Ann Miller: Wharton Innovation Group

7/24/2014 4:58:49 PM

Ann Miller signed on as a temp with the Penn Job Center, managed by UA Staffing. And today, she has a full-time position as the Program Coordinator for the Wharton Innovation Group.

Life as a sous chef had lost its appeal for Ann Miller.

Ann Miller

With her wide ranging interests and talents, she wanted a job that offered more stability as well as better avenues for personal growth. Penn seemed like the perfect place to relaunch her career. “I liked the idea of working with like-minded people in an environment where academics is important,” says Ann. But how could she prove that she was right for Penn? She had worked her way through culinary school as an administrative assistant, so she signed on as a temp with the Penn Job Center, managed by UA Staffing. And today, she has a full-time position as the Program Coordinator for the Wharton Innovation Group. More than other temporary agencies Ann had worked with, UA Staffing offered the kind of “special project related jobs” that she found truly interesting. Ann’s first Penn assignment, scheduling interviews with ten CEOs for a research project, was supposed to run six weeks. The “sous chef” title on her resume may have confused some would-be hiring managers, but not Dr. Erwann O. Michel-Kerjan, Executive Director of the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Process Center. “Erwann, who’s originally from France, understood the value of a line cook,” says Ann. He could see that her quick thinking, attention to detail, and organization would transfer nicely from a restaurant into his department.

The six week assignment grew to eight months. As the research expanded, so did Ann’s duties and opportunities. She became an invaluable member of the team. All the while, she was searching for permanent jobs on campus. Soon, the center reorganized and one of her colleagues was promoted—and Ann was offered a full-time position.

Now she could take full advantage of Penn’s many skill-building seminars and brown bag lunch programs for employees. She also received specialized financial systems training. “Working at Penn isn't a zero-sum game,” says Ann. “They want you to move up.”

After two successful years as an administrative assistant, Ann started looking for even greater responsibilities. She found an opening at the Wharton Innovation Group. True to its name, the Innovation Group’s hiring process was a little unconventional. “Instead of doing a first round of interviews,” Ann explains. “They asked me to solve a problem and give them a one page memo on how I would present a particular solution to my boss.” Just as she had proven herself through her temp work, she proved her abilities through this sample assignment and landed her current job. The position utilizes her computer science education, which she’d put on the back burner during her sous chef years. It also allows her to travel regularly to Wharton’s San Francisco campus.

Whether Ann is working in San Francisco or in Philadelphia, Penn provides a place to combine her creativity and interest in technology in a setting that constantly offers new development opportunities. Ann appreciates the fact that so much of her work with the Innovation group is researched based and has a global impact. “I feel like a lot of places don't think about the ramifications of the way people do work, but we do here at Penn. And that really appeals to me.”