Experience Fuels Student’s Passion for Business Career

October 9, 2020 | Features, Student Success, UToday, Business and Innovation
By Cherie Spino

Katie Chryst knew before she started high school that she wanted to work, somehow, some way, in business. It’s in her blood. Her great-grandfather started Shrader Tire & Oil, a distributor of commercial truck tires and lubricants, in Toledo in 1948.

Now The University of Toledo is helping Chryst accomplish her goal.

Katie Chryst

Katie Chryst’s work at Hylant, a family-owned insurance firm in Toledo, allows her to build on what she learns in class as she pursues degrees in finance and information systems.

“School, employment, and social life work in harmony to build strong business professionals. UToledo and my classes lay the foundation needed to thrive in the workforce, and my job and extracurriculars supplement it,” said Chryst, a junior. “The College of Business and Innovation provides me with exceptional opportunities. Having professors who give advice based on their careers outside of the classroom is an advantage not all students get to experience.”

Enrolling in The University of Toledo as a double major in finance and information systems was a no-brainer for her, Chryst said. She’s from the Toledo area, her parents attended UToledo, where her father majored in business.

“The business school has a great reputation,” she said.

From the beginning, Chryst sought out ways to become involved on campus, finding a perfect fit with the Family Business Student Association. The association works with the Family Business Center, whose membership includes hundreds of locally owned, family businesses. The student organization acts as a bridge between those companies and UToledo students.

Last year, Chryst became president of the student group, growing the organization through her hard work and relationships. She helps organize student activities, including panel discussions with prominent business leaders, tours of local companies and social events.

Chryst said she is proud of her work with the Family Business Student Association, which has taught her valuable lessons about the soft skills she needs to succeed.

“The Family Business Student Association reiterates the value of being part of a reliable team,” she said. “I recognize the importance of collaborating with others and how crucial communication is, especially now that I work remotely.”

The summer after her freshman year, Chryst applied for a job at Hylant, a family-owned insurance firm in Toledo. She was hired as a commercial services assistant in the company’s property and casualty middle-market division.

She continues working for Hylant during the school year. Chryst said she appreciates the flexibility that Hylant and UToledo offer her since she is financially responsible for her college education. She was able to schedule her classes on two days and work the other three.

“At the time she joined Hylant, she was limited in her knowledge of the insurance industry,” said William Pridgeon, president of Hylant. “However, Katie’s drive, knowledge and professional curiosity since joining Hylant has opened her eyes to this amazing industry. Katie has quickly become an asset to our organization.”

In December last year, Hylant transferred her to its Employee Benefits Department. The company made it possible for Chryst to take a weeklong course in Columbus and earn her life, accident and health insurance license. Now she is able to interact with clients and negotiate insurance rates, among her other duties — all as a 20-year-old still earning her degree.

“Working in an office setting has solidified my wish to have a career in the field of business,” she said. “Insurance is a large industry with countless possibilities. I’ve seen how people can make it into the occupation they desire. One of my co-workers, who played football at the University of Michigan, specializes in insurance for athletes.”

Chryst said her work at Hylant allows her to build on what she learns in class.

“My information systems class taught me how to code and use technology in real-world situations. I use those skills daily at Hylant, where I work with a variety of spreadsheets, databases and programs,” she said.

With the advent of COVID-19 she’s using the knowledge from her class, the Legal and Ethical Environment of Business, as she and her colleagues work to inform clients of their responsibilities regarding record-keeping during and after the pandemic.

“My education from the College of Business and Innovation allows me to prosper at Hylant while also preparing me for the future,” she said.

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