FTG 0039 - Love, Learning, and Life Journeys: Navigating Family and Career Changes with Business Leaders Erin and Tony Talbert '99

Episode 4 February 14, 2023 01:07:24
FTG 0039 - Love, Learning, and Life Journeys: Navigating Family and Career Changes with Business Leaders Erin and Tony Talbert '99
Following the Gong, a Podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State
FTG 0039 - Love, Learning, and Life Journeys: Navigating Family and Career Changes with Business Leaders Erin and Tony Talbert '99

Feb 14 2023 | 01:07:24


Hosted By

Sean Goheen

Show Notes


Scholar Alumni couple Erin (’99 Com) & Tony (’99 Eng) Talbert join Following the Gong to share their joint story and advice after meeting early in their Penn State journey. After serving as Lion Ambassadors and ringing the gong, Erin pursued a career in consulting and Tony went into financial services roles. They shared their advice on these fields, including commercial real estate, family transitions, and career transitions including moving into roles in community organizations and small businesses. Erin and Tony offer advice that is helpful for any Scholar, not just those in similar fields, as they both took directions away from their major and have navigated their journey together, including as donors to and volunteers with the College. For each of their bios and a more detailed breakdown, continue reading these show notes!

Guest Bio:

Erin Talbert ’99 Communications is currently an active community volunteer, elected School Board member and small business owner. Before that she spent nearly 20 years working in the pharmaceuticals industry. In her 11 years at AstraZeneca, Erin worked in several commercial roles including Marketing, Managed Markets, and Sales. In her 7 years with Accenture, Erin focused on change management, organizational design, and communications. She now owns Brandywine Outdoor Living and works with landscape architects and their clients to add the outdoor "finishings" to large scale landscape projects including furniture, lighting, shade, and planters. Erin graduated from Penn State’s Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications with Bachelor of Arts in Advertising/Public Relations with Honors and a minor in Labor & Industrial Relations from Penn State in 1999.

Tony Talbert ’99 Engineering is a Partner of The Shidler Group, where he is responsible for real estate investments, acquisitions, capital markets and developing new investment strategies, including The Shidler Group’s most recent multifamily, hotel, and net-lease investment platforms. Since joining The Shidler Group in 2013, Tony  has been instrumental in the acquisition of over $3.24 billion of office, hospitality, and multifamily assets throughout the U.S. Tony was previously with Chatham Financial Group where he co-founded the firm’s real estate investment banking practice where he specialized in capital raising and complex debt advisory assignments, including a $1.3 billion securitization of One Bryant Park in New York after beginning his career on Chatham’s derivative desk. Tony graduated from Penn State’s College of Engineering with a Bachelor of Science with Honors in Industrial Engineering in 1999.  He earned his Master of Business Administration from Columbia Business School in 2004.

Episode Topics:

· Coming to University Park and choosing Schreyer from Maryland and Hawaii and as a first-generation student – and meeting your future spouse on day 1!

· Selecting a major based on skills rather than topics and as a first-gen student, or as a student in DUS

· Making a career pivot as you are nearing graduation based on pre-professional experiences and succeeding regardless of alignment with your major

· Leading while walking backwards with the Lion Ambassadors

· Working your way through school with on- and off-campus jobs and managing time

· Learning from pragmatic thesis topics like marketing plans and product component dissection

· Going to business school after starting your career and switching from consulting to corporate roles

· Stepping away from traditional careers to focus on family and finding new opportunities locally

· A crash course on working in commercial real estate and forming business partnerships

· Reflective lessons on the Scholar experience , success, relationships, mentorship, and more


Schreyer Honors College Links: 




Upcoming Events 

Scholars – Need Assistance? Book an Appointment! 

Alumni – Learn Why and How to Volunteer 

Make a Gift to Benefit Schreyer Scholars 

Join the Penn State Alumni Association 


Credits & Notes:

This show is hosted, produced, and edited by Sean Goheen ‘11 Lib (Schreyer). 

The artwork was created by Tom Harrington, the College’s Web Developer. 

The sound effect is “Chinese Gong,” accessed via SoundBible used under Creative Commons License. 

The theme music is “Conquest” by Geovane Bruno, accessed via Pixabay and used under Creative Commons License.


