By Andrew McNeil
When students start their SCTCC journey, they may think that they’re going to do all their learning in the classroom and labs, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only do students get to learn about their career field, but they get guidance from those already in the field through mentorships, clinicals, internships, and more. And having a good mentor or coach on your professional journey can bring opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
One prime example of a classroom/mentorship relationship comes out of the Marketing Sales Management program with Becky Shand. She teaches the nitty gritty in the classroom, and then her students have the chance to learn more about the field from a mentorship.
"I don’t do this alone," said Shand. "Whenever I can, I reach out to our graduates to coach, mentor, and hire students. And they reach out to me."
Adam Winkelman, a Foley native who graduated from the Marketing Sales Management program in 1999, was one mentor who recently reached out to Shand to connect him with a current student.
After graduating SCTCC, Winkelman started a job in the optical industry, relocating him to Illinois. His career moved him around the country. He went from Illinois to Iowa and then to California where he started his own optical company, Winkelman explained. In 2011 he sold his company in California and moved back to Minnesota. "The journey took me away [from Minnesota] for about 15 years."
Being an avid outdoorsman, he noticed gaps in what was being offered for eye protection to the outdoor community and the conventional consumer. These gaps led Winkelman and his partner to start a new company: RLVNT.
Winkelman wanted to use his knowledge in the optical industry and to give back to the outdoor community. "I want to solve problems," he said. "We started hearing from the community, specifically the ice-fishing community: hey, it is wicked bright out here. Is there anything you can do to reduce the intensity of glare from the ice and snow."
This led Winkelman and his team to create a product they call "hardwater bronze." The lens is specifically designed to help the ice fishing community to protect their eyes while out on the ice.
"After I started the company RLVNT, I tapped into a resource here and reached out to Becky Shand," Winkelman said. "If I recall, my last year [as a student] was her first year [as an instructor at SCTCC] in that program."
Winkelman told Shand about his company and how it could help the outdoor community. He was looking to share an opportunity for a student to use the product for DECA—an organization that prepares high school and college students for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management—as well as help that student learn about the eyewear industry.
"I have the perfect student," Shand told Winkelman after he got a hold of her.
Matthew Evans was a driven student and active outdoorsman. Shand thought he would be the perfect match for Winkelman, and not just for the products RLVNT creates, but also personality wise.
"My first year competing in DECA, I sold detailing products, but my second year, I had no idea what I was going to use but I knew I wanted to do the sales competition again," Evans said. "So, I looked to Becky and said do you have any previous students who are selling a unique product that I can research."
Shand linked Evans with Winkelman and they met at a coffee shop.
"It was the greatest first coffee we had together," Evans said. "The two of them hit it off instantly," he continued.
Winkelman saw a driven student who was not afraid to ask questions and learn. Evans learned about the product and used it to take 1st place in the professional sales event during the 2020 Minnesota Collegiate DECA competition.
The DECA competition was just the beginning. A great relationship between the mentor and mentee developed, with both Evans and Winkelman learning from each other. Not long after graduating in 2020, Winkelman hired Evans, who is currently working for RLVNT as professional sales representative.
"A school is supposed to be a community thing that connects the [graduates] to the workforce," Winkelman said. "That is what SCTCC does amazingly."