BILL DRISCOLL ’91
President, New England District, Robert Half International
Majors: History and Spanish
Bill Driscoll is the New England District President of Robert Half, an S&P 500 member the world’s first and largest specialized staffing agencies with more than 16,000 employees. He was kind enough to sit down with us and answer some questions.
What brought you to Middlebury?
I was born and raised in Boston. While in prep school at Middlesex School in Concord, MA, I played lacrosse and was recruited to Middlebury. At Midd I doubled majored in history and Spanish and graduated in ’91.
What did you do after graduation?
Through a fraternity connection, I got inspired to move to Vail, Colorado. At that time the country was in a recession and there weren’t a lot of jobs on the horizon. I moved out to Colorado and worked there for a year. It was a fun experience but I decided to move back to Boston and jumpstart my career.
So what does Robert Half do?
Robert Half is a staffing and temporary employment company. We do specialized staffing for the accounting, finance, administrative, technology, creative and legal industries.
How did you get interested in staffing and working at Robert Half?
During summers while I was at Midd, I started a landscaping business, mostly mowing lawns and painting houses. I was able to expand the business before I ultimately sold it. This experience taught me a lot about sales and accounting and after college I wanted to find a job that incorporated these skills. I interviewed with Robert Half and was hired to do outside sales, which involved traveling and meeting with clients.
You’ve worked there for 26 years. How has your job changed since you started?
I worked in outside sales for six months, then became a staffing manager for Accountemps, Robert Half’s temporary accounting division. I grew this into the largest Robert Half team in the world. I achieved number one in the world in sales for Accountemps in 1995. At this point, the company was transitioning from a franchise model, where each office was independent, to a more traditional corporation. I moved to Atlanta in 1996 and was put in charge of the southeastern region for Robert Half. I stayed in that position for the next decade, got married and had kids. In 2006, I moved back to the Boston area and was named the Northeastern District president. Now, I oversee twenty offices in the New England and upstate New York area.
What advantage do liberal arts grads have in the workforce?
I’ve noticed that people from Midd, and similar schools, are very smart, driven and have great communication skills. That means that they are qualified for a lot of jobs that need someone who can think on their feet and analyze situations in real-time. The job market is constantly in flux and the technical skills employers need are always changing. Having the core skills that a liberal arts education imparts allows Midd grads to be adaptable over the long-run.
What’s your assessment of the labor market at the moment?
It’s a lot better than when I graduated! It’s becoming more of a candidate market and the job seekers I’ve been working with have a lot more confidence. That’s a good sign for workers and the economy .
How do you see automation and technological displacement affecting the industries you work with?
The reality is that new jobs are being created along and other jobs are being phased out. That’s inevitable and something we always knew would happen. I think it’ll mostly impact more menial jobs and not the highly-skilled positions that we work with our clients to fill.
Tell me about your volunteer work outside of Robert Half.
I’ve been very involved with the Junior Achievement of Northern New England for about eleven years. It’s an organization that provides workforce readiness for K-12 students. Its programs teach financial literacy, workforce readiness and entrepreneurship to more than 40,000 students annually. Given my experience with Robert Half, it’s a place where I can apply my skills and help young people prepare to be successful. I just finished a term as Chairman of the Board of Directors, which is comprised of senior level executives from leading companies in the Boston area.
There’s a lot of talk about millennials in the workplace. What’s your perspective on this?
Across the board, millennials bring a lot to the table. Right now we have one of the largest multi-generational workforces in history. Millennials are starting their careers and boomers are nearing the end of theirs. The reality is that each generation was raised differently. Millennials were raised with a lot of feedback and then they get to the workforce and there’s less of that. My advice to employers is that they need to communicate with their younger employees more frequently. A performance review once or twice a year isn’t enough.
Walk me through what you do on a day-to-day basis.
I spend a lot of time building relationships with companies who might have hiring needs in the future. I want to establish Robert Half as the firm they turn to when positions open up and they need to fill them with quality people. On the other side, I’m always recruiting candidates and building relationships. Fundamentally what we do at Robert Half is matchmaking, bringing employers and potential employees together. What I do every day is a reflection of that.
What changes have you seen in the labor market in recent years?
Temporary and consulting type arrangements have become more popular recently and that isn’t going to change any time soon.
What is your advice to Middlebury grads?
