How the liberal arts can lay career foundations

Photo courtesy of Gloria Jeong.

Pat Wadors graduated from Ramapo College in 1987, but returned to campus Monday, March 7 to talk with President Jebb at the latest “Future Series” installment. Before their fireside chat, Wadors was part of a roundtable discussion for students to speak directly with her about how her liberal arts education was a foundation for her career.

Wadors works as the chief talent officer at Procore Technologies and believes interdisciplinary learning leads to a more diverse skill set in any field. When a student approaches classes outside their discipline with curiosity and openness to learning, Wadors says they’ll find lessons applicable to their work.

“If you have a problem, and you're solving one thing here, but something else pops up, your brain is already wired to code-switch between topics and understand that you're not fixing in any one process, you're not so rigid, you're more curious to ask more questions and statements,” Wadors said. “That curiosity makes great leadership traits, that helps you with your mental health, and makes your learning more enjoyable, for sure.”

Having previously held a position at LinkedIn — where Wadors is more than happy to connect with students at Ramapo — she explained that “soft skills,” such as critical thinking and intercultural fluency, are amongst the highest rated. 

Students at the roundtable presented Wadors with their own conflicting ideas about the future, and were able to get feedback on how to adapt their learning skills. Wadors shared many of her own experiences in the workplace developing what she calls a “growth mindset,” which centers learning over knowing.

Companies themselves can foster a growth mindset, which she encourages students to look for in their job search. Wadors says to find this, it’s best to ask questions and show adaptability. Personally, she advises students to make a clearly defined layout for themselves of their values, motivators, skills and curiosities, paying attention to what they do and do not like. 

“I created through a series of coaching in my career a spreadsheet, I call it the Goldilocks spreadsheet,” Wadors said. “You need to try on different roles and skills to see what you like and don’t like.”

Another topic Jebb asked Wadors to speak about was diversity, which the college is always aiming to foster and center. She shared an experience where she was asked to give a TED Talk-style presentation on diversity and inclusion (DNI), for which she took the time to step away and evaluate before speaking. 

“I kept thinking about DNI, DNI. And I realized it's very necessary, but it's not sufficient,” Wadors said. “If you really want a culture that flourishes, thinking about the art of inclusion is about the sense of belonging.”

Belonging, Wadors explained, is about being able to showcase individual “superpowers” in a team. Homogeneity does not create a space where diverse thinking can lead to diverse solutions, so Wadors stands by fluidity in skills.

After Jebb and Wadors concluded their chat, attendees of the event were asked to participate in an activity that brought them directly into how these ideas work at Ramapo. Some tables were asked to evaluate how they, as contributing members of the community, would like to create change, while others looked at opportunities for connections between curriculums. 

As Ramapo takes steps forward on re-adapting the mission statement and re-organizing some systems at the college, the Future Series speakers help to shape the community's understanding and visions for the best way to deliver an interdisciplinary education.