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Episode Transcript

Sean Goheen (Host) 00:00:01 Greeting scholars and welcome to Following the Gong, a podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State. *GONG SOUND EFFECT* Sean 00:00:12 Following the Gong takes you inside conversations with our Scholar Alumni to hear their story so you can gain career and life advice and expand your professional network. You can hear the true breadth of how Scholar Alumni have gone on to shape the world after they rang the gone and graduated with honors and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is proudly sponsored by the Scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Sean Goheen, class of 2011, and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back. *GONG SOUND EFFECT* Sean 00:00:55 Scholar alumni couple Erin and Tony Talbert joined following the Gone to Share their joint story and advice after meeting early in their Penn State journey. After serving as line ambassadors and ringing the Gone, Erin pursued a career in consulting, and Tony went into financial services roles. They shared their advice on these fields, including commercial real estate, family transitions and career transitions, including moving into roles in community organizations and small businesses. Erin and Tony offered advice that it's helpful for any scholar, not just those in similar fields, as they both took directions away from their major and have navigated their journey together, including as donors to and volunteers with the college. You can read their bios in a more detailed breakdown of the topics we cover in the show notes on your podcast app. With that, let's dive into our chat with Erin and Tony Talbert following the gong. *GONG SOUND EFFECT* Erin and Tony, thank you so much for joining us here today on our Valentine's Day 2023 episode of Following the Gone. I want to start right at the beginning as always, and hear from you both first, how you came to pick Penn State, and then also how you managed to meet each other while you were here as scholars. So, Erin, you're on my left, so I'm gonna start with you. How did you come to pick Penn State and what was then the University Scholars program? Now the Honors College? Erin Talbert 00:02:13 Oh, thanks for having us, Sean. Great question. And it's so fun to think back to those decisions. I was considering Penn State, I was interested in large state schools. I'm from from Baltimore, Maryland, but during a visit up to see the campus, I, I actually met the dean and we had a really lively conversation. He was an interesting person. Actually, I hadn't been aware of the Honors College. He made me aware and, uh, encouraged me to apply. I did, uh, Penn State, I'll be honest, wasn't super high on my list, but once I got into Penn State, got into Schreyer and understood the offerings that came with it, uh, it was actually a pretty clear choice to me. Sean 00:02:50 And Tony, what about you? What drew you here? And I have to ask, how did you end up adjusting to the state college winters? Yeah, yeah. Tony Talbert 00:02:58 I, I think you, you're asking that, Sean, because, uh, I grew up in Hawaii, which obviously, uh, is not wintery, not cold. And, um, I didn't see snow until, you know, I was 13 or so, and I thought it was just awesome. Fascinating. I love to ski now, so clearly have adjusted to it. Um, my parents moved us around and by the time we were in high school, we were living in Pennsylvania. Um, and, and so Penn State as in-state option, was really appealing from, uh, just the cost of education perspective. Uh, but also, you know, I'm a first gen, uh, college student. Neither of my parents, uh, finished a college degree. Uh, and, and so we didn't have, we didn't know a lot. Uh, we, we went, we didn't have the playbook on how to figure out where to go to college or what, what college should be or what it should mean. Tony 00:03:48 And I felt a bit, um, I was, I was trying to figure it out on my own. And, and so listening to people, I knew what they were going through. And at our high school in Pennsylvania, we had some students go to, uh, the Scholars program, uh, at Penn State. And I really admired them. I looked up to them. I, I thought, uh, they were very talented students. And the thought of combining, uh, in-state tuition with, uh, the benefits of, of the SCHREYER program was really appealing to me. And I looked at Penn State, frankly, as I probably wouldn't have come here. Were not, were not for the Schreyer program. Uh, I was fortunate enough to get in and that swung the decision for me along with the in-state tuition and, and, uh, some additional scholarship funds that came with it. Sean 00:04:38 I think that's a really strong draw for a lot of folks. Tony is the et extra financial support that you get. And, you know, if you're listening and you're having questions about that, come talk to us. We have a student, a counselor, right here in the college. So Austin can certainly help you. Now this is obviously our Valentine's Day episode. We'll put the thesis off to the side for a minute. We'll talk about campus involvement, but first, most importantly, obviously you two have been together for quite some time, but take us back. How did you first meet? I'll leave it up to you. Who wants to take on your perception of, of that first encounter, but walk us through that. Erin 00:05:12 Well, I'll take that, Sean. Uh, and it's a story I love to tell. We actually just celebrated last week, um, our 21st wedding anniversary. And we've been together for something like 27 years. Um, and, you know, we're extremely young. Uh, so I don't know how that's possible. But I actually met Tony moving in my first day of my freshman year. He was a year older, and at the time, there was scholars housing, two places on campus other than Atherton. There was a satellite housing on fifth floor of Beaver, and I think it was second floor of McKean Hall out in East. And there was a draw. I had actually chosen honors satellite housing because I just, I don't, I, you know, what do, what decisions do 18 year olds make? That was my decision. But I was moving in with my parents up on the fifth floor, you know, it's complete chaos. Erin 00:06:00 And I remember we were making my bed, putting the sheets on. They were kind of lingering. I was ready for them to go. And, uh, this, there was a knock at the door. And this, this handsome man stuck his head in and said, welcome to Penn State. If I can do anything to help, let me know. Tony actually lived on the floor. So it was, uh, it was, uh, a bit of an interest from, from first sight. He was, uh, handsome and knowledgeable. And then I, uh, you know, had my eyes on him. I think we had our eyes on each other and we started dating after Christmas. And so that was, uh, so the rest is history. But we were definitely a scholars, a scholar couple. Tony 00:06:34 Absolutely. I definitely had my eye on her as well. I made a strong mental note to check back in with, with Erin later. It's been, uh, roses ever since. Sean 00:06:42 I love it. I love a Good Penn State love story. And to meet literally the first day moving in as a scholar, I, I think that's just tremendous. And obviously you're sitting here, you said 27 years later from that point. That's just incredible. Now I do want to go back and feel free to interweave your interweaving stories throughout your answers here, now that we have that baseline. But Tony, I wanna start with you, 'cause you majored in something that you wouldn't necessarily guess right off the bat. If you saw your bio working in real estate, you were an industrial engineering. What drew you to that major? Yeah, Tony 00:07:15 Great, great question, Sean. And it's a bit of luck and course correction along the way. And trying to tap into intrinsically what interests me and my personality, what am I good at in terms of just skills rather than topics or subject matter. And, and being a first gen student coming to college, I, I, I'd have to say I, I, I wasn't really aware of all the potential careers that could be available to me or, or industries to possibly be interested in. I didn't know anyone who worked in finance or worked in real estate, so that just wasn't even on my radar. All I knew was I tested well in math, I was very analytical. I, I, I liked to problem solve and I was told by people I talked to, Hey, you should check out engineering that could be a good fit for you. And coming in as a freshman, I felt like I, I really had to, well, you had to declare a major. Tony 00:08:07 And so I declared a, a major in engineering, and I won't bore you with all the specifics, but industrial engineering ended up being my fourth major that I was trying within the College of Engineering. And there was a certain point where I just had to graduate and get a degree and be done with college. But along the way, I had a number of internships and co-ops in engineering, whether it was, you know, working out in Albuquerque, New Mexico for six months in a microprocessor plant or working in San Diego for a summer, building cell phones. It gave me a hands-on experience to understand where I might go in this particular career. And really to say, try to look at the people who've been doing it for 10 years, 15 years, and try to project and say, Hey, is that something I could be happy doing for the next 10 or 15 years for me? And my conclusion was that it just wasn't a right fit. I mean, there, there are things that, that fit well within engineering, but I definitely was looking for a pivot when graduating from Penn State and, uh, consider a number of careers from joining a consulting firm like in Accenture or PricewaterhouseCoopers, and ultimately made a pivot to a startup that had 12 people that was in finance. And that was really my gateway into the career I have today. Sean 00:09:33 Yeah, absolutely. We're gonna pivot back to that in a little bit, but I think you hit on something really important, Tony, pre-professional experiences that you get as a scholar can help illuminate what you don't want to do for a living. So what was it about those internships that you said struck you as what you didn't want to do for the next 10 to 15 years of your career Tony 00:09:50 In the role of engineer, uh, at these particular manufacturing facilities, I did have the team, uh, interaction that I liked, the open-ended problem solving, which I ended up finding in commercial real estate. I can talk a bit about that, but I was really fortunate to have met a family friend that had a startup company that was in financial derivatives. And for people who are familiar with finance is very much like a sales and trading role. And I didn't have the foggiest idea what they did every day, but was able to come in and, and just watch people at