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In Pursuit

Three WHS grads chose purpose over paycheck



Photographs by Patrick Frank, Patchbay Media

A generation ago, college graduates entering the work force typically followed traditional paths: joining the family business, vying for corporate jobs, pursuing a practice in medicine or law. While millennials still pursue these time-honored occupations, they’re equally likely to seek careers that tap into their creativity and fuel their passions. Meet three Wilton High School grads who have done just that.

Patrick Hackett graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with an offer to join Credit Suisse. Four months into his job, recruiters began circling. “The crazy thing about investment banking is that you start in August and by November you’re getting contacted by headhunters,” he says. While his peers moved on, Hackett remained with the firm. “I wanted to take the time to get a better feel for private equity and to decide whether it was the right career path for me.”

A year later, Hackett learned that Warby Parker––a young eyeglasses company with a lofty objective of donating one pair of eyeglasses for every one they sold––sought a senior financial analyst. “I wanted to have a tangible impact on a company’s success and contribute more than just crunching numbers.” He landed the position and never looked back.

“Right off the bat I was thrown into a project that had a material impact on the business. I’ve been given the sort of responsibility and recognition that I would never have gotten at a Fortune 500-esque company.” 

Warby Parker’s mission is to radically transform the optical industry by demonstrating that a for-profit company can be profitable while also doing good in the world. “It’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of,” says Hackett. “I’m very glad I didn’t go right into private equity just because that’s what everyone else was doing, but took the time to reflect and think things over.” 

Lafayette College graduate, Kelsey Harkness decided early on to follow her career dreams instead of worrying about her bank account. Her first job as a production assistant at Fox News paid $12.50 an hour. It wasn’t long before her writing talent was recognized and she was reassigned to the new media department, penning articles for the company’s lifestyle website. 

Eighteen months later, a former Fox colleague recruited Kelsey to join Bluefin Media, a small lifestyle brand start-up. “It was a pretty big risk, but they offered me a good position, so I accepted.” While the career move proved unfulfilling, it motivated Kelsey to return to her real passions: news and politics. She relocated to Washington, DC, and joined The Heritage Foundation as a news producer for the conservative think tank’s website, The Daily Signal. “It was an opportunity to become a journalist, covering topics that make a difference in the world,” she says.

Since then, Harkness has reported on some controversial issues including the school-choice movement, gay marriage/religious liberty, and abortion rights. “I love getting to the heart of an issue and helping people understand where the beliefs and feelings of others come from. There are different opinions in America, and I think we can all learn from each other and become more accepting.” 

Reflecting on her career decisions, she says, “I’m glad I took that leap of faith and followed my heart instead of the money. I’m passionate about what I’m doing and I feel as if in a small way I’m making a difference.”

 Sarah Fuller’s educational and career paths have wound far and wide. In addition to traveling extensively through more than 20 countries, the St. Lawrence University graduate has logged more than 430 days at sea. She’s studied glaciers in south-central Alaska, evaluated ancient coral reefs in Curacao, and interacted with world-renowned oceanographers at the Institute for Exploration in Mystic, Connecticut.

After studying environmental education and natural resource management at the Teton Science School’s graduate program, Fuller settled in Colorado, working as an educator and naturalist at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. Shortly after settling in, the vice president of the Ocean Exploration Trust invited her back to sea.

“I saw an opportunity to do several things I love, so I was able to switch from full-time educator to seasonal naturalist, which allowed me to go to sea.” For the next two years, Fuller taught students and adults in the Aspen wilds during the winter and spring, and created the data management program aboard the EV Nautilus throughout the summer and fall. 

She earned a Master’s degree in oceanography and marine biology in 2012 and is now in her current role as Science Program Coordinator at Sea Education Association/SEA Semester.

“For every fellowship, graduate study, and job that I’ve held, I’ve been led to places I didn’t know existed,” says Fuller. “Each experience opened new doors, so the ability to recognize those unique opportunities and to say, “Yes!” has gotten me further than anything else might have done.”

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