In this issue, Explorations introduces a new feature: “Fast Track,” profiles of recent graduates who have launched successful careers and may well be on their way to making headlines for their work. The editors posed a series of questions about how their Rutgers experience influenced their lives. Here are some of their answers.
Wm. Christopher Alston – CC’10, Meteorology
I started my career at Weather Works LLC as a weather forecaster, following a post-undergraduate research internship at Colorado State University. Five years ago, I joined Mars, a global food company with iconic brands such as M&M’s, Snickers, Skittles, and Pedigree. I work within the risk management group to understand the factors that affect commodity prices. One of the primary factors we examine is the impact that weather has on the crops and other raw materials that go into making our products. I’m currently located at the Mars Petcare office in Nashville, Tennessee.
Q: How did Rutgers contribute to your success in your career?
A: There are not many universities that offer meteorology as a degree program. I feel that the education I received from a university as reputable as Rutgers has certainly helped me. Additionally, I was able to utilize a few alumni as resources in my early job search. These individuals were able to offer advice beyond what is learned in the classroom, particularly related to having success in the workplace.
Q: What challenges did you face?
A: Landing that first job in meteorology is a challenge. For me, my willingness to take anything remotely related to my field, even if it wasn’t my “dream job,” allowed me to gain key experience that helped me to stand out amongst my peers.
Q: Does a pivotal, “ah-ha” moment come to mind when you look back on your time at Rutgers?
A: For me there were two moments that really changed the course of my life. The first was internal, where sometime during the latter half of my sophomore year, I finally figured out my learning style. The second was when I attended my first industry conference as a junior. Being among hundreds of people who shared the same passion as I did was eye-opening and helped me to build a network beyond my university. My first opportunity after college was a direct result of meeting someone at an industry conference.
Q: What memories of college do you hold dear?
A: I was a Scarlet Ambassador during my junior and senior years and enjoyed giving tours. The friendships and relationships that I made are what I hold most dear, but I do miss PJ’s pizza and $4 Fat Sandwiches.
Q: What is your favorite motivational quote?
A:Jackie Robinson once said that “a life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” As a Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholar, Class of 2010, this is something I live by. I truly believe in giving back and paying it forward. I do a lot of mentoring through the American Meteorological Society’s Board for Private Sector Meteorologists that I chaired in 2016. I am currently mentoring a senior at Rutgers in the meteorology program.
Q: What is your next step? What can we look forward to?
A: My role has a lot of elements beyond my core expertise in weather, mainly involving risk management and broader business applications. I am interested in international business, more specifically how a growing business can be successful when moving into new markets.
Q: What gives you the most pride about being a Rutgers graduate?
A: I am proudest of the fact that there are thousands of successful Rutgers alumni using their education to do good things for the planet and its people. My education has given me the ammunition to effect change and make the world a better place—and that is what I intend to do.
Editor’s Note: This Fast Track profile originally appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of Explorations.