Lakeland University Blog

Business leaders provide insight for new, prospective students

Business leaders provide insight for new, prospective students


Business leaders provide insight for new, prospective students

Being open to change, building a strong network and bringing passion to the workplace are among the wise words shared by three successful Lakeland graduates on Thursday.

Current and prospective Lakeland students heard this advice and more as part of the Business & Entrepreneurship Colloquium.

David Del Ponte ’18 CPA, tax senior, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP; Jolene Halbach ’20 ’21 MBA, capital and fixed asset analyst, Sargento; and Deidre Martinez ’21 MSLOD ’23, chief executive officer, Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce shared stories about their time at Lakeland and how they maximized their Lakeland experience to position themselves for post-graduation success.

They noted the skills that employers are currently seeking and how their coursework, faculty and other mentors they met along the way helped them grow.

The annual colloquium events invite prospective students to Lakeland to hear from successful graduates as part of a day that also includes interviews for Lakeland scholarships. For current students, the events provide an opportunity to interact with these Lakeland grads to build their networks.

Del Ponte had his eyes on a career in business, but when he took a computer science class it spurred an additional interest and expanded his major choice. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, business administration and computer science.

He served as president of the accounting club and helped start of the annual Lakeland Accounting Opportunities Night. He also worked within Lakeland’s accounting department and served internships with CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, Northwestern Mutual and The Commons.

“Feel free to go wide on your learning,” Del Ponte said. “It’s good to go deep but having that width of knowledge is also important. Don’t think you know what you want to be right away. Be open to change.

“Have a goal in mind and keep track of that. You’ll need to set boundaries eventually. We’re getting to that 24/7 world. I’ve gotten emails at 2 a.m. Who is working at 2 a.m.?”

Del Ponte said employers are looking for hires who will bring passion to the workplace. “Care about what you’re doing and how it affects the company you’re working for,” he said.

Halbach’s passion for numbers and data has led her to experience multiple internships in both public and private accounting. While she initially was attracted to a role in tax, her openness to different experiences allowed her to recognize private accounting is the best for her future career aspirations, landing her dream role at Sargento Foods.

“Take that Leap of faith,” Halbach said. “You don’t know what’s going to come in the future, but it won’t necessarily be bad for you.”

Early internships, leveraging Lakeland opportunities and organizations and networking helped pave her way to a successful early career at an employer of choice in Sheboygan County. Halbach leads and mentors incoming students at Sargento, has been a key participant in young professional organizations and recently emceed an award ceremony alongside key leadership to a group of 100 peers.

“Lakeland laid the foundation for all the knowledge I needed for my first job,” she said. “Getting involved is a great way to meet people and build your professional and social skills.”

Halbach encouraged students to be flexible and open to all experiences to build the foundational knowledge and relationships needed to succeed.

Martinez was spotlighted as a non-traditional student as she received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees later in her career. She arrived in Sheboygan to lead the local chamber in 2017 after working at a chamber in Illinois and spending several years in higher education, leading teams of admissions advisors to help students realize their goals of a higher education.

As a manager with plenty of supervisory and hiring experience, she told students that having a strong will and passion are keys to success in the workplace.

“Be excited about what you’re doing, try your hardest and give it your best,” Martinez said. “If you do that, I can teach you the skills you need to be successful. If you run into problems, communication is key.

“I know it sounds simple and it is just that simple. You have to be motivated to do everything you can to be successful in your career.”

Martinez is a visible leader in Sheboygan County who serves on a variety of boards and service organizations. She said Lakeland provides its students with a place to grow academically and personally.

“Lakeland is supportive, encouraging, empowering,” she said. “It’s important to find your people in life. There are people here who can encourage and empower you.”

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