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The City Journals

Hillcrest High students shadow professionals to learn about careers

Apr 09, 2018 11:55AM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High School junior Julie Ashby met Larry H. Miller Group of Companies CEO Gail Miller while job shadowing as part of Canyons School District’s annual career and technical education job shadow day. (Canyons School District)

Hillcrest High School junior Julie Ashby arrived at the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies early enough to find the correct place she needed to be for Canyons School District’s annual career and technical education job shadow day. 

Only, Julie went to the wrong building so she asked another woman who parked next to her for directions. She politely directed her to the correct location and started talking to her about school and her career plans. 

“I asked her what she does at the company and she said, ‘I’m the owner,’” Julie said. “It was only then did I realize I was actually talking to Gail Miller. She was so friendly and went out of her way to help me.”

Those qualities are some of which Miller hit upon during her luncheon address to about 100 students and representatives from 40 companies that took part in the event. Students spent the morning job shadowing professionals in fields such as marketing, architecture, medicine, finance and others before networking with them during lunch.

As chief operating officer, Miller oversees 11,000 people in 80 companies in 46 states. She was a silent partner in the family business until her husband, Larry, died of complications of diabetes in 2009.

“I certainly didn’t need the headache of running a business that large, and I didn’t need the money,” she told students, but it was the responsibility of continuing the family legacy and values she wanted to continue—much of which resonated with Julie.

Of the values Miller related, she told them, “Treat employees and customers and those with whom you interact with respect. You’re not better than anyone else so treat them with kindness you’d want in return. People are our most valuable asset.”

Miller, who put money into perspective (“Use it wisely so you don’t become a slave to it”) also told students, “Don’t forget your roots—where you can from—that’s where your values come from and that is part of you.” 

She recalled how they started out with one Toyota dealership in Murray before expanding to more than 60 car dealerships as well as professional sports teams, movie theatres and more. Miller still owns the original dealership today.

“Give back to the community and pay it forward. No one can make it alone; the success belongs to those who also contribute,” she said, adding that they should share the knowledge they’ve learned as well as ask for help along the way. “Don’t be afraid to lead. Be a student always; learn something every day to add richness to your life.”

With Miller’s help, Julie found Sandra Halladay, Larry H. Miller Total Care Auto compliance director, whom she job shadowed and learned about LLCs, contracts, changing business laws and statute and all the “legal part” behind car insurance.

“It’s fascinating, but a lot of work to keep up-to-date what is going,” said Julie, who wants to pursue a career in the business field. “It was exciting to learn from her what is out there.”

Canyons District CTE Coordinator Patti Larkin said that this opportunity linked students from all five Canyons traditional high schools as well as Canyons Technical Education Center with larger companies, such as eBay, O.C. Tanner, Larry H. Miller Group of Companies and Hunt Electronics, which supported the job shadow day and allowed students to explore careers in engineering, IT, medicine and diesel.

Canyons Superintendent Jim Briscoe applauded students for getting a jumpstart in researching possible careers.

“This will make a huge difference as you move on after high school; you’ll have this experience to know if these careers are your passion and a field you want to pursue,” he said.

Canyons Board of Education member Nancy Tingey said that the opportunity was great.

“These community members support our students and give them the opportunity to receive valuable experience,” she said.

Miller challenged students not only to think about their paths, but improving those around them.

“Wherever you go and whatever you do, do something that makes a difference in this world,” she said. “Light your fire and while looking for your success, help others who are doing the same thing.”