May 12, 2020
Thomas Vessella is a senior from Cranston, Rhode Island, majoring in Business Management with a double concentration in Management Consulting and Analytics (MCA) and in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology (EIT) as well as possessing a minor in International Business. Tom is graduating with distinction, Magna Cum Laude. Tom has accepted a job at RSM as a management consulting associate working within the Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) department. Tom is expected to start in the early fall in the Washington, DC area office located in McClean, Virginia.
We recently asked Tom to describe his academic journey since arriving at Virginia Tech.
Why did you choose Virginia Tech? When and why did you choose Pamplin College of Business and the management major
One of my best friends from high school is a third generation Hokie. She encouraged me to apply to Tech. I had my eyes set on a big school, more so Ohio State and Michigan State, however Virginia Tech was the only school I got accepted to (and URI as my back up). Little did I know that it was a blessing in disguise. I came into Tech as a math major due to my high math scores. I knew after day one of orientation that math was not what I wanted to do. Having my brother and sister in the business field made me believe it was a good option. The main reason why I chose MGT was because at the time freshman year, I could only transfer into Pamplin if a major was picked. I saw that MGT had a wide variety of opportunity for someone that was clueless with what he wanted to do, compared to accounting for example.
Were there any specific classes that you remember as validating your major choice to date?
My first real MGT class that I saw its potential was in Managerial Analytics. I found Excel to not only be interesting but applicable to my career (this was proven in the summer to follow). However, it wasn’t until my first semester senior year that I realized being a MGT major was the best choice I could of made. There were two classes that sculpted my skillset, ultimately giving me the tools to obtain a full-time job. These classes were MGT 4064, Entrepreneurship, and MGT 4084, Management Consulting. In my entrepreneurship class I was able to experience first-hand what it is like to be a start-up. More so, how it feels to have an idea and see it into fruition. The class taught me how to think critically, expect the unexpected, and how to nail the perfect pitch. Luckily, I was assisted by a great team, and a persistent professor, that encouraged us to take our concept outside the classroom. We entered into the APEX Entrepreneurship Challenge and made it to the final round, winning some start-up capital to top it off. The other class, MGT 4084, turned the classroom into an office space. My team and I were given a client in the local area that needed specific deliverables met by the end of the semester. This class taught me the importance of time management and how to work with clients. By the end of the semester we were able to create an actionable business plan that allowed our client to put its product on the market, brand itself, provide e-commerce, and future steps to take as the company expands. It was these two classes that reassured me the success I can have after graduation due to being a MGT major.
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’d like to think that I am a personable individual, so along the way I have created good relationships with some of my management professors. However, only one would be considered a mentor, and that is Professor Ron Poff. I met Ron last semester, he was my MGT 4064 - Entrepreneurship Capstone course teacher. Throughout the semester he kept his students engaged and cared about each one individually. Ron saw the potential in our project and encouraged us to go outside the classroom to compete in the APEX challenge. He even asked me to take part in the Pamplin College of Business Assessments of Learning (AOL) Committee as the sole student representative. When the spring semester came I had a focus on finding a job which Ron was more than happy to help me with. He suggested I applied to companies like IBM and the big 4, which I thought were extremely out of my league. Ron saw the potential in me that I didn’t know I had. Through constant interactions on campus, he gave me the confidence I needed to nail my interviews. I am more than grateful to have met Professor Ron Poff. He not only taught me the right skills to succeed in the workplace, but he gave me the courage to take on challenges that I would have never even attempted. He has become a good friend that I will miss when I graduate.
Name some of the internships, if any, that you had during your Virginia Tech and/or Pamplin journey.
Over the summer of 2019, I interned with Spark Foundry, an advertising firm owned by the Publicis Groupe (3rd largest ad company in world). I was part of the strategy team, which handled major campaign decisions as well as financing their budgets. Working with big clients like BabyBell Cheese and Hanes Clothing, I was able to witness what goes on behind the marketing curtains for well-established companies. Being a part of the strategy team allowed me to utilize tools learned in class like porters five forces and software skills such as Excel and PowerPoint. At the end of the summer I was chosen to lead a project for my intern group that represented personalization in advertising. The project required innovation thinking that Pamplin had already crafted me with. I was able to partake in an incredible internship due to my strong work ethic and MGT education.
The Management Department challenged me with its classes, giving me the right tools for success. Both my soft skills and hard skills have been crafted, sharpened, and shinned over the last four years of being a Pamplin undergraduate. I am truly grateful to have had this opportunity at Virginia Tech.
What advice would you provide to an incoming Pamplin freshman?
I would tell them that you don’t need your life plan figured out before starting college. Being at the university and surrounding yourself in this new environment will help shape your interests and future career path. The great part about Pamplin is how majors intertwine together. So, if you come in as a marketing major and realize sophomore year that studying management will set you up better, you can make that switch with ease. The business world offers a variety of options for every student. I would also tell them to take on every opportunity. Is there club you want to join? Do it! Is there a class that seems challenging but interesting? Take it! Your hallmates ask you to get lunch? Go to West End! As a college student there are so many opportunities, from academic enhancements to social gathering. To all freshman, be yourselves, be confident, and take on challenges. You write you own future, so make it the best story ever.
What/who is your inspiration for leadership?
My father and my uncle give me inspiration for leadership. I think with because of our genes, we are bread to have a workhorse mentality; a job is not done until its done. The idea of never settling and that there is always something to improve on resonates with me. My dad has transformed his father’s small oil business into a regional company, offering a variety of services from HVAC to fuel distribution. My dad has taught me to power through adversity no matter how thick the wall may be. My uncle was an exceptional man who had a diverse portfolio from being a sales man, male model, and company owner. He had taught me to stay true to myself, that determination combined with passion can create an unstoppable force.
Inspiration is all around us. Seeing others become successful because of their own leadership makes me realize the potential we all have. No one is stopping you from being the best possible person.
If you could give a testimonial about Pamplin and/or the Management Department, curriculum - what would you say?
Pamplin has offered me variety experiences. I have built lifelong friendships as well as established a network of connections for my future career. The Management Department challenged me with its classes, giving me the right tools for success. Both my soft skills and hard skills have been crafted, sharpened, and shinned over the last four years of being a Pamplin undergraduate. I am truly grateful to have had this opportunity at Virginia Tech.
What are your plans after your senior year?
I have accepted a job at RSM as a management consulting associate working within the M&A department. I am expected to start in the early fall at the DC area office (McClean). I am very excited to start this next adventure in my life, and I look forward to doing some home projects over the summer with my dad.
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, etc
If anyone has the chance to study abroad they 100% should take it. I was able to visit 10 countries and 14 cities over the span of 4 months. Not only did I create amazing friendships, I was able to dive into new cultures, foods, and activities that I will treasure for a while. Virginia Tech gave me an opportunity that I didn’t even know existed. I was able to stay active by joining the Rugby Team, stay social and give back through fraternity (TKE), and take part in a committee that offers real change in Pamplin. Virginia Tech gave me laughs I’ll always remember, experiences that I will want to recreate, and a true meaning to the word home. I will always be grateful to my parents for putting me through college, and to everyone that helped me along this journey. To the best four years a kid could ever ask for.