When Nick Richards ’12 entered Hamilton, he was sure he was going to medical school. “I was gung-ho pre-med,” the biology major remembers. Four years later, however, Richards has begun working at Huron Consulting Group in New York City with an eye toward a career in investment banking. Richards’ transformation came about thanks to a variety of extracurricular activities, and he now encourages incoming first-year students to “think about everything.”
“Don’t come to college being 100 percent sure of what you’re doing,” he said.
Richards began to build the skills he would need to make the transfer from medicine to business in a somewhat unexpected fashion: as a co-director of Alternative Spring Break (ASB), a program that sends about 100 students on community service trips across the country each spring. He participated in a trip as a first-year student, and the next year became the program’s director. Richards soon realized leading ASB was far from easy: budgeting, logistics, and interpersonal skills were all necessary components in a successful ASB. “It [was] a ton of work—like running a small business,” he said.
Although he absorbed valuable management skills with ASB, Richards still needed to familiarize himself with another important part of the business world: networking. A strong network is vital for a successful career in business, and in a continuation of his unorthodox approach to learning management techniques, Richards built his network in an unusual way.
During his final year on the Hill, Richards served as philanthropy chair of Hamilton Alumni Leadership Training, an organization that, according to its webpage, introduces seniors “to the ways they can stay actively involved in the life of the College after graduation.” In the course of the year, the organization’s leaders come into contact with many of Hamilton’s trustees and notable alumni. “Our alumni seem to me to be really engaged,” Richards said. “That’s helpful [for networking].”
In fact, networking with alumni helped alert him to the position at Huron, and Associate Directors of the Career Center Leslie North and Kino Ruth also stressed the importance of networking to Richards during his many meetings with them. North in particular “was super important to me for guidance,” Richards said. “It’s something I can’t thank her enough for.” Richards took that guidance to heart—thanks to his effective networking, he had secured a post-graduation job before winter break.
“I would advise everyone to use the alumni network,” Richards said. “It would be foolish not to.”
Richards credits the annual Pitch Competition with sparking his interest in business. In the Pitch Competition, students and recent alumni—anyone who graduated within the past decade is eligible—create feasible business ideas and then present them before a panel of alumni judges, including the event’s founder, Mark Kasdorf ’06. “This competition is really all about making a good pitch,” Richards said, and emphasized that the crux of the competition is the presentation of the business rather than the feasibility of the business itself. Richards was a runner-up in the inaugural Pitch Competition, where he pitched a service that would establish private cloud servers for hospitals, banks and other locations with secure data. He entered this year’s Pitch Competition with a friend, but didn’t place. “The competition is still really fun,” Richards said. “I’ll be back next year.”
Despite his original career interests, Richards has been able to successfully translate his biology major into a career in the business. He credits Hamilton with helping him make that transfer—from the alumni network and extracurricular activities to the classes themselves, Richards admits that the benefits of a Hamilton education can sometimes be “hard to pin down.” He adds, “It just seems…” he begins, then pauses. “Right.”