Name: Lindsey Grossman
Hometown: Kirkwood, MO
Undergrad: Washington University in St. Louis, Arts & Sciences
Majors: Political Science (focus on South Asia)
Activities: Student Union Executive Office & Senate, study abroad (India), After School Art, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Pi Sigma Alpha
1st Job: Junior Associate >> Associate >> Senior Associate, APCO Worldwide
2nd Job: Head of APAC Public Policy, Intuit
3rd Job: Head of Strategic Partnerships for EMEA, Intuit
4th Job: Group Manager, Global Strategic Partnerships & Business Development, Intuit
5th Job: Partnerships Lead, Alternative Payment Methods & New Markets, Stripe
Current Job: Head of Payments Partnerships for EMEA, North America, LATAM, Netflix
Internships: National Women’s Political Caucus, Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars
During her time at Washington University, political science major Lindsey Grossman had no idea that her interests in international travel, India and politics would meet with a career in technology. But now, she’s a global-minded leader who excels at the intersection of technology and global markets, connecting people and ideas across borders. Currently working at Netflix, Lindsey Grossman has spent a significant amount of her time working internationally, driving strategy for companies entering new global markets, building strategic partnerships, and leading global public policy work with companies and governments around the world.
Her advice to future graduates a decade after her own graduation are to study abroad, get involved in the community, ask for help and follow your intellectual curiosity. And finally: always, always go to the networking event or the coffee meeting someone suggests for you.
Where were you born and what was your experience like growing up?
I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and grew up in the suburb of Kirkwood, which is about a 15 minute drive from the WashU campus. I was the older of two children in my family, with a brother four and a half years younger than me. I had a great childhood. I was involved in sports, dance, student government and other extracurriculars in school, as well as some hobbies that would play out later in life. For example, in eighth grade I started studying photography, which is kind of a unique thing to study in middle school. I later went on to minor in photography in the art school at Washington University. I was really interested in politics at a young age, as well as international cultures and history, which also played out later in my career. My parents, who are small business owners, did not travel a lot internationally on their own, but they inspired me to read books, study maps and dream about other parts of the world. I think that really inspired me to have a career that was international.
You said your parents were small business owners. What kind of businesses did they run?
My dad is an independent sales representative for restaurant equipment manufacturing companies. From everything you see at restaurants from a walk-in freezer to a fancy oven as well as the furniture and dining wares you see outside the kitchen, there are manufacturers who make that equipment and he helps get that equipment to restaurant and hotel owners. His father started the company and my dad took over the business when he retired. It was cool growing up because we had popcorn machines, milkshake makers and all this commercial equipment at home. In middle school and high school, sleepovers at the Grossman’s were just awesome because we could eat milkshakes and popcorn all night.
My mother studied psychology and decided to leave her job when my brother and I were growing up. She volunteered heavily at our schools and was very involved in the community. After my brother and I entered high school and college, she became an independent sales representative for a clothing company called Etcetera, based out of New York. Since then, she has grown the business with a team of associates and is continually #1 in sales across the country. I loved having both of my parents nearby while growing up and it’s equally as rewarding to see their businesses doing really well now that my brother and I are out of the house.
How would you describe Kirkwood?
KIrkwood is a place that looks like it’s out of a movie — Main Street USA. Like most sitcoms and TV dramas set in the US, high school sporting events are key milestones in the year and everyone generally knows each other’s business, for better or worse. In fact, Kirkwood and Webster, which is the rival high school, play a football game every Thanksgiving called Turkey Day. You have the cheerleaders, the pep club, the marching band, everyone comes out. The two schools have the oldest football rivalry west of the Mississippi. Sports Illustrated and other sports organizations have written about it. I was in the marching band. I played the flute, but I quit two years in to focus full-time on the newspaper. I was the photography editor, so I needed to be on the sidelines taking photos of the sports.
It was a great place to grow up. My only complaint was that it was not particularly diverse, so that was something I really welcomed when I went to Wash U. Despite not being very diverse, there were a lot of people who had open minds, so they would encourage us to learn, to meet people and to be curious. I had some of the best teachers. I was very lucky at Kirkwood High School, as well as at Wash U, to have professors and teachers who really inspired and changed my life in many ways.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be president of the United States.
What was your real first paid job as a kid?
