Emily Fabiano is part of the Alumni Connecting with Eller Students (ACES) initiative. She is Director of Strategy and Operations in 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 Director of Strategy and Operations in the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation (OWT) in Columbus, Ohio. Led by the Governor and Lt. Governor, my office works with the Governor’s Executive Workforce Board, state agencies, industry and education leaders to set a workforce strategy and align 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 developing new strategies and programs that prepare people for work to traveling the state with the Lt. Governor to meet with students, job seekers, educators, and businesspeople.
Since my office is a small-but-mighty team, we all take on a variety of responsibilities. I report directly to the Lt. Governor and lead a three-person team. I am responsible for working with state agency leaders to execute priority projects and overseeing the team and budget for the Office of Workforce Transformation.
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 (including the emerging international food and craft beer scenes), and Midwestern hospitality.
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 them 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 viewed the opportunity to move across the country as a new and exciting adventure. I knew that my skills as an 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. 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 with significant potential to make an impact.
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 former boss on my qualifications (case comp style – shout out BCOM), and it all came together in a single weekend! That was three years 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 meeting two weeks later. Since then, I’ve continued to seek opportunities for growth in my role. I have been promoted three times in three years, and was asked to lead my office through a gubernatorial transition.
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 help students learn about career pathways and available careers, and working with experts to develop solutions that help people overcome barriers to employment. 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 working with industry leaders is that professional 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 economic and workforce dynamics, such as labor market trends. My finance and management classes helped build a foundation that would lead me to manage my own budget and team. I apply concepts from BCOM nearly every day as I often need to communicate effectively and efficiently with executive-level leaders. Above all, I felt Eller uniquely prepared me to excel in new and unfamiliar situations by testing my boundaries and helping me develop a continuous learning mindset.
The reality is every career has a learning curve. When I first joined OWT, there was no formal onboarding process. From day one, I jumped in and attended every meeting. In state government, meetings are full of jargon and acronyms. I had to quickly adapt by seeking out as much information as I could about my new home state (geography, demographics, economics, etc.), workforce terminology, the many state agencies that impact workforce development, and other skills such as event planning that I hadn’t formally learned in school. I purchased a textbook on Amazon for a refresher on the state 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 well to success in the workplace.
Advice for students 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 resulted in some of the best professional experience and career growth possible. I’ve also learned that my interests are not limited to “business,” and now I have the opportunity to advance my career in business, education, politics, or a combination of these fields.
Advice for any industry and company: seek continuous learning opportunities. If you think you’re “done” learning when you graduate, think again! It doesn’t necessarily have to be an MBA or other graduate program, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this job, it’s that technology will continue to shape the modern workplace. 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 podcasts, LinkedIn Learning courses, and other enriching content. I feel happier, more productive, and more informed as a result. I highly recommend this!
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 husband), family, peers, 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.