ASK Night: Words of Wisdom from Former Econ Majors

Last Thursday, Career and Employment Services hosted an event called ASK Night, where Puget Sound alumni generously volunteer their time to talk to students about what career-related endeavors they’ve been up to since graduation. I thought this would be a great opportunity to chat with some former Economics majors, see how they’ve been doing, and how their studies helped them with their careers. I was disappointed to discover online that out of the 50 or so alumni that attended, only three majored in Economics (and a very small handful minored in it). Out of the three Economics majors, I had the time to talk to two. Due to the conversational environment, I wasn’t able to formally interview them and record their conversation verbatim.

The first alum I talked to was Bill Peabody. He graduated in 1984 and currently works at the Tacoma branch of UBS Financial Services as a financial planner and the Vice President of Wealth Management. In addition to studying economics, he minored in philosophy. He didn’t attend graduate school because he was able to pursue financial planning immediately after graduation at E.F. Hutton, and he’s been in that field of work ever since. One of the most valuable experiences he had studying economics as UPS was being a teaching assistant. He assisted with the study sessions for the 100-level introduction to economics course. He explained that because most students in the class had very little knowledge or large interest in economics, being a TA challenged him to find ways to communicate economic concepts in a simple and exciting way. This was extremely useful in his field because as a financial planner, he strongly believes that clients should not only know where he recommends their money should, but the reasoning behind it. He explained that good communication and information transparency is key in his field of work, so being able to explain finances in a way that anybody can understand is absolutely vital.

Regarding tips for current economics students, Bill stressed the importance of applying economic concepts to every day life. Because economics is constantly building upon itself, it is vital to get the basics down before trying to tackle more complex concepts. His favorite classes were the ones related to monetary and fiscal policy because they apply the most to his career. He also really enjoyed taking History of Economic thought because not only did it parallel with his philosophy studies, but it also highlighted a lot of the underlying reasons for current and past American economic policy. His least favorite class was econometrics because he isn’t very math oriented, and he never felt compelled to truly understand it.

The second alum I talked to was a recent May 2014 grad named Emily Masangcay. She was a dual Business Leadership Program and Economics major, and is currently in a two-year rotational program for recent college graduates at Boeing called the Business Career Foundation Program. She will go through six four-month assignments across various business operations (Finance, Marketing, Strategy, etc.) in order to develop a more comprehensive understanding of Boeing’s operations. Her first and current rotation is in Manufacturing Financial Operations for the 737 program, where she works with databases and software to extract information regarding cost spending in relation to the forecast; and then she leads discussions about her findings to guide future decision making. Her favorite economics courses were Econometrics and her thesis class with Bruce Mann because, although they were the most challenging, they taught her how to think critically. In addition, she loved having the opportunity to independently design and test research methods about subjects that she was passionate about.

Her primary tip for Econ majors is to get to know the professors, rather than just limiting interactions with them to only class hours. Throughout her 4 years at UPS, she learned that not only are the professors in the Econ department extremely knowledgable, but also very willing to help students further understand concepts that they didn’t fully grasp during lecture. She said that getting to know professors is valuable in the long-run because it helps with networking and nurturing relationships, which is extremely important in every aspect of life.

As a current sophomore, talking to alumni that took similar courses of study as I was extremely helpful and reassuring. Although the two alumni that I talked to were different in age, gender, class preferences, and career, it seemed like they both value communication and relationship building. It is important to keep in mind that although classes are vital to gaining knowledge for a career, learning how to build and maintain relationships is necessary for success in any endeavor.

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