Winding career path prompts new grad to engage


Laura Bruaw ’19 may have had a windy road to her first professional position, but the lessons were valuable and she wanted to help others navigate their path.

“I had a major in every college at BU when I was there,” laughed Bruaw. “I finished the degree in the last two years of school.”

As an Honors student, Bruaw was tasked with an independent research project early on in her academic experience, and it was with that project she came upon her first curve in the road. Although she was a secondary education/English major, her interests for the project drew her to computer science and Bruaw chose to examine the reaches of instructional technology for adult ESL learners. She switched her major to computer science shortly thereafter.

“I was just trying to tie in all of the interests I had at every point I was in school,” explained Bruaw. “I realized I didn’t want to be a teacher pretty quickly, and I was at a loss for what to do.”

After another two semesters in technology courses, Bruaw was still unsure. A faculty member noticed her anxiety and offered to help her sort it out.

“My professor simply asked me what I wanted to get out of life and my profession,” Bruaw recalled. “He reassured me and gave me some options that fit my goals.”

Bruaw took the advice and enrolled in some business classes to see how she liked them, even though a business degree wasn’t something she had ever considered. An idea began to take hold — maybe the major one declared was less important than the professional goals one had. She made her second switch to information technology management the following semester and hasn’t looked back. When it came time, Bruaw applied to no less than 15 internships, and was selected to join the team at PPL Utilities for the summer.

“I knew the internship was a good fit with my ITM major, because that’s exactly what they teach you to do in that major at Bloom,” Bruaw said.

Bruaw completed the internship and was hired by PPL Utilities this spring as an associate technology translator. She describes her work as a type business analyst; working with the business side of an organization for solutions to building and technological requirements. And while she realizes the value of her experiences now, Bruaw said not finalizing her major until her junior year was “definitely nerve-wracking.”

“There was so much uncertainly about what I wanted to do,” Bruaw explained. “What I realized eventually was that there is so much flexibility between the degree you get and the jobs you can work. I still draw from my other majors and experiences.”

What Bruaw learned was that it was too easy to discount a potential job that doesn’t have one’s particular major or background listed in the description, but it is worth examining the skills required, such as public speaking or research, or information analysis. She said so many people make the mistake of narrowing their employment options to fit their major.

“Everything goes a lot deeper than major,” said Bruaw. “I’ve learned that if I have the skill set they need and an interest in this field, I can apply my skill set to that field.”

Many times, those skill sets depend on experience, and Bruaw is eager to help others who are now in the same place she was not more than a year ago. She hadn’t received her degree more than a month when she volunteered for the first time on a webinar panel about making the most out of an internship. Her advice to students was to get everything possible out of the experience, whether it was positive or not.

“I definitely could pull from my own experience into it,” said Bruaw. “You can learn so much and take a lot of important information away that you don’t think about, like the culture of the organization.”

“As a young alum and someone who was a participant and intern, it’s important that she can talk about her experiences in a real way,” explained Professional Development Manager Lauren Kross-Polinski. “Her experience really spoke to the importance of an internship to make a good impression and demonstrating your ability to work within that organization, and it was inspiring for students to see someone who was in their shoes just last summer and is now getting ready to start a position at the same organization.”

Bruaw also encourages students to take advantages of all the professional resources available through the Department of Alumni and Professional Engagement. She said that programs like ZIPD and Career Intensive Boot Camp were instrumental in teaching her how to be comfortable in professional situations and think on her feet. She has a co-presenter role at the boot camp this fall, with PPL Corporate Talent Manager, Brian Case.

“I always encourage people to do anything, whether it’s the three-day boot camp or a webinar,” explained Bruaw. “I got a lot out of meeting younger alumni and talking to people at [the Career Intensive] boot camp, so I thought if I had a chance to do that I would.”

Bruaw stresses the important role BU alumni played in getting her ready for the professional world.

“You can read about resume and interview tips all you want, but to be able to actually sit down and do it real time with someone who is there to help you is so invaluable,” explained Bruaw. “Alumni have been in your shoes and they became successful, so it reassures you that you can too.”