USFSM students invited to ‘CEO Unplugged’ talk this week

Dealers United CEO Pete Petersen

Dealers United CEO Pete Petersen

SARASOTA, Fla. (Oct. 20, 2015) – Alum Pete Petersen appreciates his time at USF Sarasota-Manatee but says experience counts as much as education for employers looking to fill jobs.

“It’s important to have a good healthy balance between education and real-world experience, which is why internships and networking are so important,” says the 36-year-old Petersen, who graduated with a degree in business management last spring.

He should know. He’s the chief executive officer of Sarasota-based Dealers United, a purchaser of products and services such as digital advertising for more than 6,000 car dealerships nationwide.

Petersen, who says he’s aiming to give back to his alma mater, has scheduled an off-campus round-table discussion Thursday night for USFSM students to talk about his current job and his career in the tech industry before USFSM – including stints at S-One Holdings Inc., Firewall Group, Lightspeed NetSolutions and Intrawest Inc.

“I gained a lot from my career. I sold my first business at age 23,” he said. “USF Sarasota-Manatee was great, but for me I also gained a lot from my early work experiences.”

He recommended that students network and focus on internships to gain valuable job experience, but stressed the importance of a college degree: “Education is very powerful. It can open doors.”

Toni Ripo, coordinator of career services, said Petersen’s story, coupled with sound, practical advice, could inspire students. Dr. Jim Curran, dean of the College of Business, said he welcomed the presentation.

“We love events like this that allow current students to connect with alumni, who fully understand what it is like to be in their place,” he said. “This will allow the students to see some of the possibilities that the business world could present to them.”

Petersen’s talk is open to the public, but USF Sarasota-Manatee students in particular are asked to attend. The talk includes a Q&A session afterward. Dubbed “CEO Unplugged,” the discussion is set for 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the HuB, 1680 Fruitville Road, Sarasota.

The event is free, but registration is requested. Please visit

To learn more about USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Business, visit