At 13 or 14, I was a babysitter, so that was the first paid job. In high school I worked two jobs at the same time: one as a barista at Starbucks in Kirkwood, and then I worked at The Custard Station, which is an ice cream store in the heart of downtown Kirkwood. I would go from one job to the next. I was eating all the ice cream and drinking all the frappuccinos that I could get my hands on.
Why did you choose WashU?
I actually did not want to go to WashU because I spent my whole life in St. Louis and wanted to see the bigger world out there. I looked at schools in Washington, D.C., New Orleans, North Carolina, Philadelphia and Chicago. Of all those cities I looked in, I really felt that the University of Chicago was where I wanted to go. I got in and received a partial scholarship. I thought Chicago was the perfect mix of being in a big city, but also not so far away from home. So I put my housing deposit down. While my parents were supportive, my mom continued to ask me if I was sure I didn’t want to look at Wash U. I had already applied by that point and also received a partial scholarship, but I just felt that it was too close to home. I didn’t really want to go.
My mom persisted and she convinced me to visit Wash U and observe some classes and walk around campus during one of my free periods senior year of high school. I listened to her, and I’m so glad that I did. When I visited, I didn’t know anyone there. I just walked on campus, went into the Mallinckrodt Center and started eating lunch by myself. A few students came over to me and said ‘Hey, do you want to sit with us?’ I explained that I was a prospective student and they were incredibly nice. I went and observed some classes, including a psychology class in one of the big lecture halls, and I actually pictured myself there at that moment.
My parents and I spoke about it and they were thrilled I had a change of heart – they also promised to give me my space and not show up unannounced on campus, which was just 15 minutes from their home. I’m so glad my mom pushed me to go visit and that it led to me deciding to go to Wash U.
“She convinced me to go to rush, so I did, and I’m really glad that I did, because I met some friends that I don’t think that I would have otherwise met.”
How did you spend your time at WashU?
I studied political science, with a focus on South Asia – India and Pakistan, in particular. I also earned a minor in photography in the art school. In terms of extra curricular activities, I was very involved in Student Union, which is the student government organization. Freshman year, I served as senator and then sophomore year decided to run for executive office with three other rising seniors and we won. I think I was one of the youngest ever executive officers at Wash U at the time. It was a great environment. I was working with people who were a bit more experienced than I was, so I learned a lot. As the Student Union Executive Secretary, I had a number of communications and PR responsibilities. That was my first introduction to communications, which I would go on to do later in life, interestingly enough.
I was in a sorority, although that was also something I did not think that I wanted to do when I started college. Again, my mother convinced me. This is a theme. She convinced me to go to rush, so I did, and I’m really glad that I did, because I met some friends that I don’t think that I would have otherwise met. It was a good opportunity, but it was not the only thing in my Wash U life, which was good. I think it’s important to have diversity.
The other thing that took a lot of time was doing my honors thesis in the political science department. I studied abroad in India twice, and my thesis was about the role of women in Indian politics at the local level of government.
I was also involved with After School Arts, a program that taught art after school in the St. Louis City public school district. Every Wednesday we would go to one of the schools and do art activities with the kids. As a coordinator, that meant that I did things like lesson planning and making sure that we had enough WashU volunteers to come and teach the art every week. It was awesome. It was a great chance for me to serve locally in the city.
“It’s ok to quit stuff if it allows you to prioritize the things you care about more.”
I also rowed Crew for a semester, but I could not effectively balance waking up at 4 AM for practice every morning with the late night Student Union government meetings we’d have in the evenings before. I quit crew after a semester. That’s one piece of advice I have: It’s ok to quit stuff if it allows you to prioritize the things you care about more. Everyone says quitting is bad, but I actually don’t agree because it’s all about prioritization. I cared about student government and my grades in my classes more than I did about waking up at 4 AM every morning to row.
When did you start thinking about life after WashU?
I thought about life after Wash U in increments throughout my entire time at Wash U. Rather than just waiting until senior year and thinking ‘Oh my gosh, I have to get a job,’ I thought about it in phases. I wanted to make use of every single summer at Wash U, and because I was from St.Louis, I most certainly did not want to stay in St. Louis for the summer in addition to the rest of the school year. Often times, I was planning months ahead of what I wanted to do. The summer after my freshman year, I studied abroad in India for three months in Rajasthan with the Wash U History Department, and it was life changing. After this study abroad experience, I knew I wanted to focus on South Asia specifically as part of my international affairs and political science work.
