Eight years ago (wow, has it been that long?) during my sophomore year at Virginia Tech, I realized that I was going to run out of money and wouldn’t be able to afford my next semester of college. With tuition, books, car payments, living expenses, etc., my high school savings account was drying up quickly. Luckily, Bill introduced me to the co-op program at Virginia Tech. At the time, he had just accepted a co-op position with Lockheed Martin in Northern Virginia. I never really considered taking time off of school, but after giving it some thought, it made a lot of sense. The program at Tech requires you to take three semesters off of school to work for a business in your field of study. You get paid, you get experience and as I soon found you… you get much, MUCH more.
As an undeclared “business” major, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to head with my education, much less the rest of my life. I pretty much applied for jobs across the board and somehow got an interview with McLeod & Company, a small tax accounting firm in Roanoke, Virginia. I took the job and for the next six months, I drove an hour each way to Roanoke to crunch numbers and fill out tax returns during tax season for seven bucks an hour.
Although this was the most painstakingly boring job I’ve ever worked in my entire life, enrolling in the co-op program and working at McLeod was an unbelievable experience, one that I will never let down. First and foremost, it was real hands-on experience, something most of my peers were not getting. I immediately felt ahead of the pack and that was something I was not accustomed to. It was definitely a resume builder and I milked it for all it was worth.
I met a lot of great people at McLeod. The management staff was rather intimidating, but everyone else was pretty cool, in that accounting sort of way. Ironically, the most intimidating of them all was Andrea Muscatello. I’ll never forget having to walk by her office everyday, hoping she didn’t need anything from me. I’m not even sure why I felt this way, but I definitely did. The irony here is in the fact that over the last few years, Andrea and I have become good friends and I now rely on her advice and wisdom as we have grow the business here at Excedent. She is one of the sharpest people I have met in business. I’m also pleased to announce that we have just hired Andrea to work on a part-time basis in a CFO capacity. I am looking forward to making her a part of the team and growing our business relationship, as well as having someone solid in a CFO capacity, albeit part-time.
My stint at McLeod also got me one step closer to selecting a major, as I knew right away, it wasn’t going to be accounting. This was a positive thing, I promise.
Finally, the program got Bill and I thinking about business in ways that were different from everyone around us. We started paying attention to the stock market, the dot-com boom and what type of impact we were going to make on the prospering job market upon graduation. Joining the co-op program set off a series of positive chain reactions over the coming years and is probably the best decision I made after enrolling at Virginia Tech.
Posted on November 29, 2004