work. And I knew it was fast paced. I knew it was a very collaborative environment. I knew that I would have a ton of learning to do. And as a 18, you know, then 21 year old looking at starting their first job, I felt like I didn't have anything to fear. Tony 00:10:40 The downside to me would've been, I, I was a young person that could then try something else if it didn't work out. And this was the era of.com companies starting up. People were feeling like if you could go to a startup, you know, things could really work out well. And what I, what I found my thesis going into that sort of environment versus a very large Fortune 500 company was that joining a small company, you'd almost be forced to contribute that it'd be very obvious if you weren't carrying your weight, and that you probably have opportunities to take on a lot of different roles and tasks. And, and that was very much the case. It was an environment where people were open to teaching young people. I was the first, uh, undergraduate hired to this company as the 12th person, and it was just kind of a jack of all trades to figure out what else needed to be done. Tony 00:11:29 And I learned a ton about finance. And after working there for about three, four years, I concluded I love finance. This was something that I didn't know about that frankly, I probably wish I had studied at Penn State, and I like studying things formally, which is why I decided to go back to business school. And so after working at, at this company for three to four years, I went to business school at Columbia and got a much more formal exposure to finance and business, but also had the confidence in meeting other people there that worked in industry could make it, that it was something that would be a good fit for my personality and skills. And that was the launching point to focus more on a, a career in investment banking, specifically covering real estate, which ultimately led to what I do today, which is invert invest, uh, with a partnership in commercial real estate. Sean 00:12:20 So I, I really appreciate you talked about kind of, you had your thesis on what you approached your career path into. And I want to come back to your thesis that you did for IE in a minute. But Erin, I want give the floor to you for a moment. Now, you were an advertising and public relations major, so a little bit different from either of those two. Why did you pick that field to study? What drew you into more of that creative space over, over in Carnegie? So I Erin 00:12:46 Did start at Penn State in division of undergraduate studies. Does that still exist, Sean? I think it does. Sean 00:12:51 It sure does. Absolutely. Erin 00:12:53 And it was a great place for me. I had a lot of interests. I was thinking about medicine <laugh>, I was thinking about creative things. I was really all over the map because it was all fun. And the idea of having to hone in and choose one thing was frankly, pretty overwhelming. I had a good honors advisor that helped me try different things out and realize that the risk was low because I was there to figure it out. And I did find the College of Communications and knew my home was gonna be there. I was interested in broadcast, uh, broadcast journalism, but advertising PR was the perfect mix of creativity. Some of our professors had actually worked in industry and they were grizzled and knowledgeable and interesting, and then also married it with some very strong business. A lot of, we, I I did take a lot of marketing classes in the business school and a lot of media planning. Erin 00:13:38 There's just a good bit of business head in the world of advertising. Uh, so it was a super fun major. I really loved all my classes. But similar to Tony, I, I had a internship at McCann Erickson, uh, out in San Diego. We were both out there together, which was a fun adventure driving cross country and back in our, our little tiny Honda Civic. And I learned, I don't think this is where I wanna spend my career. I'm gonna use all of these communication skills that I think apply to literally any job. And to this day, I would say, I think it is what usually sets me apart in a, in a room or on a team, is my ability to communicate clearly. But I, I knew I didn't wanna work in advertising. And those that don't know often turn to consulting and it was a, a perfect fit for me at the time. Do you want me to talk a little bit about how, how that, how that journey went? Sure, Sean 00:14:25 Absolutely. And then we'll pivot back to your time on campus. Erin 00:14:28 Actually, I was lucky enough that, and Penn State has incredible resources. I think a lot of the, the big consulting companies still come to Penn State to recruit, um, and I don't know if Accenture still has this, but they had something called the Junior Leadership Conference. And it was a, you would interview for it, like you were interviewing for a job, multiple rounds, kind of intense. And then you got to go out to their St Charles training facility and participate in, I think it was a week week leadership intensive. But I think it was also ultimately a bit of an audition for a job with Accenture. And, uh, an offer to work there came early in my senior year and I was thrilled, overjoyed. And they really wanted people that focused on communications and human performance. They had a special line there. So I wasn't coding, I was not an engineer, and I still found a home with my skillset in consulting. My entire career was really based on communications. Sean 00:15:16 I think it's really impressive that neither of you are really kind of working in <laugh>, working in the majors that you pursued and yet are still very successful in your lines of work. And I think that's really important is sometimes your major does not always define your career path. So I hope that's a quick takeaway for you listening. But I do wanna go backwards to your time on campus here. And I use that word very intentionally because it's something that you're both good at doing, is walking backwards, probably know where this is going. You were both involved in the line ambassadors here on campus, and Tony, you were actually the president of that group. So I was hoping you could both share respectively what you learned from your experience in that organization and how you balance the demands of a group like that with the demands that you had as an engineering and as an ad PR major respectively. Yeah, Tony 00:16:04 That's, uh, good question, Sean. You know, I remember as a freshman trying to figure out what I wanted to do. There were so many clubs and organizations on campus at Penn State, but one group that was just so obvious and and smacking in the face were all these people walking backwards, leading tours across campus. And it looked like a ton of fun. And I remember being disappointed going to the career fair when I talked to the Lion Ambassador Group and said, Hey, I wanna join. And was told, Hey, as a freshman, you can't, you gotta wait till you actually have some experiences here at Penn State and, and speak authoritatively on their experiences before you can join the group. So I definitely underline that group and, and put it on my list of things that I, I wanted to get involved with at, at the appropriate time. Tony 00:16:48 And it was a wonderful organization. We made lifelong friends there, and we were very thrilled to be part of the organization. I, I think that for me, I found so many students and kids who were driven, who wanted to succeed, were very talented in their areas of interest and focus. They were all leaders. And yet at the same time, we could get together and just have fun as college students and friends. It was very much what I imagine maybe a co-ed fraternity might be. So there's a big social element, but we had projects and we got things done, and it was an honor and a thrill to be in a leadership role. Erin was too. And, and to try to help lead that organization. And I learned a ton just in terms of my <laugh>, my shortcomings as a leader, uh, and, and someone who's 20 and trying to figure out what's the best way to get people bought in on ideas or what do you even wanna do? And so anyway, it, it was a fantastic experience and I'll stop talking and let Erin chime in. Well, Erin 00:17:46 Tony, I, I agree with everything you said, so I won't, I won't repeat all of that. I, I would add that the experiences that we had as ambassadors and the opportunities if we so choose to volunteer for them or step up or seek them out. And by that I mean, and there are other student organizations. I, I think you've mentioned Dance Marathon before, Sean, on this, on this podcast, there's a lot of student leadership opportunities on campus. So Line Ambassadors is only one of them. It happened to be ours, but I do think the world of it. But, you know, we did things like travel with the president of the university. It was Graham Spaniard at the time. We knew him, we knew him. And if he needed students to come meet with people that were visiting, he often grabbed a few line ambassadors to talk about Penn State and, and what was there and what we were doing, and just kind of be ourselves, which is what he wanted. Erin 00:18:29 Also, certainly the alumni association, uh, as an arm of the Alumni Association, getting to know the leadership there, whether it's at the top of the press box at a football game or Sam Donaldson was a newscaster. I had an opportunity to entertain at a dinner, and it was actually him that gave me other ideas and communications. I just think it was really great practice for all the, the grownups that you would try to get to know, glean something from their lives as you exited Penn State into the real world. So I, I really can't say enough about the tremendous experience that it was. And I do have to add, I can, off the top of my head, think of at least seven other Lion ambassador couples, people that were dating that, that did go on to get married. And they're largely happy, happy partnerships. So there's that. Sean 00:19:11 Obviously those are great opportunities. And even if you're in the literally thousand other clubs at University Park or the many, if you're at one of our Commonwealth campuses, there are ways to get involved and find similar experiences to what Tony and Erin were talking about. Now, Erin, I wanna ask another question specifically to you. In the questionnaire response, you talked a lot about how you had to work several jobs in order to get through school. Can you talk about specifically that experience of the paid opportunities that you found on campus and in downtown to help work your way through school and how you balanced those demands? 