Noah Clinton is a senior from Raleigh, North Carolina and is a Business Management major with a concentration in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology (EIT). While attending Virginia Tech, Noah has successfully practiced his major as he is one of the founding partners of CSix+ LLC and serves as the Vice President of Business Development at Ludwig. Noah has accomplished all of this and more while also graduating Magna Cum Laude from Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business. We recently asked him to share his experiences as a Management major and as a Pamplin College of Business student.

Noah has recently accepted a position as part of the Mid Market Development Team at Red Hat, the world’s leading provider of enterprise open source solutions. He will also share his perspectives and insights on how to job search during these challenging economic times.

Why did you choose Virginia Tech?  When and why did you choose MGT - EIT?

Determining what college you wish to attend is only the start of where you will ultimately wind up and not easy for a junior going into senior year of high school to get your head around.  The one thing I knew from a very early age was I loved business, whether it was learning about current business or starting my own business, my entrepreneurial spirit was already defined.  It is no coincidence I wanted to major in business, so my college search centered around the ones that had great business schools, ones that had recent rankings and accolades for top performing business schools, and of course ones that had a great alumni following. Virginia Tech and University of Denver were my two finalists. Virginia Tech had better ratings overall, and offered a path for entrepreneurship that was tied in with innovation and technology, which was so exciting for me. From day 1 being a business major at VT, with concentration in EIT, was never a question. Lastly, the amazing location, Blacksburg, VA, not too far from my home in NC, the choice for me was Virginia Tech.

Were there any specific classes that you remember as validating your major choice to date?

As I have been speaking about, my major choice was validated even before I arrived my freshman year at VT, having always been an entrepreneur. However, one class does come to mind that really had a big impact early in my academic career - 3064 Cornerstones of Entrepreneurship, taught by Mark Mondry was that class. This class was rooted in everyday realities of running a business or starting a business and incorporated the modern day aspects of AI and technology that shapes how a business needs to stay ahead and/or current with trends to remain relevant and grow. This class emphasized one of, in my opinion, the most important keys to success in the business world - A Growth Mindset. Having a growth mindset is something that I pride myself on, and emphasize every day, as a key to overcoming and facing any challenge, or obstacle, in order to come out on the other side successful.

Has there been a faculty member or staff member within Pamplin and/or the MGT department that has served as a mentor or source of inspiration for you during your journey?

I am a big advocate in having a multitude of wise counsel in your life, and I am fortunate to have had some really special professors and advisors in my journey here in Pamplin. I would love to specifically thank Devi Gnyawali, David Bluey, Mark Mondry, and Donna Wertalik for playing integral roles in my academic and business growth. 

“You really don’t understand until you get here the magnitude of being part of the VT Family.  There is something so special about being part of Hokie Nation and I am very thankful to represent and have been a part of the Pamplin College of Business. This is an exceptional program with amazing faculty and great students who all come together to create an atmosphere that is truly like family. You can't deny that the management department is striving every day to create a program that grooms students to be the cream of the crop in today's business world. They are without a doubt succeeding in that!”

Name some of the internships, if any, that you had during your Virginia Tech and/or Pamplin journey.

Internships for me looked a bit different than the traditional path to internships.  I stepped outside of the norm the summer before junior year, and used my passion to be an entrepreneur to really get a taste for what it takes to start a business from the ground up.  I started my own company and CSix+ was born. This was a real-world, hands-on experience that included everything from creating the initial business plan, through incorporation, financials, legal, operations, accounting, and marketing.  This was an absolutely incredible experience hands down. It was an opportunity to put into practice everything I had been learning in the classroom into a real-world scenario with management and entrepreneurship at the core. The challenges and learnings I came away with, helped form the solid foundation of my business acumen, that I will bring forward through my career long term.

What advice would you provide to an incoming Pamplin freshman?

You know this is a special question as my brother Dylan Clinton is a freshman this year and I would tell everyone what I told him when he was an incoming freshman.

Do something. Everyone talks, but few make things happen. Whether it be life in general, or college life, there are a lot of floaters, a lot of small minded people, and a lot of people who don’t lace up their boots and chase their dreams. Don't be one of those people. Find out what's important to you and prioritize it every day. Break down what's necessary to get there and get creative with it.  Keep your head in the clouds, but remember to keep your feet moving towards those dreams. Don't do things the same way everyone else does. Be different and carve your own path. You wont regret it!

What/who is your inspiration for leadership? 

