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Welcome to The Real World! First Job Out of College – About Me – Part VI

If you have missed out on the first five articles, here are the links below:

Part 1: About TheYoungRetireeBy33

Part 2: Developing My Money Mindset

Part 3: Deciding What University to Attend

Part 4: Becoming A D1 Student Athlete

Part 5: Transferring to Arkansas and How I Chose My First Job

My First Real Job After Graduating College

I had made my final decision to accept the job with Walmart’s eCommerce division. It was time to move up to Bethlehem, PA and begin the real world. I was full of nerves and excitement as my starting date began to creep closer.

Instead of graduating and going straight to work, I decided to take a two week trip to Europe with a few friends. And may I tell you, that was the right decision. Here is a picture of me getting some hang time in front of the Colosseum in Rome!

After a fun two weeks in Europe, it was time to come home and head to Bethlehem. Luckily I was a little familiar with the area from traveling to play Lehigh’s Men’s Tennis team when I at Buffalo. I arrived in Bethlehem and prepared myself for the beginning of a long two years.

What My First Job Entailed

A big reason I took the first job I did was due to the responsibilities of the project I would be taking on. As a field engineer in Bethlehem, I lead construction of a $350 million fulfillment center. This entailed managing construction and mechanical installation crews from over 10 different companies.

What did I know about construction going into this? Nada. I definitely learned a ton over the course of the first year leading the construction. I am a firm believer that you create your own fate. I could have thrown my hands in the air and given into the fact I had no idea what I was doing. Instead, I decided to take advantage of this situation and continue learning. It is amazing what you can learn if you have the willingness and drive to learn. My responsibility continued expanding as I continued driving results for the business.

More Responsibility

The physical construction was now completed and it was time to transition my focus. I then turned to designing the workstations our associates would interact with. This was a completely different task that I again had no previous experience with. My main goals were to design cost effective, ergonomic, and efficient workstations. This took 5 months, and during the process I negotiated a $200k discount on the workstations. This was also another thing I had never done. Who thought a young 22 year old could negotiate with a large scale provider of workstations, but I did.

Now the workstations were complete. It was time to again transition to a new focus. This time it became a focus to assist in the development of the Warehouse Management System (WMS). A WMS is a system that manages your inventory within the warehouse and allows you to receive, pick, pack and ship orders. This was an impactful experience. I was able to begin the design of how the Warehouse Management System would work for the entire network.

I began to learn the ins and outs of how a system should work. I would direct the team designing the WMS to develop critical functionality. Helping lead this development allowed me to become a Subject Matter Expert (SME). A SME is well that, an expert at something. This gave me the upper hand and was one of the most critical things that set me up for future success.

How To Create Value In Your Role

I became the go to guy for all the operations teams to come ask questions and solve problems. Teams knew they could come to me, ask a question, and I would listen and then develop a solution. Have you ever heard the quote from Elon Musk: You get paid in direct proportion to the difficulty of problems you solve. I was able to not only identify problems, but also come up with solutions. This is critical to adding value in your company.

Many individuals can identify problems, but few individuals can solve them. You add the most value when you do both. Want to speed up your career? Do both.

Key Takeaways:

  • Identify problems and develop solutions for the problems. Identifying a problem is not going to help you progress in your career at a rapid pace. Go one step further to develop a solution to help solve the problem.
  • Take time off after college before going to work, especially if you plan on being in the rat race for a while. I took two weeks off to explore Europe and it was an incredible experience I wouldn’t change for the world. I recommend doing something similar.
  • Have the drive to be thrown at things you know nothing about and come out with knowledge on the other end. There were many times in my first role where I changed my focus entirely to something I knew nothing about.

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Transferring to Arkansas & Job Decision After College – About TheYoungRetireeBy33 Part V

A lot had happened in my life leading up to my junior year in college. I was ready to begin a new chapter in my life moving closer home to attend the University of Arkansas.

Read more about how I made the decision to transfer in my last post.

