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Business Mentor Program

At the Joseph F. Decosimo Success Center in the Gary W. Rollins College of Business, we are providing resources for our students to become “Business World Ready” as they launch their careers.  One of those resources is the Business Mentor Program available to sophomore, junior, and senior students. Undergraduates engage in the program for academic credit through BUS2900.

The mentors who make up the Business Mentor Program are experienced professionals who are willing to share their knowledge with upper level students to help develop life skills for success. The mentor acts as a coach and role model to support a student with his/her personal and professional growth. The program provides a great opportunity for professionals to counsel and influence the next generation of business leaders. Being a mentor provides personal satisfaction as well as the ability to increase the workforce readiness of future recruits. Mentors rotate every semester.

The objectives of the mentor/mentee relationship are to help students:

  • Bring career goals into focus
  • Become ready for the workforce
  • Increase business connections  and network strategically
  • Enhance professional development
  • Open doors of opportunity for future internships, jobs  and career success

Business Mentor Bench

Donyel Scruggs

Public Education Foundation - Vice President of Development

Donyel was born in the windy city of Chicago, Illinois and raised in Laurel, Maryland, and moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee to be a proud resident of the gig city.

Donyel holds a Bachelor’s of Art in Communications and a Master’s in Public Administration with a Non-profit Management Concentration from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Donyel is the Vice President of Development for the Public Education Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the transformation of public education so that every student is prepared for success.  

 In her role, she leads the fundraising and communication efforts to grow the Public Education Foundation programs. While she has her hands in many projects, her focus is donor love, communications, events, and annual fund giving. Prior to working at the Public Education Foundation, Donyel worked at the YMCA and Girls Inc. of Chattanooga where she generated revenue to support programs that inspired youth reach their full potential and put Christian principles into practice through programs that help healthy spirit, mind and body for all. She also served as the Membership Coordinator and Engagement Analyst at the Tennessee Aquarium where she increased membership revenue, conducted marketing research to and developed the Patron Community Outreach Program serving over 1,500 underserved audiences to increase knowledge of ocean literacy.

 Donyel has a passion for affecting positive change in her community with a special interest in education, women’s empowerment, and diversity and inclusion. She was recently named Chatter’s 20 under 40 and 2018 Women of Distinction. She serves on the Board  for Association for Fundraising Professionals, Young Professionals Association of Chattanooga, and is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, Emerging Leaders of United Way, Chattanooga Women’s’ Leadership Institute, Leadership Chattanooga 2017 Graduate and volunteers for several community causes. 

Donyel is married to Jeremy Scruggs and they have a son who recently turned one year old, Austin Scruggs. In her spare time, Donyel enjoys reading, traveling, yoga, and trying new foods.

Work philosophy: Follow your passion and your career will thrive.

Best Advice for Students: Don’t be afraid to fail. Keep going. Stay the course and get back in the game after failure, you’ll go places and you’ll make the difference you were intended to make.

Type of student I hope to mentor: An ideal mentee would be someone that is eager to learn and make an impact in their community.

Melissa Crane

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) - Senior Service Manager, Transmission Solutions, Information Technology

Melissa Crane is the Senior Service Manager of Transmission Solutions within the Information Technology organization at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).  In her role, she is responsible for providing Information Technology solutions and support for her business partner, Transmission Power Supply.  Melissa and her team regularly interact with all levels of the business to provide real-time support of applications that allow Transmission Power Supply to provide reliable services to local power providers and directly served customers across the valley. 

Melissa has worked for TVA for over 15 years, starting in their intern program.  Melissa previously served in multiple leadership roles for the agency, leading successful cross organizational teams.  As Senior Manager of Enterprise Services, she was responsible for services supporting the enterprise including enterprise information management and solutions, software architecture and data integration, enterprise content management, and enterprise collaboration solutions.   As Senior Program Manager for the Office of the CIO, she provided expert advice and strategic direction to the CIO and IT senior leadership on a wide variety of business, technical, and organizational effectiveness matters.  Melissa has also served as Manager of Business Analysis in Enterprise Solutions Delivery where she built a team of IT business analysts to support development and documentation of business requirements for IT projects, and established consistent management approaches for the entire TVA business applications portfolio.  Under Melissa’s leadership, increased demand from business partners led to the team growing ten-fold. 

Melissa was raised in Chattanooga and graduated from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga with a BS in Marketing and MBA.  She enjoys spending her free time travelling to Disney with her two children and husband.  Melissa also enjoys ballet and running and is training for her tenth half-marathon.

