In a room filled with both graduate and undergraduate students, Arnie Sookram, worldwide lead for the Windows Devices Group e-commerce business and BC ’91, posed the question, half-jokingly: “So who wants a job?”
Nervous laughter filled the room as everyone raised their hands. This question, seemingly simple, was met with a great deal of apprehension and anxiety for graduate and undergraduate students alike. Sookram shared his thoughts and experiences on the transition from college to the corporate world.
Sookram graduated from BC with a degree in economics, and then headed to New York City to work in corporate finance. After completing graduate school, he moved into management consulting for PwC and iXL/Scient. Next, he transitioned into digital marketing and e-commerce teams at AT&T, Backcountry.com, and GameHouse.com. He currently works at Microsoft as the worldwide lead for the Windows Devices Group e-commerce business.
Sookram began his presentation, which was sponsored by the Shea Center for Entrepreneurship, Computer Science Society, Grad Tech Club, Information Systems Academy, with the maxim that life is a marathon, not a sprint. He emphasized how important it is to stay in the moment and take advantage of all the opportunities offered not only at BC, but also those offered by careers.
You also have to be able to market yourself, in corporate America, he said, especially when transitioning from one job to another.
“Someone once told me, ‘you’re always selling,’ and that’s not a lie,” Sookram said. “You have to figure out a way to market yourself … Then with those transitions it’s not so much the skills you have, it’s why your skills will make an impact on the next thing.”
“It is a privilege to go to a place like BC … [BC instills] this concept of grace—how to be controlled, polite, and pleasant in your behavior. To get promoted you have to be likeable and you have to be competent. It’s pretty simple.”
—Arnie Sookram, worldwide lead for the Windows Devices Group e-commerce business and BC ’91
Sometimes students find their competitve edge in a class they take outside of their majors.
This competitive advantage can also come from the development of “softer skills,” which Sookram describes as leadership training, team building, or business growth. Sookram similarly stressed the importance of building both personal and professional relationships.
“You have to make a lot of friends both personally and professionally,” he said. “You cannot separate your personal and professional lives—the two things are not mutually exclusive.”
Sookram utilized country-turned-pop singer Taylor Swift and her brand as an analogy for this concept. Swift has a huge network and support system of friends who are able to sell her brand which, in turn, has made her hugely successful. The same can be said about building both professional and personal relationships.
Friendships can also arise with mentors.
“Mentors will help guide you and give you advice … and take their advice, because they are probably right,” he said. “And it’s advice for lots of things, for your life or your profession or whatever you decide to do.”
Sookram underlined the concept that the place somebody begins working at after graduation is often not the place they will be found working 20 years from now. It took Sookram nearly 10 years to find his “professional sweet spot.”
“I never would have thought that I would have ended up at Microsoft 20-plus years after graduation leading global e-commerce,” he said. “You just don’t know.”
Sookram highlighted the importance of attending career fairs, asking hiring managers lots of questions and remaining actively in the moment. He encouraged students to take advantage of all the opportunities BC has to offer and to appreciate their time here.
“It is a privilege to go to a place like BC … [BC instills] this concept of grace—how to be controlled, polite, and pleasant in your behavior,” he said. “To get promoted you have to be likeable and you have to be competent. It’s pretty simple.”
Image courtesy of The eTail Blog