One of the best parts of the Franklin experience, as any alum will tell you, is the friendships. Moving away to another country, and being surrounded by a new language and culture, makes you rely on your fellow students more than the typical college experience, which in turn develops relationships that last across continents and lifetimes. But what happens to those friendships after graduation? How do those bonds translate into an alumni network in the professional world?
For Samantha Solon ’16, Quinn Flanagan ’13, Sydney Anderson ‘12, and Ashton McGinnis '12, it’s safe to say that the four of them, who hadn’t even attended Franklin at the same time, could never have imagined they would all end up working together at the same company in Minneapolis.
The first of the four to join RightSource Compliance, was Sydney in December 2012, who then recommended Quinn for a position in June of 2013 immediately after she graduated. Samantha was hired in 2017, and Ashton in 2018, both on the suggestion of Quinn and Sydney.
Obviously, just having a contact at a company doesn’t guarantee a position, but they all credit their professional head-starts back to their student leadership experience, which translated into real-world, hirable skills. All four of them were either RA’s, Orientation Mentors, or Academic Mentors. Then there were the LLLS positions, volunteer experience, and myriad student initiatives. Quinn, for example, on top of being an RA, co-founded the Be the Change Conference and the LEAP leadership program, directed three semesters of Franklin theater productions, and played for the Swiss National Aussie Rules football team.
This foundation of leadership, responsibility, and initiative has been a huge advantage. Ashton, who has the most professional experience of the four outside of RightSource says, “The feedback I get from people is that my experience level is so much higher than it should be for a 28 year old, and that’s true in a lot of ways thanks to my student leadership experience at Franklin.” These responsibilities and experiences can sometimes be hard to explain, but to other Frankliners it’s a given, and the main reason why these four ended up working together.
Currently the associate director of RightSource’s Creative Department, Quinn explained why she invited Samantha and Ashton to apply. “It wasn’t let me recommend my friend for this job, it was let me recommend this person who’s work ethic, reliability, and creativity I can confidently vouch for.” Sydney agrees, saying “ To be a Franklin student, you have to jump into the deep end, not just to go, but to stay. Because of that shared experience I know we can rely on each other. It’s wonderful to work with people who I know and trust; I can walk away confident that my Franklin colleagues will be able to creatively problem solve and figure things out.”
At RightSource, an innovative company taking on the important task of improving the low-income housing situation, this team of four has proven to be versatile and indispensable.They are among the youngest in the company, Samantha in fact is the youngest, yet they have helped the company grow exponentially. Quinn, for example, started out as an analyst auditing and approving tenant files for affordable housing. After about a year in this position, she was promoted to Digital Products and Organizational Development manager writing, developing, editing, and producing online training content. She was also part of the strategic initiatives that the company was taking and after 4 years was promoted to Associate Director, where she now oversees the product development, training, customer success, and account management teams.
As she describes, “Cool things that have happened in my time at RightSource: We have filed a patent and I am listed as an inventor on software I played a key role in developing. I have helped to author policy around how the Department of Housing and Urban Development will implement digital signature and document storage, and I have helped to scale the company from 5 people to nearly 50 employees. “
In addition to the variety of their positions and responsibilities, they have all been able to move within a rapidly growing company. Quinn compares this vocational code switching to her experiences at Franklin, where “on Friday we would be discussing history in a class of 10 and then on Monday would be standing at the UN in Geneva talking to an ambassador about national policy.”
Aside from their different roles in the company, they have all been instrumental in developing the company’s remote work policy and improving its work-life balance. Here too, Franklin played an instrumental role. Sydney, who travels the most out of the four, explained how the Franklin experience helped her to navigate, and love, a life on the road. Speaking about her role in pushing for distributed work she says, “We are not only comfortable living that way, we prefer it. We learned how to live this way at a college where we would be writing our papers on EasyJet so that we could travel to incredible places on the weekends.”
There are several lessons to be learned from the experience of these four alumni. Samantha, the most recent graduate, was quick to point out that even though it is a small university with a small alumni services department, the quality of the network has more than proven itself. “Networking with alumni, especially those who may have graduated a few years ahead of you, is going to be the easiest path to a job. I found the concept of networking really intimidating after graduation, but what made a difference for me was being open to opportunities (and locations) that I might not have envisioned for myself before.”
These four are also a perfect case for the flexibility and enriching qualities of a Liberal Arts education. “When you’re in school,” Samantha says, “everyone always asks you, ‘what are you going to do with your degree?’ My answer now is ‘anything you want to do.’ I majored in International Relations and French, and now I’m working in software. To be successful in any work environment, you need to be able to think critically, problem- solve effectively, express yourself coherently, and self-advocate with confidence. My Franklin degree gave me the building blocks for all of those skills, and they’ve made me successful in my current position, and passionate about an industry I could never have imagined before.”
Ashton agrees; “For the four of us, our Franklin experience spans years, experiences, and hometowns. Even though we didn’t attend Franklin together or even study the same majors, we share a common understanding and passion. It also instilled in us the importance of a work-life balance, so now the four of us just combine the two. We didn’t all know each other at Franklin, but today we are friends, colleagues, and travel buddies.”