ACES – Emily Fabiano, Ohio Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation

Eller PDC Coordinator ACES, Alumni Stories

Emily Fabiano is part of the Alumni Connecting with Eller Students (ACES) initiative.  She was a Strategy and Partnership Lead and has moved to the position of Interim Lead for the Ohio Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation.

“I graduated from the University of Arizona Eller College of Management with a BS in Business Management in May 2016. I’m currently the Strategy & Partnership Lead in Governor Kasich’s Office of Workforce Transformation (OWT) in Columbus, Ohio. OWT is a non-political office created by Governor Kasich to set the strategy for workforce development in Ohio. When Governor Kasich created this office, he also created the Governor’s Executive Workforce Board, a board made up of executive level leaders in business, education, non-profit, and labor, as well as four appointed state legislators. Historically, the state workforce system has been fragmented and siloed. My office works with the Governor’s Executive Workforce Board, other state agencies, and external partners to set a workforce strategy and coordinate efforts statewide.” – Emily Fabiano

What do you do on a typical day at work?

There is no “typical” day at work in my office, which is why I enjoy my job so much! My daily to-do list ranges from leading project meetings to writing briefing documents for the governor to traveling throughout the state to meet with executive-level business leaders, teachers, and students.

Since my office is a small-but-mighty team of five professionals, we all wear many hats. My focus is on strategy and internal (other state agency) and external (community) partnerships, but I’m also responsible for managing several other projects, marketing communications, and event planning.

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with business leaders on a regular basis to better understand their workforce needs – for example, to hire more cybersecurity professionals – so we can address common needs at the state level.

How did you come across this opportunity?

My fiancé, Tony, is a fellow U of A graduate and current medical student at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. We always knew we wanted to be together beyond undergrad and when he began interviewing at several medical schools across the country, we started researching potential new cities together. Columbus caught our eye – we liked it enough to visit and when we did, we fell in love with the growing city, diverse culture (hello food trucks and fantastic craft beer!!), and Midwestern hospitality. Did I mention the craft beer?

Before we knew where we were going after graduation, I attended every U of A and Eller career fair and networking event. Not one recruiter took me seriously when I told him or her I would be moving with Tony, my then-boyfriend, upon graduation. I participated in several interviews with companies in Arizona that had a national presence, advancing to the final round of interviews locally, only to find out that I’d have to re-interview after graduation in the new, to-be-determined destination.

I was always content with and excited about the opportunity to move across the country. I knew that my skillsets as a business management major and Eller grad would be useful in any city, and I was right.

Initially, once we were seriously considering Columbus, I interviewed with several start-ups, aspiring to join a small, motivated team. Much to my dismay, I discovered that most start-ups pay in the $30,000-$40,000 range, which I determined was insufficient to comfortably support the cross-country move, myself, my soon-to-be medical student, and our dog. When I stumbled upon the opening for “Outreach Coordinator” in the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, I saw a unique opportunity to join a small, business-minded and innovative team.

I scheduled a single in-person interview during my three-day visit to Columbus. I had one shot to land the job, for us to find a place to rent, and commit to living in Columbus. I pitched my now-boss on my qualifications (literal case comp style – shout out BCOM), and it all came together in that single weekend! That was a year and a half ago. I moved the day after graduation upon my boss’s request so I could be there to plan a Governor’s Executive Workforce Board two weeks later (cue nerves!). Since then, I’ve continued to seek opportunities for growth in my role and have taken on more responsibility, a new title, and earned a 10% pay raise.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

The most rewarding aspect of my job is knowing that what I do has a real, meaningful impact. My favorite part of my job is traveling across the state to meet with students, educators, and business leaders to understand workforce challenges and best practices. I enjoy working with leaders in K-12 and higher education to ensure that students have access to information about career pathways and are aware of the job opportunities available in their local communities, and working toward solutions to alleviate barriers to employment that individuals commonly experience. There is no easy answer to any workforce question, which is what keeps me excited and engaged in developing solutions that work for Ohioans.

What skills do you find important in your industry?

What I’ve learned from industry leaders is that professional or “soft” skills are most important in any industry. Employers can provide training for technical skills, but work ethic, professionalism, reliability, business etiquette, and other qualities are difficult to train for and essential for success in any career.

In what ways did Eller prepare you for your job?

I felt prepared to engage in discussions with business leaders about economics (workforce/employment), finance, and cybersecurity. My Eller education was superb overall, but where I really felt Eller uniquely prepared me was in my ability to test my boundaries and learn quickly.

For example, when I started my job, I didn’t undergo any formal training. On day one, I jumped right in and attended every meeting. At first, I didn’t understand a word anyone said – plus every third word seemed to be an acronym or industry jargon. I had to quickly adapt by seeking out as much information as I could about the State of Ohio (geography, demographics, economics, etc.), workforce terminology, the many state agencies that impact workforce, and other skills such as event planning that I hadn’t formally learned in school. I literally purchased a “State Government” textbook on Amazon for a refresher on the legislative process. My coworkers were incredibly patient with me while I learned and asked questions.

Eller’s curriculum structure, with its focus on writing, presentations, teams, leadership opportunities, and entrepreneurship, helped me to hone my leadership skills and ability to strategize, innovate, and think on my feet. The extra-curricular activities I participated in such as Alpha Kappa Psi and Eller Professional Sales Club helped me practice real-world business skills. Eller uprooted me from my comfort zone every single day and that translated to success in the workplace.

Advice for student looking to enter your industry/company?

Don’t set parameters for yourself based on your major. I never thought I’d end up in state government, of all places, but broadening my search parameters for careers beyond “management/marketing/sales” (literally and figuratively) helped me earn an opportunity that has been the best professional experience I could have possibly asked for.

Here’s a story to further demonstrate that point: When I started job searching and interviewing with growing startups in Columbus, there was one opportunity I was most excited about. I felt confident I was the perfect match for the position and knew I could add value to the growing company. After what I thought was a fantastic phone interview – the recruiter and I connected and I felt like my passion and qualifications shone through – I received a vague, disappointing email about how they had selected someone else. Presumably, someone who could start right away. I was devastated. Here’s the plot twist – once I had been working a few months in my current job, I had the opportunity to meet the c-suite of that company. Sometimes, patience truly is a virtue.

Advice for any industry and company: seek continuous learning opportunities. If you think you’re “done” when you graduate, think again! It doesn’t necessarily have to be an MBA or other graduate program, but understand that technology and automation are changing the modern workplace at an unprecedented rate. Taking time to learn new skills every day is the best thing you can do for your career. To make time to learn, I replaced my daily news consumption with Harvard Business Review, Lynda.com, and other enriching content. I feel happier, more productive, and more informed as a result. Highly recommend!

Your favorite UA/Eller memory?

My favorite UA memory is the Arizona in Italy Study Abroad Program in Orvieto, Italy. My favorite Eller experience is pledging Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity. Through both, I met some of my lifelong best friends and built a strong professional network. I am also fortunate and thankful to have had unwavering support from my then-boyfriend (now soon-to-be-husband), family, and friends, who believed in me as I pursued my personal and professional aspirations in my college years and beyond.

Part of the “Eller Experience” is building a network of diverse and talented individuals along the way. I’m excited for the opportunity to re-engage with Eller students, faculty, and alumni – to offer my support as others before did for me.