Since graduating from Cornell in 2009, Nathaniel Weiss (‘09) has applied his business knowledge acquired from undergraduate experience at Student Agencies to the professional world. A History major in the College of Arts and Sciences, Weiss worked at Bain straight out of Cornell before joining True Religion as first, the Director of Strategy, and then as General Manager of the Outlet division.
In high school, Weiss was both a football player and wrestler, but upon arriving at Cornell, he knew he was “too small to play in college.” He states that he “liked to be competitive and needed to fill the sports void.” This is why Weiss, at the start of his college career, decided to apply for a position at Student Agencies.
Looking back on submitting the first application that would impact the path he was to follow, Weiss “took it seriously and put on the suit.” He saw Student Agencies as a business that blended learning and competition— just what Weiss, a new Cornell student, was looking for.
After going through the application process, Weiss was selected as one of the Big Red Shipping and Storage managers. Weiss states that the president at the time, Elliot Garlock (’07) “took a chance on me” and “was a mentor for me— he had great positive energy and forward momentum, he was a great leader.”
Weiss and his co-manager of BRSS, Ian Murray (’07), launched the pre-arrival business as a way of reinventing their business. However, Weiss says “it was a disaster the first time.” The managers spent days trying to deliver the boxes to closed dorms in the middle of August because they were not prepared with the right amount of labor.
Learning moments like this one taught Weiss the importance of “ownership and what it means to be accountable to deliver results and lead a group.” Weiss was only a freshman when he managed this business, and “working in a management capacity and leading people taught him humility in a business setting.”
Dan Kathan (BS ’70, MBA ‘73), CEO of Student Agencies at the time, was right by Weiss’s side both during his term as BRSS manager, and as SAI president the following year. Kathan taught him that “you are never going to have all of the information when it comes to business— it is not all black and white, it is grey and you need to do the best you can with the information you have.”
Weiss interned at Bain after his junior year of college as a consultant and then worked there for four years post-college. Reflecting on this time in his life, Weiss states “I really liked the concept of working as a general manager” and at Bain “I got exposure to many different industries.”
Student Agencies truly prepared Weiss for his time at Bain. In fact, Weiss believes that the value received from Student Agencies is on par with the value received from his academic experience. SAI “accelerated my growth and understanding of business.” Going into Bain, Weiss had a head start on communication skills, which allowed him to focus on learning the analytical side of business. After Bain, Weiss moved onto True Religion in Los Angeles and worked on similar consulting-like projects.
Today, Weiss is the chairman of the SAI Board. He remains involved today because of the meaningful impact Student Agencies had on him, both as a person and with regard to his career path. Weiss says “I am a big believer in experiential learning, and I want to help ensure that SAI is still around to provide this experience to students 100 years from now.”
To current Student Agencies managers, Weiss says “I know you are already working hard, so make the most of the opportunity and take some risks. Run the business on your own, be independent, and make decisions on your own but be prepared to deal with the consequences. Step out of your comfort zone because this is the opportunity to fail.”