'cause they are different than the kind of involvement you would have with say, lion ambassadors, hon, u p a, those sorts of things. Can you share your insight on that? Sure Erin 00:19:54 Thing. It, it's true. I did have to kind of work my way through college a bit. We had some unplanned financial hardship from my family that started pretty early in my college career, but I was pretty committed to making it work. And actually, so was Penn State. So I found that when I would ask for help, whether it was within the College of Communications or up at the bursar's office or even within schreyer, I said, I need more jobs. Who needs help? Who needs, who needs a student to do something? Some really creative things, uh, I'll share a couple of the jobs I did. Uh, the, the Penn State Newswire had student editors, so I gotta kind of read the content coming through that and edit it. I gotta work with the Office of Development. It was Peter Weiler's office at the time and, and help write thank you letters to, to donors and people that had stepped forward to provide student scholarships as someone that had financial need. Erin 00:20:41 I actually sat at the 5:00 AM white building pool and watched the synchronized swimming practice, uh, as the lifeguard there. So these were all things that kind of enriched my experience, but it was something to juggle, uh, it was necessary. I did, obviously we talked about my time with line ambassadors and I was even on, on leadership there. So I think that there was time to do what I needed to do and stay committed to my studies. I had other friends that got busy and, and actually dropped out of the honors program before they wrote their thesis. And, uh, I found that it was possible to keep it going. You just needed to communicate with people about what you needed to do, which is, for me, I needed to work, but I wanted to have fun and I wanted to stay in the, in the Schreyer Honors College and, and graduate with honors. Erin 00:21:23 That was really important to me that I fulfill that kind of promise I'd made to the college and to myself. So at the end of the day, I, I don't think I would change a thing that said, our daughter just started her freshman year at, at university. She would like to get a job, and I'm encouraging her to wait. It was a, it was a juggling act, but ultimately, life is a juggling act, isn't it? And so when you can figure out how to meet all of your commitments, professional, personal, it's good. It's a good training ground to do that. Thanks for asking. Sean 00:21:48 Absolutely. Now, you mentioned the thesis, and yours is definitely related to the fact you were pretty plugged in with campus, with town. How did you go about picking your topic and more importantly, what are you still using from that process and what you learned? Erin 00:22:02 Yeah, you know, I, I actually, my thesis advisor was fantastic. I wanted to do something more practical. A lot of people were doing some really interesting research and I wanted to take kind of what we knew and do something really practical. And it was, I was so pleased that she was on board with it. But what I did was write a user guide to small business advertising. It was a time where, and people in state college now find this hard to believe probably, but there, there, I don't think there was a target. I think the Walmart was fairly new and the big box and chain stores were just starting to come in. And there had been all these wonderful stores, little hardware stores, little markets, things like Bailey's Dairy that I just didn't wanna lose as part of the fabric of the community in the space. So I wrote a user's guide to help them stay competitive. I don't think it helped a lick, and maybe I should have delivered it to them, but it was fun to think about and see a need in the community and try to address it through a scholarly pursuit. And if that could help the kind of world around me was how I viewed that as almost like a s service learning back to the community. Sean 00:22:58 And Tony, I I actually laughed out loud when I read your questionnaire response on this topic. And I think you maybe can give our Gen Z listeners who, you know, our primary audience, our current scholars, and maybe you can give them a quick history lesson here with your thesis topic from industrial engineering. Can you share a little bit about what you researched and more importantly, what you learned from that process? Tony 00:23:19 Yeah, a absolutely. I have a, what is now really outdated thesis, which was on a topic that probably a lot of students maybe aren't familiar with, or at least the product they're not familiar with. You know, today we stream our music and it's so easy. Nobody owns albums anymore. When we were students, the main media for listening to music were on compact discs. And a physical, for those of you who don't know, a, a physical round disc that you would buy an album, an artist might have 12 songs, right? And you've probably heard, heard your parents talk about it, but you, you would transport your music and, and walk around campus on a discman. So you'd have a particular CD and put it in your discman, which is, uh, you know, maybe a six inch piece of electronics and walk around with headphones that had a wire running into your backpack. Tony 00:24:09 But you had a big manufacturer, brands like Sony or Samsung, which are around today, those were the leading edge products that they were making. And they created a big line of products from the cheapest version that you could buy to the fanciest, most coveted, high priced version of a compact disc. And my topic as an industrial engineer was to try to understand and figure out how companies could create that seemingly wide array of diversity in products, maybe having 10 different models at a whole different set of price points, but reduce their cost for producing those models by really building off of the same platform and using, you know, maybe 80, 90% of the same components. And then creating that differentiation right at the very end. So for my thesis topic, I, I wanted to evaluate how various manufacturers were doing on creating that breadth of product differentiation, but using and saving money on using a high percentage of the same common underlying components. Tony 00:25:12 And, and what I did was, you know, bought up a bunch of these disc men from different manufacturers and dissected them like you might an insect in high school biology and created these boards where you could see all the different components and evaluate, you know, their relative usage. And my conclusion was that Sony was really, uh, the master leader in, in creating these beautiful, differentiated products. Maybe they, they were the, uh, the apple of the day in terms of how beautiful Apple can create these devices from your phone that were so elegant and, and at a higher price point with really smart and clever underlying common components. But that was my thesis and, and uh, I haven't looked at it since <laugh>, we turned it in. Sean 00:25:53 Well, I hope you learned a little bit more, and I think that's really important because that's probably still something that manufacturers do today. I think you gave the example also of different car lines and being able to Tony 00:26:04 Absolutely, Sean 00:26:04 You know, use the same chassis on different models and how do you balance consumer customizability with, you know, your supply chain and trying to limit the complexity on the manufacturing end. So definitely an important topic. Tony 00:26:16 It's so important, so important today, you know, a, um, Volkswagen's one of the largest car manufacturers in the world and they are taking Porsche a brand and company, they own public. And that's an example where Volkswagen today uses the same principles to offer cars in the Porsche, Audi, and Volkswagen line that are probably, you know, 80% the same. But for, you know, Porsche enthusiasts would probably push back on that one. But, um, <laugh> they've created the, these brand identities that, that are so different. Sean 00:26:47 And that's probably something that you talked a lot about in your M B A program. So you went from state college to New York City for your M B A at Columbia. What ultimately drew you, I know you said you really found finance, but what was it that drew you into going to the M B A route and what was that transition like both in terms of the academics switching from engineering to business and also going from Happy Valley to the big Apple? Tony 00:27:12 I think throughout my career, I've just had a constant series of horse corrections here and there, and taking what you're learning and what would you change about it and going to get the M B A for me was just a wonderful time in my life where I could step back. Erin and I were married, a newly married couple. She was working in consulting and we fortunately had the ability in our lives to take that point where I could go to business school, she could continue working New York, was just a great environment to move to in our minds and, uh, explore the big apple, see what it felt like to live in a 24 hour city. And it was phenomenal. And, and we really enjoyed our time there. In addition to the academics, the, the business school proposition, it really is about meeting people, your fellow students and learning about, you know, where they come from, what their experiences are like going to school in New York gave you great access to people in industry, in finance specifically, which is where I was interested. Tony 00:28:15 You could go meet someone for coffee or lunch that was working in fields that you're interested in. And we had people come into school and in classes all the time, whether as adjunct professors who are teaching a class about real estate who are actually out there investing and, and doing the things they're, they're talking about. It was a fascinating learning lab and I really enjoyed our time there. And then of course, meeting and, and, and making friends, uh, with really talented folks who've gone on to do awesome stuff, uh, is, has been been a wonderful benefit of going to business school as well. Sean 00:28:46 So just to kind of catch up here, 'cause I think we've kind of danced over some different topics here. This is circa early two thousands, Tony, you've got your M B A and you are just about to go into real estate. Erin, you weren't consulting but then you made a pivot in your career, I think you called it going in-house. Can you talk about what facilitated that decision? Yeah, Erin 00:29:06 Actually the story picks right up with Tony being, uh, with us being in, in New York City as real estate, we decided to actually, uh, start a family while we were there. Um, 'cause the timing was good. And so by the time we left New York, I was, I think eight and a half months pregnant. Um, and we came back, we got a wonderful offer from from Tony's mother to watch our baby full-time