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Crafting careers

Posted 3 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Nathan Purtell, ’19, and Whitney Alibrandi, ’10, have used their UWL education to brew up great careers at City Brewery.

UWL education paving the way to successful careers at City Brewery

Cheers to Whitney Alibrandi, ’10, and Nathan Purtell, ’19, who have used their UWL education to brew up great careers.  

Alibrandi and Purtell both graduated from UWL with a degree in biology before starting their next adventure as quality assurance technicians for one of the most recognizable businesses in La Crosse: City Brewery. 

The company operates in the same facilities that German immigrants John Gund and Gottlieb Heileman used to launch their well-known brewing business, named G. Heileman Brewery, in 1858. After several ownership changes, the brewery was eventually rebranded to City Brewery in the late 1990s.

“I have so much pride working for City Brewery,” Alibrandi says. “It has been a La Crosse staple for generations and one of the leading contract beverage manufacturers in the nation. If you’re from the area, it’s very likely you know someone who has worked here. The same goes for UWL; it’s a major part of the La Crosse community.”

Alibrandi found that the skills she learned in her UWL courses set her up for success in the industry.

Purtell believes the experiences he gained during labs at UWL helped prepare him for his role. University labs stress safety, chemical understanding and adherence to standard operating procedures (SOP), which Purtell says he found useful and came to mind often during the start of his career.  

Alibrandi also found that the skills she learned in her UWL courses set her up for success in the industry.  

“UWL helped provide me with the structural framework for critical, fast-paced thinking and problem-solving skills,” Alibrandi says. “The university fostered a passion for continuous learning, which is crucial in this ever-evolving industry.”  

After a couple years in the quality assurance position, Alibrandi and Purtell moved on to work as quality coordinators, which allowed them to interact with customers along with spending time in the microbiology lab. Now, Alibrandi has transitioned into a full-time microbiologist, and Purtell has become a brewing supervisor.  

“UWL laid the foundation for my career, and being able to build on that foundation at City Brewery has been invaluable,” Alibrandi says. “This journey has definitely influenced my perspective on the importance of fostering local talent.” 

For students interested in a career path like Alibrandi’s or Purtell’s, Alibrandi suggests taking advantage of opportunities to complete certificate courses and continuous education programs. Not only will this help to keep up with current trends and enhance education, but it can also open doors for networking opportunities.  

“Any hands-on experience through internships in a lab or food production facility is also a great way to see what direction you would like to take your career,” Alibrandi says. “Be open to new opportunities when they present themselves, have a good attitude, and hone in on soft skills like communication and teamwork.”

Purtell believes the experiences he gained during labs at UWL helped prepare him for his role.

With a versatile major like biology, Purtell admits he did not expect to have the career he has now.  

“There are a lot of options when it comes to food manufacturing,” Purtell says. “The best advice I could give is to look for something you are interested in and find a way to explore it further. I, like most college students, enjoyed beer. I was always interested in the process behind it and saw an opportunity to grow in that direction. I didn’t expect this result, but I’m happy with it.”  

Purtell believes the best way to support young professionals is by showing pathways to success.  

“People measure success differently depending on what goals they want to achieve,” he says. “There can be trade-offs in the professional world, and finding what works for you is important.”  

Alibrandi and Purtell see the benefits of providing opportunities for young, local professionals, as it not only enriches their careers but also contributes to the growth of local industries and the development of stronger communities. 

“I work firsthand with young professionals from UWL and am continuously impressed by the talent that comes our way,” Alibrandi says. “It’s rewarding to know that City Brewery continues to invest in their journey to reach their career goals, just as it did mine.”


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