For Lindsay Price, taking part in OnBoard Birmingham was a leap out of her comfort zone.
“I’m normally uncomfortable going up to people and making small talk conversation,” she said. “I’m not opposed to conversation in general, I’m just not a conversation starter. However, I had the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone at OnBoard Birmingham and meet some great people.”
Originally from Montgomery, Price chose to move to Birmingham rather than return home after college because she felt the Magic City had more options than her hometown and was growing at a faster rate. Joining OnBoard Birmingham, as a self-proclaimed introvert, was a new and uncomfortable experience but one she’s glad she had the courage to take part in.
“You have more things in common with people than you think,” she said. “It was definitely out of my comfort zone, but it was a great experience.”
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
College/University: University of Louisville
Career: Associate director of scholarships and high ability admissions at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)
Liz O’Sullivan moved to Birmingham in August 2017, and before that had lived in Louisville, Kentucky for 12 years. She had built a strong support network there, she said, and uprooted everything to move to the Magic City. The homesickness feeling was comparable to that of a first semester freshman in college, she said.
“The first few months I was waking up with a sense of ‘What have I done?’” she said. “I loved UAB and my job, but not so much Birmingham. I didn’t feel connected to the city at all, and I was having a hard time making it feel like home. I didn’t know good restaurants, fun activities or what Birmingham had to offer.”
Then, her boss told her about OnBoard Birmingham and things changed.
“I was able to meet other people and I made some good friends through OnBoard,” O’Sullivan said. “Learning about the city made me feel more connected. It made me aware of how many young people are moving here for work, and made me aware of opportunities in Birmingham that I likely wouldn’t be getting in another city.”
Now, she said, she’ll tell lifelong residents of Birmingham fun facts about the city that they didn’t know.
“When they ask ‘How did you know that?’ I say ‘I learned it in OnBoard!’” she said.
Pre-OnBoard Birmingham, O’Sullivan said she wouldn’t have said yes to staying in Birmingham long-term. That’s not the case anymore.
“I think I could,” she said. “I’ve never loved a job the way I love my job, and I’ve never been able to make connections with people outside of my field as quickly. I definitely don’t have any plans to apply elsewhere anytime soon.”
Hometown: Santa Barbara, California
College/University: Jefferson State Community College
Career: Help desk analyst at Motion Industries
As Erik Segura tells it, he’s a highly introverted person. When he showed up at his first OnBoard Birmingham event, he was very uncomfortable – but he pushed through anyway.
“It’s the best way to grow and network,” he said. “It was a fantastic opportunity as an incredibly shy introvert, to do things I’d never done otherwise. I have OnBoard Birmingham to thank for that.”
Segura got to meet the superintendent of the Birmingham City Schools Dr. Lisa Herring and Mayor Randall Woodfin, whose passionate speech left him so inspired that Segura still thinks about it today.
“I am still quite moved when I think of that day,” he said.
The OnBoard Birmingham experience opened his eyes to what’s happening in Birmingham and inspired within him the desire to serve his city, he said. He enjoyed a visit to the Birmingham Museum of Art and eating at different food trucks at Trucks By the Track.
“Food is the quickest way to my heart,” he said. “I got to try a lot of food and restaurants I never knew existed and support local businesses as opposed to chains.”
Hometown: Niceville, Florida
College/University: University of Florida and University of Alabama School of Law
Career: Associate attorney at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings
Jake Gipson’s first exposure to Birmingham was when he clerked for a judge in Birmingham. He knew even then he wanted to live in the Magic City long-term.
That was nearly five years ago, and since then Birmingham has become his adopted hometown. Though he said he was already familiar with Birmingham since he had lived here for a few years, taking part in OnBoard Birmingham introduced him to other young professionals who worked at different companies he’d never heard of before.
“It was nice to meet other folks in the same boat and network with them,” he said. “It’s a cool way to hear about what’s going on around Birmingham.”
He also learned more about economic development through the program, he said.
“I had not been exposed to that,” Gipson said. “It was really interesting to hear about that, and how economic development works.”
Mostly, Gipson said, the relationships he gained made the experience worthwhile.
“The biggest thing for me was getting to meet other folks in the community,” he said. “That was the highlight for me.”
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
College/University: Florida State University
Career: Industry Cluster Coordinator at Central Six AlabamaWorks!
As a part of her work, Kristen Holder is a connector between various industries and different resource partners, helping employers address their workforce needs. OnBoard Birmingham was able to serve as the connector between Holder and Birmingham, where she relocated to in August 2017.