Work Philosophy:  Don’t spend all your time worrying about that next step in your career, that next big opportunity, and lose focus on your current role.  Of course have thought around your future plans, but do your best in your current role.  Give your current role focus, time, and energy and the opportunities will come.

Best Advice for Students:  Don’t allow your degree to confine you.  You’re not limited to a specific profession just because you may have a major in a certain business area.  Think creatively and be open to new opportunities as you start your career.

Type of student I hope to mentor: I don't have anything firm in mind, but I hope we enjoy each other's company!

Ken Jones

EPB - Manager, Fiber Design and GIS

Ken was born and raised in Chattanooga, TN and always enjoyed tinkering with things growing up.  He would take things apart to see how they worked and, for the most part, put them back together.  In high school, Ken studied electronics and learned how to repair PCB (printed circuit board), however he never finished high school, obtaining a GED instead.  As an electronics technician, Ken was very proficient and was introduced to the telecommunications field in the 1990s.  This is where Ken really found his passion.  Working in infrastructure cabling for computer networks, phone systems, cable TV systems, and fiber optics networks provides him with a great sense of purpose. 

Ken started working for EPB in 2000, starting as a network technician and quickly promoted to senior network technician, and then again to supervisor, and once more to Project Consultant where he managed projects for EPB’s fiber optics network.  In 2005, Ken realized how important it was to pursue a college education.  Ken attended Chattanooga State Technical Community College where he obtained an Associate Degree in Electrical Electronics Engineering in 2007.  He later pursued an undergrad degree in Entrepreneurship.  Ken enrolled in UTC’s College of Business in 2014 and completed the degree in 2017.  In 2015, the midst of pursing his undergrad degree, Ken was promoted again to manager of EPB’s Fiber Optics department.  Ken is a proud alumnus of UTC and is currently pursuing an MBA in business analytics through UTC Professional MBA program. In September 2017, EPB created a GIS department under Ken’s leadership.

Work Philosophy: Find something you are passionate about!  We have enough things in life to think about so let’s make sure, when we are spending our time at the office, it’s something we are drawn too and enjoy!

Best Advice for Students: Make your contacts count.  Do prejudge people base on any bias you have.  You never know who you are talking to when you meet someone.  Furthermore you never know who you will help with just something as simple as a smile.  Get to know people and their story.  Don’t look at where they are and think they woke up at that point in their life.  There’s a story behind it.

The type of student I hope to mentor: I enjoy mentoring anyone who has a desire to make a difference.  It doesn’t matter where they come from, where they been, or the challenges they have faced.  If they are willing to get even 1%, then the options are limitless.

Staci J. Lee

UTC - Recruitment and Employment Specialist, Human Resources

Staci joined the HR team as the Recruitment and Employment Specialist in 2016.  She most recently received her M.S. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from UTC, and earned her B.A. in International Studies (Interdisciplinary Studies) from the University of North Carolina-Asheville.  While at UNCA, she earned a double minor in Psychology and French and studied abroad in France for four months before graduating.  Additionally, she earned an A.A.S. in Archaeology at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio, with a concentration in Ohio Valley Lithics.

She is currently a member of SIOP (the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Division 14 of the American Psychological Association), SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management), CWLI (Chattanooga Women's Leadership Institute), ATD (Association for Training and Development), and YPC (Young Professionals of Chattanooga).

Along with her husband, Staci loves traveling all over the world and meeting people from different cultures, but always enjoys coming back home to their cat in The Scenic City.

Work Philosophy: Learn by doing. Learn as a team. Stay motivated through curiosity!

Best Advice for Students: Try to remember that you are not alone! There are people all over campus that can help you, and that really want to help you! Even when you make mistakes, or especially when you make mistakes, you can feel free to contact anyone for and get the help that you need.

The type of student I hope to mentor:  Someone who can provide me with just as much learning as I can provide them, if not more! Someone who wants to know how to navigate the professional world but be able to have personal relationships at work. Someone who is intrinsically motivated towards self-improvement and meeting their professional goals.

Morgen Rose

Signal Centers - Accounting Coordinator

Morgen is originally from Chattanooga and has both her Bachelors and Masters in Accounting from UTC.  She has worked in Financial Accounting and Internal Audit for 10+ years, first at Life Care Centers of America in Cleveland, followed by Covenant Transport in Lookout Valley, and then at EPB in downtown Chattanooga. 

