Alumni often make time to give back to their alma maters. But when Joe Trpik wanted to connect with the next generation of accounting students, he broke out of that pattern. Trpik, a Florida State graduate who is senior vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer of ComEd, reached out to DePaul University’s Driehaus College of Business to get involved as a mentor.
“My focus is accounting students, not just accounting students at Florida State,” says Trpik, who lives near DePaul. “What matters is not that it’s your alma mater, it’s that this is your community.”
Trpik decided to connect with DePaul about four years ago after a discussion with his boss, ComEd’s then-president and CEO Frank Clark (BUS ’72, JD ’76, LLD ’04). Trpik reached out to the university and was paired with accounting instructor Margaret Tower (MBA ’94). Now Trpik comes into undergraduate classes a few days each quarter to sit on career panels and mentor students.
“I wish, as a student, somebody would have said to me, ‘Hey, let’s talk about what you’re getting into and the things you should do in school that will benefit you when you get into the industry,’” he says.
Showcasing career success
Tower first began working with Trpik when launching a new class, ACCT 250: Career Management for Accountants. The course, created with help from DePaul’s Career Center, gives students practice with interviewing, resume writing, networking and more. “We wanted students not just to be successful getting their first job but to succeed in that job and be able to transition throughout their work life,” says Tower.
When students are paired with a mentor who can showcase a successful career path, “it calms them down and gives them ideas about good choices they can make,” Tower says.
DePaul student Abby Green had Trpik as a mentor in class and appreciated his willingness to give advice. “I never would have thought that someone that high up in a company would make time to meet with me and give me his undivided attention, but he was always genuine and happy to help,” Green says.
In addition to asking Trpik for career advice, Green also got in touch when she had questions about changing her major. “It was wonderful to talk through the options with him and get his point of view. I ended up adding a double major after our discussions, and I am so happy with that decision,” says Green, who now is studying accountancy and management and expects to graduate in June 2015.
Encouraging skills and passion
Across the board, Trpik tells students to concentrate on honing their skills in writing, communicating and presenting financial material. “You’re not going to be an accountant with a green eyeshade on locked in a back room forever,” he says. “Conveying a message of understanding to non-accountants as you develop in your career becomes more and more critical.”
Trpik also encourages students to discover the right career fit for their degree, whether a big firm or a smaller business. Being in the right place makes it easier to be passionate about one’s work, he explains. “You shouldn’t have to tell people you have a passion and energy for what you do. It should show.”
Tower has seen Trpik’s advice resonate with students. “He shows the full circle of ‘I’ve been successful, so I’m willing to mentor.’ Students have been so impressed with him and others in the course that they are now serving as mentors,” says Tower. This is the first year that alumni who took the course are back serving as mentors to current students.
For Trpik, who has worked with many students over the years, mentoring is about knowing your words can help the next generation: “Even if it just resonates with one or two people and puts them in the right place, that’s what you hope for—that you can help make a difference.”
Interested in volunteering with DePaul students? Contact Margaret Tower at firstname.lastname@example.org.