Villanova’s Industry Career Circles: A discussion with Anthony Ciccarone ’92 VSB, '03 MBA, and Liz Bernich ’94 VSB
By Anne Krepacki '87 MBA
Industry Career Circles (ICC), started through the Villanova Alumni Career Services office, were devised as a way to enable Villanova alumni to deepen their knowledge in their chosen careers, as well as to network and share each other’s ideas and perspectives. By definition, ICCs comprise several “Circles” that meet quarterly, each dedicated to specific industries, including Financial Services, Advertising and Technology, among others. In its inaugural year – 2020-2021 – 226 Villanova alumni covering grad years 1949 through 2020 benefited from participation in their respective ICCs. Anne had the opportunity to speak with two Villanova grads who served as facilitators of the Financial Services Industry Career Circle. For anyone interested in participating in a Circle, you’re encouraged to contact Villanova’s Alumni Career Services office.
AK: Great speaking to both of you, Anthony and Liz! I’d love to hear individually what made each of you become interested in becoming involved in ICCs through the Villanova Alumni Office.
Anthony: I heard about the Industry Career Circles and simply offered to volunteer to be one of the first group facilitators. I have the time, so I raised my hand to do whatever was needed!
Liz: I felt I wanted to do more for Villanova alumni, primarily related to networking groups. I believe in giving back and volunteering my time when possible. I wanted to become involved with ICCs to help facilitate and to even gain some benefit myself by networking with others in my industry. And it’s been an amazing experience, beyond my normal day-to-day, gaining as much from the experience as I feel I’m giving back.
AK: I understand that the meetings for each of the respective Industry Circles take place quarterly. Can you please tell me about what takes place at the meetings? Is it an open forum for all participants, or do you put together a tight agenda before you actually meet?
Anthony: Liz and I are co-facilitators, and we put together what I would call a broad framework, though with the key objectives of developing camaraderie amongst the participants, as well as building the VU network. So Goal 1 is to encourage networking among the group members and Goal 2 is to both really listen and to facilitate true listening among the members. Goal 3 is to cover best practices in the Finance industry.
Liz: When we put together an agenda for a meeting, we’re planning the areas we want to cover over a 2-hour zoom call. We’ll primarily cover industry-related topics within the Finance industry, including any sub-industries that may be relevant to participants. We always have to keep in mind that there are individuals in all age ranges and at different phases of their careers contributing to the discussion. Considering the timing of this inaugural ICC, though, as you can imagine, discussions were certainly influenced by the ongoing pandemic. I would even say that the timing couldn’t have been better, because with the events going on in the world, we basically also found ourselves facilitating discussions outside the industry but certainly relevant to all of us.
AK: What if someone was in another industry? For instance, I work in the Marketing department of a large bank. If I wanted to make that kind of transition, could I join the Finance ICC since I already work in the Financial Services industry?
Liz: The ICCs are specifically for those who want to learn and grow within their own industry. But participants at all stages of their careers are encouraged to join. So the ICC provides the opportunity for members, no matter where they are in their career, to have discussions with leaders in the Financial Services industry. We tend to have very little overlap of specialization within Financial Services given how broad the industry is, so we cover more general topics within the financial services industry.
AK: What do you envision for the future of ICCs? Do you see it growing to other industries or changing in any way?
Anthony: The ICCs really need to continue to focus in on networking. I would like to see more networking across all Villanova alumni, and getting to know one another on a more personal level. It would be very interesting to see the careers where each VU grad has landed. I think there’s a way to better leverage our alumni for career growth. Being virtual has allowed more alumni to connect in real time, extending our networks to ever-larger areas. That’s been the “silver lining” in this whole situation we’ve been living in.
Liz: Expanding would be great, and I believe they should continue with the program. The ICCs have been a valuable resource for connecting with other VU peers that members may otherwise have never had the opportunity to meet. It enables alumni to see what’s going on in the industry, no matter their location, given the virtual meetings – which is extremely efficient.