Fast to the Future: Explore careers through speed networking

Erica Martin

FSU Panama City will host “Fast to the Future,” a speed career exploration event for students, 1:15-2:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, in the FSU Panama City Holley Academic Center. Students from any major and all prospective college students are welcome.

Fashioned after speed dating, the event will provide students a brief exposure to a variety of career options. Students will network with area industry leaders in nine-minute intervals to learn about the types of careers that stem from different interest areas and the personality traits one might need to work in a specific field.

The event is hosted by FSU Panama City, Gulf Coast State College and The Career Center at Florida State. Sponsors include Powell Broadcasting and the Waffle House.

FSU Panama City Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies Barbara Robinson, who manages the Student Achievement and Advising Center, said the event is a valuable way for students to get a quick overview of how to reach career goals.

“Students come to college because they’re interested in the end result: ‘How am I going to get there?’ ” she said.

Robinson said networking directly with someone in a particular industry is the best source for a student who is focused on his or her future.

“There’s only so much we can do at advising,” she said. “Students can spend a few minutes with employers and get first-hand information about what to do in their careers.”

Alumnus Brandon Yates, who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2016, said networking was key in securing his job as a programmer at Jellyfish Health.

“Networking events provide job opportunities that a resume never could. Human connection drives the workplace just as much as paper and hard fact,” he said. “Getting a job is often the product of a relationship, however small. Studying and working hard provided the foundation, but the networking events are what actually got my foot in the door.”

Katherine Mapp, a public affairs specialist at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, said networking helps foster relationships in the workplace, promotes collaboration and allows people to learn from each other’s experiences.

“Learning doesn't end when you graduate college,” said Mapp, who earned a bachelor’s degree in professional communication in 2015. “I continue to learn something new every day throughout my career. If you love what you do, you'll never ‘work’ a day in your life.”

Networking events like Fast to the Future allow students to connect with business leaders and could open doors to future career opportunities, she noted.

Yates and Mapp will be representing their workplaces at this year’s event.

Businesses and industry professionals participating include:


Recreation, Tourism and Events/Non-profits
  • Boys and Girls Club of Bay County: For 50 years the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bay County has been in the forefront of youth development, working with young people from disadvantaged economic, social and family circumstances. (Hank Hill, CEO)
  • ResortQuest By Wyndham Vacation Rentals: ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals offers Panama City Beach rentals at popular condominium resorts such as Tidewater, Palazzo, Sunrise Beach and Celadon. (Thomas Cox, area general manager-PCB West Region)
  • FSU Panama City: Professionals in Recreation, Tourism and Events manage facilities, programs and services that enrich people’s lives through high-quality and memorable leisure-time experiences. (Donna Trafford, faculty)
Computer Science, Engineering and Technology
  • Professional System Associates: Professional Systems Associates, Inc. makes CMPRO: Product Lifecycle Management Software that Manages Engineering, Configuration, Inventory and Product Data. (Sara Moon, public relations specialist; Talor Gannaway, programmer)
  • Jellyfish Health: Jellyfish Health takes the sting out of wait times by bringing transparency and communication to the patient experience. The company’s innovative, easy-to-use software applications empower and engage patients and put them in control of their own experience. (Brandon Yates, software engineer)
  • Planning & Economic Development Department: The Planning and Land Use Department oversees text amendments to the City’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations. We also respond to citizens’ residential and commercial property concerns and requests. (Jennifer Majka, planner II)
  • Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division: NSWC PCD is a research, development, test and evaluation laboratory that supports the U.S. Navy's mine warfare, naval special warfare, diving and life support and expeditionary maneuver systems. (Barbara Kuzan, MSEE, senior systems engineer; Jeff Renegar, BSEE, mission package certification manager)
Health and Wellness
  • Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers health care benefits to eligible veterans. (Shayma Salmon, LCSW, HUDVASH case manager)
  • Life Management Center of NW Florida: Life Management Center provides comprehensive behavioral health and family counseling services in Bay Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington counties. (Elizabeth Austill, human resource & credentialing coordinator; Rebekah Taylor, chief human resource officer)
  • FSU Panama City: The Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia program is designed to prepare qualified registered nurses for entry into practice as Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists. (Dr. Stacey VanDyke, DNP, MSN, BSN, CRNA, program administrator)
  • Sunrise/Bayshore Homes: Sunrise today is one of the largest, private not-for-profit organizations in the country dedicated to serving the needs of people with intellectual and physical challenges. (Mystique Williams, board certified behavior analyst)
  • Positive Behavior Supports Corp.: Positive behavior support is an individualized, research-based process that incorporates the principles of applied behavior analysis and person and family-centered practices. (Tawyna Crider, Panhandle regional coordinator)
  • Anchorage Children’s Home: Anchorage Children’s Home provides care to at-risk and abused and neglected children, youth and their families, 24 hours a day, seven days through screening, assessment, case management and counseling, basic shelter and non-residential aftercare services. (Janet Hollomon, lead family counselor; Jennifer Douds, family counselor)
  • FSU College of Medicine: The Florida State University College of Medicine will educate and develop exemplary physicians who practice patient-centered health care, discover and advance knowledge, and are responsive to community needs. (Eric Crosier, M.S., health professions adviser)
Business and Entrepreneurship
  • Waffle House: Each Waffle House, though part of a nationwide chain, is run like a neighborhood restaurant. (Brenda Distasi, area people director)
  • Tyndall Federal Credit Union: Tyndall FCU returns profits to member-owners through lower loan rates, higher deposit rates and lower fees. (Jeremy Jernigan, HR generalist)
  • BB&T: BB&T offers clients a complete range of financial services including banking, lending, insurance, trust and wealth management solutions. (Brian S. Robinson, area president; Jason Morehouse, V-P, market leader)
  • Business Innovation Center: The BIC provides advice and information on a broad spectrum of business issues, from marketing to expansion. (Pamela Kidwell, executive director)
  • Bay County Association of Realtors: Our goal is to serve buyers and sellers by providing access to thousands of real estate listings and Realtors. (Debbie Ashbrook, CEO)
  • Community Bank: Community Bancshares of Mississippi, Inc., is one of the South’s fastest-growing financial institutions. (Jake Mann, assistant vice president)
  • Auto-Owners Insurance: Comprised of five property and casualty companies and one life/health/annuity insurer, the group is recognized for exceptional financial strength and stability among the nation’s largest insurers. (George Williams, underwriting manager; Kathleen Jernigan, manager)
Communication and Media
  • Panama City News Herald: Panama City daily newspaper. Includes local and national news, sports and classifieds. (Eleanor Hypes, HR director; Jamie Smith, HR assistant)
  • Applied Research Associates: ARA is an employee-owned scientific research and engineering company dedicated to solving critical national problems to improve our safety, security and way of life. (Kevin Elliott, marketing and communications coordinator)
  • WMBB: WMBB is an ABC network television station that serves the Panama City television market. (Jerry Brown, evening news anchor)
  • Powell Broadcasting: Powell Broadcasting offers music entertainment from classic rock and big hat country to old school tunes and today’s hits. (Larry Gordon, radio market executive)
  • Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division Office of Congressional and Public Affairs: NSWC PCD is a research, development, test and evaluation laboratory that supports the U.S. Navy's mine warfare, naval special warfare, diving and life support and expeditionary maneuver systems. (Katherine Mapp, public affairs specialist; Jacqui Barker, public affairs officer)
Education and Teaching
  • Palm Bay Prep Academy: Palm Bay Preparatory provides a unique environment for grades 6-12, emphasizing high academic achievement. (Kathleen Fontaine, principal)
  • Bay District Schools: More than 26,000 students attend 42 area schools. (Amanda Stein, certification & compliance officer; Beth Patterson, career & technical education director)
  • University Academy: University Academy embraces the promise of innovation in programming and instruction through the charter school system. (Dr. Elizabeth Crowe, principal)
  • FSU Panama City: The curriculum leads to the bachelor’s/master’s degree and eligibility for certification for teaching grades K-6 in the Florida public schools, ESOL and reading endorsements. (Dr. Dorothy Imperial, program coordinator and faculty member)
Law and Justice
  • FSU Panama City: Program combines social science and physical science disciplines to address problems presented by criminal behavior. (Banyon Pelham, instructional specialist)
  • United States Probation and Pretrial Services Northern District of Florida: The service prepares investigations and delivers supervision. (James Shea Stallings, Laura Laird, Daniel Campos, United States probation officers)
  • FSU College of Law: FSU delivers a program that prepares students to enter the worlds of law, business and government at the highest possible level. (Ralph Keiffer, MPA, Admissions Office & Recruiting Specialist; Ward Hutchison, Esq., Partner; Elizabeth Walters, Partner, Burke Blue Hutchison Walters Smith)
  • Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division: NSWC PCD is a research, development, test and evaluation laboratory that supports the U.S. Navy's mine warfare, naval special warfare, diving and life support and expeditionary maneuver systems. (Ray Oldach, Esq., Office of the General Counsel)