Currently, she works on multiple grant program accounting, and supervising the accounting department of Signal Centers, a non-profit that serves local children and families. She deeply believes that having a job where you can make a difference and feel like you are giving back is far more rewarding than filling out spreadsheets and tossing them into the abyss.

Morgen is a Certified Internal Auditor but is excited to use more of her people skills in the supervisory position she has recently moved into. She enjoys the “people” part of accounting and internal audit, translating numbers into useful information for management and improving processes.  Accounting has always felt like organization more than math, and new office supplies are a constant source of excitement.

Work Philosophy: You spend more time at your job than you do during the rest of your day anywhere else, so make sure you enjoy what you’re doing, the people you work with, and the company you represent. If you don’t, decide what needs to change, and take the steps to make those changes.

Best Advice for Students: Take every opportunity you can – participate in clubs, go on job shadows, apply for internships, work a part time job, go to speakers and ask questions. Any information you can piece together about the world you’re about to enter with your degree will help you to decide what will and will not work for you. Sometimes you learn the most about yourself when you figure out what you do NOT want to do.

The type of student I hope to mentor:  Proactive student who takes ownership and makes an effort to get involved.

Marcus Cade-Johnson

First Tennessee Bank - Vice President, Private Banking

Marcus was born and raised in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but relocated to Knoxville, TN in August of 2001 to live with his aunt. He spent the summer of 2001 working in Anchorage, Alaska as a bagger at Safeway Grocery. In 2008, Marcus graduated from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with his Bachelor of Science in Finance. Additionally, he graduated from the Tennessee Bankers Association’s Southeastern School of Banking in 2011 and earned his M.B.A at Bryan College in 2013. Marcus currently holds several professional destinations including the series 6, 7, 63, and Tennessee Life insurance licenses. 

During his final two semesters at UTC, Marcus began his career as a part-time teller at First Tennessee bank while simultaneously working as a sales associate/key holder at Eddie Bauer. Shortly after graduation, Marcus accepted a position as a Financial Services Representative with First Tennessee in February of 2009. By 2012, he was promoted to Financial Center Manager of First Tennessee’s highway 58 location. He was responsible for sales, operations and customer satisfaction of that office. In 2015, First Tennessee acquired a small community bank located in Raleigh, North Carolina. Once the merger was complete, Marcus relocated to Raleigh for an opportunity to manage the new First Tennessee office and help train new retail bankers and other team members. Marcus returned to Chattanooga in September of 2017 after getting engaged to his wife, Arreona. Currently, he is a Relationship Manager in the Private Banking division at First Tennessee.

Marcus is very passionate about volunteering at work and in the community. Currently, he is a football coach for the Inner City Youth Athletic Association (The Broncos). He has been a member of ICYA for six years. Through coaching, Marcus has the opportunity to impact the lives of young men on and off the football field. Additionally, Marcus sits on the Board of the Chattanooga Urban League and serves in the youth ministry at New Vernon Grove Baptist Church. His previous volunteer activities include Junior Achievement, Treasurer for the Enterprise Gateway Council and tutoring at The Daniel Center for Math and Science (Raleigh, NC). Recently, Marcus was selected to participate in the Urban Leagues Inclusion by Design leadership program and the 2018-19 class of Leadership Chattanooga.  At First Tennessee, Marcus volunteers by serving as the Co-Chair of the Diversity Network Association which is an employee resource group that works to promote diversity and inclusion within First Tennessee's Chattanooga market. Additionally, he’s a member of First Tennessee’s Quality Council and employee mentorship program.

Marcus and Arreona are expecting their first child, Sekayi Miles, this November. In his free time, Marcus enjoys gardening, eating sweets (specifically apple pie & Oreo cookies), listening to Jay-Z, reading and watching football.    

Work Philospohy: Be open to learning new things, accepting new challenges, and volunteering within your organization.

Best Advice for Students: Homework is for life! Commit to being a lifelong student of your profession and industry. Bonus Advice: Manage your money wisely. Contrary to what you may think, it’s not how much you make, but how much you KEEP!! You don’t want your bank account to be like a bucket with a whole in the bottom. 

Type of student I hope to mentor: Someone who is outgoing and inquisitive. It also helps if he or she is a Philadelphia Eagles or Florida State Seminoles football fan :)

George Todd

EnerNOC -  Senior Energy Analyst

George is a Senior Energy Analyst at EnerNOC in the Advisory Solutions organization. In his role, he is responsible for analyzing energy market fundamentals, summarizing customer portfolio performance, and assisting with customer-specific strategic planning. He works with customers across all industries and geographies, but is the lead analyst supporting two Fortune 100 customers. George works with the rest of the Advisory Solutions organization team members to deliver industry-leading products and services to support and optimize customer operations.