The summer after my sophomore year I was an intern at the National Women’s Political Caucus. It was the first time I experienced working in Washington, D.C., and that summer was very important because it gave me an eye toward what I could potentially do after Wash U with a degree in political science and focus in international affairs. The summer after my junior year, I worked at a think tank, the Woodrow Wilson Center for International affairs, and did research with a scholar who was focused on Justice Brandeis and key moments in the Supreme Court.
After those summers in DC, I was hooked on politics and international affairs. I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of role that would lead to after college though. There are a lot of different ways to be involved in politics. You can go work on Capitol Hill. Your first job, inevitably, is going to be writing letters or stuffing envelopes, which is fine, because that’s how you work your way up and the experience exposes you to different parts of the political process. Or you could work in business but at the intersection of politics. I started off my senior year with a list of about 20 different ideas of what I wanted to do after graduation. It included government roles like the US Department of State, a number of NGOs and non-profits and consulting firms.
Then there was this company that I actually saw a print ad for in The Economist. It was one of my favorite magazines in college. There was an image of a person with a business suit and his brain was cut open with a bunch of people (all wearing suits as well) standing in his brain. The caption said, ‘APCO Worldwide, where our best minds come to think for you.’ I thought ‘what is this perfectly vague company?’ So I went on the internet and read that APCO Worldwide was a consulting company that essentially operates at the intersection of politics, media and business. It’s services included policy and lobbying, PR, crisis communication and corporate responsibility. For example, helping Coca-Cola figure out their water sustainability program and work with NGOs around the world. This company sounded so interesting. I thought, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be great if I could work at the intersection of business and politics?’ But I didn’t know anyone there.
“I literally sat with him and went through my list of 20 organizations I could apply to.”
I decided to visit my Wash U political science professor, Andy Sobel, during his office hours at the beginning of my senior year to run some job ideas past him. I literally sat with him and went through my list of 20 organizations I could apply to. He would say ‘sounds interesting, check it out’, or ‘I don’t think you’ll like it and here’s why.’ When I got to APCO Worldwide on the list, he said one of his college buddies was the fourth employee there. ‘I’ll put you in touch,’ he said. Surely enough, he did. I was able to get my resume in and I had a formal interview — he opened the door for me. Now, of course, you had to be credible and stand on your own to actually get the job. But really, I credit him for getting my foot in the door. That was my first job, and I don’t know if I would have gotten the interview had he not taken the time to brainstorm with me.
“Can I take a young blonde woman from St. Louis who knows nothing about India and make her into an Indian studies scholar?”
How did you learn about the internship opportunities?
Studying abroad kind of felt for me like the equivalent of an internship. I learned about those by hanging out at Wash U’s Stix International House. It’s the study abroad office, and they had all these flyers of the most magical places. I found the India opportunity and I interviewed, but they thought that I was too young. I convinced them to let me do it and I found out later that the professor was taking me on as an experiment. His question was ‘Can I take a young blonde woman from St. Louis who knows nothing about India and make her into an Indian studies scholar?’ Years later as we had coffee in Brooklyn, he told me he succeeded.
The National Women’s Political Caucus opportunity I actually found online. The Woodrow Wilson Center, which was after my junior year, I knew someone there. A family friend was involved in politics and similar to how I did with Andy Sobel, you go out to coffee with these people and ask them for advice. You know, you put in the effort, you do the follow-ups and you make sure you send your resume when you say you’re going to send it. You have to make it as easy as possible for them to do introductions on your behalf, so I would write the paragraph that that person could cut and paste and send to their friend saying ‘Hey, this young woman Lindsay Grossman is looking for a job.’ Talk to everybody you know. If you think a family friend or a professor might know nothing about your space, think again – people surprise you. Have an open mind and make it as easy as possible for people to help you.
“So the day before I got on the flight I went to Barnes & Noble, sat in a chair and I read ‘PR for Dummies’ for an hour.”
How did you prepare for the interviews at APCO?