while we continued to kind of pursue our professional dreams. So that was too good to pass up. So that did mean leaving New York City. Um, and I stayed in consulting for a while, but, uh, as, as any kind of good consulting gig, you're on the road a lot and you, you need to go where your clients are. And so I did make the decision, we made the decision for me to go work for my favorite client, which was AstraZeneca, which is headquartered, was headquartered then in Wilmington, Delaware, which is close to where we were in eastern pa. Erin 00:29:52 So I did, uh, spend the next, uh, number of 13 years or so at at AstraZeneca working in, they, they just had wonderful leadership development opportunities. I think at my heart, in my core, I'm kind of a consultant at heart. I love the new challenge, the new day, turn the page just when I start to get bored, a new challenge kind of walks through the door and I was able to build that career at AstraZeneca, working in many different departments with different people and different and vastly different skill sets needed from negotiating, um, a managed care contract to, you know, have our products on a formulary, let's say at a United Healthcare to then actually leading a very large team of pharmaceutical salespeople kind of trotting around the eastern part of the United States. Sean 00:30:34 So this is a question for both of you. And so this is aimed for you, the listener. If you are a scholar, this might be something you deal with down the road if you're a young alum listening perhaps something a little bit more on your immediate horizon. But ultimately you had to balance the demands of family and your careers and figuring out how you both interwove that and kind of who made some, what you might call a sacrifice depending on your perspective. Can you talk about how you worked through that as a family unit? What were those conversations like? How did you figure out your priorities in figuring different things, whether that was income, that was family time, travel, walk us through what I'm sure was some hard conversations, but if you can give some insight on that for students who may be approaching that in their own lives and careers. Erin 00:31:17 It's such a good question, Sean. 'cause it really gets at the heart of what people, if you decide to move forward with family life, which you certainly don't have to, but if you decide to, ultimately you will face some of these trade-off decisions. And I think, um, at the heart of it was having, um, a good unit, you know, and a good partner in Tony and I at various points, never, I wouldn't say sidelining our own careers. 'cause Tony's career was the focus, you know, when we re you know, when we moved to New York City. But I was really able to keep my consulting career going. It just was kind of about being clever and figuring out the, the most important needs at the moment and being willing to switch where we were able to get help, let's say with Tony's mother. Watching the baby was great, but, you know, at a another point we had to seek help in a, in a part-time nanny. Erin 00:32:00 There were just some years where we just couldn't get home in time to feed the baby and get the baby to bed kind of years. And we had found someone good that could help us through those periods, but that wasn't a, a permanent solution. And I'll be honest, we, we missed a lot of time with the kids in some of those years. I think it was fine and the kids were fine, you know, kids are resilient, but there was a, there were some, some lost hours. So we did make the decision, let's see, 2017, is that five years ago now? I actually, uh, Tony and I were both on the road over 50% each of us and we were kind of, you know, high fiving each other, midweek he'd land and I'd take off to some city to be with my reps and we just realized this is, this is taking a toll on on both of us and is there something we can change or do? Erin 00:32:41 And the options at that point were were more help maybe a live in all pair or, or someone to help more, um, which of course was gonna come at a cost and more missed hours. So, uh, we kind of looked at each other, you know, over the table and said, or should one of us take a bit of a different path in our career. And, and I volunteered. So I, I left, I left AstraZeneca that year, uh, which was, I felt like I was kind of at the top of my game, had done a lot I wanted to do. I've been kind of quote, you know, on the home front since then, but have managed to do some other really awesome stuff. So I, I don't feel like I gave up much Tony, you might have some other things you'd add or say, but that's, from my perspective, that's how we made it work. Kind of being thoughtful that this is the, the team is stronger than the individual and looking to kind of always maximize the team. Tony 00:33:23 Yeah, absolutely. And, and that's kind of the how and why we got to where we are. The other thing I would say is that Erin is one of the most talented, diverse people I know. She always has ideas about what she wants to do and many different plans. And, and so five years ago while she left her pharmaceutical job, she's taken on so many different things that have really kept her busy, uh, in, in different ways. Not only focusing on on family, but serving on school board of our public school district to being on the board of parks in our community or helping with, uh, the kids' sports and, and other activities that we just weren't able to do when we're literally managing flight schedules to say, Hey, as long as my flight's on time and when I land at five, we should be able to, uh, make it work because you're taking off at six 30. So it was, it was that risk that, uh, we wanted to deal with. But I guess what I'm saying is she, she is much more talented to be able to take on a lot of different tasks where I kind of found the thing i, I like to do professionally and it probably made the most sense for me to keep doing it. So it, it's really worked well and as you said, it was something we just had to navigate and figure out the, the best thing for our family and, and our, and our unit. Erin 00:34:44 You know, I wanna add, if, if I'm really honest, anyone considering kind of stepping back or, or being a stay at home parent, if you are used to being successful and making your own money there, there is a a bit of trepidation or it can be a bit what will be my identity and I'm just like, I, I think I'm here to say on the other side, like, you just gotta do what's right for you and you will, you, you gotta chart your own course and not worry about that. And there is still so much that you can add and so much value. And I find way more fun conversations now at a dinner party about what I do than I did before because it's just a lot more, more interesting and, and I hope to kind of inspire other people that you just gotta do what's right for you. Sean 00:35:23 Absolutely. And Tony alluded to you're taking on a lot of different things locally at home, uh, that aren't not necessarily as travel intensive. And Erin, you had shared that you find asking someone what they do for a living as a boring conversation opener. And I agree there are definitely better ways to open a conversation with folks. He mentioned that you're on a school board, I know you have a small business. Can you talk about just generally what the differences are between, I'm gonna say consulting, large corporate jobs, small business and the non-profit public space that you have with the school board. What are those differences and are there different personality fits or skills that you think are more applicable to some than others as students are figuring out maybe which path they wanna take first out of college? Erin 00:36:05 You know, they're not as different as one might think. I find that I use honestly, uh, mostly my same skillset. One thing that comes to mind when you ask that question though is I, I wouldn't trade the formal training that I got. I'll say it, we'll call it in, in corporate America in large companies that have dollars and priorities around training human performance, you know, the number of leadership training courses I went through. I, I do find out particularly in my school board role, that I'm able to bring this whole other level of discipline and training and background to conversations in a small, you know, basically what's a small nonprofit, which is a school district in Pennsylvania. I rely and recall that training all the time. So it's particularly useful and fun. A big difference is, uh, my day-to-day is, is what I make of it. Erin 00:36:53 You know, I I chart my week, uh, as a, you mentioned I I did start a small business. I have a small outdoor design business that's just super fun and nimble and entrepreneurial and I, I do the work that's interesting to me, uh, which is a gift. And, and much the same with other nonprofit roles and board roles that I hold. It's kind of, you get to say, what am I good at? What's interesting to me? And then focus on those things and, and you hope another or another volunteer or another board member is interested in doing the budget, let's say for example. But I think it's, they're not all that different at the end of the day, you know, uh, what are the core skills, um, that make you successful in one area or the other are truly the same, right? Resiliency, responsibility, able to be a self-starter. Erin 00:37:34 But I think it's just the environment's really different. But I, I don't think I would personally trade that. I went and kind of did the, did the corporate thing first. It wasn't exactly your question, but that was where my head went, uh, that it was good training, but both really fun and, and, and, and look, here's the punchline. You don't, you don't have to choose. You can do both. After a 20 year corporate career. I'm doing what is a completely different, you know, small business owner, board member, community volunteer. And I find it equally rewarding. Sean 00:38:00 And I don't think that's surprising for scholars by the time this is aired. I know we've had several episodes with other folks who've made large career pivots from being an oil and gas lawyer to a bookstore owner, from teacher to city council member and small business owner. And now what you're doing here and where you were in consulting and now you're, you know, on the school board and, and helping run essentially, like you said, a small nonprofit. But Tony, I wanna turn the floor back over to you 'cause I'm sure there's some students who are listening because they want to learn more about the real estate side of things that you're involved with. So I have a couple of questions here. So Erin, if you need to <laugh> need to go grab a drink for a second, uh, grab some water. This is, this is Tony's moment