Meet the CSE | Leadership, Networking and Career Success with Frank Fessenden

Meet Frank: Executive Director of Corporate and Alumni Relations

For this “Meet the CSE Series” blog post, CSE Career Captain, Djounia Saint-Fleurant, MBA’24, interviewed our Executive Director of Corporate Relations, Frank Fessenden

Leadership, Networking and Career Success with Frank Fessenden

“I had the pleasure of chatting with Frank Fessenden, Director of the Career Strategies and Engagement Center at Brandeis International Business School. We covered a variety of topics, ranging from Frank’s professional journey to his favorite small talk topics. Frank shared his insights on how to become an effective leader, the importance of networking and building relationships, and his favorite resources for career development.“

– Djounia

What’s the most exciting part of leading the CSE Team? 

FF: The CSE allows me to make a meaningful impact on students’ lives. Every year, we welcome new students with hopes and goals, and it’s incredibly gratifying to see how they transform and develop during their time at our International Business School. Personally, I take great pride in being able to work with our team and seeing the help and impact they have on our students. I love talking to graduates who return and seeing how they’ve grown and gained confidence and knowledge in the professional world. It’s a privilege to have such an impact on people’s lives, and it’s what makes leading the CSE team so exciting for me.

What advice would you give to students who hope to hold leadership positions in the future?

FF: If you aspire to hold leadership positions in the future, it’s important to continually seek out opportunities for growth and development. This could mean taking on leadership roles or seeking mentorship from experienced leaders in your field that you can learn from or emulate while you’re crafting your own leadership style.

Additionally, good leaders are also good listeners, focusing on empowering everyone in their group, whether they report to them or not. An effective leader brings out the best in his people and seeks first to understand and then be understood, as Stephen Covey writes in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” 

Another valuable dimension of leadership is starting with trust, which is a key idea in “Work Inspired” by Aaron Ain. If you want to be an effective leader, you need to create an organization that people love being in, and one way to do that is by creating trust. If you believe in the best in people, they will rise to the occasion.

What makes the CSE such an asset?

FF: From my perspective, what makes the CSE such a valuable asset for students looking to develop their careers is our talented and hard-working team, who deliver a wide range of educational services, programs, events, and opportunities to connect with alumni and employers. 

We take a high-touch approach and value one-on-one advising, getting to know each student individually, as we know that no two students are exactly the same. We have also created program-specific cross-departmental advising groups, consisting of a faculty director, career coach, academic advisor, and member of the admissions team dedicated to each program. 

We want every student to feel like they have a team of people here at the school that will support them, and an individual career coach who knows them and can help them navigate the different phases and challenges of their career search. That’s why we offer a mandatory class with a career coach to set students up for success from the beginning.

In your experience, how can a student engage with the CSE effectively in order to positively influence their career development?

FF: Students can engage with the CSE effectively by taking advantage of the various programs and opportunities that the office provides such as company visits, mentorship programs, and networking events, which they can use to meet corporate contacts and gain valuable insights. 

In my experience, students who engage with the CSE frequently have the best career experiences and outcomes, and many recent graduates often express gratitude to their career coach and for the events held by the CSE.

Other key advice I would recommend to students are the following:

  • Build time into your schedule to meet with a career coach and attend CSE events weekly or monthly
  • Be sure to check out the CSE Newsletter and CSE Connect for information on events and opportunities

You oversee a lot of really exciting events, initiatives and programs at the CSE. What is one that at this moment you feel is especially interesting and/or impactful for students and why?

FF: Any events that allow students to meet people outside of school are the most impactful. Events that also allow alumni to come back and talk are also extremely valuable. I believe that after mastering the fundamentals of crafting resumes, cover letters, and elevator pitches, students should seek opportunities to interact with companies and meet alumni. Such events will definitely have a significant impact on their career success.

What’s your favorite small talk topic? Basically, if a student wanted to initiate a really fun conversation with you, what should they talk about?

FF: I enjoy talking about job seeking and career development, as well as sports – I’m a big Red Sox, Celtics and New England Patriots fan. I love outdoor activities like hiking, biking and running, and I love talking about movies, books and travel. I also very much like to hear students’ stories about their journey to the business school, including what brought them here and what they are doing outside of school and career development work.

This original CSE blog post was written by Djounia Saint-Fleurant, MBA’24, and copy-edited by Stephanie Borr ’22, MA’23.

By Djounia Saint-Fleurant
Djounia Saint-Fleurant CSE Career Captain, Creative Crew, Blog Squad