Graduating while the economy tanks during a global pandemic is, to put it mildly, not ideal.
Facing that situation, Anna Schaefer (MSM ’20) successfully navigated her job search by relying on traits that earned her a place at the Wake Forest University School of Business — and the skills, knowledge and network she acquired through its Master of Science in Management program.
This fall, Schaefer landed a job as client engagement manager at Sneez LLC, a Winston-Salem-based company that provides illness-tracking tools to help communities stay informed and safe. Its latest product is SneezSafe, a web-based platform that screens employees and others for COVID-19 through a simple daily survey. The company was founded by pediatrician Dr. William Satterwhite III (MD ’97) and pediatric urologist Dr. Steven Hodges (MD ’98), both with Wake Forest Baptist Health. Danielle Lamphier (MBA ’96) is chief executive officer of the company.
“We are delighted to have Anna join the Sneez LLC team at this exciting stage of our growth,” Lamphier says. “We were looking for a high-capacity team member who could contribute significantly in many areas of the business and are confident that Anna’s natural curiosity and drive, coupled with the excellent strategic, social media and overall business skills she honed in the MSM program are just what we need to help drive our business forward.”
“A master of the pivot”
Schaefer grew up in Baltimore. After high school, she was recruited to play lacrosse for Rollins College, where she majored in psychology. But after 1 ½ years, she transferred to the University of South Carolina, shifted her major to criminal justice and interned with the Columbia Police Department. Her career goal: to work for the FBI.
An unexpected email from the University of Virginia encouraging her to earn a master’s degree in commerce made her reconsider her immediate post-graduate plans. “I loved my internship at the police station before my senior year,” Schaefer says. “Initially, I thought that getting a master’s in business would give me a leg up in law enforcement and help me work my way up to the FBI.” New plan: go to UVA and then work for the FBI.
But a visit to Wake Forest prompted another change of course. (“I’m a master of the pivot,” Schaefer says.)
“Once I met the people at Wake, it was a done deal in my mind,” she says. “I thrive in a more personalized environment. A small class size is really good for me. I like being one-on-one with a professor. Truly, as soon as you step on campus and meet the people, you have an understanding that people at Wake care about learning and your educational experience.”
“I’m obsessed with Wake,” she adds, with a laugh. “I would send everyone I know there if I could. I could talk about Wake forever.”
At Wake Forest, Schaefer formed a strong bond with Norma Montague, associate dean of the MSM program and associate professor of accounting, and she enjoyed the hands-on consulting projects that are part of the MSM program. In fact, it was one of those projects that led, indirectly, to Schaefer’s position at Sneez.
During the 2019 fall semester, Schaefer and her team focused on helping Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. improve employee hiring and retention. In the 2020 spring semester, Schaefer worked with a team focused on helping MGM Resorts International attract visitors to Las Vegas.
“COVID was happening during this whole time,” Schaefer says. “We thought, ‘OK. We can proceed as ‘normal’ and pretend COVID isn’t happening,’ but my group saw it was an extra challenge and developed a plan that would help MGM address it.”
Schaefer couldn’t ignore COVID-19 in her own life either. Wake Forest closed the campus in March, sending students home to finish classes online, and Schaefer and her team presented their final project to MGM executives virtually.
Job seeking in the time of COVID
As Schaefer and her classmates searched for jobs, that nation’s unemployment rate climbed. “Companies were not hiring,” she says. “And so many people were laid off.”
Schaefer was humbled by the dire employment situation but not daunted. “I started networking. I was calling everyone I’ve ever known,” she says. “I was constantly having conversations with people.” She also kept in touch with professors and staff at Wake Forest.
“I had been the social media specialist for the MSM program,” Schaefer explains. “Dr. Montague hired me because of my work on our presentation in the fall. Through that, I had gotten to know Michael Lamphier (’89, MBA ’94 and executive director of marketing and communication for the School of Business), and he and I had stayed in touch. One day this summer, I got a call from Michael.”
“He said, ‘My wife is CEO of Sneez. I told her about you and the work you’ve done. She might be calling you for an interview.’ ” Danielle Lamphier did call, and within a few weeks, Schaefer started her job.
In her new role, Schaefer oversees all aspects of client relations, from onboarding to contract renewal, and also assists with marketing and social media. One of Sneez’s clients is Wake Forest, where all faculty, staff and students log on each day to track their health and any COVID symptoms. If they are cleared to be on campus, an illustration of a walking Deacon (wearing a mask, of course) gives them the go-ahead. If not, they are directed to follow up with university medical professionals. One of the fun parts of Schaefer’s job, she says, is creating such personalized icons for clients.
Given the continuing pandemic, Schaefer works from home in Baltimore, connecting virtually with colleagues and clients. (Her dog Blue, a Sussex spaniel, is an agreeable co-worker, always eager for a cuddle during a quick break or a walk at the end of a busy day.)
“I’m a face-to-face person,” Schaefer says, “but working virtually at Wake the spring semester prepared me for this.”