here. So Tony, you're currently in, you described it as commercial real estate. So the first question for students who want to go into something similar, what are some things they can be doing now to see if it's the right fit for them while they're still in college or perhaps as a young alum? Tony 00:38:52 Great question. And to set the stage just briefly, my role is, uh, as a commercial real estate investor in a private partnership. So I have a handful of partners and we decide where are we investing our money, our capital in commercial real estate, and what is that? Well, it could be office buildings, hotels, apartment buildings. We invest across the United States and we have certain goals for ourselves in terms of, you know, what kind of returns, what kind of risk are we willing to take and, and what are we interested in doing? And I found in terms of what I like about it, you know, it's, it's a great intersection of very analytical things like finance, because it's very capital in intensive industry, but also it's very problem solving intensive. And no two investments, or no two deals are the same. And it really flexes, I think, your creative skills and working with other people in negotiating to try to get something done and accomplished in terms of acquiring and owning real estate. Tony 00:39:54 And, and so some of those things may interest students out there or young alumni, and your question was, well, how do, how do they learn more about it? How do they see if it could be a fit? And there's a number of different roles in real estate that could more intensely use different skills. So not everyone does finance in commercial real estate. Some people love it because they love the creativity of building space that impacts people's lives or society. How do we work with one another in an office space? Well, that's, that's something that's changing with Covid and, and what impact that's had on where people work and how they work. And there are people in real estate that are trying to address that, that question or problem. And, and they're driven to the creativity about how you create those spaces more so than the finance of returns and return on equity. Tony 00:40:41 So I think there are a lot of different roles, uh, that someone could find an interest in in commercial real estate. And your question in terms of how they explore that, you have a wonderful platform as a scholar at Penn State in terms of reaching out to alumni who work in commercial real estate. I had a student recently from Penn State reach out just last week and approach me on LinkedIn and just say, Hey, can, can we chat for half an hour? Can I understand what you do and what, what kind of roles there are for people who are starting out? And I think many alumni are happy to have that conversation. So building every one of those conversations you have builds your understanding and where you might fit in and help you map what the possibilities might look like. I think another important thing to do is try to have internships or get internships in a field that may be of interest. Tony 00:41:28 And while a student at Penn State, I had engineering internships, and at the very least it helped me understand that that wasn't a field I wanted to be in. So there's no harm in, in taking something on even it's, if it's not what you ultimately end up doing. And there are a number of companies that regularly hire folks to, to work their summers in the commercial real estate space, whether it's companies that sell commercial real estate, uh, as brokerages, much like residential brokers, investment banks, developers, the student I talked to last week had a internship this past summer at a developer that develops affordable housing across the us. So, as I said, there's many different ways to do it. I would start with, I think commercial real estate tends not to be a, a large formal recruiter at a school like Penn State. They don't have big companies showing up at career fairs and hiring 20 interns. Tony 00:42:20 But there are clubs at Penn State that focus on commercial real estate, and there are professors who are also practitioners. So they teach, but they also are involved as a, as a profession in commercial real estate. Those are good networking opportunities. And, and there is also an alumni society in real estate that is a Penn State real estate alumni society that seeks to connect professionals working in the field who went to Penn State with existing students. So there's a lot of different ways to network, uh, to learn more about it, to see what kind of roles and responsibilities there are within, within the industry. Sean 00:42:54 That is really solid advice. And something you've heard on many an episode here is making sure you're leveraging the Penn State alumni network. Now, Tony, you alluded to this a little bit, but I'd love if you could maybe dive a little bit deeper. How are you in commercial real estate balancing kind of this post covid landscape in terms of, on the one side you've got your office properties and there's lots of conversations about work from home versus return to office and the workplace and where we do our work versus hospitality and residential multifamily properties. What are those conversations like in the field right now? Yeah, Tony 00:43:26 There's a, there's a lot of big themes impacting, let's take three of them. The office space hospitality and the residential slash multifamily, each of them have been impacted by the pandemic and, and what that's done to people's mindset and how they, how they work, how they play, and how they live, right? And that's basically the three areas that we just hit on in terms of how they work. I mean, we all have figured out ways to be productive from home at many different fields where they used to think there's no way you could work from home. Well, it turns out we figure out a way to do it, and that's something that's gonna play out, I think, over a long period of time. And, and it's happening right now. You know, one thing I would say though is particularly for people starting out in their careers, a lot of people are theorizing that if you're a young person starting your career, you know, maybe working from home is not the best situation. Tony 00:44:19 And particularly in cities, I think what we're seeing is that young people have a preference to be in cities, to be around other young people, but also, you know, it's those relationships you create at work that help you learn, but get promotions, get op access to opportunities to advance your career. And sometimes it's those conversations you have over lunch or over coffee or at the water cooler that really open up opportunities more so than the quality of your analysis that you wrote in a formal report, right? So it, it's interesting to see how that work from home dynamic plays out. I know there's a lot of companies that have gotten a lot of pushback from trying to get everyone back into the office. And as we head into maybe a recession or maybe a time in our economy or it's getting a little harder and the Fed is actively doing things to cool the economy, you, you might see a shift where all of a sudden people have to come back in because the c e O says you have to work in the office. Tony 00:45:19 I will say that there are a lot of companies downsizing their need for space, and right now there's a lot of uncertainty in the office space, which just means that, um, people like us are, are not investing as heavily in office as they have in the past. That's how people work. I'm getting a little long-winded and rambling, but I'll touch quickly on people traveling and experience and then how they live in the hotel space. In the heart of c o when no one could travel, it was a scary, scary time. We were wondering whether people would ever travel again. And what we're seeing just in hotels is that they're traveling like it's 2019 or, or before that, which is to say they're traveling even more than they did in, in 2019. A little bit of pent up demand, but I, I don't think that'll ever go away. Tony 00:46:03 People's desire to experience different places to travel, we haven't seen business travel come back as much, but it, it is coming on the, uh, housing front, not so much covid it, it covid highlighted some things that have been going on for a long time for the last 10 years in the US we probably have not built as much housing as the population needed. And in particular, we haven't built as much affordable housing or housing that's more accessible to people buying their first home or at i median or low income parts of the spectrum. And we're seeing that exacerbated by the pandemic because there've been more demand for, for housing people saying, you know what? I need my own space. I, I wanna buy my own place. And so there's been a real shortage of housing. So that's one of the areas we're looking at now as an investment is, is, uh, we're really studying the affordable housing space and how we can invest in or help create more, more just housing stock that's more accessible to people. Sean 00:47:03 Excellent. I think that was a good dive. I love how you summarized it as where they work, where they live and where they play. I think that's a nice round three to remember, so that's helpful. Now finally, last question for you, Tony, before I have one for both of you. So Erin, stick around. You're one of the principles in your firm and you said you're, you're a smaller firm, you have a couple of partners without giving away your trade secrets or anything, so I'm not asking that, but how do you come to consensus on what to invest in and how do you do that, that, especially when there's an initial disagreement, how do you work together as a team to maximize your talents and insights? Tony 00:47:35 Great question. And to set the stage a little bit, I'll just give a brief background. I was in investment banking in real estate for quite some time. And in that role you're really in advisor. You're giving advice, you're helping your client. And one of my clients was a very experienced real estate investor who had been doing it for 40 years and had created a number of public companies in the real estate space. And, and so he clearly was the one that I leaned on for advice direction. And frankly, he, he was our primary investor. When he asked me to come over and join a partnership to invest his capital, I thought it was a, a phenomenal opportunity to learn from someone who's done and accomplish a lot in that industry. And I felt that he was incredibly creative individual that really stimulated my brainstorming and thought processes and we really hit it off. Tony 00:48:29 So the first thing I would say is work with people you enjoy, who bring out the best in you and and maximize your strengths. And he did that. That