Alumni Spotlight: Meet Wayne State's "Aimia Four"
If you see someone dressed in green and gold at the Troy, Michigan, office of Aimia, it’s likely to be one of the recent Wayne State University graduates who are making a rapid impact at the Canadian-based marketing and loyalty analytics firm.
With the goal of becoming the recognized global leader in data-driven marketing and loyalty analytics, Aimia was “born” in 2011 by bringing together Aeroplan, LMG, Air Miles Middle East, and Carlson Marketing. Headquartered in Montreal, Aimia has operations in 17 countries and owns and operates loyalty programs that are known the world over (e.g. Aeroplan, Nectar UK, Air Miles Middle East, China Rewards). The company provides loyalty strategy, program development and management services, and technology platforms that help clients develop actionable data insights to foster meaningful relationships between brands and consumers.
At Aimia’s Southeast Michigan location, a group of four recent graduates of WSU’s Mike Ilitch School of Business – Steven Gutterson, Jessica Paciorek, James Thornton and Jim Vanhavermaat – are quickly making a name for themselves.
“These Wayne State grads have been a pleasure to work with,” said Jason Lenard, an Aimia account director based in Troy. “They are truly ‘plug and play,’ which is very rare out there today. I have been impressed at how confident, driven and client-focused they are. They are truly wise beyond their years, and WSU’s business school certainly is responsible for that.”
Below are some thoughts on school and career from each of the Ilitch School’s “Aimia Four.”
Steven Gutterson is a 2013 graduate of the Mike Ilitch School of Business. Currently, he works as an account executive at Aimia.
“I work with some of the top automotive clients in the world, providing a wide range of support,” he said.
He heard about Aimia through his now coworker and fellow WSU grad and Pi Kappa Alpha – Delta Nu fraternity brother, James Thornton.
“We had worked together at other jobs in the past along with all of our work in the fraternity, and he recommended that I apply for this position,” he said. “He let me know about the role and who to reach out to at Aimia for more information, and shortly after, I was hired.”
Gutterson said WSU really prepares students for the post-college experience.
“The teachings at Wayne State really help establish a baseline of skills and information that is essential for everyday use,” he said.
Jessica Paciorek, a senior account executive, graduated from the Ilitch School in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration concentrating in marketing. She said she works directly with automotive clients, supporting vehicle launches, events, vehicle programs and dealer communications.
“My day-to-day changes by the season, but for the most part it’s all about communication between our client, external teams and our teams here at Aimia,” she said.
Paciorek said she learned a lot of fundamentals from the Ilitch School and highly recommends Wayne State to anybody that is “looking for a college experience that is full of life and reward.”
She also said the opportunities that the Ilitch School provided outside of class had the biggest impact for her.
“I maintained a high level of involvement in collegiate affiliations of professional clubs and was connected with my first job and internships, thanks to WSU,” she said.
James Thornton graduated from the Ilitch School in May 2015 and started at Aimia four days after he graduated. He works as an account executive for one of their largest automotive accounts.
“My day-to-day responsibilities are largely determined by the needs of our clients,” he said. “In short, my responsibility is to act as a liaison between our clients and the creative teams here at Aimia.”
“One of the greatest things about my position at Aimia is that no two days are the same. I am constantly getting the opportunity to work on different projects that challenge me to grow as a professional and expand my skill set.”
Thornton credited the business school for the success he has achieved in his current position.
“So many of the classes I took at the business school revolved around learning real-world skills as opposed to just reading a textbook and regurgitating the information on an exam,” he said
Thornton also gave advice for current business students who are looking for job hunts, and gave suggestions such as being proactive with the job hunt, crafting a well-rounded resume and utilizing resources at the school.
“Don’t wait until you graduate to start looking into post-grad opportunities.”
Jim Vanhavermaat works with a major automotive brand on marketing emerging technologies as an account executive at Aimia.
“I’m responsible for strategizing with our clients to help their marketing visions come to life,” he said. “No day is ever the same, but that’s one of the things I love about it.”
Vanhavermaat was hired on at Aimia as a result of networking.
“A friend that I met at Wayne State referred me,” he said. “The referral helped get [my] name out there, but I still had to prove myself through two interviews for the role.
As a 2011 graduate from the Mike Ilitch School of Business, Vanhavermaat said he felt like his business education prepared him for his current position.
“You really get out of it what you put into it,” he said. “There are tons of groups on campus that can help take your education further like the AMA or AAF. Also, never be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something, especially in school.”
“Wayne State was a great experience, and I am proud to call myself a Warrior.”