Job: Area Manager, Enterprise
Location: Chattanooga, TN
I met Sean when we were both mentors for The University Of Tennessee Chattanooga business students. I knew Sean had to be my first interview because first, he has been a young professional for a much longer time than I, and second, he is truly hungry for success and is an influencer for those who will listen. Though I am not in Chattanooga anymore, I am grateful for this friendship and hope you’ll enjoy learning more about him.
How long have you been in Chattanooga?
I was born in New Jersey, raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, and have been in Chattanooga since 2006. I graduated from The University of Tennessee Chattanooga in 2008.
Where did you find your start?
After college, the recession was kind of on the decline, but there were still no jobs out there, so I went to grad school for my MBA but didn't finish it. I had to pay for school, and so I realized really quickly that this was expensive, and ran out of my money quickly. I also realized I was good at school but didn't like it, so I left and did odd jobs for a year or two. Landscaping, bartending, anything that paid my bills so I could get beer money, and you know, live. I kept my grad school email and through that, I found out that Enterprise was coming to campus for mock interviews, so I applied and I have been with them since 2010.
What do you like about being a Young Professional?
So I recently changed my LinkedIn title from Area Manager to Employee Development Coach. I like that part of being a young professional. I like being the leader that can help people, and I'm really big on bringing you along. Whenever I interview people at work, I talk to them about their leadership and I tell them I want them to be confident, like, I am talking borderline cocky. I tell them I want them to be the all-state player on the team, but then I ask them if they want to be all-state with a losing team. The answer is no because I want to bring everyone along for the ride and they can't do it alone. I need you to be that good at what you do and bring everybody along. If you don't self-promote, no one will do it for you.
Did you have a plan before entering the workforce?
My plan was to work in sports management. I love sports, and I've always loved sports. I have been a leader forever, so I saw myself in a managerial role of a sports franchise. But being in sports doesn't make any money until after about 15 years and you have to work on nights and weekends. The thing is, I like my nights and weekends. I like to have fun, so it was a lose-lose for me. Then I pivoted to Enterprise because it was the first company to give me a chance. I am a loyal person, so 8 years later, I'm still here. I have always been a leader and strive to be better, but I have put the gas down a lot more recently. I am always very intentional with everything I do in terms of what I want to be. I know what I want to be. I want to be a community influencer. I want people to say "go to Sean because he has great ideas", or "he has helped me with this project." I'm just laying the breadcrumbs and waiting to see who will pick it up. If someone asks me to do something, I do it if I have the time. That's how you watch things grow.
What else are you involved in around town?
My big passion project right now is with Watcep (Work and Travel Cultural Exchange Program). So my business partner, Eray, came to the U.S. from Turkey back in 2007 through a J1 student visa, then he left and came back in 2010. It is a department of state entity, but it is an antiquated system that has been around since the 60s. So we are making it user-friendly and easy with a platform that attracts generation Z students. The way it is currently done is by making students go through about 5 different touchpoints. We make it easier for them by putting it all together under one roof. And on the business end, spreading the word around our community is the big goal. I had never heard of it until I started doing it, so sharing the knowledge of all of the direct and indirect benefits is huge. There are so many benefits for employers, including but not limited to increasing diversity among companies. We are in business with several businesses and no one has said no to us yet. They like the concept because it's regulated and it produces good quality.
Watcep keeps my creative juices flowing. You're put in a box in the corporate world, so before doing this, my wings were a little blunted. With this project, no one is telling me what to do and there is no structure. With no playbook for me to look at, I have had to expand my mind by looking at new blogs, listening to tons of podcasts and reading a lot. Figuring out how to do it without someone telling me how to do it, as corporate does, has kept me on my toes and it has really made me think. When we hit a wall, I have to break through it, get around it or build a new path if that wall stays up. Luckily, money is not an issue with this yet and is not driving the project, so it has kept us pure. It is exciting seeing it grow. Additionally, I am also on the board of Protégé Chattanooga, of which I am a direct product of. I am the chair of the selection committee and am responsible for restructuring the way the committee is run for the future.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced in your career?
Knowing how important I want to be, I asked myself how to get there. Self-promotion was hard for me at first. It's embarrassing to do, but it is crucial. I nominated myself for Protégé Chattanooga because I found out about it through LinkedIn the day before the deadline. That was the catalyst for me in this area. Since being with Enterprise, which is not a local company, educating people in the community on my side of the business has been difficult. I know I can be impactful, but coming from corporate that is not "Chattanooga corporate" has pushed me to get myself out there more.
What are your strengths?
I like structure. I am really good at creating a plan and helping people understand the "why" behind it. On the developmental side, I enjoy teaching as well. I have always been that guy to get my friends together, whether it is creating something at work that people have to get behind like volunteering, I always win. With friends, I have always made the plans. In high school, I organized a standout on my football team. I got everyone to follow because there was a loophole where we could miss one practice a year, so we all just left. That was not good. We got in trouble, but people listen and follow me. People realize I'm usually going to do the right thing and if not, we're going to have fun.
Do you feel like your age had an impact at the beginning of your career?
Yes. And it still does. I'm a 31-year old, but people think I'm younger, which isn't awful because I don't want to look old yet. Having to go to meetings with our Enterprise management that consists of people who are 25 to 30 years older than me got me to act professional and mature really quickly. When I walk in, they're thinking to themselves, "who is this kid and what does he know?". They have been in this business longer than I have been alive. You have to be fine-tuned with subtle management tools you learn through classes or work. I can navigate my way through meeting people, but it has been a challenge because of first impressions due to my age. So I think to myself; how do I build that rapport with them?
How do you find a good work-life balance?
That is a huge strength of mine. I know where I want to go and I know what it takes to get to the level I want to get to. I am really focused if I have to be. I know if we close at a certain time at Enterprise, I organize the day in a way that I will make sure my team is done by the time we close because they need to get home. It is important to go home and be with our family and friends. If that comes from the leader, and I promote that, then my team buys into that. I am super into my work-life balance and I love "me time". If that is my end goal, I'm going to get the work done before that time. Side projects are a little different because they are something I need to keep me going outside of my normal job. I had to sort of "sell" it to my wife because it does cause me to work outside of those normal hours, but she realizes it is what gets me excited and it is something I am passionate about.
What advice do you have for Young Professionals?
Get uncomfortable. I used to be a little more hesitant to speak my mind. Then I realized that people want to listen, they want advice, and they want someone to tell them it's okay, or it's really bad and this is what I would do instead. I was successful in high school, successful in college; I have a lot of good qualities, so I thought, let me share my good qualities. An example of this is on LinkedIn. I used to find something and like it if it was on my newsfeed and that was it. Now I think, let me share my ideas and thoughts. I want to lead the charge with that. My end goal is to be an influencer, so why not start now? We are young professionals and we are leaders and we are impactful. We have to make our cities better. That's our charge. As young professionals, we need to build our roots in our communities. Working with the Edney Innovation Center through Watcep, everyone is super receptive and wants to help out. You don't get that in larger cities. Chattanooga is special and inviting. I feel its electricity in the air and I want to be a part of it.
The YoPro Know's Takeaways:
- Self-promotion is sometimes hard and embarrassing to do, but it is crucial
- Learn how you can build rapport with the older generation
- Side projects can help give you the energy you need in your full-time job
- Be a community influencer
- As young professionals, we need to build our roots in our communities
- Always think of your why