was a reason I made a switch 10 years ago and we've been in a partnership ever since. And I would say that in terms of, you know, how do you find consensus? How do you work through disagreements? Well, very early on my principal partner was dominant in that he had all the experience, he had the capital, I might have an opinion, but at the end of the day, it was really his call on what we do. And that's largely the, the case today. However, I would say that over the last 10 years what's happened is just, just growing trust in, in working with someone and knowing what their real intentions are and you know, trusting their instincts and opinions, but also trusting that they have the collective best interests in mind. I, I think it's just, you know, having done this now for a decade together, I think we, we have that. So there's a real mutual, mutual respect in terms of how we work through different opinions of what to do or what not to do. It's very collaborative, so, you know, I, we, we tend not to have disagreements and we only really move forward on something if, if there's a unanimous point of view. That is Sean 00:49:36 Very helpful. Thank you Tony. And now question for both of you. So you are both volunteers for the college and you're both donors to the college. So what drives you to give back through your time, talent, and treasure, especially when you have your own kids that you're supporting through their journeys? Erin 00:49:52 I'll, I'll start Tony, maybe you can, can add on and, and I, I think we became donors pretty young and it was a, it was a small amount of money. I, you know, we, Penn State's good at asking for your money. There's no mystery at that. They're happy to get you on a list. And we were life members of the alumni association young. But it, it comes a little bit from the story I had shared before about Penn State and being able to stay and having the people that cared enough to help me figure out how to financially stay and that there was a bit of a pay it forward debt, you know, when we could, um, there's always other things you can do with your money, but when you know that the source of your success and some of your life is in part, in, in debt to the, the institution where that came from. Erin 00:50:33 And for us, that was Penn State. We did have a decision point whereas where we had to decide was it the college of communications or was it engineering or, or was it schreyer or was it something else? And we actually traced back our most academically meaningful relationships and experiences back to Schreyer. And so that's why Schreyer became the focus of our giving and the focus being to help students finish college, which was our, our endowed scholarship that we did was to help students finish. If we could do a hundred more, I would, because there is so much need at Penn State, I think we continue to feel good, good about that. We hear from the students that receive our, our scholarship and, and it's a, a reminder that, that they're, you're doing a small piece of good in the world for a place that gave you so much. Tony 00:51:14 Absolutely. And to add to that, I mean, I think it's just, it's fun. I mean, I, for me, I enjoy meeting current students who quite frankly are so talented in so many different ways, uh, and seem so polished. I don't think that's how I felt or, or presented myself to the world when I was 18, 19, 20. Um, so I think it's just fantastic to be able to meet, meet students and see if there's ways that we could be helpful. But I also get a lot out of it too. It's just selfish, uh, in that sense. But it's fun. Erin 00:51:43 Yeah, it's fun going back. Sean 00:51:44 Well, thank you both for your endowed scholarship and also thank you for your years of service. Erin, you were a long time scholar, alumni society board leader. Tony, you're now on our external advisory board helping to guide and give input on the direction of the college. So thank you both for that. And now we're gonna pivot to the last part of our conversation today and we've got a few minutes left to record. So we're gonna do some rapid fire with these questions that I ask everybody who comes on the show. So perhaps we'll just do Erin and then Tony just back and forth each answer these questions. So Erin, what would you say is your biggest success to date? Erin 00:52:17 I'd like to say that I've put out two amazing children in the world, but you know what, it's just too early to call. So I would say, um, my biggest success to date, and I'm sorry it's cheesy, but it's true, was choosing the right partner to do, to do life with. Because I think we've all seen what happens if you, you choose the wrong partner, someone who's not supportive of your dreams or that you're not making good decisions together. And I'd say everything that, everything else I feel proud of or that is a, a sign of success stems from having the right person at my side. Tony 00:52:47 Hey, you took my answer that I feel the same way. Best decision finding the right spouse. I mean, it was a big risk. Let's face it, she was 18, I was 19 when we met each other. And if we, uh, made the analogy to business, we were a startup. We were a startup relationship, we startup in life and uh, you know, it's really worked out how we've grown together and allowed each other to grow and grown together as a unit. And she really balances me in terms of personality, talents and helps. I think we're certainly better together than, than alone. And that's gave her eyes to everything else, you know, professionally and then on our family or a beautiful family or kids. It's fantastic. So you took my answer, which Sean 00:53:29 I think in a weird way kind of reinforces the answer, so that is great to hear. But on the flip side, for each of you, what would you say was your biggest transformational learning moment or mistake that you've made along the way and what you took from that experience? Tony 00:53:41 Yeah, I mean, I, I would say transformational learning moment for me. And I give my parents a lot of credit. I'll go back to school at college and realizing I didn't wanna be an engineer and, and I had invested so much time and energy. I was in my junior year, uh, at the time I was an engineering science and mechanics major, which is a, a very rigorous academically focused engineering major, which generally leads to grad school and advanced degrees in engineering. And I remember, you know, calling my dad and just saying this, this is not gonna work for me. Uh, this is not a fit for me. And he gave me the permission to step, you know, sort of step back and reevaluate It's okay not to know what you wanna do. And, and so I took a semester to take courses. I fundamentally were interested in this economics course or a history course and I loved it. It was the best academic semester of my career because I, I found I was studying things that had a genuine interest in and it made the classwork so much easier. I gotta, I gotta say, so anyway, my learning moment was it's okay to course correct, it's okay to pivot and go in a different direction and not look at all of your historical investment or sunk cost or however you wanna think about it. Don't be afraid to try things and then make changes. Erin 00:54:57 I think my biggest learning moment, I touched on it earlier, but, and it's a simple one, but I think it's part of the, the kind of key to joy is to defining finding your worth and your success. Separate your job title and your pay. And it's everything in our culture forces you reinforces. And it gets back to what Sean, we talked earlier about when you meet someone and our, our cultural custom is to say, hi, I'm Erin, you know, whoever, what, what do you do? We were in, in Greece this summer on vacation and it came up with a, in a cab that you Americans, all you ever do is ask each other what you do for a living. And you are very focused on your work life and it's for good reason. 'cause we spend a lot of time on it. You know, they take a whole month of vacation in the summer, we don't really do that. But when you can find your why and your sense of accomplishment outside of those things, I think it's a less empty feeling because you can always be chasing a dollar or a title. So I think learning how to do that and mean, it was my biggest learning moment. It took a while too. Sean 00:55:53 Tony, you mentioned a little bit ago that a student reached out to you to connect. So you obviously have some expertise on this. How do you both approach mentorship as mentors, but also you're still have plenty of time to go in your career? So how do you approach being a mentee at this point in your careers? Tony 00:56:09 Great question. You know, I, some, for some people it comes much more natural and, and I would say Erin, it probably comes more natural. I'll let her speak to that. But for me, uh, I have to be pretty intentional about it. It's just my personality and, you know, the day-to-day workflow can really get in the way of, of things like thinking long-term and strategically about relationships. You wanna cultivate mentorships. You, you wanna either be a mentor or a mentee. And I've done it a couple different ways. I, I've done it formally where I, it's like asking someone out on a date where you literally say, Hey, you know, I wanna extend this relationship and and learn from you as a mentor. Will you be my mentor? And, and that, that can be a little awkward and difficult to, to sort of do it that way. Tony 00:56:51 But I've also had situations where you, you just connect with someone in terms of their personality and find that you enjoy having coffee with them and it, it starts slow that way and you ask questions about what they've done or what the career has been like, what they've learned. And so I've tended to have mentors that were more happen substantial, whether, you know, frankly my partner at the firm I'm with is a mentor for me just in terms of learning from what he's done and how he's got to his point in his career. But I've also had people, uh, at the gym well, where I talk to them and learn more about what they do and become intrigued. Then we grab coffee and, and it's extended from there to, to really form friendships. I'd say mentorship, if it works well, is probably grounded in friendship. Tony 00:57:34 And it's not just a hundred percent about what they do for a living and how they've got there. And then when it becomes more of that personal relationship, that's where you find people that are willing to extend themselves. But in general, I have found that most people are willing to give and enjoy giving advice and do what they can to, to help others. And so just getting over that maybe awkwardness of asking has been the hardest point for me. So the advice I would give is don't be afraid to ask and, and probably start with assuming people have the best intentions and put yourself out there and then look for personal connections that you can expand on. Erin 00:58:08 I think one of the things maybe getting in the way sometimes of successful mentoring relationships is almost that word mentoring. Because at the end of the day, it's really just a relationship. If you kind of took the word mentor out of it and just said relationship, someone, you know, it sets it up a little differently. 