Friends who bleed purple: Two UNI alums work together in business, life
It’s a bit of a running joke between two good friends: Tony Pollastrini (Marketing ’07) has gotten Ty Burke (Education ’07) every job he’s ever had. Today, the two University of Northern Iowa alums work as partners with The Accel Group, an Iowa-based insurance company.
Pollastrini and Burke met each other as freshmen at UNI. Burke was a wrestler and Pollastrini’s roommate was on the team. Starting in their sophomore years, Burke and Pollastrini lived together and became good friends.
Pollastrini was active in the UNIBusiness school, working within Pi Sigma Epsilon and as a Student Alumni Ambassador. He competed in regional and national sales competitions, where he actually connected with this first employer, Federated Insurance in the Cedar Valley.
“I loved the business school,” Pollastrini said. “They provided a lot of opportunities to get involved. And if you take advantage of those opportunities, it can give you a lot of exposure. It was second to none.”
Burke had aspirations for business, too. His goal was to work in school administration, hopefully becoming a principal or superintendent. While student teaching in his final semester of school, Burke realized many of the skills he learned through UNI organizations were applicable in the business world.
He joined Northwestern Mutual and sold life insurance for about six months before Pollastrini recommended an open position at Federated Insurance in Iowa City. Burke applied and joined the company in 2008.
But both Pollastrini and Burke realized they wanted something a little bit more.
“Something we learned about each other while going through college was that we had an entrepreneurial spirit,” Burke said. “While we are forever grateful for the opportunities and experiences we had to jumpstart our careers, we knew we wanted to attack something bigger.”
Through mutual friends, Pollastrini met Mike Byl, the president of Accel Group. Pollastrini eventually accepted a job with the company in the fall of 2010. Burke, impressed and drawn by the work being done at the Accel Group, reached out and joined Pollastrini in the spring of 2011. Today, both serve as partners at the company and work together in every step of life.
“We unselfishly help each other,” Pollastrini said. “When there are uncomfortable situations in our career, there’s a sounding board you can trust. It’s so much easier to work through. You’re never on your own. That helps drive our successes.”
Burke and Pollastrini still “bleed purple” and connect with professors and coaches at UNI. They love graduates of UNIBusiness because of the unique skillset they bring to the workplace.
“We look forward to evolving that relationship,” Burke said. “Tomorrow’s employee demands a different type of work experience. That excites us. We are eager to build upon the relationship we have with the university and feel fortunate to have access to the next generation of talent in our own backyard.”