News & Stories
Alex Rakestraw
January 4, 2023

Grounded in Berry’s Work Ethic, Alum Sees Career Take Off at Delta

From COVID-19 to unpredictable temperatures, the fuel and travel industries have weathered a rocky road, with professionals under pressure to deliver quality services expected by customers. Up for this challenge, Alex Rakestraw ’18 rose through the ranks at Delta Air Lines to senior fuel analyst within three years of graduation. He says the consistency, discipline and persistence demanded by student work experiences at Berry contributed to his climb in business.

When Rakestraw transferred to Berry as a sophomore management major, a friend helped him plug into Berry College Student Enterprises (15 student-run businesses on campus). Starting as a farmhand at Season’s Harvest, he moved up to general manager of the Jersey Milk Enterprise, which markets a line of artisan cheeses made from the milk produced by the college’s award-winning herd. At the same time, Rakestraw changed his major to marketing because the classes appealed to his creativity.

He combined his selling flair and management skills while tackling the new role. “I had a real knack for sales,” Rakestraw remembers. “I had family that owned cows, but I was more interested in learning business principles. It was all fitting together with my classes. At the time, the general manager position was the sole employee of the Jersey Milk Enterprise, and I was drawn to that challenge.”

Rakestraw accomplished the ambitious goal he set to double Jersey Milk’s yearly revenue. He went on to guide the business in turning a profit while partnering with other enterprises to create a Berry gift basket. “The enterprises allowed me to think outside of the box. It was an open door,” Rakestraw says. “I was having a real business experience with room to fail and learn from mistakes. It was a one-of-a-kind opportunity.”

Before joining Delta, he interned at a church and worked for Lowes for a short period until he found his fit. Reflecting on this transition, Rakestraw advises college students: “It’s okay if you don’t have everything buttoned up that you think you need in college. What does matter is that you have a strong work ethic and character to match that work ethic. Think broadly about industry and be flexible with your expectations about where you might work.”

During interviews with Delta, he referenced hands-on experiences garnered at Berry and even included the business balance sheet for Jersey Milk. “I had no experience in the fuel industry when I interviewed for the Delta job, but the industry was looking for a teachable, hard worker,” Rakestraw says.

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