Hamilton talent feeds the pipeline
Tom Billet ’79, P’15 is disinclined to make speeches, but he had something he needed to impart to the group of nine young people he’d invited to dinner one evening last summer at Vitae, a restaurant in midtown Manhattan. The party was a high-energy klatch of alumni and students who were either relatively new employees or interns at Willis Towers Watson’s metro New York offices. Billet thought it was important to let them know that they’d made it to the jobs on their merits, not because he pulled strings. He neither hired them nor asked that they be hired. “What I did,” he told them, “was create the opportunity for each of you to demonstrate your skill set and prove why you are the best qualified person for the position.” In other words, he built a pipeline.
At Hamilton, Billet was a history and government major who’d put in a couple of years working in Boston and Washington, D.C., before earning a master’s in business administration in health care administration at Baruch College/Mount Sinai School of Medicine. For the past 14 years or so, he has worked at Willis Towers Watson (formerly Towers Watson) and stayed close with Hamilton, especially when his son Matt ’15 was a student. Willis Towers Watson’s New York metro offices had been recruiting at a number of colleges. “So it occurred to me, why not try to recruit some Hamilton kids?” Billet says. At that time he was running the health and group benefits consulting practice for metro New York. The practice works with Fortune 1000 companies to help them manage health care programs for employees.
Working with Abby Taylor, director of employer relations at Hamilton’s Career and Life Outcomes Center, Billet arranged to give a presentation on the Hill in 2012. Listening intently in the audience was Ben Li ’13, who thought that, as a consulting firm, Willis Towers Watson would offer a dynamic environment, and the technical work there sounded like what he was looking for. He became the first Hamilton student to enter the firm through the Billet pipeline. Li is now studying for his actuarial accreditation.
Francois Martin ’12, who found his own way to the firm, soon pitched in as well. In the fall of 2013, Billet turned the Hamilton recruiting duties over to Martin and Li. Billet thought recent grads could provide a -perspective that would be more useful to students; plus he wanted to build a recruiting infrastructure that did not rely solely on him. That idea worked for Li. “I know Tom was very interested in keeping that pipeline open, as was I, because I believe in paying it forward. Tom did this for me and now I do this for someone else, and then so on and so on and so forth,” Li says.
Li and Martin’s on-campus pitch resulted in analyst jobs for Samantha Sherman, Taylor Brandin, Alicia Rost and Kurt Minges, all Class of 2015. The Hamilton connection paid off for Rost as she prepared to interview at Willis Towers. “It was helpful to ask alumni questions and listen to their interview tips. I felt prepared entering the second round interview, and knew I was making an informed decision when I decided to accept the position,” she says.
In fall 2015, Rost and Sherman went recruiting at the College. “It was turning it over, if you will, to the next class, to do exactly what Ben and Francois had done, to keep building on it,” Billet says. The firm has hired Aleksandra Bogoevska ’17 and Jake Menges ’17 as summer 2016 interns. Sherman, Brandin and Rost also got their start at Willis Towers Watson as interns. The tally of Hamiltonians who spent time in the metro New York office also includes Jack Young ’16, Sitong Chen ’16 and Adam Daniere ’16, who interned last summer.
The stream of Hamilton -talent has been a tremendous benefit to the firm, says Billet, who is now a senior consultant. When you hire people right out of college, he says, you’re looking for three things: intelligence and communication and critical-thinking skills. Those last two things are the hallmarks of a Hamilton education, he says. “I knew that Hamilton taught those two things very well. As I look back on my 32-year career, I would say those are the most important things that I learned and have been the most important pieces of my success.”
— Maureen A. Nolan