No More Playbook: A Jumbo’s Journey from Football to BlackRock

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In this article with Patrick Williams ‘16, we explore his transition to BlackRock. Patrick entered Tufts as a football player and took part in one of the longest losing streaks in collegiate football history. Overcoming that was a lesson in not taking the easy way out. This interview covers what Patrick took away from football, how BlackRock is helping him define the rest of his career, and why firms love to hire athletes.

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How was your experience at Tufts as a football player?

The first two years were pretty rough since we never won. Everyone who stayed on the team got closer through the belief that if we kept going and kept grinding, we can earn our first win. It wasn’t until my Junior year that we won a game and everyone stormed the field. It felt like all those hours at practice and in the weight room had finally paid off and now we can compete with any team in the league. We won a couple more games in my senior year and lost really close games. We figured out that we were a good, if not better, team compared to the rest of the NESCAC. It all started with the relentless culture fostered by the captains and the coaches.

What did you learn from being a student-athlete at Tufts?

I was so busy at Tufts that I never really stopped to think about how my work as a student-athlete actually applied to life. Time management was an extremely valuable skill that I gained from Tufts. Playing a sport at a place like Tufts forces you to be an over-achiever. You are going to have to put extra effort into being efficient with your time. Once I was actually at BlackRock, I started to realize more and more parallels between work and football. Coach Civetti would always yell at us from coming into a meeting less than 10 minutes before a meeting.  I thought he was just being a ‘hardo’, but caught myself going early to every meeting at BlackRock just to avoid that feeling of shame that characterized being late to a football meeting. 

What other parallels do you see between your work at BlackRock and sports?

I remember interviewing for BlackRock and seeing the interviewer light-up when I mentioned that I played a bunch of different positions. By learning how to play D-line and eventually Outside Linebacker, I was able to show that I am more flexible than other candidates. If you can be more flexible and willing to take on multiple roles for a company, you offer more value and have a higher chance of getting hired. I also realized the importance of enjoying the people I work with. Everyone talks about how their friendships with their teammates make them love the sport they play; its the same for work. If you don’t like the culture or the people at a company, you are going to hate working for them.

Where did you learn to reflect on how sports connected to your job?

Much like freshman year football, I asked senior people at the company multiple questions to try and figure out how I can become a better employee. I asked one of the senior partners “Why do people value athletes so much?” He talked about all the things that the company could not teach employees: teamwork, consistency, self-starter mindset, persistence, commitment, and the concept that it takes hard work to get to your goals. These are values that I learned on the football team without ever really trying. Some of us have played sports ever since middle school and basically practice all of these skills while playing the sport we love. 

At what point did you start thinking about life after Tufts and start preparing for a job?

I had a mindset that everyone goes to college and gets a career path, so basically from the start. I started by building up my brand. I wanted a brand that I could be proud of and be confident enough to showcase in front of any interviewer. I had many jobs during college from working for the local radio station to the alumni office, I was just working on skills that I knew would help me be a stronger candidate for any type of job that I decided to take on. The job search got really intense my junior year and was later offered a full-time job after a summer internship with BlackRock.  

Why BlackRock? What aspects of your work do you see mirroring your work as a student-athlete at Tufts?

Everyone is different in why they choose a place. But BlackRock was where I wanted to start because both BlackRock and Tufts gave me a chance and an opportunity based on my experience and work ethic. I never was the kid with the best grades but I was going to work my butt off to be the best in whatever I was putting my mind to. And both organizations gave me that exact opportunity to prove myself.

Has there been a defining moment in your professional career thus far?

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When I came to BlackRock there was still the anxiety of feeling pigeonholed into a specialized career that I might not enjoy 5 to 10 years from now.  BlackRock had a “Find Your Future” event where they had everyone sit down and take a moment to hone in on your key goal. The key goal of this event was to define a career path for yourself by reflecting on your skill set, your strengths, and your weaknesses. When you are a place like BlackRock that often puts a lot on your plate, you never ask “What do I actually like doing?”  This event allowed me to take the time and develop a mental picture of where I want to be in the future.  

If you could go back in time and give yourself life advice, what would you say?

Sit down and picture where you want to be! Even though it might not feel like it, you have a lot of free time in college- so use it to enjoy and define who you are.  Also, maybe focus on fewer things. Like I said earlier, I had multiple jobs during the school year and although I gained many skills, I think I could have learned more if I didn’t pull myself in so many different directions. It might be better to be a specialist in a few things rather than being average at a bunch of things.