Louis Young is a 2008 graduate of Ottawa University-Wisconsin. Tasked with new business development with Frank Mayer & Associates, a major in-store merchandising solutions company, Young’s story exhibits what OU’s adult education is all about. He tells it best in his own words.
While growing up, college was never something my parents discussed. We were a blue collar, hard working, middle class family. So after high school, I followed the family tradition of working in a blue collar job. After a few years of doing something I really didn’t enjoy, I ran into a very successful gentleman in the field of financial services. He introduced me to a concept I had never heard of called “Personal Development.” I can honestly say, after that moment, I was never the same. I started attending motivational seminars and reading books on a variety of business subjects.
Over the next several years, I too entered the field of financial services, earned a real estate broker’s license and learned the basics of selling. In my mid-20s, I took a position with a company that turned out to be a turning point for me. Over the next 15 years, I ascended from inside sales rep to one of three national sales directors, helping grow the company’s revenues seven fold and receiving a lot of personal business mentoring along the way.
I had a sales team of over 24 reps that produced over $16 million dollars in annual sales. I interviewed hundreds of people and hired many. I learned about budgets, setting sales targets and doing annual reviews. I conducted training, coaching and mentoring. I took part in strategic planning sessions and was asked to speak at two national sales conferences. I accomplished all of this without a degree by relying on hard work, determination and pure aggressiveness.
I also bought rental property and did several forms of investing on the side, all of which grew handsomely and afforded a nice lifestyle. Going back to school was not something I gave much thought to. With the way things were going, why would I?
So what prompted you to finally get your degree?
Over the years, I was routinely reminded that I didn’t have a degree, that it was a glaring weakness on my resume, and if I wanted to continue climbing in the organization, it would be a requirement. Every time I was asked, “Where did you go to college?” or “What is your degree in?” I got more embarrassed. Tired of trying to come up with creative answers as to why I didn’t have a degree, I decided to register for classes as a present to myself for my 40th birthday.
With so many options, what made you choose Ottawa University?
After researching several colleges, I was impressed with Ottawa for several reasons. First, Elaine George was great with me, going over everything and how it all works. I had hired many people with college degrees but I didn’t know the first thing about college! Also, Elaine never pressured me. I remember sitting in her office waiting for the big, high pressure close and it never happened.
Second, I really liked that Ottawa University was a Christian, non-profit organization.
What did your work experience bring to your degree, and what has your degree brought to your career?
My personal experience in business, investing and being in management at a fast-growing company prepared me well for getting a business degree at Ottawa, and it was a great validation for me. I proved to myself that I could see it through, especially when the first night in ProSeminar I drove home thinking “Am I crazy?”
Having my degree has given me a more relaxed posture in everything I do – I don’t dread the “college” question anymore. Also, about seven months before graduating from Ottawa, I made a career change. The company I joined was impressed and fully supportive that I was attending OU. In fact, four months after I graduated, they offered me a vice president position with a six figure salary that I didn’t even interview for! However, for me, the whole college experience can be summed up with this thought: “It’s not what your degree will get you… it’s what your degree will make you become in the process of earning it.”
How would you encourage fellow alumni to get involved with and give back to OU?
Share your story with others and encourage people to go back to school at Ottawa University and get their degree. Tell people what has happened for you and the benefits they will receive. Ask OU how you can be used at their events, like sharing at an open house or serving on the alumni board. No matter what your background is, someone can relate to you and you can be that someone who helps them take the step that turns their life around.
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