Terry Hartford didn’t know he’d end up at Chatham Financial soon after graduating from Allegheny College in 2011.
But when he arrived at Chatham, a Pennsylvania-based advisor specializing in real estate capital markets and risk management, he found it to be a good fit: The attributes that make for successful Chatham employees, Hartford said, are the same attributes he developed while earning his economics degree here. Chatham values employees who are intellectually curious, who can solve complex problems, who are collaborators, who have good communication skills, who can work with limited direction and who have the initiative to leverage the experiences of their colleagues, among other skills, he said.
“Allegheny ticks all of those boxes,” Hartford said.
Hartford spent a day on campus recently visiting economics classes and speaking with students about his Allegheny experience, what he would have done differently as a student, his career at Chatham, and the value of his Allegheny degree.
Over a pizza lunch in the Henderson Campus Center, Hartford told a group of students that the variety of classes offered by the college gives students a broad base of knowledge and emphasizes analysis and critical thinking, skills that have served him well at Chatham. Allegheny also prepares students to be confident communicators and presenters and to work as a team, he said.
There are intangible benefits to the Allegheny experience as well, Hartford said, including the diverse expertise of faculty, a climate that encourages and rewards intellectual curiosity, and a heavy course load.
“You really have no choice but to work hard and manage your time,” he said.
Before giving students an in-depth overview of his work at Chatham as a consultant on the Global Real Estate team — he spends much of his time advising clients on how to hedge their risks when it comes to real estate-related debt — Hartford spoke about the things he wishes he would have done differently while on campus. He told the group to be proactive in determining their future, to choose the best — not the easiest — electives, and to use all the available resources at their disposal, including the time and expertise of professors and alumni.
“Ask a lot of questions. Get as much information as you can and don’t be shy,” Hartford said.
Later, Hartford said the purpose of his talk and visit was to “give (students) a look into what’s possible with an economics degree and reassure them of the quality of an Allegheny degree.” He also said he’d like to see a formal or informal relationship between Chatham and Allegheny in the future that could result in internships or other opportunities for Allegheny students.
Hartford and other alumni who return to campus to speak about their careers and experience also help dispel myths about careers and expose students to careers they might not have considered or thought possible, said Professor of Economics Stephen Onyeiwu, who also attended Hartford’s talk.
“Sometimes you don’t know what’s involved in a particular career until you’ve heard someone talk about it,” Onyeiwu said.
One of the students who gathered for Hartford’s lunchtime talk, senior political science major Jonas Skattum, said he valued the chance to hear from a recent graduate.
“He’s been where I’m about to go,” Skattum said of Hartford. “Hearing his experiences and the challenges he faces, you learn a lot. … It gives you insight as to how we can achieve our goals.”