From Farm to Financial Analyst – Emma Saunders

Emma Saunders may be an incoming Financial Analyst at the major global aerospace and defense company, Lockheed Martin, but it was growing up on a farm and selling produce at the market that first got her interested in finance. Emma is a Corporate Finance and Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Technology Management double major graduating this May. Her leadership at Virginia Tech has made a lasting impact on the school and the local community. Emma served as President of the Dean’s Advisory Board of Students in Pamplin this year, where she worked with Pamplin Deans and a select group of students nominated from different Pamplin student organizations. She was also involved in the Pamplin Leadership Development Team, serving as the VP of Corporate Relations and developing the team’s Education committee to make a positive impact on local high school students.

Saunders comes from a Hokie family (six of her cousins are current Tech students) and has been attending Tech football games since she was a kid. She explains that her family’s school spirit along with the good reputation of the Pamplin College of Business is what led her to attend Virginia Tech. Saunders grew up on a farm, where her parents grew and sold everything from apples and wine grapes to peaches, corn, and tomatoes. By helping her parents sell produce at the market every week, she developed business skills in money management and customer service at an early age. Saunders and her siblings eventually began growing their own produce, starting with cherry tomatoes, and selling it at the market to earn their own money. Saunders knew she wanted to study finance and entrepreneurship, because of her experience managing money and starting a business venture with her siblings.

After attending the Pamplin Leadership Development Conference in the Spring of her Freshman year, Emma applied to be a part of the Pamplin Leadership Development Team (PLDT) to plan the annual conference. She gained confidence in communicating with company sponsors as a member of the Corporate Relations committee and became VP of the committee the following year. Emma knew about the team’s desires to make an impact in more ways than just the annual conference, which gave her the idea to develop the Education committee. Given her background growing up and going to school in a rural area, Saunders wanted to reach out to local high school students with workshops on topics like resume development to help them prepare for college. Emma and her committee went to Blacksburg High School to talk to a class about resume building and answer the students’ questions about attending college from the perspective of Virginia Tech business students. Saunders admits that heading the Education committee was probably her favorite part of being involved in the Pamplin Leadership Development Team. “We could really shape the committee how we wanted it to be. The team was really fun, bubbly and we all worked well together,” says Saunders. When Emma was a sophomore, a fellow member of the Pamplin Leadership Development Team nominated her for the Dean’s Advisory Board of Students in Pamplin. This year, she was asked to serve as the President of the organization. She worked with Pamplin deans and fellow students in the organization on reshaping the Pamplin curriculum so that business students will take in-major classes earlier on in their 4-year plans of study. Saunders explains that it has been an amazing experience working alongside leaders, like Dean Sumichrast and Dean Khansa, because they truly value her opinions and ideas.

When Emma hears the word leadership, she thinks of someone who is willing to step up and take responsibility for seeing a plan through. She thinks it’s important that leaders don’t assign tasks to their team members that they wouldn’t do. “I think of someone who is willing to take the hit and the role of responsibility, but also make sure they’re doing the same actions as their team members,” says Saunders. Through her leadership roles, she’s learned the importance of being able to motivate her team, listening to other people’s opinions, and giving constructive feedback so her team members can grow.

Emma completed an internship with Smithfield Foods last summer, where she worked on continuous improvement, tracking variances every day to see where plants were producing more product than they needed to. Not totally sure of what industry she wanted to work in after graduation, Emma attended Lockheed Martin Day at the Inn at Virginia Tech. After speaking to a hiring manager for about an hour and answering a few interview questions, she was told to finish filling out the application once she got home. That night, she received a letter of intent and the conversation she had with the hiring manager led her to accept the job! As for her career goals, Saunders says that being the CEO or CFO of a big company would be cool, recalling her high-school dream to one day be on the cover of Forbes magazine as the most successful woman in America. She mentions that it would also be awesome to work for a company that sells diabetic products, as someone with Type-1 diabetes. Given Emma’s drive and leadership skills, we know that these goals are not out of reach for her.

We wish her the best of luck as she finishes her last semester at Virginia Tech and transitions into her role as a Multifunctional Financial Analysis Associate at Lockheed Martin!

Post written by: Allison DeSantis, VP of Materials Committee, Pamplin Leadership Development Team