The first step was a phone interview and they wanted to know what I did currently at Wash U. These people understand that you are still in college, but they are looking for things like leadership, the ability to learn and that you have a good head on your shoulders. After that first phone call, they said they would like to have an in-person interview in DC. Now, they did not pay for it. If I was interviewing at some fancy consulting company like Boston Consulting Group or Deloitte, I’m sure that they would fly you out to DC. But I was in politics and many of these internships didn’t even pay in the first place. So I flew out to D.C. and stayed with a friend to save money. But when it was time to interview at APCO Worldwide, I realized that I knew nothing about public relations. I took not even a single course in the business school when I was at Wash U. I didn’t even really know what ‘public relations’ meant at 21 years old. So the day before I got on the flight I went to Barnes & Noble, sat in a chair and I read ‘PR for Dummies’ for an hour. I didn’t buy the book because I was too cheap. I read the whole book and took notes because I knew that in the interview I would have to write a press release. I studied the things that make a press release good and the framework, so that whatever the prompt was I would generally be ready. Then there were other things that I definitely could answer from my classes at Wash U, like how a bill becomes legislation, but pitching reporters and helping a company get out of a PR crisis was not something I had experience with. I’ll never forget the moment of PR for Dummies at Barnes and Noble.
How did your interview preparation play out?
I don’t remember every element of the interview, but I do remember that I met a mix of people, both early in their career as well as very senior people, like former US senators. One thing that you just have to be ready for is that everyone will be interviewing for slightly different skill sets, and you don’t know what they are, so you just have to be yourself, answer the questions and use examples to back it up. You also have to know your audience. That’s one of the first rules of communications and PR–play to your audience.
The other thing is to be flexible. I took a lot of notes to prepare and I tried to anticipate the questions. I wrote myself a Q&A to help prepare with common questions like what’s your greatest strength? What is your greatest weakness? Tell me about a time that you faced a challenging project. Tell me about a time that you led a group toward an outcome? But then, don’t be so rigid that you’re memorizing these things and you can’t be flexible when they ask you a question that you haven’t thought through.
“…make sure you keep your contacts fresh, even if you’re waiting for the right time for an interview.”
What happened after your first interview? How did you follow up?
Because I flew out to D.C. from St. Louis, they stacked a bunch of interviews back-to-back in a single day. I met with probably six people or so. I wrote a handwritten thank you note to every person that I met and I mailed them even before I left Washington, D.C. Then I followed up in an email with the hiring manager and the HR person saying thank you and to let me know if they had any additional questions. That was in addition to the handwritten notes. It was exciting when I got the job, because I knew that I was going to move to D.C. after college.
The other thing to keep in mind is timing. I remember my introduction to APCO through my professor was maybe in December, and it was too early because they don’t hire for new grad roles until March or April. I kept in contact with people during that time frame. My advice to others is to make sure you keep your contacts fresh, even if you’re waiting for the right time for an interview. Send articles you find interesting, congratulate them if you see their company launches a new partnership or product. Stay top of mind.
Did you interview with other companies? Did you negotiate your offers?
I did talk to consulting firms and had an offer at one of the Big Four consulting firms that would have paid more than APCO Worldwide. Ultimately, I took the role with APCO Worldwide because I was excited about the diverse set of experts I would work with and the exciting projects that spanned global markets and issues. I did try to negotiate my first offer but they weren’t very flexible for new grads’ starting salaries. Honestly, I did not make very much money my first two years or so in DC but I was getting the experience of a lifetime that enabled me to command much higher salaries as I grew in the company and at my next job at Intuit. Those first few years working in DC with a small salary taught me how to be smart with money and focus on saving when I started to make more money in the years ahead.
So what would you say you optimized for? You certainly didn’t optimize for salary.
I optimized for the ability to learn from stellar people, people who had done interesting and adventurous things in their own career and therefore I could benefit from. I also optimized for international work. APCO Worldwide had clients and employees all around the world. Within the first six months, I was working on projects in India, which is where my heart was. That was pretty special. I think I also optimized for being where the action was. Every day I was reading either the Washington Post or the New York Times and there would be issues on the front page that I was directly involved with which was fascinating.
“If you feel a spark when you are talking to somebody in an interview and if you wish you could ask the same question of that person — that’s probably a sign that you want to learn from this person.”
How did you know if someone was a stellar person that you wanted to work with and learn from?