George started his energy career at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as an intern in the Structuring and Portfolio Management group. Upon completion of his internship, he started his analytical background as an Energy Marketing Strategist supporting TVA’s Natural Gas Origination and Power Marketing groups. He worked with many other analytical functions across the organization to help deliver commodity purchase decisions to support TVA’s $3B commodity portfolio. At the beginning of 2015, George pursued an opportunity in the retail energy industry at small retail supplier based out of North Carolina. As a Senior Pricing and Structure Analyst, George was responsible for maintaining pricing for over 500+ electricity and natural gas products, supporting Mid-Market Commercial sales, and working with a cross-functional team to launch Alberta and Ontario operations. In late 2017, he joined EnerNOC as a Senior Energy Analyst. Through the experience he gained at TVA and in retail energy, George provides analytical insights to customers with annual energy spends ranging from $3M to over $150M.

George is an East Tennessee native, growing up in Oak Ridge, TN. He currently resides in Ooltewah with his wife, daughter, and dog. George attended UTC for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees, earning a B.S.B.A. in Finance and a Master of Business Administration. While at UTC, he served on the College of Business Student Leadership Council and was the President of the Financial Management Association. George is an outdoorsman, avid runner and athlete, and a proud father.

Work philosophy: Never pass up an opportunity to learn something new. With increased automation and higher expectations, showing initiative to learn something new and adapt to changing environments will increase your value. Perfect examples: at TVA I learned to code using VBA and MATLAB; at my second career stop I learned SQL; today I leverage all of that knowledge to optimize my work load. Work smarter, not harder – this leads to a better work/life balance.

Best advice for Students: Every class you have, every relationship you have, all experiences you have, good or bad, are preparing you for your future.

Type of student I hope to mentor: I want to mentor someone who is humble and eager to learn. I struggled for a few years with self-confidence and presenting in front of people, but I’ve learned how to become a leader, take roadblocks in stride, and break out of my shell. Now I want to help someone else break out.

Gil Milton

Crye-Leike Realtors - Managing Broker

Gil Milton is the Managing Broker for the Signal Mountain Office for Crye-Leike Realtors.  Gil has been with Crye-Leike Realtors since March 2006.  He has been a Multi-Million Dollar Producer for Crye-Leike Realtors in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 achieving Life Time Multi-Million Dollar Producer Status.  He has been the Managing Broker at Signal Mountain since February 2017. Areas of experise include: marketing, management, and sales. 

Gil graduated from UTC in May 1993 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing.  While at UTC he was President of the Marketing Club for one year.

Gil serves as the Chairman of the Advisory Board at Notre Dame High School.  He has also served on the Board of Deacons at Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church, and as Chairman of the Alzheimer’s Memorial Golf Tournament for Jim Phifer in 2006 and 2007.  Gil lives on Missionary Ridge with his wife Julie.  They have five children Joseph Romeo (UTC ’19), Nicholas Romeo (UTC Student), Ally Romeo, Sophie Romeo, and Colin Milton.

Work Philospohy: Treat others as you want to be treated, work as smart as you do hard, have a plan.

Best Advice for Students: After Graduation, be humble and rely on the experience and the advice of others.  You have two ears, two eyes, and one mouth. 

Type of student I hope to mentor: A student who has a plan to graduate, a desire to listen, learn, and make others around them better.

Amanda Schaap

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) - Manager, Generation Construction, Projects & Services, Financial Operations and Performance

Amanda Schaap is a Manager within the Financial Operations and Performance Organization at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).  In her role, she is responsible for leading a team of financial consultants responsible for the monthly accounting, financial reporting, and business planning and forecasting for the Generation Construction, Projects & Services organization. 

Amanda previously served as a Financial Consultant III in the Power Operations controller organization supporting large Capital and Operations & Maintenance Projects for the Coal, Gas, and Hydroelectric Dam technologies.  In this role she performed the monthly accounting and financial reporting duties, as well as, partnered with the business to ensure detailed, accurate budgets and forecasts. Prior to supporting Capital and Operations & Maintenance Projects, she served as the site financial consultant for a number of Gas plants performing monthly accounting, financial reporting, and budgeting and forecasting for their Routine Operations, Maintenance and Outage spend.

