With her background in environmental nonprofit work, Joan Cannon (MBA ’21) became a Second Year Coach to serve fellow Darden students seeking roles in non-traditional MBA hiring industries like energy and sustainability. The SY Coach Program is one of the hallmarks of Darden students’ experience at the School. Through this classroom elective, SY coaches like Joan partner with the Career Center to help fellow Darden students navigate the FY recruitment process and ultimately, find success in their MBA internship search. They learn valuable coaching and leadership skills such as how to give constructive feedback and champion, as well as other skillsets applicable to any post-grad career.

Hear more from Joan and how she takes a “yardstick approach” to measuring her successes in life.


Where are you from?

I’m Canadian! I grew up in Kingston, ON, but I’ve moved around and lived in 12 different Canadian and U.S. cities.


What was your role prior to coming to Darden?

Before Darden, I worked as a Client Accounts & Marketing Specialist for Heliolytics Inc., a leading global technology and consulting company for renewable energy assets, where I managed all of our client accounts, relationships, and communications for the company.


What was your First Year summer internship?

Over the summer, I worked as a Summer Intern on the Commercial Transactions team for First Solar, the largest U.S. solar modules manufacturer, where I supported contract negotiations for multiple commercial deals for the company’s Module Sales and Operations and Maintenance business units.


What are your post-graduation plans?

After graduation, I will be working as an Associate on the Business Development, Distributed Generation team at First Solar. I’m excited to be able to re-join the First Solar community after having an amazing internship experience with this company over the summer.


Why did you become a SY coach?

I became a SY coach for several reasons. First, as a former competitive athlete and coach, I have always enjoyed mentoring students, developing short-term and long-term goal achievement plans, and working with them to achieve these goals.

Next, I have a non-traditional background in environmental nonprofit work and I am pursuing a career in a non-traditional industry (energy and sustainability), so I wanted to be a resource to other Darden students who have similar career aspirations that are not as common at Darden.

Finally, I had success following a somewhat unconventional recruiting process in which I recruited exclusively off-Grounds with companies that do not recruit on-Grounds at Darden. I wanted to share the lessons I learned throughout this process to other Darden students interested in recruiting off-Grounds.


What have you learned about yourself and your coachees as a SY coach?

I have learned that it is extremely important to admit when you need help and develop trusted people and resources that you feel comfortable turning to when this happens. I was able to be a better coach to my coachees when they shared specific actions that they needed help from me on, and this happened more and more frequently as our coaching relationship went on and my coachees understood that I would always be there to support them without judgement.

I often encountered questions or situations from my coachees that I had difficulty providing support on from my limited experiences in the area of that question/situation, but I had developed a strong network of peers within our SY Coaching class who I could turn to for advice and bounce ideas off of, which enabled me to learn and be a more effective coach.


What’s your favorite piece of career advice?

My favorite piece of career advice is taken from an article called “How Will You Measure Your Life?” that I read in one of Professor Jacquie Doyle’s classes. The article discusses the importance of choosing the right yardstick by which you will judge success in your life, and it asks you to determine what your personal yardstick is. You then make a resolution to live by this yardstick every day.

I really appreciate this advice because it can be easy to get caught up in following a career path to achieve the same perceived success of others around you. Ultimately, though, this approach will not make you happy or successful if you are following a herd of others with different yardsticks and lose sight of your own yardstick along the way.

For me, this advice was particularly helpful when I was pursuing my summer internship in the renewable energy sector. As many of my Darden classmates were pursuing consulting and investment banking internships, I needed to keep my blinders on what my yardstick was and why I was pursuing a different type of internship.