Working at a fast food restaurant chain is the fate that most college students aim to avoid. But for 2006 graduate Laura Pautler, working for Burger King has been a major stepping-stone in her success.
Pautler’s current position at Burger King isn’t flipping burgers or sweeping parking lots however — she is a Manager, Sales Delivery — a corporate job in which she manages national rollouts of all restaurant marketing materials and content on the digital menu boards.
While Pautler has been wildly successful in the corporate world, she said that she made the foundation for her success while she was an undergraduate at Tech and offers advice for those looking to get the most out of their degree.
“I really just challenged myself. I wanted to get straight A’s and I wanted be that person. It was a challenge to myself,” Pautler said.
Pautler, who obtained a political science major and a business minor while at Tech, achieved her goals and graduated with high honors as first in her class in Political Science and as a member of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor fraternity.
According to political science professor Charles Taylor, Pautler still stands out in his mind as one of his best students to this day.
“I had and still have a high regard for her acuity, the kind of person she is, the kind of things she could do and the sharpness with which she did it,” Taylor said.
After graduating in 2006, Pautler began working as a temp for a software company in Northern Virginia and quickly worked her way up to a full-time position. In 2009, she decided to pursue an MBA and was accepted on a scholarship to University of Miami.
She graduated from UM in 2011 and after several rounds of interviews, was accepted into a Management Training Program at Burger King. Although Pautler did start out working the registers and making sandwiches, it was all part of Burger King’s 10-week management training program.
Despite being an MBA graduate, Pautler said she remained humble throughout the in-restaurant experience. In fact, she said she remains grateful for the opportunity.
“It was a great experience,” Pautler said. “If I didn’t know what I know about operations from working there, then I wouldn’t be as good at my job now as I am.”
Since starting at Burger King in 2011, Pautler has moved quickly up the corporate ladder with two promotions.
But Paulter insists her academic and corporate success didn’t come naturally. In fact, she said that she recalls often burning the candle at both ends during her undergraduate years.
“I used the strengths that I have — knowing that I’m not the smartest person in the world — but I have a good work ethic and I worked very hard, studied very hard and that’s how I was able to be successful.” Pautler said. “Most people just sort of skate through, it’s pretty easy to pull C’s and even B’s in college, from my perspective. But I tried to pay attention and go to all of my classes, and make the most of it,”
The key to success, Pautler said, is time-management. Pautler said that most peoples’ failure is the result of procrastination.
“I would do the work first, study really hard and get it all out of the way, to the point where I would be 100 percent positive that I was good to go. Then the rest of the time I would spend with my friends, but studying always came first,” Pautler said.
Pautler’s drive and her intense work ethic set her apart from other students, Taylor said. According to Taylor, the fact that Pautler stayed on top and often ahead of her work was apparent.
In addition to her ability to stay motivated and balance her time, Taylor said that Pautler was a sophisticated people-person. Taylor was impressed by Paulter’s conversational skills, especially while she was a student in Taylor’s study abroad program that surveyed British and German parliaments.
“I thought she did very, very well while (studying abroad). She really interacted very nicely with the members of the parliaments, but she also got along quite well with people on the streets,” Taylor said. “
Pautler agrees that her emotional intelligence has served her well throughout all aspects of her life. She advises that students should take advantage of growing their emotional intelligence while in still in school.
But Pautler said that the best piece of advice she has for students is to find something they like to do. Pautler is happy in her role as Manager, Sales Delivery because she is passionate about managing people, helping them grow and problem solving.
Taylor and Pautler agree that success is relative to happiness. Students should major in something they enjoy because, as Pautler demonstrates, intense drive and a good work ethic, as well as many other skills, are the determining factors of success.