I think some of it comes down to shared interests. What you might find interesting in a person might be something that I don’t necessarily relate to, just because we have different backgrounds. I think it’s almost subjective, but if you feel a spark when you are talking to somebody in an interview and you think that the questions that they are asking are particularly insightful or if you wish you could ask the same question of that person — that’s probably a sign that you want to learn from this person. I think if they have done things that you could see yourself doing, that’s also a good sign. I think that’s how you know about stellar people. The last thing I would say is to look for kindness. If you feel in an interview someone is particularly enjoying taking you down a really stressful path and getting enjoyment out of every question, that might be a sign that they’re not going to be the greatest person for you to learn from, so pay attention to that as well. There is value in creating some stressful situations in an interview, because people having to survive under pressure on the job but you can usually tell if they’re getting pure enjoyment from your suffering.
Was your mom involved in this process at all?
She and my dad generally knew that whatever I picked was going to be a good option, because they knew that D.C. would be a good place for me. I was really only looking for jobs in there, so they felt comfortable with whatever path I chose.
So how did you prepare for your first big job after school?
Your senior year can be one of two things. If you’re not writing a thesis, it can be finishing up classes and having a lot of fun. If you are writing a thesis, which is what I was doing, it was like ‘Wow, you have to finish this 100-page paper that you might not have done as much work as you should have in the first semester on.’ I really was focused on my undergrad thesis, to be honest. But I did do little things to prepare. For example, if I knew people who were also going to D.C., I would get coffee with them so that I could have a good network of Wash U people when I got there. I would email people who I knew from my past internships in D.C. and invite them to connect when I moved there. This is a theme for me, doing advance work and networking. I also put together a list of people I knew in a Word document and went back to it every once in the while. I really do enjoy networking. It’s not just about getting a job or getting something that you want out of it, it’s about learning about people and making friends.
I had only seven days between my Wash U graduation and my first day on the job at APCO in DC. Generally now between jobs, I never seem to take time off between jobs because I’m generally excited about what I’m going on to do next — and usually my next employer is major need for me to get into the role asap. That said, when possible, I would recommend taking some time off between ending a job and starting a new one – two weeks would have been nice in retrospect.
Tell me more about advanced networking- strategies, tactics, and preparation.
When I was in college and in my early career, this was before LinkedIn was really a thing, so people were heavily using business cards in Washington, D.C. I would go to a networking event and get all these business cards. After the event, on the back of each business card I would write down something about that person: what they were wearing, an interesting conversation we had, etc. I’d keep all these business cards and notes in this binder. It wasn’t particularly organized by title or anything, it was just a good chance for me to go back and read. If there was somebody that I wanted to follow up with, the key is to do it the next day or two after meeting them, maximum. Email and say we met at this event and I really enjoyed our conversation on XYZ topic so they remember as well. People meet so many people everyday, especially in Washington, D.C. — the land of networking. I would periodically stay in touch with people. If you see articles that you think people may find interesting or if you think about them, just let them know. I think that goes a long way and it’s fun.
The other thing is not only staying in contact with those people, but then also introducing people two other people. If I would be at a networking event and I would meet someone who has similar interests as someone who I met last week, I would say ‘Oh, you should meet this person.’ I always ask permission of both parties before I make an introduction. If both parties agree, I then do an email intro and suggest they get coffee or have one of the people meet the other and me if we have some future plans scheduled already. That’s what I call being a convener and it is truly a joy for me: I love making connections for people. There’s nothing better when I get a picture of two friends or two colleagues I introduced.
How do you connect the dots from what you were doing at Wash U to APCO and to what you do now?
They’re actually all closely related. One clear theme between all the things I have done is India. Studying abroad the summer after my freshman year in Rajasthan and then again my spring semester of junior year in Hyderabad really positively impacted my life. They gave me the ability to learn about new cultures and tap into a curiosity about a place that had a very different history than the one I grew up in. When I went to APCO, I seemed to be one of the very few people in an office of 200 people in Washington, D.C. who knew a bit about India and who raised their hand to help the Delhi office with a project. That led me to doing assignments in India and helping large companies enter India. So when my next employer, Intuit, hired me, it was in part because of my work in India. I was 22 when I started at APCO,, but because of Wash U and the university’s support in enabling me to study abroad in India twice, I was able to take on these new career opportunities.