Before joining TVA, Amanda worked as a Finance Manager of US Medical Products at Baxter Healthcare in Deerfield, Illinois leading a team responsible for divisional balance sheet and cash flow reporting, government price reporting, and internal controls processes.  She spent over fourteen years at Baxter working in various internal audit and finance functions.  Prior to Baxter, Amanda spent time at KPMG, LLC performing information security audits for clients in the insurance and food and beverage industries in the greater Chicagoland area.

Amanda has a BS in Accounting from Florida State University and a Masters in Accounting Information Systems from Arizona State University.

Work Philosophy: Get your work done, maintain a positive attitude, and respect and support others.

Advice for Students: Volunteer for new projects, tasks, or responsibilities.  One of the best ways to keep learning, developing, and advancing in your career is to get out of your comfort zone and take on something new.  Don’t wait for an invitation to add to your skill set.  Remember that you own your career!

Type of Student I hope to mentor: Accounting or Finance Majors

Brandon Abney

JP Morgan Chase & Co. - Vice President, Senior Commercial Underwriter

Brandon Abney is a Senior Underwriter for JP Morgan Chase Bank working to support Middle Market companies in East Tennessee.  Middle Market commercial banking is a segment of the Chase Commercial Bank that serves clients with revenues ranging mostly between $20 million to $500 million. Previously, Brandon served as a Portfolio Manager in the Corporate Banking group at First Tennessee Bank.

Areas of expertise include: Commercial Banking; Credit/Analytical Skills, Financial Analysis, and Leadership.

A life long resident of Chattanooga and proud Moc, Brandon received his BA in Economics-Pre Law from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2002.  While at UTC, Brandon developed a passion for business and served in many leadership positions on campus and was a member of a Southern Conference winning tennis team. After a few years of working and desire to progress in his career, Brandon went back to UTC and received his MBA in 2007. 

As a volunteer, Brandon focuses his attention mostly at his church in East Brainerd as well as UTC where he served as Vice President of the Alumni Board.  Other activities include being a United Way Emerging Leader Advisory Board member, a TNachieves mentor, and Chattanooga Leadership. Brandon lives in Ooltewah with his wife Cortney (also a Moc) and two beautiful little girls.

Work Philospohy: Have fun, enjoy what you do, and always be a Team Player!

Best Advice for Students: Be Confident but Be Humble! Once I got over my ego and started listening and engaging with others, I discovered that I can learn something new from everyone (no matter their age or experience).   If you are not constantly learning and growing in life (personally and professionally), you are falling behind.   

Type of student I hope to mentor: A student who is passionate about business and one that is interested in banking/finance. 

Emmanuel Escobar

EPB - Talent Development

Emmanuel has been serving in the recruitment department for EPB since 2015 and in his words, "I love it! There is nothing like the thrill of finding the perfect person for the job and knowing that they would be a great fit for the company."  Beyond recruiting, Emmanuel has a variety of experience ranging from Human Resources, Social Work, Management, Graphic Design and Video Production.

Emmanuel is the type of person who jumps first and asks questions on the way down - if something is worth doing, then it is worth doing with full commitment. He is a firm believer that although chasing your passions is a good idea, bringing your passion with you, regardless of where you end up, is even better.

Originally from Mexico, Emmanuel is bilingual, and enjoys bringing a different perspective to organizations that can often deliver fresh ideas and solutions. He lives in Chattanooga, TN with his wife and son, and enjoys spending time outdoors or at comic book stores.

Work Philosophy: I firmly believe that we are better together. There is no task that is not made easier with many hands working on it. With that said, I highly value trust and the fostering of relationships. After all, these are the pillars that differentiate great teams from simple working groups. Before starting a task let’s spend time together, learn our strengths and find what tasks are better done by whom.

Best Advice for Students: Be passionate - regardless if your first shot in the professional world is what you always dreamed of or not. Being passionate about your work makes you shine like a beacon to management and opens the door to start relationships that will help you get closer to your goals. Passionate people are magnetic, so be someone other people want to be around. You never know when one of those people might offer you your "dream" job.

Type of student I hope to mentor: An individual who is humble, driven and wants to be motivated to become a risk taker. Thinking your moves out is of absolute importance, but few things are as heart-breaking as people that are fully capable but are simply too scared to act. One of my passions is pushing people off metaphorical cliffs. If you want to fly, I want to talk to you.