'cause Tony made the point beautifully. There are formal mentoring relationships. For example, Schreyer has mentoring with honors and I've participated for years. I would say most of those were probably not the most rewarding experiences for the student and for myself for a variety of reasons. Mostly kind of organic, you know, either what they were looking for wasn't something I could provide. And the quicker we got to that point, if what they were really looking for. So being honest was helpful. You don't waste a bunch of time and I couldn't do it. Erin 00:58:49 We could find them somewhere else, you know, not waste a bunch of time essentially. Or if they had a really open mind. I have one mentor from Schreyer who I'm still in touch with. She's fantastic because we keep in touch in each other's lives. She updates me on what she's doing. I do the same. And it's become a true friendship. But really thinking about it just as a relationship in places where you have either a natural affinity, um, a chemistry that was there, whether it's a professor or someone you met in the Starbucks line, you just never know where good advice or your next job may come from. And what, what is true is almost all great things that happen come from someone you knew. I mean, you could apply online and the job can happen that way, but it's really someone you know. So calling that friend's father from high school who happened to work in the field, you know, because people love talking about what they do if they enjoy it. Erin 00:59:37 And just getting on the phone and asking, could they introduce you to someone? Would they mind if you spent a day? They're going to say yes. It's just having the courage to do it and be clear about what you're looking for and going through your kind of mental Rolodex of, of people you know, who might be able to help you along the way. Because as Tony said, people like people and they like helping other people. But maybe taking the mentorship, the baggage of that off of it and just saying relationships, um, might help a little bit. Sean 01:00:04 That's actually something we're looking at in the college is how are we defining and labeling these programs. So more to come on that in future. But speaking of those relationships, are there any folks from your scholar days on campus that you want to give a quick shout out to? Perhaps a thesis advisor, friends from line ambassadors or others that impacted your journey? Erin 01:00:21 That would be a long list. Tony 01:00:23 Right? And then you start naming names and you feel like you might leave someone out and that, that's a bit risky. But I will give a shout out to all of the fifth floor Beaver, my colleagues there. Fifth Erin 01:00:32 Floor, beaver forever. Fifth Tony 01:00:34 Floor Beaver forever. Yes. Gosh, Erin 01:00:36 We're still in touch with most of them. They're, they're still our friends. Yeah. Tony 01:00:40 I hesitate to start naming me 'cause I, I I will, uh, probably offend Erin, do you wanna name Erin 01:00:45 Anyone? I've got a few and it's, it's mostly people. It's actually mostly administration. Ironically, I would like, I would shout out to Dr. Rambo and Dr. Jeremy Cohen, who were both various deans, um, that, that were super impactful for me. Peter Weiler, who was in the Office of Development, who sadly passed away way before his time, he was influential to so many students, particularly line ambassadors that knew him. And Anna Griswold, who was head of financial aid in the Shields building who just retired a few years ago. I happened to call on her last day walking out of the building. Uh, and she was a, a, a true human. These are the people at Penn State that, that means so much to students or all the names that honestly came to mind that they're at the top of my mind 30 years later says, uh, what a big impact they had on my life. Thanks for that, Sean. Tony 01:01:32 Well, I was gonna say one just intersection of lion ambassadors and schreyer that popped in my head. Mitch Kirsch. Uh, hi. If you listen to these, you know, we, we met Mitch, Mitch when we were Lion Ambassadors and she was in charge of tours on campus and of course just recently stepped down from, or very important role at, uh, Schreyer Erin 01:01:51 And, and Amber Krieg and Kelly Paterno who, who gave so much and are still involved. Okay, we'll stop. I I could keep going. It's, it's just inappropriate at this point, <laugh>. Sean 01:02:01 So as we're wrapping up here, they're coming to the tail end of our conversation. Is there a final piece of advice that you each wanted to leave students with that could help them with their experiences that just didn't come up organically in our conversation today? If Tony 01:02:13 You're starting out in your career, you're just graduating for college, my advice would be take on every role with the utmost effort and present mindedness. I think sometimes people, uh, have a vision of where they wanna be in 10 years and are trying to get there by, you know, taking the right steps each of the way and, and being mindful of how they have to switch constantly to get to that 10 year goal. But I think, you know, being present, excelling and doing excellent work, and that's quite frankly something that I've found Penn State students do phenomenally. You have a lot of talented kids, maybe some kids who've gone to Ivy Leagues goals and not to knock them, but I tend to find that Penn State students have the horsepower, but the mindset to roll up their sleeves and get dirty and just really excel. Tony 01:03:01 And I think that goes a long way when you're starting your career to put yourself in the right trajectory. And then also I think picking the right sort of environment to start in. You know, cities are also wonder, they're wonderful places to start simply because of the breadth of people you may meet and you don't know what could happen, but it increases the probability of luck happening. So much of what we do in our career is about luck in happenstance combined with work. So trying to do things that maximize the probability that something fortunate and lucky will happen to you. Um, just being in the right place, right environment, meeting the right person at, at the opportune time, you know that that's what we all need is a little luck. Erin 01:03:43 I think that college is basically an incubator and a fantastic time to learn the most valuable and coveted skills that any employer that you may come across is really looking for. They may not say this directly, they may ask you a question about a skill or an internship, but what they're really trying to figure out is if you have a, a set of skills, I would include among these being resilient, being a self-starter, being resourceful, figuring it out. If you don't know, being grateful, responsible, kindness matters, enthusiastic and honest. I've interviewed a lot of people and these are the things I was really trying to ferret out. I knew I could teach them the nitty gritty, but I couldn't teach them these things. So any chance you get to be in these places and putting yourself out there, just like Tony said, these are the skills that I say, uh, focus on Sean 01:04:29 If a scholar listening wants to connect with you and take this conversation further, like some have done with you previously. Tony, how can each of you be contacted? Tony 01:04:38 Yeah, for me, probably the easiest thing is just reach out on LinkedIn very, you know, available there and we, we can, uh, set up a time to chat. Erin 01:04:45 I'd say the same. Erin Tabbert, uh, there's a bunch of Erin Talbert's. Mine is, if you see the Brandywine Outdoor Living owner, we both check it and I'm I will reply. Sean 01:04:54 Fantastic. And finally, as this tradition here on the show in our last minute, if you were each a flavor of Burkee Creamery ice cream, which would you be? Not which is your favorite, but which would you be? And most importantly, why would you be that flavor? Yeah, Erin 01:05:08 I would never be an ice cream flavor because it gives me horrible indigestion, but I, uh, I know that most students love it <laugh>. I was like, Sean, I saw your question and I was like, like, I just can't eat it. I will be sick. Uh, so, you know, they're delicious. Go Penn State, go Burkey Creamery Coffee Break I hear is good. Peachy Paterno. I don't even know if it's called that anymore, but no ice cream for me. How about you, Tony? Yeah, Tony 01:05:28 I don't know. I don't know how other people answer this question. I think my engineering brain kind of takes it literally, you know, Hey, what would you be and why? And where do I go with that? I, I don't know. Mint chocolate chip was a favorite ice cream and not, because, you know, I, well, I just like the flavor, but if I had to be an ice cream and I was mint chocolate chip, I don't know, in a starvation situation, would that be a good idea if you were literally your favorite ice cream? It's very, it, it's a very bizarre question. But anyway, I'd have to go with Mint chocolate chip. Erin 01:05:58 We're we're too existential for this. Sorry, Sean, we, we failed that question. Sean 01:06:02 I wanna thank you both Erin and Tony Talbert Schreyer Scholar, alumni Power Couple. You heard about their experiences in Line Ambassador, working on campus, working in real estate consulting, pharmaceutical and small business. Lots of great advice. I wanna thank you both for all of your contributions to the college over the years, and especially for being here with us today on following the gong. Tony 01:06:22 Thanks, Sean. This is fun Erin 01:06:23 Hats off. *GONG SOUND EFFECT* Sean 01:06:32 Thank you Scholars for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show proudly supports the Schreyer Honors College Emergency Fund, benefiting Scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at raise.psu.edu/schreyer. Please be sure to hit the relevant subscribe, like, or follow button on whichever platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the College on Instagram and LinkedIn to stay up to date on news, events, and deadlines. If you have questions about the show or are a Scholar Alum who'd like to join us as a guest here on Following the Gong, please connect with me at [email protected]. Until next time, please stay well and We Are!

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