communication skills.
  • know the “why” behind your work. While it is important to able to complete your work, it’s also important to be able to explain why it matters so you can demonstrate the huge value-add to the company. It also makes your work feel more meaningful.
  • network with others. By doing this you gain a better understanding and knowledge of what roles are available in a career field, which helps you identify what areas might interest you.

Both also agree you must find ways to challenge yourself, enhance existing processes, and take on new responsibilities. This enables you to gain valuable experience and improve skills, while uncovering specializations that pique your interest.

“There is no better way to excel in any role then by being interested in what you do,” Tyler says. “I have always had a passion for technology and enjoy working with numbers, analytics, and strategy in my career. I try to bring these passions into all of my roles. If you have an interest in the work you do, you are setting yourself up for success.”

It also empowers you to make an impact in your role(s).

“Daniella and I, along with other Finance Development Program members, feel we have been able to grow our skills, knowledge, and experience while also seeing the opportunity to make real impacts from within the company,” notes Tyler. “There has been growing interest from various departments within the company to have a program member on their team. They see how we’re able to quickly adapt to our new rotational roles and they appreciate that we bring in new insights and perspectives to each team we join.”

In other words, the Finance Development Program is helping to improve employees’ strategic execution of their skillsets and the execution of Zebra’s business.

A Final Thought for Both Early Career Professionals and Those Charged with Developing Their Talents

Being unsure of what you want out of life and your career is only human, and while there’s a tendency to present yourself as knowing exactly what you want, it’s okay to be transparent when you don’t. There are thousands of others facing the same uncertainties.

And if you are a company looking to attract and develop top talent, remember that offering an exploratory program like the one Zebra offers is essential to recruiting soul-searching graduates. It gives them an avenue to discover who they want to be with very little risk and a lot of reward. So many years can get spent toughing it out in long-term job positions before professionals have a chance to find a role that could be exponentially more fulfilling to them.

Despite their similar education paths, every young professional is moving forward on a different career path. Even those who may seem like they have things figured out when they receive their degree could realize once they clock in on day one and understand the job description that they want to make a change. So, it benefits both employers and employees to give young professionals an opportunity to identify their passions, embrace the possibilities that lie ahead of them, and find their place both within your company and in life.

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Editor’s Note:

Read more about how Zebra is supporting young professionals in these blog posts:

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Monica Kielawa
Monica Kielawa is currently the Early Careers Program Manager, North America Talent Acquisition at Zebra Technologies where she is responsible for leading, developing and building creative and robust University Relations programming for Zebra in the United States. During her almost 3 years with Zebra, Monica has worked on multiple cross organizational key strategic projects related to Talent Attraction, Employee Value Proposition, Recruitment Marketing and Inclusion & Diversity.
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