I would definitely say my father is my inspiration for leadership in my life. I have always looked up to him and admired him throughout my life. I am incredibly thankful to have a father who has always emphasized the importance of leading with empathy and making a difference with your work ethic. Leadership is not cookie cutter, shaping your leadership style is hard and challenging, but so rewarding if you remain consistent in who you are and how you wish to be seen.  My father has definitely emulated what that journey looks like both in business and family context. So this is a mini shout-out, thanks dad, love you! 

What are your plans after your senior year?

You know times are pretty crazy right now and definitely have thrown this last semester on its head! With a pandemic changing a lot of the way we live and work, rising unemployment, and a tough job market, I am very fortunate and thankful to have landed a role on the Mid Market Development Team at Red Hat. So I will be heading back to Raleigh and incredibly excited to join such an amazing team and company!

Can you give some advice on job searching?

Finding your first real job is never easy and even more difficult in these times, no doubt about it. However, it's not impossible, stay positive and put in the work, jobs are out there!  To be successful, I approached the job search as the opportunity to learn how to better sell myself and hone my communication/presentation skills that will help me throughout my career.  Remember looking for a job is a full-time job and jobs just don’t fall in your lap.

The job search can be exhaustive but rewarding, here are keys to success that describe the process I went through in landing my job:

  1. A job search is a full-time job as I mentioned above, treat it as such.  You are a salesperson - selling yourself!  Who doesn't like talking about themselves, but this is different, as you are talking about how you will benefit a company in a specific role, and your fit culturally and collaboratively, with it’s employees. 
  2. Focus your job search (type of job and location).  Treat this as discovery - You need to know what roles you wish to apply for, in what city or cities, and why you are a fit for these roles.  Begin to develop your story - education, internships, jobs, that align with the role you wish to apply for.  Early on I had to develop an understanding for the roles that were out there before I figured out which ones were a fit for the career in business I was pursuing.  How do you understand what roles are out there and if they are a fit for you? Family, mentors, professors, friends etc are great folks to bounce things off to guide you.
  3. Develop your Professional Face - your resume and LinkedIn profile should be professionally aligned with the roles you wish to secure.  I found out early in the process that key words are critical on both my resume and LinkedIn.  Many companies use software to weed through all the online resumes - 2 things to note:
    1. If an online application has a place for an employee referral - try to find one - these applications go to the top of the list for the hiring manager.
    2. Ensure that you have read the job description for the role you are applying for and ensure some of the same keywords on qualifications required are visible in your resume and LinkedIn profile as this will help to get more success with the software key word searches that recruiters utilize.    
  4. Now that you have a focus on the roles that you feel are best fit for your career it is time to start looking for them and applying.  This is like prospecting in sales - and it is a numbers game.  You have to have numbers on the board if you ever want to land interview #1.  In sales they say that you need 3X your pipeline to achieve your quota - same holds true in a job search.  Personally I do everything through LinkedIn, it is a powerful tool if used correctly.
    1. LinkedIn Job Search functionality - it is your best friend.  Through the job search I knew the type of roles I was looking for and I set search queries to bring me a list of the job postings that fell into those categories or locations every day.
      1. When jobs come across that you are interested in look to see if you know anyone that works for that company, or if you have any LinkedIn connections that do know people at that company they could introduce you. Referrals are critical - having someone speak on your behalf can be incredibly helpful and puts you to the top of the list. Networking is everything and the business world is all about who you know.
      2. But if you don't know anyone at a company you are applying, the road doesn't end, it's still in your hands. Go to the LinkedIn company page and click on employees so that you can see everyone that works there. Go through this list and mine individual managers or directors whom you think may be associated with the job you are looking at and reach out! Don't be afraid to send a cold email or cold call. Show them your value in a concise way and see if you can get them on a call for 15 minutes to talk about the role and any opportunity for getting your foot in the door for the role. Like I said before, remember it's a full time job so put in the work and get numbers on the board.
    2. Your Network - I mentioned above that networking is everything - it really is.  To augment LinkedIn, tapping into your own network is key too.  Your network can be family, friends, professors, managers, etc etc.  We all know people that know people.  Consider these folks part of your team helping you land a job.  Ask for referrals and introductions.
  5. Landing the first interview is tough and it requires your closing capability.  With numbers on the board(meaning the online applications that you have submitted) you need to stay on top of them and keep track of them.  With the pandemic the whole process is virtual so it is a bit different because you will be doing video interviews.
    1. The first step after you get past the software gatekeepers with key words accomplished, or if you got referred in by someone - you will speak with the internal recruiter first via a screening phone/video call.  In 30 minutes you need to have your story communicated so they agree you are fit for the role and initiate the round 2 interviews.  On these calls you need to be concise and show your qualifications with confidence and energy.  Don’t allow them to ask all the questions - you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.  You need to do a soft close with the internal recruiter to get to the next step.
    2. Once past the internal recruiter they will get a time scheduled for you to speak with the hiring manager. This is the interview that you want to close with no hitches. The goal is to get the hiring manager to see you as the fit, so they will then validate it with a final set of interviews with other managers and/or team members. 
    3. Final set of interviews - this is a critical time as you may speak with 2-5 people during the course of 3-4 hours of video interviews.  Ensure that your story is consistent with each person you interview with as they will all compare notes and provide these back to the hiring manager with a hire or don’t hire recommendation. 