No More College Athletics, I Thought

My college athletic career was over, at least I had thought so when transferring to Arkansas. Over the summer I continued training as if I were gearing up for the Spring season. I didn’t go as hard as I had in the past, but it was a big change for me to go from training 2-4 hours a day to not competing anymore. I missed the competition.

I started throwing feelers out to the assistant coach of the tennis team at Arkansas. I had no intention of things going anywhere, but then I got a call back from the coach asking for me to come to practice. What!? Umm…I wasn’t expecting them to want me to try out. I had a successful career at Buffalo in doubles and I thought there was legitimate value I could add. At the time, Arkansas ranked top 30 in the country (Buffalo was around 75).

After moving up to Fayetteville I was ready to begin training more like I was gearing up for an actual season. I found another guy who was a decent player and also went to Arkansas. We started practicing 3-4 times per week at some of the local courts.

First Introduction to A Huge Life Lesson: It Is All About Who You Know

One day while we were hitting at the local courts a random guy (Matt), a little older than I was, came up to the fence and stopped me. Matt asked me where I was from and if I played for the university. He said he had never seen someone out at those local courts playing at such a high caliber of tennis. I told him a little about my back story of being a former D1 player and mentioned I was prepping for a tryout with the team.

Matt started talking to me about how he had graduated from Arkansas a year prior and played for the team. He knew the coach well and would reach out to him to put in a good word. I was super impressed by the guy and he seemed genuine. We exchanged contact information and he asked me to reach out to him if I wanted to hit sometime. Little did I know at the time that he also ran the largest junior academy in the NW Arkansas area.

Time For Tryouts!!

It was finally time to give it a go with the big boys at Arkansas. I had never seen a facility as nice as the one they played in. Incredible 6 court private indoor facility as well as a 10-12 court outdoor facility. I was a little intimidated from arriving the first day at tryouts.

Long story short, the tryouts ended up going well. I played singles against some of the lower guys on the team and was then mixed in to play a set of doubles. For not playing a competitive match in 5 months, I was playing well. After the second day the head coach and I sat down to discuss what next steps would be. The coach informed me that the new Athletic Director had recently implemented a 12 man roster limit. Well that sucks. The team had exactly 12 people.

Looks like the door of playing for a SEC school closed. I reached back out to Matt thanking him for talking with the coach about me. Matt was disappointed I didn’t get a spot on the team but ended up offering me a job to work for him coaching. I had coached some of the top juniors in the state of Texas and needed money, so this was a perfect opportunity. I immediately jumped on it.

A key lesson I want to note here. A big part of life is about who you know. A bigger part of life is about the perception others have of you. If you come off as a genuine person, you will be amazed about how people are attracted to that.

Full Time Work and School

I was now working 30-40 hours per week for Matt while going to school for Industrial Engineering. A great thing about the job I had was the pay. A big benefit of having a unique skill most others don’t have is the ability to monetize it. I was making $30/hr as an assistant tennis coach at the academy! I no longer had to ask my parents for any money as I continued to have a side hustle that would pay for my wants!

Having a full time job while getting a degree in Industrial Engineering is difficult. I managed to do both while having a great last two years of college. Looking back I am grateful to have not made the Arkansas team. If I continued being a D1 athlete, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I did.

Finally Graduating – One Last Big Decision to Make

As I approached graduation, there was one more difficult decision to make. What job offer would I accept?

After long interview processes I had two job offers. Below is a little more detail about each one.

Job Offer 1:

  • Salary: $59,000
  • Company: JB Hunt
  • Location: Lowell, AR
  • Position: Part of the Final Mile industrial engineering team. I would be responsible for assisting to come up with the network design for Final Mile.

Job Offer 2:

  • Salary: $60,000
  • Company: Walmart eCommerce
  • Location: Bethlehem, PA
  • Position: Part of the eCommerce Industrial engineering team. I would be responsible for leading the mechanical installation of a $300 million building.

