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Getting Down to Business

ACE gives SCU students Silicon Valley work experience

Eric Fialho ʾ12 was a sophomore at SCU in 2009 when he co-founded LeftLane, a flash-sale site for outdoor and sports enthusiasts. Two years later, his enterprise posted gains of 850 percent and raised its first round of investment capital. Fialho and his team then went on to acquire two other companies. Today, the former Bronco heads a multi-million dollar business and is well established as a successful entrepreneur. For that, he gives significant credit to ACE, a leadership and professional development program operated by SCU’s Leavey School of Business. 

“I cannot know what successes and challenges lie ahead,” he wrote just before graduating, “but I am sure that the foundation that ACE has helped me build will guide me in the journey.”

ACE stands for Accelerated Cooperative Education. It debuted in 1998, the brainchild of Tyzoon Tyebjee, a marketing faculty member at the business school who is now deceased. His idea was to offer a program that would help launch students into the business world while preparing them to become capable and ethical leaders for the future. Fialho is one of 315 students who have gone through the program since it began.

According to Jo-Anne Shibles, assistant dean for undergraduate business programs, admission in ACE is competitive for those who are invited to apply. “The students are extremely motivated,” she said, “and once they become involved, there is very little attrition.”

ACE annually accepts only 25 to 30 students who are academically exceptional and interested in pursuing leadership roles. All are incoming sophomores who become immersed in a defined course of study over the next three years. The curriculum includes leadership workshops, paid summer internships with local companies, special lectures, reflective seminars, and programs to build job skills. A critical component of ACE is its ability to link students with some half-dozen partner companies, such as Applied Materials, Lockheed, Target, and Yahoo.

“Our corporate partners provide internships and work experiences that meet the needs of all our students,” explained Shibles. “And from their perspective, it’s nice to connect with the top academic students in our business school; the companies have an early look at these potential employees and an inside track for recruiting.”
 Shibles noted that ACE administrators also work with many other local companies in matching students with in-the-field work opportunities.

Amy Carlton, a senior ACE student, is continuing a summer internship at Cisco Systems in San Jose, where she’s working on the integration of a new support system. Eventually, she hopes to use her present work experience as a Business Analyst Intern to forge a career in operations or supply chain management, she said. For now, though, she’s happy to be learning the ropes of a high-profile Silicon Valley company.

“The most surprising thing is that communication between employees is done most of the time via WebEx, email, or phone calls, instead of in person,” she said. And the most challenging aspect of the job? “Learning about Cisco culture and all the acronyms.”

Amy said she finds the job exciting and is grateful to be working with an “amazing team.” She’s also happy to be part of ACE, where she’s met some of her closest friends. “Everyone brings something different to the table,” she explained. “Not only is everyone a top student and extremely hard-working, but we look out for each other, too.”

That feeling of camaraderie may be an ongoing theme for ACE students even after they leave the program. Shibles said it’s not uncommon for alumni, many of whom are now employed in Silicon Valley, to call with job prospects or to offer shadowing and mentoring services for current ACE students. “We’re building a really nice network of alums who want to continue their connection with the school,” she said.

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