Kaia Lindsay Moore

MediTract - Senior Educational Consultant

Kaia Lindsay Moore is a Senior Educational Consultant for a healthcare SaaS company called MediTract. Kaia’s work as an Educational Consultant focuses on the training of adults to leverage software solutions that make hospital contracting, time-keeping, credentialing, and reporting much easier within healthcare organizations & hospitals. In addition to her current role Kaia spent the first several years of her professional career exploring some other fields:

  • Hospitality (Marriott)
  • Insurance & Benefits (Unum)
  • Non-Profit/Community Events & Programs (Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce)

Kaia is a Wisconsin native and Chattanooga resident who is working on building a community that embraces young professionals and a career that challenges her daily. Kaia received a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Covenant College, with an emphasis on sociology, business and English/Communications. During her undergrad, Kaia worked for the Dean of Students, held the position of the Director for the Campus Activities Board and the Tartan Editor in Chief (Covenant College Yearbook).

Outside of her work, Kaia serves as the President for Young Professionals of Chattanooga, which is focused on investing in Chattanooga’s future leaders (ages 21-40). Additionally, Kaia has volunteered for/is passionate about: Step Up Chattanooga, Homes & Havens, Big Brothers Big Sisters. Kaia enjoys writing, hiking, and storytelling.

Work Philosophy: It’s a silly saying, but I say it often: teamwork makes the dream work. You are nothing if you do not learn how to work alongside people and be a team player with both those you admire, those you butt heads with, and those you truly do not respect. And as a disclaimer, being a team player doesn’t mean you can’t or wont be a team leader. It just means you’ll be better in tune with what the team needs in order to rise to the occasion.

Best advice for students: I would borrow some of what I’ve shared above. But also encourage students that it’s ok to be unsure about every single step along the way. The important thing is to act on something. Every little thing you do will teach you more about yourself and what is the right thing for you right now, and potentially years down the road. No need to map the next decade out.

Type of Student I Hope to Mentor: I hope to mentor a student that is self-aware, confident in their skills and interests – but may feel a sense of reserve when it comes to an exact path or way in which to execute on their interests. Ideally, I would like to mentor a student that is very sure of themselves, excited for their future, but potentially struggles with execution or is frozen with indecision.

Bryce Thomas

Northwestern Mutual -  Managing Director (Chattanooga)

Bryce joined Northwestern Mutual as a financial advisor in 2006. He played baseball and graduated magna cum laude from Carson Newman college with a major in Business Administration and a minor in Political Science. As a financial advisor, he helps clients accomplish their short, mid, and long term financial goals. In 2011, he was appointed Managing Director. The managing director role is designed to be a “player-coach”. He continues to help his clients achieve their goals and also attracts and mentors new advisors in Chattanooga and surrounding cities. He owes his success to God, parents that had high expectations of him, an amazing wife, and a great team.

Work philosophy: Most people determine their success by how they are doing compared to their past and compared to their peers. What if we approached life based on our potential?

Best advice for Students: Every class you have, every relationship you have, all experiences you have, good or bad, are preparing you for your future.

Type of student I hope to mentor: Motivated, committed, and eager to grow.

Melody Peace

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) - Senior Manager, Regulatory Assurance

Melody is a TN licensed CPA with a career spanning audit, tax, forensic investigations, risk, treasury, and project and change management.  After joining TVA in 2009, Melody supported Power Supply and Fuels, Coal and Gas Operations, Information Technology, and Nuclear Operations as a manager in the Financial Operations and Performance organization in TVA Financial Services.  In 2017, Melody transitioned to the role of Senior Manager of Regulatory Assurance and Compliance under TVA’s Office of General Counsel.  In her current role, she has the opportunity to fulfill TVA’s mission to serve the people of the Tennessee Valley by influencing Local Power Companies to charge the lowest feasible rates and ensure compliance with TVA’s wholesale power contract.  Melody holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Tennessee Technological University.  She currently lives in Georgia and works in Chattanooga, but her favorite place to be is camping and cooking outside in Lodge Dutch Ovens with her three kids and husband in the mountains of Northeast TN.

Work Philosophy:

  • Maintain a strategic focus to ensure you are working on the issues that make the greatest positive impact to your customers and the people you serve.
  • Always seek ways to make your product, your team, and the world around you better. Never stop improving.
  • Leaders should serve those people who follow them by finding ways to remove barriers to getting the work done.
  • The greatest leaders do not give people what they want. They give them what they need.

