How To Transition When You Don't Exactly Know What You're Looking For
Interview by Andrew Panayiotou
This year at a Columbia Men’s Basketball home game against Princeton, members of the Columbia University marching band and the crowd began to loudly chant Connor Voss’s name. Despite being two years removed from Columbia University and the Men’s Basketball program, and currently residing in Utah, the 7’ 1’ Connor Voss still remains a fan favorite among the Columbia athletics community. Connor was always extremely nice, down to earth, and always gave his maximal effort when playing for Columbia, something fans still appreciate to this day.
Now based out of Utah, Connor works for Fast Enterprises, a provider of software database systems and consultations for government agencies. He describes it as a “cross between programming and consulting.” Recently, I was fortunate enough to interview Connor and find out more about his transition to the workplace.
How did you land the job?
Handshake. I wasn’t really sure exactly what I was looking for, so I just applied to as many opportunities as I could. Some advice I would give to students is that if you did a major just because you didn’t know what to choose, or because it’s always been what you’ve done, apply to everything. It is rare that people know exactly what profession they want to go into. Apply to as much as you can and you will know when the right thing for you comes along. I graduated with a degree in computer science, but because I didn’t exactly know what I was looking for, I just applied to as much as I possibly could. So apply to everything. Columbia has a great resource in the Handshake platform, and I would definitely encourage people to use it.
Did you leverage any of your athletic experiences in any of your interviews?
Yes! In interviews, the employer will often ask you to provide examples of how you’ve dealt with certain circumstances. For example, they’ll ask for times when you’ve handled adversity or solved a difficult issue. Athletes can easily draw on their athletic experiences to give great answers to these types of questions. If I had an answer related to basketball to give, I would often use it. Also, in questions pertaining to how I work with others or in groups, obviously I brought up basketball. It’s the perfect example of teamwork and working with a group of people to accomplish a task. Everyone on a team has the same team goal, in basketball and business, so in order to complete that goal, you need to do the same things in both worlds. Work hard, get better, put in time, coordinate with each other. People may have different ideas about how to do things, but if you can’t work together, it won’t work out as well as having five guys on the court on the same page together.
How has the transition past Columbia been for you thus far?
One thing that I definitely had to adjust too was the amount of time I had to myself every week, or rather, the lack of time. Everyone talks about time management and organization in college. Student-athletes in particular are juggling school, their sport, class, and their social lives. I believed I was extremely busy in college and already had a lot going on. However, once you get a full-time job, spending 8 hours a day at work means there is even less free time to enjoy. So, one of the hardest things to me was adjusting to this. Now, I find it so crucial to be able to get stuff done efficiently and manage my time well.
What is your day to day like at Fast Enterprises?
My official job title is an implementation consultant, which is a cross between programming and consulting. On a day to day basis I spend about a quarter of my time with the client, getting new system requirements, discussing aspects of the software that need to be changed or updated, and working together to come up with more efficient ways to do outdated processes. The rest of my time is spent making those changes, whether through configuration of the existing software, editing existing code, or writing completely new code. The programming languages I use are Visual Basic and SQL. One important responsibility of my job is whenever our client side users run into any problems/bugs in the software, I need to figure out what's wrong and fix it as soon as possible. The turn around time of issues like these needs to be within 24 hours so serious issues may require working overtime.
What skills from playing basketball have helped you in your career so far?
Hard work, team work, and work ethic. There’s a lot of times when you wake up and don’t necessarily want to go to work, but you simply have to. You also have to work with and get along with people you may not always like or get along with. In the workplace, I’ve found that there are lots of parallels with athletics, what you have to do to be successful as an athlete or a team, you also have to do as an employee or a company.
What Advice Would You Give to Current Student-Athletes at Columbia?
For student athletes trying to find a job, especially student athletes from Columbia or New York or similar places, I think that we have a much broader range of experiences, skills, and life experiences that we can really draw upon when going through the interview and application process. That’s a huge advantage over other applicants who don’t have that diverse range of experiences or exposure to new things. So, in being one of the few individuals who has been lucky enough to go to Columbia and college in New York, you should really make sure to take advantage of it. Try to draw on things that will make you different and better than the average candidate. Because at the end of day, everything you’re doing as an athlete can translate. Use that story to separate yourself.
Are you a Columbia Alum who wants to share your story?
Connect with Columbia’s Campus Ambassador, Andrew Panayiotou ‘20 (firstname.lastname@example.org)