“[Before OnBoard Birmingham] I had trouble relating to the city and didn’t know what all Birmingham had to offer,” she said. “A lot of people I work with have been here a long time and understood the inner workings of everything. I struggled with understanding and didn’t know the city well, and OnBoard really helped with giving me the bigger picture of the area and taking a deeper dive into what Birmingham is and what it has to offer.”
OnBoard Birmingham introduced her to other young professionals and to the deep culture of Birmingham, taking her everywhere from Sloss Furnaces and Civil Rights landmarks to Avondale Brewing and Top Golf.
“Birmingham offers diversity and a progressive community here that I didn’t expect,” she said. “I think there is a pretty good chance I see myself being in Birmingham longer than I expected. I started to fall in love with the city.”
Hometown: Aurora, Ohio
College/University: Ohio State University
Career: Marketing strategist at MotionMobs
Vaughn Hunt arrived in Birmingham last fall as a Venture for America fellow, a two-year fellowship comprised of recent college graduates committed to growing the economic environment in the city where they are planted. Originally from Ohio, when Hunt joined OnBoard Birmingham it was a relief to see he wasn’t the only one new to Birmingham.
“It was really cool to meet other people new to Birmingham and to break the unfamiliarity bubble, knowing you’re not the only one getting acclimated to the city from different parts of the country,” he said.
OnBoard Birmingham gave Hunt a sense of history about his newly adopted city and the chance to see the direction the city is headed.
“I get the opportunity to be more involved in making changes to Birmingham,” Hunt said.
His favorite part about Birmingham?
“Meeting people,” he said. “It’s easy to reach out to someone, and everyone is really receptive about trying to meet, which is cool.”
Hometown: Houston, Texas
College/University: University of Texas at Austin
Career: SAP Ariba Administrator at BBVA Compass
To some, a move to Birmingham means a move to the big city. But for Kruti Malkan, who hails from Houston, Texas – the fourth largest city in the United States – it felt like moving to a small town when she arrived in July 2017.
“I didn’t know how I would fit in,” she said.
When she was in college at the University of Texas at Austin, she was surrounded by family and friends. Now, suddenly, she was a flight away from home. She had never lived on her own outside of Texas before.
“Choosing to come to Birmingham was an exciting opportunity for me, not only to start my professional career, but to live in a city where I could meet new people and expand my horizons as a young professional,” Malkan said.
One way she did that was by joining OnBoard Birmingham. She learned the history of her new city, learned about different small businesses that make up Birmingham, gained professional networking experience and even met Mayor Randall Woodfin.
“I got to meet different people from across the country, coming together and unifying in one city,” she said. “The program made me feel comfortable and made Birmingham feel more like home to me.”
Malkan can see herself in Birmingham long-term because her professional growth and development has been more than she expected, she said.
“Opportunities here are more than elsewhere, not only professionally, but also socially,” Malkan said. “Through OnBoard, I gained a widened perspective of how a small city can be, and how big the community and culture is here.”
Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
College/University: University of Alabama
Career: STEM education specialist at Southern Research
Liz Johnson is from Birmingham and she grew up in the suburbs, but didn’t spend much time as a child and teenager in the heart of Birmingham. So, when she took a job at Southern Research last August after spending 11 years in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama getting her bachelor’s degree and Ph.D., she came back as a blank slate.
“Birmingham has changed so much in 11 years,” Johnson said. “I’ve seen a lot of great improvements from the city as a whole, and I like the direction it’s going. I attribute Birmingham’s positive growth as to why I’ve been so happy [since moving back], and OnBoard Birmingham had a role to play in that.”
Through OnBoard Birmingham, Johnson learned history about her hometown she didn’t know, and she got to network and meet new people.
“It’s nice getting a different perspective on the city I live and work in now,” she said. “OnBoard was really eye-opening and allowed me to have a deeper love for the city that I didn’t realize I had.”
Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
College/University: Wake Forest University and Marymount University
Career: Director of Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center
Caroline McClain has lived in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Latin America. She took a year abroad to research and backpack. Yet, she said, there’s no place like home.
McClain moved back to her hometown of Birmingham two and a half years ago to be close to family and to be part of the revitalization and forward momentum of the city, she said.
“Birmingham is such a different city now than it was when I grew up here,” McClain said. “OnBoard puts together a completely different, fresh, new approach to seeing Birmingham, a lot of which has been there the entire time but something I didn’t necessarily know about fully from growing up here.”
One of the best parts of OnBoard Birmingham for McClain?
“Being able to connect with a likeminded group of people that have also lived and worked in other areas of the country or the world,” she said.