Before getting the first offer, I wasn’t 100% sure what salary range I would end up at. The two offers being more or less the same (from a $$$ perspective) made it a little more difficult.

How I Decided What Offer to Accept

After long debate going back and forth, I had made a decision on which offer I wanted to accept.

The key drivers of my decision were:

  • Where I would be living? For the JB Hunt offer, I would stay living in Northwest Arkansas. This wasn’t appealing to me as I wouldn’t know anyone who lived there. For Walmart, I would move to an area I had the chance to visit when I was an athlete at Buffalo. Bethlehem was an interesting college town north of Philadelphia.
  • What line of work it was in? JB Hunt is a transportation company and to be honest, transportation isn’t interesting. The Walmart offer being in eCommerce did seem very intriguing. At the time Amazon was taking over the world (some would say they still are). Being in eCommerce was going to be the next big industry. This made the Walmart offer very appealing.
  • How much I would make? Let’s be honest, the only thing going through a kids mind when they are graduating college is how much money I make. I was by no means different. For me, I am a very fortunate the Walmart offer was $1,000 more than JB Hunt.

With the three major drivers of my decision leaning towards Walmart, I accepted the offer. I was very excited to close out a huge chapter of my life and begin into the real world. I mean, c’mon my parents had always told me:

  • Go to school
  • Get a good degree
  • Get a job with a stable company
  • And retire when you are 65

I was doing exactly that. Catching my Rich Dad Poor Dad sarcasm at all? 😉

Another major part of my life had come to an end. Now time to move into the real world!

Key Takeaways:

  • Life is all about who you know. Don’t forget, it is also about being a genuine person. You can know the most intelligent and successful people in the world, but if you are an ass, they won’t want to help you. Be genuine.
  • Although money is important, don’t let money be the driving factor in deciding a job. Think about the long term and the industry you are going into. Think about the growth opportunities that are to arise in the future.
  • Continue figuring out the unique skills you have and determine if you can monetize them. I leveraged my tennis abilities and my relationships to get a job coaching making $30/hr.
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About TheYoungRetireeBy33 – Part IV – Becoming A Division 1 Student Athlete

Three posts down a few more to go! I originally thought this About Me series would only last 4-5 posts, but as I have dug deeper into my past and what I have wanted to touch on, the posts continue to get broken out more and more.

If you haven’t read already, here are the links to the first 3 articles:

Setting the Stage:

I am now a Division I athlete and freshman at SUNY at Buffalo. My path to this point has been interesting with a lot of tough decisions needing to be made. I was now living in a part of the country where I literally knew nobody.

Born and raised in the Dallas area and not knowing anyone in Buffalo warranted the thought of bringing my car with me. This meant if I wanted to have my car with me in Buffalo, I would have to drive it from Dallas. For the geography challenged individuals out there (trust me I am one of them), this drive is a 22-hour journey. The longest by far I have ever driven in a car.

After knocking the drive out in two quick days I was officially moved into my dorm and ready to take on whatever was to come. I was excited to begin this new journey in my life. I felt extremely grateful for having the opportunity of being a D1 athlete as well as declaring to become a Mechanical engineer. I was always a straight A student in high school and knew I wanted to become an engineer but didn’t know exactly which type. The great thing about declaring to be an engineer in school was the courses you take for the first two years are standard for each engineering discipline.

With that, it wasn’t so much important to make a final decision on the type of engineering I decided but was more important that I decided to be an engineer.

Some advice if you are pondering what major to select: If you think you want to be an engineer, start from the first semester of college. If you do not, there is a good chance you will struggle to graduate in four years. The main reason for this being the pre-requisite courses required before jumping into the meat and potatoes of what you will learn.

