SAI Alumni Spotlight: Laura Furman
When Laura Furman (BS '15) of Needham, Massachusetts joined SAI, it was the first time she set foot into the business world. Prior to her transition to a businesswoman, Laura was interested in public speaking and was recruited to be a part of the Cornell Debate Team with the ILR school. "I knew I wanted to be in a smaller program within a larger institution where my voice would be heard," said Laura. Outside of the debate team, Laura quickly got involved as a spinning instructor for Cornell Fitness Center.
Ready to open her mind to more opportunities her sophomore year, the HR director of SAI at the time, Annelise Shuepbach (BS '15), advised Laura to apply for the opportunity of a lifetime. Upon joining SAI, she managed Campus Promotions, which she credits for giving her the experience necessary to succeed in the real world. "Working as the manager of Campus Promotions taught me accountability — I needed to prove myself, and in the process, I saw my hard work translate directly to the bottom line."
As a manager at SAI, Laura handled finances for her business, worked with customers, managed numerous employees, and sold a product. The multitude of components associated with her job allowed Laura to "learn how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together—something you won't get out of any other experience."
The following year, Laura was selected to be president of SAI. She credits Bonnie Enzian, SAI Director of Operations, and Kyle Karnes (BS '91), CEO of SAI, as being instrumental during her presidency--"they mentored me and provided me with incredible support." As president, she held full responsibility for each of the seven businesses, and she took a hands-on approach when dealing with the different businesses and each of their managers.
Laura reflects, "personally getting involved in each of the businesses during their peak times helped everyone understand that the whole is greater than its parts, which was necessary to maintaining SAI's success." This meant going on jobs during Big Red peak when they needed more boots on the ground and helping Campus Promotions during Map and Gorge distribution. The team mentality during her time at SAI propelled her to become confident in her abilities as a leader, which translated to her post-college career.
After graduating from Cornell in 2015, Laura moved to San Francisco to work for The Gap, Inc. in their rotational management program. "I always knew I wanted to live on the West Coast, and working at Gap has given me the chance to make use of all the skills I developed at SAI." In doing the rotational management program Laura says she became "a better cross functional partner" because she stood in the shoes of her peers--just as she did only a couple of years prior as SAI president.
Currently, Laura works in digital merchandising at Athleta, Gap's athletic brand, which blends her passion for fitness and her business expertise. "Unlike most corporate jobs, I get to wear my yoga pants to work." After work, she teaches spinning at Wheel House, reminiscent of her time as a fitness instructor at Cornell.
Looking back on college, Laura fervently states "SAI was the single best thing I did when I was an undergraduate; it was such a formative experience and it allowed me to take the things I did in the classroom and apply it to real life."
As new Cornellians make the life-changing decision to become a part of SAI, Laura advises "You are a manager at SAI first and second you are a manager at your individual business. You have to step up and work with the team as a whole in order to be successful."