When you’re looking for a job, you need to have a polished resume. Beyond that, make sure your online profile is cleaned up and tight. You need to project a professional look. Most importantly, be open to new opportunities, even if you don’t know where it’ll lead you long term. When I was starting out, I didn’t even know what temp staffing meant and I’ve made my whole career out of it.
What kind of person would do well at Robert Half?
To work for a staffing agency, you need to like people and be a good communicator. It’s a sales job and thinking on your feet is important. Nothing is ever a one-off deal. If you’re managing temporary professionals, you’re either in touch with the employer making sure things are working out, or helping the individual find their next job.
How have you been involved with Middlebury?
I’ve been interviewing on-campus for a number of years. It’s great to be coming back to Midd and hopefully we’ll find some people that are interested in learning more about what we do. I’ve also been very active in alumni activities, as a Class Agent, Class Secretary and interviewing prospective students since the late nineties.
OLENA OSTASHEVA ’16
Leveraged Finance Analyst, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Major: Economics | Minor: Mathematics
Olena Ostasheva was born and raised in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, a city on the banks of the Dneiper River. Before coming to Middlebury, she spent a few of her high school years at the Leysin American School in Western Switzerland.
She discovered the world of finance during winter of her first year at Midd when she attended a meeting of the Student Investment Committee. Olena boasts that she went to the meeting not knowing what a stock was and ended up becoming a co-chair of the club and landing an internship, and then a full-time job, in Leverage Finance with Bank of America. She loves the adrenalin of that comes with a lot of deal flow, and says her liberal arts education has come in handy because her job requires her to work across industries. Outside of work Olena always makes time for weekly runs around central park, and recently signed up for a photography course.
Olena’s advice to anyone interested in the industry: Learn from those who do it. Talk to people in the field. Reach out!
JACK KRAMER ’11
Co-CEO, MarketSnacks and MBA/MPP Candidate, University of Michigan
Majors: Economics and German
Jack grew up in Vermont dreaming about going to Midd and playing football on Youngman Field. He did just that. In the classroom, Jack majored in both economics and German. He recommends to students – particularly economic majors – that you should hone in on a unique sector of finance or business that interests you most. For him it was German, and he credits luck that a German bank and his eventual employer, Commerzbank, came to recruit at Middlebury. He worked for 5-years as a relationship manager at the bank, helping German automotive clients expand in the US.
Jack also co-founded MarketSnacks, a daily email newsletter that he and his partner (his freshman year roommate) operate as a part-time endeavor. With his “side-hustle,” he sought to change financial news for his generation. The banker-turned-entrepreneur scaled his startup and took on partners like Fidelity and made appearances on CBS, Cheddar, and Nasdaq. Jack’s email newsletter has become the voice of and for millennials on Wall Street.
Being a student-athlete at Middlebury taught Jack how to handle a heavy workload through solid work ethic and being highly organized. His experiences catapulted him to the University of Michigan, where he’s pursuing a dual master’s degree in business and public policy. As industries become more and more tech-oriented, Jack believes public policy and regulation will become increasingly important to business. Thus, he’s gaining expertise in the intersection of business and government.
MAX KAGAN ’14
Senior Business Analyst, McKinsey & Co.
Major: Political Science | Minor: Arabic
Max left Middlebury with a unique perspective about the liberal arts education he received while at school: a lifelong education that taught him how to think. When you’re hoping to land a job in business, a liberal arts undergraduate education may at first seem like a handicap. However, Max emphasizes that the education you receive at Middlebury truly does enable you to think more creatively and effectively on the job, which, for him, has been a sure asset in his career thus far.
Max’s success at McKinsey did not come without hard work. As a senior at Middlebury, he took his job search seriously, understanding that it is a numbers game of sorts. He advises that narrowing your job search to simply the top firms in a particular field is limiting. The more places you apply to, the more likely you are to land a job. This may not be as daunting a task as it may seem, however. Max advises that if, as a senior, you allocate just an hour a day to taking action toward getting a job – sending out applications, reaching out to alumni, etc. – this will position you well for success.
Max has been at McKinsey for two years and maintains a career in business will most likely consist of a series of 2-3 year periods rather than a lifelong “career”. It’s fast-paced and highly dynamic, and often in those early stages the work you’re given is something you’re not really sure how to do. However, Max highlights that as Middlebury students, you’re smarter than you think and that it’s always better to produce something than not to trust yourself and produce nothing. After three years as a business analyst at McKinsey, Max will soon be joining an investment firm also in New York that specializes in growth equity in the financial services industry.