Keeping the Entrepreneur in Me Alive:

I am all settled in at Buffalo. The experience of being a D1 athlete was turning out to be much more time intensive than I had originally expected. I was getting the opportunity to play with guys who played at the highest levels in their country and it was truly amazing getting a great hit in each day. The other amazing thing about being a D1 athlete, in tennis, was the fact that I was the only American playing on the lineup. My team consisted of guys from Poland, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Russia, Canada, and Spain! Of all the things about being a D1 athlete, I found being able to create a brotherhood with all these amazing people from different cultures to be truly incredible.

Throughout my college tennis career, one thing I wanted to continue doing was making money from my side hustle of stringing rackets (checkout link to this post that talks more about this). The cool thing about playing with guys who were at my skill level and higher was they break strings more often.

More strings being broken = More business for me!

Ah boy was a business boomin! During this time, I would string between 10-15 rackets a week at $10/racket. As a poor starving college student, this was an incredible amount of money to now spend. At this point in my path to Financial Independence, I didn’t know anything about saving and investing! I can only imagine where I would be today if I knew about this in 2014! Can’t dwell on the past though!

Beginning to Have a Change of Heart:

My freshman year of college went well from both an academic and athletic standpoint. I played number two doubles and number 5-6 singles on the team. I don’t remember my exact record, but I think it was probably close to .500.

Playing D1 tennis was a whole different level of commitment than I had originally anticipated. I went from practicing 5 hours per week with one tournament each month to a strict regimen of:

  • 1-hour strength and conditioning workout 5 days a week
  • 2-hours of practice each afternoon
  • And 2-6 matches at a high level most weekends

I went from being a scrawny 6’, 120 lb. athlete to gaining 15 pounds of muscle from the intense training and insane eating habits my trainers had me on. I still remember to this day leaving practice, heading to the dorm cafeteria and eating an entire plate of spaghetti and meatball sauce prior to having my actual meal. If I had to guess, I was consuming over 5,000 calories per day.

The rigor I put my body through was something I didn’t think to be possible. After a year and a half of the grind, I was ready for a change. My love for the game of tennis was quickly fading. During this time I reached out to a few good friends of mine who were all going to school at the University of Arkansas. I mentioned to them I was thinking about leaving Buffalo and heading closer to home. Within a few weeks of letting them know, they had secured a place to live with an extra bedroom for me.

Well, looks like there was going to be a big change in my life! After my sophomore year of college and being a D1 athlete at Buffalo, I decided I was ready to put the rackets up and move back closer to home.

This was another integral decision I made that has impacted a lot of where I am today. At the time the main things that led me to the decision to transfer from Buffalo to Arkansas were:

  • Being closer to home and being able to live with close friends. In Buffalo, getting home was a pain in the butt and very expensive.
  • I missed warm weather…a good ol’ southern man ain’t meant to live in the northeast in freezing weather!
  • I had received everything I could have dreamt of from playing tennis. My college athletic experience was incredible. My body was now telling me it was time to turn to the next chapter in my life.
  • Transferring to Arkansas wouldn’t set me back in my degree as I did some extensive research with the university to ensure almost all my credits would transfer.

This part of my life was another crazy rollercoaster. I couldn’t be more grateful and thankful for all the incredible people I met in Buffalo and all the amazing experiences I was fortunate enough to have. On to the next chapter of my life finishing up my degree at the University of Arkansas!

Key Takeaways:

  • The topic of whether you should go to college is one I wouldn’t have thought about touching on a while back. In the day and age we live in, I do think it is a valid point to discuss. I personally believe if there is a certain type of career you wish to pursue that requires a college degree, go for it. If the career you wish to have after college doesn’t require a college degree, I would highly recommend thinking twice about how much the expense is and what value you expect it to bring to your life.
  • There is nothing in the world I wouldn’t give up to go back and have the D1 athletic experience all over again. I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity I had and to have met all the amazing people I did along the way.
  • No matter how busy you are, you can always find time for a side hustle! My racket stringing “business” was booming during one of the busiest times of my life. It was definitely nice to have some side income coming in while I was going to school and had a full-time job in being a student athlete.