When Orfalea College of Business alumna Molly Holcomb (nee Roberts) was an undergraduate at Cal Poly, she never expected to find a career in the financial sector. But the 2006 business administration graduate is thriving in the professional world as director of marketing and communications at Xceed Financial Credit Union, a full-service financial institution that manages more than $1.2 billion in assets.
With a concentration in marketing and a minor in wine and viticulture, Holcomb began her career managing client accounts at Pacific Communications Group. In 2008, she joined Aerospace Federal Credit Union as a marketing manager tasked with the opportunity to build a marketing department almost entirely from scratch.
“I was hired to start their first in-house marketing department from the ground up,” Holcomb says. “It required a lot of trial and error and thinking outside the box, but it was a really great learning experience. After a few years of proven success, I was promoted to vice president and asked to attend monthly meetings with the board of directors — a great feat at any age, but especially while still in my 20s.”
After seven years with Aerospace Federal Credit Union, she joined Xceed Financial Credit Union, where she works to achieve similar growth initiatives but on a much larger scale.
“When I sat in my classes at Cal Poly, I never thought that I would be marketing financial products — ever!” Holcomb says. “It’s very different from marketing typical consumer goods; it forces you to be creative. Personal finance is not as sexy as the latest fashion trends or electronic gadgets, so you have to find new ways to capture your audience.”
Holcomb says that Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy was essential to her success at Cal Poly and beyond. She remembers the excitement of her hands-on senior project experience, working with Professor Lynn Metcalf to fundraise and deliver wheelchairs to those in need in Belize.
“I think that philosophy and the way Cal Poly encourages students to get hands-on experience is key,” Holcomb says. “The knowledge I gained in my senior project classes, in the American Marketing Association, and in classes that had outreach components to businesses in the community provided a great foundation for transitioning into the workforce after graduation.”
Even today, Holcomb feels the Cal Poly spirit all around her. She had the chance to work alongside Cal Poly alumnus Huong Halpin (Statistics, ’01) and still promotes Learn by Doing as a standout quality in the workforce.
“I regularly reference Learn by Doing. As someone who now hires people on a regular basis, I know that hands-on experience definitely sets candidates apart.”
Holcomb urges students about to begin their professional careers to get involved outside of the classroom and be open to new experiences that come their way.
“Just think outside the box. Travel, join a club outside of your major, attend lectures from visiting professionals and alumni, and network through your professors. I knew nothing about credit unions when I graduated, but there are some really great opportunities for students who are willing to look at smaller companies to get their start. It just requires a little more effort to research and find out who they are.”