SEBASTIAN ‘KOBY’ SPIO-GARBRAH ‘01.5
Global Managing Director & Chief Frontier Markets Analyst, DaMina Advisors LLP
Majors: Economics and Political Science
Sebastian Spio-Garbrah has been adjudged one of the world’s leading frontier markets analysts, and was voted among the ‘Top 30 under 30 Analysts’ by New York’s Institutional Investor Magazine in 2006. Sebastian helped establish the Africa risk research practice at leading global political risk consultancy firm, Eurasia Group LLC in New York, London (UK) and Tokyo, and concurrently served as a sovereign risk analyst on Sub-Saharan Africa’s two largest economies, Nigeria and South Africa for a novel global stability index developed by Eurasia Group with Lehman Brothers, Deutsche Bank, and subsequently, with Citigroup between 2005 and 2010. Since 2010, Sebastian has been Global Managing Director & Chief Frontier Markets Analyst at DaMina Advisors LLP where he advises the boards, CEOs and portfolio managers of many of the world’s leading multinationals and largest institutional investors on Africa. A prolific writer and an ambidextrous thinker, Sebastian has been quoted extensively by the international media.
Previously, Sebastian led debt capital markets surveillance unit at Thompson Reuters in New York. Sebastian also advised former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Commission on Africa. Sebastian sits on the board of a Jewish-Africa NGO, Innovation Africa, which has provided solar technology and water purification technologies to over 250,000 African villagers and the Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, which has help lift millions of children’s out of poverty. Sebastian is a member of Toronto’s High Park and Parkdale Rotary Club and a Fellow at the Washington Center for the Study of the Presidency. Sebastian holds a B.A (double) in Economics and Political Science from Middlebury College, Vermont and a Juris Doctor (J.D) in law from Rutgers University, New Jersey.
David Chen ’14
Associate, Life Sciences Practice, Charles River Associates
David Chen grew up in the small town of Guilford, CT, and fell in love with Middlebury during an impromptu visit while in the area. He focused on mathematics and physics at Middlebury, although he also developed finance knowledge with the Student Investment Committee. However, he eventually found an interest in business strategy, and is now in Boston working as management consultant specializing in life sciences and healthcare. During his free time, he enjoys tennis (and table tennis in the office), cinema, coffee brewing techniques, and learning improv.
Chelsea Minton ‘08.5
Business Development Strategist, Water Resources, OmniEarth
Major: History | Minor: Geography
Chelsea Minton is a Geospatial professional with five years of experience working in a tech startup environment. Her experience includes crafting sales and marketing strategy, product evangelism, and geospatial solutions consulting. Chelsea has worked with businesses in the water, energy, oil and gas, and utility sectors.
Chelsea joined OmniEarth in 2014. For the past year, she has led business development and direct sales efforts for OmniEarth’s Water Product line launch in California as they work to respond to California’s historic drought.
Janet Jones Shipp ’79
Commodities Trader/Operations, Glencore Ltd.
Major: Music Concentrated in Dance
Janet Jones Shipp states that her Middlebury story was “…changing majors mid-stream to follow your passion and eventually coming full circle.” Starting as a math major, she took mostly math or science classes but also took an occasional music courses when possible. (She is also proud to say that she was one of the few people who sang all four years in the choir with Emory Fanning as music director.)
Janet had planned to eventually go into engineering in a 3-2 program Middlebury had with Georgia Tech. Then a new popular dance teacher, Dana Holby, came to the College, and Janet, having grown up in an artistic family, realized she didn’t want to go into engineering anymore and changed her major to music. Because she wanted to graduate with her class, she took summer classes at the Harvard Summer Dance Program, receiving wonderful guidance from teachers there.
She went on to dance in New York City after college, receiving a scholarship that made it all possible, and eventually danced with one of the Alvin Ailey Companies. Janet, however, eventually realized she wanted stability, a pay check, health insurance, and to use her math training, and therefore worked her way up through a commodities trading firm. She also studied for an MBA to take finance and accounting courses to round out her experience and knowledge, and has now been employed with Glencore Ltd, an international commodities trading firm, for the past twenty-eight years.