Catching up with Siena graduates is basically a hobby for us. Because every time we chat with one, we’re inspired, we’re impressed and we love a good story.
And Kristina Ferrara ‘08, for example, has an awesome story.
After double-majoring in Marketing and Management at Siena (with a minor in Spanish and certificate in International Business—so yes, she was busy!), Kristina started her career at the one-and-only American Girl Place in NYC. Now she’s in e-commerce at the one-and-only Staples.
Also? Guess her dog’s name… Read on!
WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE SIENA?
I learned about Siena in high school because my best friend’s sister went there. She was two years older, which already made her cool… But listening to how much she loved Siena and what an amazing experience she was having made me want to be there. I had family 20 minutes away, so I planned a weekend up to visit them and we toured the campus. As soon as I walked onto the quad and spun around, I knew I wanted to be there. There is something magical about Siena’s campus—it always felt alive to me. I always had a sense of home when I was there.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE COURSE OR SIENA EXPERIENCE THAT REALLY IMPACTED YOU, PERSONALLY OR PROFESSIONALLY?
I was very involved in campus life and that really shaped my personality and the way I learned to interact with people. As the Student Senate Vice President, it was my role to oversee the over 100 clubs on campus. This allowed me the opportunity to interact with many diverse groups with differing interests.
Another great opportunity Student Senate afforded me was exposure to campus leadership. Sitting elbow to elbow with the President of the College taught me to be confident in using my voice, and it gave me the confidence to now sit at the conference room table with the CEO of a large corporation and know that I should be there, too.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CAREER PATH. HOW’D YOU END UP AT STAPLES, AND WHAT DO YOU DO THERE?
My path to Staples was unexpected! When I graduated in 2008, the job market was tough. I applied for many jobs and for my first job I worked at the American Girl Place in New York City as a sales manager. I worked my way up into special events and marketing and had a blast hosting private parties and planning memorable NYC experiences for little girls and their families.
After six years, I had reached the peak of career opportunities at the NY location. At the same time, my personal life was changing, and I took the leap to move to a new state and try something completely new.
I started my career at Staples as a promotions analyst, managing the set-up of the weekly website promotions. From there I was promoted to manage website and retail stores promotions and in-store signage. Then, I took another leap and moved into a completely different area of the business: e-commerce product management. A product manager is responsible for dreaming up and working with engineering to develop the best ecommerce customer experience.
Five years later, I’m now a Director of Product Management and Customer Experience. My job is different every single day and that’s one of the things I love about it the most. I collaborate with partners from every corner of the business—engineering, merchandising, legal, retail, marketing, etc. It’s never boring, and there’s always something that can be done better! What I love most about my career is that I built on what I learned at Siena and then I followed my passion and what I learned after college. I can’t think of another career I’d rather be in.
IS BACK-TO-SCHOOL SEASON SUPER HECTIC FOR YOU?!
Back to school is super hectic! And it’s one of our favorite times of the year. Being on the e-commerce side of the business I have two goals. 1) Help the customer easily find what they’re looking for, at the best price, and get it to them as fast as possible and/or 2) help customers find what they’re looking for in their local stores and even order it for 1-hour pick up.
It also helps that I’m an office supplies nerd and love a good pen and notebook…
WHAT VALUES AND SKILLS DID YOU LEARN FROM SIENA THAT YOU APPLY TO YOUR JOB AND LIFE NOW?
The value that Siena fostered in me the most is my sense of community. No matter where I am or who I’m with, I’m always tuned into what people are thinking and feeling. Knowing how to listen and actually hear, or to observe and truly relate—those are things that I learned by being involved in clubs, living on campus, and having wonderful mentors.
Father Bill taught me that sometimes the best advice you can give is to just let someone talk through their problem and their truth will give them the answer they seek. I apply this every day at work—even when the site is down and everything is going sideways. People generally want to do the right thing and they want to be happy. If you focus on the people, the problems find a way of working themselves out. If you create a community where people feel safe, appreciated and valued, the outcome is always going to be a good one. That’s a community I want to be a part of.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS CONSIDERING SIENA COLLEGE?
Siena is a place where you’ll belong. There is something for everyone and always a place at the table. Be open to trying everything and you’ll see that you get back so much more than you give. The people at Siena are the best part about it. Your network when you leave Siena will be tremendous, and your memories will last forever.
SO, GLAD YOU CHOSE SIENA?!
I can’t imagine my life today without Siena. The experiences I had will forever stay with me. I learned so much more than Marketing and Management. I learned how to be my best.
And if that wasn’t enough of an endorsement, I even named my first dog Siena!