Best Advice for Students: Put your focus on building your foundation, not on climbing a ladder. The broader the foundation, the stronger the foundation.  Ladders fall easily.  Picture your career as a lattice with moves up, sideways and down, allowing you to focus on learning about all aspects of the business.  You will become a more valuable resource for any employer.

Type of Student I Hope to Mentor: Enthusiastic, diligent learner who seeks answers by asking questions and recognizes they don’t know everything but who continues to strive for continous self improvement. Personality type doesn’t matter, but I would prefer an accounting or finance major.

Jim Ledbetter

Hanover Properties - Owner/Operator

Jim Ledbetter is a small business entrepreneur, who founded Barcom, Inc in 1991.  Barcom is a Chattanooga based technology company focused on data collection, factory automation and supply chain automation.  As President of Barcom, Jim lead a 20-person team of sales, programmers, technicians and support staff.  Jim sold the company in 2007.  Currently Jim owns and operates Hanover Properties, a property management company. 

Jim attended UTC, graduating in 1980 with a BS in Business and a concentration in Marketing.  After graduation, Jim went to work for Burroughs (now Unisys) as a Sales Account Representative, selling mainframe computers and software in the Healthcare industry.  In 1986, he went to work for Wang Labs in an Account Representative role, selling Computers and Applications to select large accounts.  At both Burroughs and Wang, Jim was consistently a top performer and achieved President Club (or equivalent) on numerous occasions.    

Work Philosophy: A quote attributed to Confucius and many others drives my thinking about work “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”.  Though it would be far reaching to say I enjoyed every single day, the days I loved far outweigh any ‘work’ days.  Doing something that you enjoy is the difference between wondering where the day went and looking forward to the next day versus watching a clock and waiting for Friday to arrive.  It’s the difference between feeling proud of your accomplishments and collecting a paycheck. 

Best Advice for Students and Pending Graduates: Test the waters as much as possible and as early as possible.  I firmly believe that students should enter their selected careers with a thorough understanding of what they should expect when they enter the work force.  Before graduating (the earlier the better) the student should do as many career-based activities as possible.  Activities such as:  Internships, Meeting and Networking, Researching, attending career related events, talking with recent graduates and joining career related organizations. 

Type of student I hope to mentor: Someone who has a general idea of their direction and goals but who has not fully formulated their approach on getting there.  Because of my background and experiences, a mentee with aspirations toward Entrepreneurship, Sales or Management would be ideal. 

Sean Slaughter

Enterprise Holdings, Inc. - Area Manager

Sean Slaughter is the Area Manager for Enterprise Holdings, Inc, the parent company for Enterprise, National, and Alamo Rent-a-Car.  Hired in 2010 into the Management Trainee program, Sean quickly moved up the corporate ladder due to his goal-driven mentality and passion to be successful.  Since 2014, he has been tasked with running the Chattanooga and North Georgia rental car markets, spanning from Dalton, GA to Cleveland, TN.  With monthly revenue numbers regularly eclipsing $1 million, Sean personally manages nine independent stores with a combined fleet of over 1400 rental cars and a staff of over 75 employees.   The best way to define his current role would be as a coach.  On a daily basis, he is tasked with increasing all business-necessary KPIs, but his most important responsibility is developing his leadership team to be the best in the industry.  Most recently, his team has been ranked as the one of the most balanced Areas in the State when measuring customer service, sales, growth, and employee retention (July 2018).

In addition to his role at Enterprise, Sean recently co-founded a start-up company named Watcep, LLC.  Watcep is a staffing agency founded to bring global diversity to Chattanooga through international recruiting.  Sean co-founded this company to increase awareness of the community’s need for diversity while simultaneously filling Chattanooga’s job market needs. 

In May 2018, Sean graduated from the Young Protégé Mentorship Program through the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce.  He was chosen as the Program’s speaker for the class’s commencement ceremony.  He is a member of the Emerging Leaders of Chattanooga through the United Way.  Additionally, he is a committee member  for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Chattanooga.  Most recently, he was selected as the Director of Professional Development for Young Professionals of Chattanooga.  YPC’s mission is to create opportunities for young professionals to connect and grow into future leaders of the city.  As Director, Sean is charged with creating professional development events to cultivate the growth of the future community leaders and the organization.

Sean is a graduate of UTC where he majored in Sport and Leisure Service Administration and Entrepreneurship while also playing football for the Mocs.  He and his wife Leisl are non-Chattanooga natives, but now call the city their home.  They recently had their first child, a daughter named Harmon, in July. 

