Tenacious Leaders Discuss Non-Linear Career Pathways Success

The Texas A&M University-Commerce College of Business Career Services welcomed another dynamic panel of esteemed Dallas–Fort Worth business leaders who served as speakers for our second Tenacious Leader Tuesday event.

This event provides an informal setting for leaders to share their career journeys with students at all levels, from current undergraduates and graduates to postgraduates, as well as participants from the Mountain View campus of Dallas College.

According to Courtney Brazile, communications professor and moderator of Tenacious Leader Tuesday (TLT), this well-rounded panel of business leaders sheds light on the various career pathways individuals can explore through curiosity, the utilization of learned skills, and opportunities that take them beyond their imagined accomplishments. While we all have a plan to become the person we want to be, the question that arises from these panel responses is: what happens if you end up on a non-linear career pathway, and can you still achieve the success you dreamed of?

Our panelists—Fanny Dunagan from PathLynks, Aabid Shivji from Deloitte, Eddie Anderson, an accounting alumnus, and Neil Robinson from SMU—opened up this event with their backgrounds and how they navigated pivotal moments that were not planned but led them to become the tenacious leaders they are today. Fifty-one students from a mixed group audience attended this in-person and virtual career insights event. Among them were graduate students from Dr. Lirong Liu's class and Dallas College students from Professor Brazile's class. This unique panel discussion delved into the significance of soft skills and the importance of being open to constantly reinventing oneself when new opportunities arise.

By tapping into the diversity of our skills and experiences, we can gain a better understanding of the world around us and its vast opportunities. Students from Dallas College and current College of Business students received valuable insights from Dunagan about how she transitioned from an engineer to an entrepreneur through intentional preparation and meaningful professional connections. During the panel event, Dunagan stated, “Sometimes we think there is only one ladder to climb for your career, but we can try different things for our careers, and it can lead to a new or lateral career path that may ignite a passion within us.”

Shivji, one of the panelists, shared an experience from his college-to-career journey, revealing uncertainty about his future after completing his internship. However, he emphasized the joy of a chance encounter with Deloitte that allowed him to be honest with himself about his career goals and connect with valuable industry leaders. In his current role as a senior consultant, he heavily relies on working with technology but also values human interaction to maintain balance with evolving trends. When it comes to technology usage, Shivji said, “A lot of the work we do in business is about trust, and clients do not build trust with machines easily. We have to realize the human factor in it all and understand the role we play in helping our clients build familiarity and trust with technology as an important tool for their business.”

Robinson spoke to the audience about his journey and how the skills he developed as an English major helped him land an entry role as a proofreader at an advertising agency. There, he learned other transferrable skills in marketing that propelled him into managerial roles with nonprofit organizations. At SMU, he leads a team of marketing project managers who support fundraising and recruitment of undergraduate and graduate students.

“My career has been profoundly shaped by the supervisor that I have, Regina Moldovan, whom I've worked for at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and at SMU,” Robinson added. “She's been instrumental in teaching me how to be a better leader and how to transform organizations.”

Anderson also shared his success story of how Texas A&M University-Commerce provided him with a solid education, and his earned accounting degree and teacher certification presented numerous opportunities to make a difference in the education system. He expressed his desire to share his knowledge and invigorating education solutions with others.

Before the session ended with students asking their final questions of the night, Brazile posed a reflection question on how to move from perfection to progression. The panelists all commented on their thoughts, reflecting on the lessons they learned over time, including learning from mistakes, respecting others' perspectives, humility, patience, and maintaining good character in all circumstances. Students left the event with enhanced knowledge from the panelists’ insights, learning the importance of being intentional with their time, continuously learning and growing, creating value for others, committing to achieving desired outcomes, and working hard to secure suitable internship and career opportunities that drive purpose for themselves and others.