Landon Bennett's Year Working as Implementation Specialist at Epic And What Constructive Criticism Looks Like For Him At Work
Can you talk a little bit about why you chose to attend WashU and your experience?
For me, WashU was the school that had the best overall balance of school rigor, laid back atmosphere, and fit for the Swim team. My initial goals were to immediately become an impact scorer for the team right off the back. I wanted to make sure I contributed to the team in and out of the pool.
Academically, I came in as a Chemical engineer but quickly learned it was not the right career path for me, so I decided to move to geochemistry. Geochemistry allowed me to pursue the science that piqued my interest the most while also getting hands on application of that science in every course I took. I also learned how much I loved economics after taking an introductory class, so I took that on too. I rode out those two majors through the rest of my years as a student.
How did you spend your summers in college?
My first year I went back home to coach a summer league swim team, get some great training in, and see my friends from home altogether for what I knew would be the last time. The year after, I stayed in St. Louis to work as a research assistant in one of our geochemistry labs, and I coached a summer league team on the side. I knew the next summer was my last time to spend an extended period with my family, so I found an internship with my local Chamber of Commerce and stayed back home to train and spend quality time with my family.
You’re less than a year removed from graduating. How did you get to Epic to work as an Implementation Specialist? And was that work something you knew you wanted to be doing while you were at WashU?
Epic is a popular spot for WashU students, and a couple of seniors when I was a freshman took positions here and urged me to check it out. Having them around, along with a teammate that was an intern the summer I started, made the transition much easier. I didn’t really consider what my exact passions were. I knew it was going to be a growth process, and I gave myself an opportunity to do a lot of great work. My main goal with the work I do is to affect the people and organizations I work with for the better. I don’t necessarily believe in the idea of needing to love the field you work in. I can always explore the things I love outside of work; it’s more about the lifestyle of the job that matters the most.
So talk to us about that lifestyle for you at Epic. What do you like about it?
Implementation is what I specialize in, essentially taking on a full project and making sure the goal of that project is seen through from start to finish. For Epic, it’s taking a hospital organization that wants to start using Epic through the process of creating their own Epic environment and plugging in all of the clinical content that’s specific to their organization. I like the act of assisting a full team and wanted to continue at a place where I was working with a team. Epic has a very laid-back environment, and it’s pretty great to just feel relaxed and not need to put on airs or succumb to formalities to do good work.. Epic is also a really young company, which makes the transition easier. The average age is probably 26-27 in my department, which means that there wasn’t a generational gap in the mindset of people I work with.
What’s your development been like?
Epic gives me a lot of individual freedom to do work the way I think it should be done. After training, you get staffed to a project and are the point person. You call the shots on any initiatives that are going on, advising project leaders on what decisions would be wise to make for their whole organization. Being given a lot of power early on means everything I do has direct consequences, which is good and bad. I love having the agency, but that also comes with the stress of making sure everything you’re saying is well informed.
Looking back, were you prepared to no longer be an athlete? Why or why not?
I’d say I was ready to be done with my academic career; I really appreciated everything WashU gave me academically, but knew that I was okay with no longer being a student. But to be honest, even if I thought I was ready to be done with swimming, it’s really hard to know for sure. What you have while on the team is very unique compared to every other lifestyle you’ll experience. Getting the privilege to connect with your teammates day in and day out is something you can’t find anywhere else. I don’t think I was as ready as I thought I was to have that community end. Not to say I don’t love the people I work with, but I don’t think anything I go through with my colleagues will compare to all of the things I made it through with my teammates. I still visit St. Louis every month or so just to get to see the team again.
Was there anything that you weren’t prepared for when you entered your job?
I don’t think I was prepared to enter a field that I had no prior experience in. The challenge there was still needing to portray myself as the expert in that field when leading meetings or helping advise our partner organizations.
What is it about sports that you feel helped prepare you to handle the transition or succeed at your job?
For one, something that coaches always talk about, is time-management. I was doing 24 hours a week around the pool, taking no less than 16 credits a semester. Coming in here, I met people who didn’t have this background, and the transition period of figuring out how to manage a wide array of tasks was a lot less natural for them. You need to be able to set your schedule and be efficient, and focus your efforts towards the most important things first.
There’s a teamwork piece too – knowing how to bring the strengths out of others, how to sit back and delegate tasks that you may not be the best person to handle, how to let others take the reins when it’s their strength, and how to manage group dynamics is paramount to having a successful project.
Finally, learning how to take criticism. The only way to get better is if someone (coach/manager) points out what you aren’t doing right. This lends itself to really good professional development. My managers have been proud with poise I showed when they criticized what I was doing. In college I appreciated my coach always letting me know when I was doing something wrong. In the long run it’s better to have to change what you’re doing than continuing to do things the wrong way.
I would call these three things “soft-skills.” They make a huge difference. You can have as much on paper as you want, but without soft-skills it’s tough to be successful.
Can you talk about a specific time where you received criticism in your job and were able to change your process for the better?
Epic is centered around feedback culture, so the examples here really span just about every week I’m on the job, which is good. The best feedback I’ve received at Epic was after I first started on the job and had to lead a few meetings. I sometimes ramble and lean towards filler phrases just to sound natural. This is all good in casual conversation, but my manager suggested that I think about speaking towards only thoughts that add value to meetings or help drive an idea forward. From then on, I started consciously thinking about that not only in meetings, but in every day conversation. I found that thinking intently about responses actually makes you a better listener, in turn.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice as a student-athlete, what would it be?
I would go back and say “don’t pursue something just because it pays well.” I see many people who are in great positions but aren’t happy. Find the lifestyle that a job lends itself to. Keep yourself open-ended, and focus on day-to-day that makes you happy.
Finish this sentence: My biggest strength as a leader is…
Knowing that those I lead support me as much as I support them.
What’s something about you that we wouldn’t be able to google?
I’ve seen 200 live music acts in my time, and I keep a running ranking of every one I’ve ever been to just for fun.