Learning to Work: Ingram Micro Serves as Model for Corporate Partnerships

Imagine your 20-year-old self. Did you have the confidence to give a killer handshake? Did you have at least one professional contact (outside of close family and friends) you could reach out to for advice? Did you have a clue what kind of job you wanted after college? 

“Classroom learning alone doesn’t teach students the career skills and acumen they need to be successful in the workforce,” said Stephanie Zuckerman-Aviles, director of the Buffalo State Career Development Center (CDC). “Students need to network, pursue internships, and get other real-world exposure. These are the experiences that often serve as the launching pads to full-time employment.” 

Real-world opportunities are something Zuckerman-Aviles and her team consider when they create professional-development programs. Corporate partnerships, for example, are leveraged so that students can interact with employers both on campus and at job sites.

The CDC recruits organizations, often with alumni connections to Buffalo State, to participate in its annual Job and Internship Fair held each spring. According to the CDC’s associate director, Jessie Lombardo, M.S. ’04, connecting students to networking, internships, and even full-time opportunities is beneficial for all stakeholders. 

“Partnerships provide a vehicle for corporate outreach in many ways,” Lombardo said. “Interacting with college students through a job-shadowing day and other networking events is seen as a worthwhile service for the professionals—especially if they have a connection to the institution as alumni.” 

One of Buffalo State’s strongest partnerships started with Jamie Ferullo, a client relationship leader with over 15 years of experience with technology sales giant Ingram Micro. Ferullo, who earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Buffalo State in 1997, served as the company’s first campus leader in spring 2014. As a young graduate, Ferullo was still “figuring things out” in terms of the career he wanted to pursue. Today, he oversees the sales strategy for the company’s Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) Business Unit. 

Since the relationship began, Ingram Micro—which employs more than 30,000 people worldwide and over 1,600 in Western New York—has hired more than a hundred Buffalo State graduates to work at its Amherst campus. Their degrees span the academic disciplines, including computer information systems, business administration, English, psychology, and sociology. 

“The classroom is essential for opening students’ eyes to theory and expanding their perspectives,” Zuckerman-Aviles said, “but talking to professionals directly helps them think through questions like, ‘What skills do I enjoy utilizing the most?’ or ‘Would I be happy in this kind of position or company?’ Working with Ingram Micro embodies a true partnership.” 

Ferullo said the synergistic relationship with Buffalo State has evolved to include programs like job-shadowing, faculty-employee networking events, and site tours with President Conway-Turner and other senior leaders. 

“Through our relationship with Buffalo State, we’re able to work in tandem to prepare students for careers. The college is better positioned to attract top talent and increase its job placement rates, while we benefit from a strong recruitment funnel and retain some of the brightest in Western New York. It’s all about open communication and sharing our strengths,” Ferullo said. 

Chris Meindl, B.A. ’10, an account specialist at Ingram Micro, said the company’s culture encourages its employees to explore interests beyond their job responsibilities. 

“Even as a young associate, you have a lot on your plate but you’re not micromanaged,” said Meindl, who took over as campus leader in 2013. “That’s part of the reason I was able to get involved with Buffalo State. I wish I had these kinds of opportunities when I was a student and had the kind of employer interaction that Buffalo State offers today.”

Meindl added that working with his alma mater is a “win-win-win situation.”

“It has value to the alumni giving back, it has value for our recruiting efforts, and it has value to the students who are getting real-world exposure and even real opportunities,” he said. 

Connecting students with employers and job opportunities is good for Buffalo State—and for Buffalo. Ingram Micro’s Ayana Ryan, B.S. ’05, M.A. ’07—who is originally from Westchester, New York—said Buffalo State brought her to Western New York, but postgrad opportunities like working for Ingram Micro have influenced her to stay. 

“My college education gave me a professional foundation and opened the doors for my career,” said Ryan, who studied business and economics at Buffalo State. She has worked at the company for seven years and oversees a team involved in finance, strategic planning, and program management.

Zuckerman-Aviles said Buffalo State’s relationship with Ingram Micro and its alumni serves as a model for all their corporate partnerships. 

“There are alumni out there making contributions in many different ways in Western New York,” Zuckerman-Aviles said. “Who better to help position our students for success than the graduates who have been in their shoes?” 

Ryan agrees. “When you start college, you don’t always realize that experiences you have are relevant years later as a professional,” she said. “I want to share that with students, and other advice I wish I had gotten at their age. Buffalo State students have determination, and they know how to work hard. And because I am a product of Buffalo State, I feel connected to the college and want to give back.” 

CDC: WORKING FOR YOU

The Buffalo State College Career Development Center (CDC) assists students and alumni with career exploration, job search preparation, finding jobs and internships, and selecting and applying to graduate schools. In addition, the CDC’s Online Resource for Career Advancement (ORCA) lists available job opportunities from thousands of employers. The CDC is here to help!

For more information, visit cdc.buffalostate.edu