Working in India has continued throughout my entire career. During my five years at Intuit, many of those were spent working in India. Then at Stripe, I led our partnerships with global payment methods and spent a lot of time working in India and other Asia markets like China. Then, at Netflix, I initially got recruited to lead the partner payments team in Asia because of my work in the region. Given I had also worked in Europe a couple years prior when I lived in London, I decided to take on the role of leading Netflix’s partner payments team in EMEA and the Americas. While I’m not focused on Asia at the moment in my role, my work in India and my time at Wash U were critical launching points to have a global career..
“I felt like my textbooks came alive when I was at places like APCO and Intuit.”
Also my political science courses at Wash U were a critical basis from which to start a career in politics in DC. I felt like my textbooks came alive when I was at places like APCO and Intuit. While at Intuit, I was leading government affairs and public policy in Asia Pacific, which meant I represented Intuit, its small business customers and other tech companies we partnered with work with government and civil society groups globally. I won’t say who the politician was, but I remember being at this event in New Delhi and having tea with this very famous person that I had read about in my political science classes. I went back and messaged my history professor at Wash U who taught this class where I learned about this politician, and he said ‘Oh, my gosh, you are literally living in the middle of this stuff we teach in class.’
There’s one thing that I would say didn’t necessarily translate, but is still a big part of my life: my photography minor. For me, photography was an outlet that enabled me to connect to people. The type of photography that I specialized in at Wash U was street photography and documentary work, and that enabled me to learn and have conversations about these really interesting cultures. I don’t take my camera gear when I travel around the world now, but the iPhone cameras now are pretty amazing – I often find myself walking in London to meetings, or sitting in a car in Bangalore traffic, and I capture the everyday moments in front of me. My colleagues have gotten used to me falling behind the group walking on a sidewalk to capture a building I’m particularly inspired by.
“I thought technology was for super smart engineers and that I wasn’t technical enough to be in tech.”
Knowing that you’ve seen your five- or 10-year plan play out and many students have anxiety over their plan, what do you think about the plan?
I’m certainly surprised about that myself. If you would have told me when I was a senior at Wash U that 10 years from now you’ll be working at a technology company, I would have thought ‘Yeah right, I barely know how to use a computer.’ I thought technology was for super smart engineers and that I wasn’t technical enough to be in tech. I was really wrong about that because technology requires all different minds, including creative and design-focused minds, people who understand history and how to interact with people. In fact, I would say they probably need those kinds of minds the most because they weren’t always the top of the hiring needs of tech companies. People with interpersonal skills and new perspectives on problem solving can really help move a business forward, even if they don’t know how to code or do traditional engineering work. I guess the lesson is to be open to what you don’t know. It’s like a spider web- every task or every fork you go down could lead to many other things. Be curious and allow yourself the ability to look down that other road.
“Go to the event. You never know.”
There’s one piece of advice that my mom gave me that’s really true. She told me to go to every networking event. “If you are tired and you just got invited to this political or cultural event at an embassy, go.” I remember being exhausted because I was going to all of these events and working crazy hours at my first job, but I would still always go because you never know who you’re going to meet. I kid you not, these moments have led me to great experiences. I remember having a Rosh Hashanah dinner with about 10 people including the US Attorney General sitting across the table when I was just 25 years old. How did this even happen? It was because I went to an event and a colleague asked if I anywhere to go for Rosh Hashanah, which I did not. He invited me and said he had some really interesting people coming. No kidding. Go to the event. You never know.
“You write five 10-year plans, but you might find a sixth that you didn’t know existed. Be open. Be curious.”
What do you think about the hype or the importance that’s typically placed on the five- or 10-year plan when you were in college?
I think it’s good to have goals, for sure, but it’s okay to have three or four or even five versions of those “10 year plans”. Version 1 could be: I want to be on a path towards being an ambassador when I have gray hair. Version 2 could be: I want to be a teacher of South Asian history. Version 3 could be: I want to work in business and PR.
