In the day-to-day performance of her role as General Manager of the Barnes & Noble at University of Delaware bookstore, Jennifer Galt’s actual job description can become a little undefined. “You’ll have situations all the time where students will come in and share their concerns about their finals, workload or even seeking career advice,” she says. Galt, who’s not beyond consoling parents on a student Move in Weekend or providing interview tips for nervous job-seekers, sees these extra-curricular interactions as essential to her role and the function of her store, rather than an interruption to its smooth operation. “I see our purpose here as being way more than just selling books,” she says, “and I think that desire to help out is something we all share at the bookstore — and is what our customers have come to expect.”
That desire to help out, make a difference, and go above and beyond has been central to the Barnes & Noble College philosophy since it opened its first store nearly 50 years ago and, in further developing its role as campus support partner, will play an even more crucial role in its future.
When not overseeing the company’s food operations, Director of Barnes & Noble College’s Café & Convenience, Lisa Shapiro, is also a highly visible advocate for the industry she represents. Serving as a member of the National Confectioners Association (NCA), the task is not a small one. “Our challenge is how do we make participation in our industry more meaningful, more involved in industry events and more relevant?” she asks.
Helping in that goal is Shapiro’s participation in the NCA’s Young Professionals Network Committee “Future Leadership Program,” which is designed to provide support, education, access and opportunity to the industry’s young professionals looking to develop leadership roles. One component of the program is that five deserving young professionals are given a year-long exclusive opportunity for networking and professional development with one of the program’s professional industry mentors — and that’s an opportunity Shapiro is particularly enthusiastic about. “At some point, I think everyone needs a sounding board, to be able to reach out to a peer, someone you have confidence in, with the ability to say, ‘this is bothering me,’ or ‘I’m faced with this challenge, what do you think’ —- that’s invaluable; that’s key,” she says.
Through its program, the NCA hopes to encourage more young professionals to assume leadership positions and develop a more diverse pool of leaders within the industry. At the NCA’s State of the Industry Conference earlier this year, Shapiro had the opportunity to chair a panel and noted those potential leaders in action during Q&A interactions. “There were some really thoughtful questions and insightful ideas surrounding the impact of our industry, the issues that affect it and in the kinds of concerns they had about their careers and roles within it,” she says.
What comes across to Shapiro in her work with the NCA, and echoes her role within the Barnes & Noble College organization, is the human factor. “It’s that need for connection,” she says. “As a company, we have some very good people who recognize that, and for me personally, there’s nothing greater than to see someone being successful — whether that success is measured by their career or the way they interact and help customers and colleagues — there’s recognition that you can make an impact in so many ways. Each person can always bring something different to the table.”
Like Galt, Shapiro seems surprised when asked why she would expend the extra effort in endeavors that would seem to exceed her job title. “I think when you’re mentoring people, as you share with them the journey you’re on, the challenges you’ve faced, the good and the bad, wherever you are in your own career, you’re actually continuing to learn yourself — you’re continuing to grow.”