Job: Higher Education Consulting Analyst, Huron Consultants
Location: Chicago, Illinois, to Raleigh, North Carolina
Wes and I were connected by Eric, my interview from last month. I find Wes’s journey with Huron so important to share because he built his credibility in just one year so that he was able to move back home and continue working in the same role. Read on for more on Wes's story. Also, as it turns out, Wes is also friends with a camp friend of mine! The world just keeps getting smaller…
Tell us about your path and how you got to where you are today.
So I’m from Winston-Salem, went to The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill for four years and really loved it. I majored in Business and minored in Spanish. I had a great experience at UNC and from there, I got a job at a consulting firm doing higher education technical consulting. Essentially, it’s implementing these large enterprise resource planning systems at universities. It’s stuff like how they run their payroll, human resources, benefits, accounting, grant management assets, etc. We help them through the changes that come when they switch to this software, so we actually work with them to ensure that we are working with them accurately. I moved to Chicago a year ago for this role because it was something the company required. I liked Chicago and it’s a great city, but it was freezing. I got there in August, and it was 85 degrees. By November, I was ridiculously cold, and people were walking around in their normal clothes still, but I wasn't one of them.
What does your role look like today?
My job requires me to travel four days a week, so Monday through Thursday I am on-site with our clients. I’ve been in New Jersey and Los Angeles most recently, so I fly a little bit of everywhere each week. One of the benefits with this role is its flexibility. If I live near an airport, I can pretty much work from anywhere. My family, girlfriend, and friends are all in North Carolina, but when you travel four days a week and live far away, it’s kind of hard to put roots down. Because of this flexibility, I asked my company last spring if I could move to Raleigh and moved there in July of 2018. I am projected to continue working in LA four days of every week for about the next two years. So I’m pretty much flying from Raleigh to LAX every week for what feels like the rest of my life! But things can change, so you never know. It keeps things interesting.
How did you go about asking to move to Raleigh?
In our company, every person is assigned a “coach” who is a steady person to offer you advice and seek feedback from the managers you are in direct contact on a regular basis. I talked to my coach, asked about the process, and she connected me with the right person. I gave my pitch and approached it from the perspective that I have been here for a year, I feel like I have my roots down in this company and have made a good network for myself. I told him I understood what this company is all about and I won’t lose that by moving, and I did mention to him that it has been really hard being away from my family and girlfriend. So it got approved and here I am.
Do you enjoy traveling four days out of the week?
Yes and no. Traveling definitely keeps things mixed up. My company does a good job of making sure their employees are in a good place. I mean, they are letting me move to Raleigh because they know it is a big lifestyle thing for me. That being said, we do work long days Monday through Thursday. It’s tough on-site, but as far as traveling a lot, I enjoy it because seeing a different desk and people every week is nice and kind of keeps you on your toes. One nice thing, too, is that we usually get to work remote on Fridays when we are back from traveling, which is definitely a nice perk. So traveling has its ups and downs, not to mention all of the airline and hotel points I’ve collected. My goal is to never have to pay for a vacation, but that is an aggressive goal.
Did you find a community in Chicago?
The short answer is no. I think that’s part of the reason I wanted to move back, likely because I already had the community in North Carolina. I also think it didn’t help that I was moving to a new city and on top of that, I was traveling most of the week. Most of my friends in the city were actually my friends from work, so it was sort of difficult to find a big community outside of the office.
How did your age play a role in your first year in the workplace?
I think my age has played neither a positive nor negative role in my career so far. My company does a wonderful job of giving you opportunities regardless of age. They give you opportunities to own your work. For example, I am already the lead of a workstream on my project, so I have a lot of ownership of how the project is going to go. From that standpoint, the company does a good job of investing in youth. It is excellent, but it can be a little overwhelming at times. On the flip side to that, given that we are a client-facing business, there are times where people will look to the older part of the room just because it’s natural. Often times, these are the senior-level people in the office, so they are probably thinking “why should I listen to this young guy when I’ve been here 20-plus-years?” I think I have been given opportunities, despite my age, which has been very fortunate. Over time, there is a lot of proving yourself at the beginning. And once you show that aptitude, then I think people are always more willing to open up to you if you do that.
How do you make yourself stand out among others?
I couldn’t tell you. I don’t think I actively do anything other than doing my best work and being who I am. By nature, which I am told that is a very outgoing individual, I always ask what I can do to help even if I don’t know what is going on. People are always happy to hear someone willing to lend a hand and I think that is refreshing in a corporate environment, where people are not always like that. I think just taking on responsibilities and having a willingness to learn has helped me. But this is kind of a hard question to answer because I don’t think I actively act differently than I normally do just to stand out, but rather, I rely on my work to sort of speak for itself.
How have your own leaders shaped your leadership style?
I have seen a lot of styles that I like and a select few that I don’t. On the whole, I have noticed that offering a structure, timeline, and opinion in an honest way is very helpful. I have seen that not micromanaging and letting people own their work in a structure that is provided is the most efficient way to be a leader. The goal of a good leader is to lay out the starting point, the needs, the direction we want to go, and the milestones we need to hit, to his or her direct reports. I’ve had leaders who step in when I may not have understood something completely, so they would sit me down for an hour in a room with a whiteboard and hash out what I was not getting, and teaching me how the business works. That’s a good leader, I think. Another thing a good leader can do is make sure they are praising people for their hard work when appropriate and making them feel like they are appreciated.
In one word or phrase, how would you describe your young professional life?
A little bit of everything, everywhere. It feels like I am never in one place for very long. Things are always changing and settling into life, and my career is not something I have done solely because of how the work changes on a daily basis. On the spot, it’s the best tagline I can come up with.
What do you do for fun?
I want to get involved in things now that I am back in the southeast. I find a lot of enjoyment in exercise, whether that’s running or being active. Sometimes it might be going on a hike with my girlfriend or playing with my dog, something like that. Actually, something I haven’t been able to do since I started my job, and mostly because of all the traveling I do, is playing my guitar. I’m not very good, but I do enjoy it. I am finding an emerging enjoyment out of cooking. It’s really satisfying to put something together and be like “wow, that is actually good!" When I can do it, I enjoy that as well.
What have you learned about yourself since leaving college?
I think this is something that I already knew about myself, but it is something that has been confirmed since I left school. I have learned that the people in my life matter a lot. The people that I deem as close friends, my girlfriend or my family, it is very important to me that I stay close to them. I didn’t expect to be calling a couple of my friends from high school or college and just keeping a recurring conversation going as much as I can. Those calls are even some of the best parts of my week! I actively want to keep those that are close to me in my life. Even more so, it has shown me that those people that are important in my life are in my life for good.
The YoPro Know's Takeaways:
- There are times where people will look to the older part of the room just because it’s natural
- You have to prove yourself a lot at the beginning; once you show that aptitude, then I think people are always more willing to open up to you
- Offering a structure, timeline, and opinion in an honest way is very helpful
- Not micromanaging and letting people own their work in a structure that is provided is the most efficient way to be a leader