Work Philosophy:  You have to enjoy what you do.  If you don’t, go do something else.  Life is too short to be stuck in a job that you hate.  When you find your passion, excel in your role.  Learn the intricacies of your business, and know it inside and out.  Did I go to school to rent cars for a living?  No.  I went to school to run a business.   Renting cars is a small piece of the giant business that I operate.

Best Advice for Students:  Get involved in anything and everything when first starting your career.  Think of your post-graduate professional career as a funnel:  start very broad and work your way down.  Chattanooga is an awesome place to get connected both personally and professionally.  Join kickball leagues.  Become a member of a club, Greek organization, or YPC.  Attend social happy hours.  I have made some fantastic business connections through recreational activities.  Most importantly, put yourself out there and get noticed.

Type of student I hope to mentor:  Someone who is lost, confused, or timid about embarking on the adventure of life.  I am a great connector, networker, and all around positive guy, and would love to help!

Todd Dockery

UTC - Director, Human Resources

Todd provides strategic planning and oversight for UTC's Human Resources Department and develops, designs and implements Human Resources programs that impact the university's employee workforce.

Todd holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a double concentration in General Management and Human Resource Management and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Todd is also a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS), Professional in Human Resources (PHR), SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP), Group Benefits Associate (GBA), Compensation Management Specialist (CMS) and a Rule 31 Listed Mediator (General Civil) with the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Todd has several years of progressive HR and business leadership experience.  This includes serving as a Personnel Administration Sergeant in the United States Army, a Human Resources leader for a long term acute care hospital, a compensation and benefits manager for two large, multi-state transportation companies, the HR Director for the City of Chattanooga and as a member of the executive Human Resources team for a state wide nonprofit. 

In his free time, Todd spends as much time as possible with his family.  He is an Elvis fan, collects PEZ dispensers and enjoys riding in his 1963 Imperial Convertible.

Work Philosophy: Work hard, have fun and always be professional.  

Best Advice for Students: Always look at life as an opportunity to learn more.  Your education does not end when you graduate from college - that’s when it truly begins.  Volunteer and get involved with your community.  Find things that you are passionate about.

Type of student I hope to mentor: Any student who wants to learn more about Human Resources, Management/Leadership, or PEZ dispensers.

Danielle Rhodes

HR Business Partner and Senior Consultant

Danielle is an HR Business Partner and Sr. Consultant who focuses primary on strategic planning and oversight of HR programs, projects and talent development.  Prior to launching her new career, she worked for EPB leading Talent Acquisition for nearly 9 years. This includes experience in Compensation, Benefits Administration, Leave, Performance Management and Recruiting. Danielle is a lifelong learner who believes in seizing the right opportunity & making the most out of it. 

Danielle holds a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management and an MBA degree. In addition she received her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and an A.A.S in Biochemistry and Criminal Justice. She graduated the Policy Academy in 2006 before refocusing her career and education to business. She currently holds a PHR and SHRM-CP certification and is a member of SHRM Local Chapter, SHRM National, NACE and SOACE.  In addition to her education and desire to continually learn, she graduated from the inaugural class of Protégé Chattanooga in 2012.

Danielle is originally a native from California and moved to Tennessee in 2007. She and her husband live in Cleveland, TN with their 3 children, Kendra (8), Kaleb (7) and Remedy (4). She is actively involved as a volunteer for United Way, Ronald McDonald House and Blood Assurance and currently serves as an Ambassador for Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation. In her spare time she enjoys being outdoors, traveling and spending time with her family.

Work Philosophy: I am a firm believer of Winston Churchill’s quote, “difficulties mastered are opportunities won”. Don’t say no and always try what scares you. I have taken on many opportunities that scared me. That is how I knew I was going in the right direction. To experience growth, we have to be stretched and made uncomfortable sometimes. That is what makes the difficulties so rewarding.

Best Advice for Students:  Don’t be afraid to try something and fail; learn from it and move on. In the same regard, don’t be afraid to try something you think you are passionate about all to realize you don’t really enjoy it. All too often, we try to make our careers fit into a box that we have designed. Try new things and experiment. Innovation doesn’t come from doing what someone tells you to do.

Type of student I hope to mentor:  I hope to mentor a student who is trying to figure out what they want to do but knows what excites them. I am looking for a student who is self-motivated and takes initiative for their own success.  I have a lot of experience and knowledge that I can share but I also know that I still have a lot to learn and I want to learn from my mentee.