In summary the above process was a 2 month endeavor for me.  I was able to land multiple job offers which allowed me to select the one that was best fit for where I wanted to take my career.  It was definitely a full time job and I learned some valuable things throughout the process and wish to share key learnings for others to leverage:

  1. Make sure your professional face on LinkedIn and on your resume are aligned and accurate.  It was clear to me interviewing that people compare and contrast between these things during the interview process.
  2. Connections and referrals are everything - keep building your network as you never know who will help you now or in the future. 
  3. Placing a current employee name as a referral on an application gets you right to the top of the recruiters list.  Most companies have reward programs for employees to refer people in and they take these very serious. This ties back into how important networking can be.
  4. Networking is an everyday activity.
  5. Video interviews you need to treat just as if you were face to face.  Dress professionally as it matters.  Because it is video your every movement and your body language becomes that much more critical -  Keep eye contact, smile, and most of all extremely articulate.  Speak with confidence but don’t speak rushed.  Always allow the interviewer to finish their sentence before you reply.
  6. You must know the ballpark salary you wish to obtain so that when the question comes up you can give a ballpark.  How do you know ballpark salaries - leverage LinkedIn, they provide ranges for various roles that are posted.  Then speak to your mentors or others to validate the ranges.  I also learned you should never bring up salary unless they do and never offer a definitive salary - best to give a range so you have room to possibly negotiate if you get an offer. 
  7. The more applications you can get submitted the better your odds in getting interviews.  The first month of doing this seems so grueling.  But then it happens and you get called.  I was close to 30 days into it when all of a sudden I had 4 different publicly traded technology companies that I was now in various stages of interviews. 
  8. Some people are hard to read during an interview, stay focused on your story and selling yourself while looking for a way to connect with them - it could be as simple as a quick pause and smile sometimes - show your human side.  Don’t be a robot in the interview.  Treating the various interviewers as if you are having a normal conversation allows you to ask questions in ways that drive more discussion and connection points.
  9. MOST critical is to always follow-up with a thank you email to all those whom you interview with - and not just a standard thank you - a thank you that ties back to the discussion you had with each individual. 
  10. There is no rule for how long you should wait to follow-up with the company after you have an interview.  Go with 2-3 days as a minimum and stay relevant with them.  They have tons of candidates and you don’t want to be forgotten.
  11. Driving to the OFFER - after the last round of interviews, if the hiring manager was not part of them you need to follow-up with a phone call and email to them stating how well the interviews went and would like to understand next steps.  If the hiring manager is part of the last interviews you can ask them while on the phone what the next steps are - drive to closing on an offer.  Be prepared as sometimes after the last round of interviews it can take a week or more for an offer to be issued.  Stay relevant every 2 days until you receive the offer.

Any other words of wisdom or insights that you can provide us about you, your journey, the value of your education - Virginia Tech, Pamplin, the Department of Management, any student organizations.

My journey here at Virginia Tech has been one I am absolutely so grateful for and feel incredibly blessed to have had. Being a part of some pretty incredible organizations such as Young Life and The German Club have been major building blocks in my leadership skill development. Being a Young Life College Leader here at VT allowed me to manage a major leadership role interacting and impacting the lives of students and peers in a positive and service oriented manner.  Being part of the German Club was instrumental in not only building my leadership skills, but also afforded me the opportunity to be involved in philanthropic activities that give back to the university as well as some great charities.  Both of these activities were on top of excelling in all my school work, a personal life, and running a business - a tall order but one that provided me so many opportunities to learn, grow, and hone my leadership skills. I would encourage everyone to get involved with organizations that interest you and align with your goals, but also are made up of quality people. Being able to learn how to communicate, interact, and work together with other top-notch students was an awesome opportunity to learn and grow. Leadership is not learned, nor built in isolation. It is important to learn how leadership works in organizations, being part of these organizations allowed me to see a microcosm view of what it could be like in a real-world company. Lastly, make good friends. Friends who have your back and actually care about you. Ones who are true to themselves and also know who they are and are confident in that. They are hard to find but the search will be well worth it.