The Brown and White spoke with women’s lacrosse alumni Christine Balestra, ‘20, Kellie Gough, ‘19, Julianne D’Orazio, ‘17, and Lauren Beausoleil, ‘17, to reflect on their experiences as student-athletes and learn what they are doing post-graduation.
Question: What are you currently doing professionally?
Christine Balestra: I work for SAP which is an enterprise, software and cloud company. I’m a business development specialist within our services arm, more specifically our premium engagement team, which offers support for our largest, most strategic customers.
Kellie Gough: I have two jobs at the moment. I’m working for IBM in financial consulting and am putting in SAT software. I also got my real estate license on the side and I’ve been working with my mom, who has a team in Annapolis.
Julianne D’Orazio: I work at SAP, a software company. I’m from the Philadelphia suburbs and I work out of (their) Newtown Square office. I’m within the services organization on the strategy and value architecture team.
Lauren Beausoleil: I work for a company called Kosterina. I started seven months ago after changing jobs during COVID-19. It’s a Mediterranean wellness brand and I am a manager of operations, new product development and marketing. Kosterina is primarily a food brand selling high polyphenol, which is super healthy, extra-virgin olive oil from Greece. (We also sell) balsamic vinegars and dark chocolate. We are trying to bring that Greek wellness back to the U.S. I do everything from creating packaging and making sure that our products are cohesive in the look and I run all of our social media and email.
Q: How did Lehigh help you reach your goals?
CB: The Lehigh education is very well regarded, and also being on the lacrosse team I learned how to be a team player. I find that there are a lot of similarities between the lacrosse team and my team in the corporate world. Whether the goal is to win the Patriot League Championship, like it was at Lehigh, or our quarterly bookings target, like it is now, you find that everyone on the team has a role and everyone needs to own theirs to achieve the goal. Drawing those similarities between the lacrosse team and lessons learned there, it’s really transferable to everyone’s professional careers.
KG: Lehigh really helped me mature. I really needed to be thrown into hard situations and learn how to deal with them, which is what the workday is like for most people. You have the education, but it’s really how you deal with problems that come up. That’s what my four years at Lehigh taught me.
JD: One of my good friends worked at SAP and she connected me with a Lehigh alum who also worked there. People know Lehigh, so the reputation of Lehigh and managing the time of being a successful student-athlete at such a college gives you all the skills to translate into the real world.
LB: My second job was at a product development company. During my interview, they asked me to tell them more about Silicon Valley and my experiences at Lehigh. I would for sure say that the program Lehigh offered and that I participated in 100 percent helped me get that job. It was something that really caught their eye and gave me an edge over other people they were interviewing. When I worked at that company, Kosterina was a client of mine, and if you want to weave the threads, I would say that I wouldn’t have found Kosterina without that first company. Without Lehigh, I wouldn’t have gotten that job at the first company.
Q: What are your favorite Lehigh memories?
CB: There are too many good ones, but having the opportunity to play the sport that I absolutely love with 30 of my best friends, with set times to do that every single day is something that I will always cherish. My fondest memories are on the Frank Banko field.
KG: Most of my favorite memories were sports-related. I loved being on a team and being with the same people every day. Some of my favorite memories are big wins, which have stuck with me.
JD: From a lacrosse aspect, gamedays. The Lehigh-Lafayette rivalry week also has to be one of the best memories. I was also a student-athlete mentor, so that orientation day as a whole, too.
LB: Launch Bay C was awesome and such a big learning experience for me. I worked on an idea of mine for a whole summer and met different mentors and entrepreneurs, which was really rewarding and inspired me. We also went to Silicon Valley through the Baker Institute. I was with a lot of other non-athletes, and it was nice to do a trip with people in different sororities and other teams that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get to know if it wasn’t for that trip.
Q: What was your best team moment at Lehigh?
CB: When our season got canceled my senior year, life gave us lemons, and we made lemonade. The team held a mock senior ceremony for us and it was so special. We had no idea they had been planning that because everything had happened so quickly. Although it came from a sad time, it was so cool.
KG: My senior year (when we played) Lafayette. We weren’t having a very good year, but we had never lost to Lafayette, at least while I was there. We were down by three goals with 10 minutes left. We came together and said, “this is our rival, and we are all coming together to get this done.” It was one of the best comeback feelings.
JD: I have two. The Columbia game, my senior year, was actually the coldest game ever and we won in overtime. We also had so many big wins that year. One was against Boston University and my teammate, Laurean Beausoleil, scored the winning goal.
LB: My senior year our class really came together and we had a good dynamic. Even though we had lost our last game at Loyola, we came such a long way and saw the work we had done and how much our program had grown. Obviously, it was not a great loss, but it was a reflection point for all of us.
Q: How has your experience on the women’s lacrosse team shaped you today?
CB: While I absolutely love lacrosse and playing every day, my role as a lacrosse player wasn’t as much as I hoped it would’ve been. I had to shift my mindset early on and embrace that, and I ended up loving my role on the team. I was a relationship-culture girl, and maybe I wasn’t the star lacrosse player, but that was completely fine for me. I really valued those relationships and I still have all of them today. Today, I seek out role models and mentors at work and I really value the relationships I’ve been forming with them.
KG: I came into Lehigh incredibly immature. All of the things you have to face, not only on the lacrosse team, but on any team in the athletics department, you will have hard coaches and people who will expect more out of you. You can either rise to the occasion or not. I came out of Lehigh with such an appreciation for the player and personal development. I came out of Lehigh a much better person, a more responsible person and a more mature person. I give that all to my coaches.
JD: Becoming a leader as a whole and grooming my work ethic. We spent so much time in the athletic department’s leadership development program and I was lucky enough to be involved in that. Being able to have resources on campus developed my leadership skills. Another (thing) is the importance of family and how it translates to after Lehigh because we have such a close-knit group to this day with our alumni, whether you played with them or not.
LB: You don’t realize in the moment how hard you are working until you look back. When I stopped playing after college, I looked back and thought, “I can’t believe we woke up at 5:30 a.m. for 6:00 a.m. workouts.” You don’t realize how much it shapes you, mentally more so than physically. It’s made me who I am as a leader and a communicator, which is so important on and off the field. My willingness to not give up and be competitive is something that’s important in the real world with work.
Q: What advice would you give a current student-athlete?
CB: You never know the true value of the moment until it becomes a memory. Looking back, one gets stuck in the day-to-day as a student-athlete because they’re so busy with exams, practices and lifts. They get caught up in the buzz of everything. But, to have taken a step back and say that I had the opportunity to play the sport I love, surrounded by the people I love, at a place I love, made me realize how special it all is.
KG: Don’t get caught up in the weekly drama. If it’s not going to matter to you in five days, it’s not going to matter to you in five weeks and it’s not going to matter to you in five years. Stop worrying about it. I was stressed about things that I probably didn’t need to be stressed out about looking back on it. Look at the big picture, look at the things that are going to develop you for your future and everything will work out in the end.
JD: Enjoy every moment. Don’t worry too much about the future. There is so much pressure on everyone today that we tend to forget about living in the moment. If you asked me when I was a senior, I’d never tell you that I’d be doing what I am today, and I’m so happy with how it worked out. Another thing I’ll say is to never limit yourself. There were so many times I was told that I’d never be able to do something, and you take everything with a grain of salt, because you, whatever you put your mind to, can do it.
LB: Live it up. There are so many times where I wish I was back in college. It’s such a rare and unique experience, and I’d say to work hard, be a good person and just enjoy it. Appreciate your coaches, appreciate other players and teammates and celebrate the small wins. You’ll remember those moments.