Education (UR and additional): BS (Physics and Astronomy), University of Rochester, 2006
Current city/state of residence: Marlton, NJ
Job Title: Inside Sales Manager
Employer: Edmund Optics, Inc.
When and how did you choose your major?
I fell in love with Physics and Astronomy in high school. My high school had block scheduling, and one “semester” I ended up taking both a Physics class and an Astronomy class. Spending a half day or more every day on those two subjects – with an extremely talented teacher I might add – really sparked my lifelong interest in those subjects. The next semester I got a job at the local science center running planetarium shows and guiding telescopes for the public. Those early experiences sealed the deal as far as what major I was going to choose in college. It also led to my choice of attending UR.
What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?
My primary on-campus involvements revolved around my membership in a Fraternity (Sigma Chi). Some people have strong opinions one way or another about Fraternities in general, but the life lessons that I learned from that place are too numerous to list in this questionnaire. The absolutely ridiculous stories and anecdotes that I’ll have at my disposal are priceless as well!
What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?
I’m pretty sure I was the only person in my graduating class that chose to get a job after college rather than pursue grad school, and I’m so glad I did. Whereas a lot of my friends went the grad school route for some niche topic or another, I now already have 5+ years of real world industry and business-related experiences that I can leverage for the rest of my career. When and if I do end up pursuing a higher degree down the road, it will be that much more valuable since I can put everything into context and see the bigger picture.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career?
When I started my job search, it became pretty clear that a BA in Physics and Astronomy would be a valuable degree for several different engineering fields. With a decent background in telescopes and a firm understanding of the nature of light, Optical Engineering seemed like a good bet. I spent my first few years as an Applications Engineer, where my main job function was to solve technical problems are questions that our customer’s had. During that stint, I spent a year and a half living in Singapore and travelling around Asia. When I came back to the U.S., I knew I wanted to get into the Technical Sales side of the business. I now manage our Managed Account Inside Sales Team that services the Americas.
What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?
Mainly problem solving skills and general principals. Most of what you learn in college consists of the hairy details that you won’t necessarily have to use in practice. You need to be familiar with all of them conversationally, but otherwise they all reside in books on the off-chance you need to reference them in the future. I did an insane amount of integrals and derivations in college, but in my day-to-day job 99% of the math I have to do is trig and/or simple equations.
What advice do you have for current students?
For Physics and Astronomy students, hang out at the POA Library (in B&L) with your fellow nerds as often as the workload warrants it. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better think tank for working through problem sets, and you’re guaranteed some funny and memorable sci-fi related debates. For all students, realize that there is so much more to college than a perfect GPA. Your GPA only marginally matters for your first job out of college, and sometimes not even then! Make sure you get your degree, but also make sure you have a balanced social life as well. Push yourself into situations outside of your comfort zone and take some calculated risks while it is still perfectly acceptable to do so!