Shopping for careers with Brandi Joplin: What made her buy into Sam’s?

Article written by Zoya Saxena

What really goes on in the Club? Brandi Joplin, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Sam’s Club, visited the Canfield BHP class of 2022 during Business Lyceum to answer this burning question and share some experiences from her career path and time at Walmart. 

Joplin started out as an industrial engineering major at the University of Arkansas, but eventually made the switch to Accounting and completed her CPA. While in college, Joplin was extremely involved on campus, which remains a large reason why she feels compelled to return and talk to students. 

“I have a passion for connecting back to something that was such an instrumental part of my education,” Joplin said. 

Joplin remains a believer in keeping in touch with “the younger generation of leaders.” She said she stays involved because she sees students as the budding professionals which will one day be the driving force of companies today.

When asked how she ended up at Walmart, Joplin explained how she found her first job there through a previous connection from the University of Alabama. She encouraged students to build a strong network organically as they go through their careers and schooling.

“Relationships matter,” Joplin said. “I am a relationship person. I like to build my network before I need them. You don’t want to be in a position of need when you start building your relationships.”

Joplin went on to talk about how her experience at Walmart has been extremely fruitful. She spent time elaborating on employee dedication and the lively company spirit. Joplin said she is proud and excited to be a part of a company that closely aligns with her values.

“You need to find a company that invests in you and has a culture where you believe in their purpose,” said Joplin. “When I came to Walmart, I believed in its purpose.”

Joplin also emphasized the importance of building one’s career on experience. She stressed the value of learning from a breadth of opportunities, some of which can be acquired through rotational programs or just by being open to trying new things.

“It is important to have that hands-on experience. You always need to be in learning mode. Be willing to get your hands dirty,” said Joplin. 

 

Veronica Stidvent brings a law and policy perspective to Lyceum

For students who strive to enter education, public policy, or non-profit spaces to make a positive impact, Veronica (Ronnye) Stidvent, former Chancellor of Western Governors University (WGU) and current President of Stidvent Partners, proves that it’s possible. 

After graduating from UT Austin and earning a law degree from Yale, Stidvent served at the White House under George W. Bush for five years. She then returned to UT as the Director for Politics and Governance for the LBJ School of Public Affairs where she spearheaded the development of the department of Business, Government, and Society and founded a Hispanic leadership initiative within McCombs, Subiendo. After her time at UT, Stidvent served as Chancellor of WGU Texas and now works as President of Stidvent Partners. 

Amidst all her work, Stidvent still finds time to come speak to Canfield Business Honors students in their Business Lyceum class on an annual basis. During her visit, Stidvent outlined her career path and answered questions from Canfield Business Honors students. She said her career played out quite differently than she imagined. While she had always seen herself practicing law, opportunities came her way and she took advantage of them.

“The shifts in my career were all serendipitous. My whole life I had really planned on being a litigator – that’s what I wanted to do, but opportunities came my way, the first one, of course, being the opportunity to go work in the White House,” Stidvent said. “Suddenly I was in the policy track and not so much into a purely legal track. I’m glad I took on (these opportunities), but I couldn’t have foreseen them.”

Stidvent said she enjoys coming back to UT because of the students she gets to interact with during her visits. As a guest speaker for Business Lyceum, she values the opportunity to both provide advice to future leaders and learn from the very students she advises. 

“I really enjoy (coming to speak). The students ask such great questions and it makes me think. I walk away for several days trying to come up with more in-depth answers in my head, so it’s been really fun (to visit)” Stidvent said. “I also just like the opportunity to come back to my alma mater. I love the opportunity to talk to really smart students who are enthusiastic and engaged and ready to change the world.”

Stidvent’s advice for students who want to enter into law or policy is to learn to understand and empathize with both sides of every issue. She said to practice this while engaging with the world, whether it be through newspapers, magazines, or social media. As a student, she involved herself in Texas Orange Jackets, The Liberal Arts Council, and The Daily Texan, all of which allowed her to practice her dual approach to decision-making and argumentation. 

“I urge all students to really learn to argue both sides of any issue,” Stidvent said. “Whether it’s a business decision, whether it’s a legal issue, or whether it’s a policy issue, understanding both sides will help you reframe your thinking. It will help you sharpen your own argument and it will help you understand the other side.” 

Student Spotlight: Rahul Das

Name: Rahul Das

Major: Canfield BHP, Plan II Honors, Marketing 

Previous internship: Southwest Airlines

Topics of Interest: Social entrepreneurship, adoption studies, design thinking, soccer, IM volleyball, sharks

 

For students who want to pursue non-profit work while in college, Rahul Das proves it’s possible. As someone passionate about education and entrepreneurship, Rahul spends the majority of his time working as Chief Operating Officer of a student-led non-profit, The Exponentialists. 

The mission of The Exponentialists is to empower students in underserved communities through entrepreneurship. Rahul and the rest of the team spend their time mentoring students at  Eastside High School to help them start their own small businesses. 

“We teach them about important business and entrepreneurial concepts. By the end of the year, (the students) have fully developed business ideas,” Rahul said. “Then they have the opportunity to pitch (their idea) to a panel of Austin entrepreneurs and investors to win seed funding for their idea or an invitation into our incubator program.” 

In addition to working in the Austin community, Rahul has gone abroad to fulfill The Exponentialists’ mission. This past summer he went to Medellin, Colombia to run an entrepreneurship camp called Los Exponencialistas. 

“We ran a week long camp to 56 students who come from rural areas who wouldn’t know the tools otherwise without our help,” Rahul said, “We’re planning on going back to Medellin in the winter to do another camp. We’re trying to reach out to Mexico City and have something lined up there as well.”

In addition to working with The Exponentialists, Rahul is a student-leader in the University Management Business Research Association (UMBRA), an organization that consults pro-bono for local Austin businesses, and a bedtime reader for Helping Hand Home, a home for mentally-abused or neglected children. 

Rahul said he’s incredibly grateful for the opportunity to act on his love for non-profit organizations throughout college. He said Canfield BHP has helped him follow his passions and encouraged him to become a better person throughout.

“(The classes) force me to learn how to be independent and think critically and foster analytical thinking skills,” Rahul said. “Also, the community within Canfield BHP, whether it’s the alum or the current students, push me to be a better version of myself.”