You can have different versions, and they’re likely going to have similar themes. Write out the versions, be open to exploring all of them, but then try to find out what the common thread is between all five versions of those plans. It might be that you love India. In my case it was that I wanted to work internationally. I wanted to work somehow in India and I wanted to be somehow involved with politics. And then I really wanted to work with people that inspired me and challenged me to do new things. I wanted to travel. Those could have played out in multiple ways, and they certainly did. I don’t know, however, that technology would a big part of my career just 4 to 5 years after I graduated from Wash U. So I think, yeah, you write five 10-year plans, but you might find a sixth that you didn’t know existed. Be open. Be curious.
“Proving yourself is important, but don’t forget to listen. That’s how you learn.”
When you were going through your internship or job search is there anything that you wish somebody would have told you?
Maybe to listen more. When you’re young you are trying to prove yourself. You know that you have very little experience compared to people who are 30, 40 or 50 years old. You have very little experience when you’re 20, 21 o 22 years old looking for an internship or job but still the experience you do have can easily translate into future performance… So when somebody asks you an interview question, you want to give them a full and complete answer and you want to list the whys and go really deep, but sometimes it’s OK to savor the silence and really think about what they are asking. It’s OK to ask more questions to clarify and listen to what they have to say. Sometimes, we are too often thinking about what we are going to say next that we forget to listen to what the person is actual saying. Proving yourself is important, but don’t forget to listen. That’s how you learn.
Is there anything that you did at Wash U that you find valuable or not valuable?
I just remember studying a lot. I was at the library all the time studying, and I don’t regret that at all. No one regrets studying. I made great friendships at the library. I was also an Enterprise Rent-A-Car Scholar. The family who runs Enterprise, the Taylor Family, is very active in Wash U and the St. Louis community.. They’ve given a ton back to the community, so I was very grateful to get a merit scholarship from them. I remember going to these dinners every semester for their scholarship recipients – the dinners were inspiring because you would get to meet fellow Wash U students who were incredibly bright, along with accomplished Wash U alumni.
I also remember spending a lot of time in the art school as a part of my minor in photography. Many studio-based courses are heavily time intensive. I spent hours in the darkroom listening to music and developing film and prints as part of my photography coursework – I did both black and white and color photography: traditional methods, although I did focus on digital photography later in my coursework. Although it took time away from being in the library, it was such an important outlet for me. That’s the other piece of advice that I would have. If you’re curious or passionate about something that doesn’t seem to add up on your master career plan, that’s OK. Explore that, because it will probably give you balance in life. I made friendships through photography that are enduring more than 14 years later.
Are there any other projects or adventures, either inside or outside of class, that you think students should consider exploring that are not as mainstream?
I think two or three things. One is definitely to study abroad. People who are doing difficult coursework might think they can’t study abroad, but I would say find a way to make it work. Studying abroad really changed my perspective and I think it made me stand out in my career as well.
The other thing is to get involved in the St. Louis community. Wash U has this unique geographical footprint. It’s at the edge of where the St. Louis suburbs meet St. Louis City. Wealthy neighborhoods intersect with historically underprivileged neighborhoods all in the backyard of Wash U. Try to find a way to help others. I volunteered with the St. Louis City Public School District and while my volunteering was only scratching the surface, I’m glad I could help a little beyond my day to day studies. I would encourage current Wash U students to find a way to contribute to St. Louis.
“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. In fact, I would say it is very much the opposite.”
Any other wisdom you want to share with current students?
I’d like to share some advice my grandpa gave me: you don’t get what you don’t ask for. This means ask for help, ask for that raise and ask for an invitation to the meeting. I lived this advice when I decided to go to Professor Sobel’s office and say, “hey, can you please help me brainstorm some job options?” People at Wash U really want to help so ask for that help.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. In fact, I would say it is very much the opposite. It is a sign of strength and wisdom in knowing that you don’t know everything so you need to know.
Lastly, follow your intellectual curiosity. I couldn’t have told you why I was so passionate about learning about India, but I just know that I had to know more about the country and its history. It’s OK to dream about places and not really have a good answer as to why you’re interested. If you go down the learning route, there will be really rewarding things on the other side. It was the the same thing with photography for me. I wasn’t going to be a professional photographer, but I loved it and wanted to spend significant time on it, so I did. It did not take away from my ability to get a job or to have a fulfilling life – in fact, it contributed to me being a more balanced human being.
How can students get in touch with you, if they have more questions?
I can be reached via LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ltgrossman