William Shaw

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'96 International Politics | Director, DoD Account Leader, IBM | Dulles, VA
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William Shaw

Liberal Arts Major: International Politics

Minor: Labor and Human Resources

Hometown: Leesburg, VA

Current Location: Dulles, VA

What was your first job after graduating from Penn State?

I joined IBM after less than a semester of Graduate School at Georgia Tech. While I was hired and spent six months going through the sales training program at IBM (now called Summit), I was actually diverted into a role working at IBM's Government briefing center/think tank known as the IBM Institute for Electronic Government. In that capacity I not only learned the technology field, but hosted and presented to government leaders from around the world on how technology would impact and fundamentally change the way government worked.

Who were your favorite faculty members?

I had a personal connection to Dr. Scott Bennett, for whom I researched for during my time at Penn State. We also have a visiting political science professor who was fantastic, Dr. John Sislin. But, I believe my favorite faculty member was Dr. Harkavy. He made learning fun, had great real world experience and anecdotes so class was grounded in reality. In addition, he brought a unique perspective to academia.

How did your liberal arts education and skills prepare you for life after graduation?

My liberal arts education prepared me in more ways then I could have ever imagined. Having a background that focused on breadth not just depth has proved invaluable in my roles. The broad perspective you bring as a Liberal Arts graduate gives you a perspective that is unique compared to those who go deep in one hard science or subject. Clearly there is a role for both, but the ability to learn broadly across a wide spectrum of topics is critical. When coupled with the ability to communicate both in writing and spoken word, it prepared me incredibly well for the business world.

What networking advice would you share with current students?

The more you network, the more you learn. It may not lead to jobs or even follow-ups, but it only takes one connection to make a difference. At the very least, you will constantly be learning the more you are engaging.

What role have mentors played in your career progression?

It's critical to have what I refer to as your own "Board of Directors" in your career. People with who you can go to not only for advice, but to vent and to share. The relationships will become mutually beneficial over time, and you will begin to gain a better appreciation for the why behind many of the whats that occur in your world.

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