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Samantha Tom

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'15 Psychology | Talent Partner (HR Business Partner), Razorfish | New York, NY
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Samantha Tom

Liberal Arts Major: Psychology

Liberal Arts Minors: Spanish

Hometown: New York, NY

Current Location: New York, NY

What enrichment activities did you participate in as a student?

During my time at Penn State, I was in a sorority, THON groups, and Dr. Mohammed's research lab for two years. In the research lab, we were helping a graduate student run sessions for her thesis around group dynamics based on orientation towards time. It was great!

What was your first job after graduating from Penn State?

After graduating from Penn State, I enrolled in graduate school at the University of New Haven to pursue my Masters in I/O Psychology with a concentration in Business Development and Consulting. I graduated two years later in 2017, and started my first job at the New York Power Authority as an Organizational Development & Talent Management Specialist. I had interned there for a year, working and going to classes in the evening, and was extended an offer upon graduation. I was part of a small but mighty team and was involved in a lot. We still keep in touch to this day.

What was your favorite class and who was your favorite faculty member?

My favorite classes at Penn State were Positive Psychology and Psychology of Social Relationship and Adjustment. They resonated with what I wanted to do post graduation and was engaged all semester. My favorite faculty member, though was not a professor of either of those classes, was Dr. Mohammed. She was very friendly, shared her pearls of wisdom with the research group, and really got to know us as individuals. She made research lab a fun and great place to be.

How did your liberal arts education and skills prepare you for life after graduation?

Penn State's curriculum has rigor. I realized when I went to graduate school afterwards that my skills and knowledge were far beyond others in my program and I had a much easier time with the courses. I think Penn State really teaches you how to critically think about problems and not just answer them. I believe we were held to a higher standard.

What networking advice would you share with current students?

Networking is everything! I landed my second job through one of my colleagues at my first job and essentially filled the role that she left. It's great to have people who can vouch for you, speak to your skills, and are willing to put in a good word for you. Relationships mean a lot in business so it's worth starting as soon as possible to build your network. I would also recommend to never burn any bridges as you never know who you'll end up crossing paths with down the line. You always want to be remembered in a positive way.

What role have mentors played in your career progression?

I was fortunate to have found mentors at each company I worked for. I found each individual organically (not through a formal mentorship program), and each has opened my eyes to something new that has helped me in my career. My first mentors taught me what a good team looks like, how to build and lean into relationships, and that I should never accept disrespect, no matter how junior or green I may be. They really laid the ground work for who I am when I show up to work every day. My second mentor taught me that even toxic work environments will also teach you something and that there is a fine line between being firm and being stubborn. This particular mentor would preach the benefits of "playing the game" with certain folks to get them to engage with you and I've also found that to be extremely helpful when things get tough. My most recent mentors have reminded me that work can be fun, people are kind, and that our opinions make a difference. Being at a mid-level now in my career, leading teams and partnering with senior leadership, I have the ability to flex my influencing skills to create a better workplace that I'm proud to call home.

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