Brian Burns ’17

1. What was your major/minor and when did you graduate?

Business Administration c/o 2017

2. What is your current position (title, company, location)?  Can you describe a typical day?

I work as a Software Engineer at Whitney, Bradley & Brown (WBB) out of our office in Crystal City, VA (I started at Decisive Analytics Corporation, which WBB acquired in January 2020). I am part of a small, semi-autonomous sector of ~30 people that develops and delivers machine learning capabilities to different government agencies. Being in such a small sector of the company, a typical day may see me coding, reading the latest research papers on ML techniques, participating in conference calls with our government customers, or contributing to proposals for new work.

3. How did your major prepare you for your current job?

Majoring in Business Administration has helped me immensely in areas such as proposal writing, public speaking, customer service, information systems, and management. I am lucky to be able to do all these things in my role, which require a well-rounded portfolio of skills that the UMW COB played a huge part in cultivating.

4. How did you become interested in your field?

I became interested in coding when I first began taking computer science courses at UMW. I wanted to develop a technical specialization to pair with my business background, and ended up really enjoying the problem solving aspect of computer programming. I went on to do a M.S. at William & Mary where I became more interested in machine learning, which is essentially harnessing the power of computers to draw conclusions from large amounts of data.

5. What’s the best career advice you ever received?

I alluded to it in my last answer, but the best advice I received is to develop a specialization/concentration/focus area that can sort of be your calling card. The COB at UMW does a great job helping you become knowledgeable in the various aspects of business, which will help you be successful throughout your career. However, sometimes what will set you apart from other young job seekers is being very good at one specific thing- whether that be cost accounting, social media marketing, or software development.

6. Was there a professor, advisor, or fellow student who made an impression on you or helped you when you were at UMW?

I did an independent study with Dr. Belleh Fontem related to his research in the field of operations management that really helped me see how I could blend what I was learning in computer science into the world of business. I also really enjoyed the capstone class I took with Dr. Woody Richardson whose enthusiasm for the class, and business in general, was infectious.

7. What’s your fondest memory of UMW?

My best memories from UMW are just being around so many friends/good people everyday and being able to hang out on such a beautiful campus in such a great town. Enjoy it while it lasts!

8. Are there any special accomplishments you’ve achieved after college that you’d like to share?

Just getting through two more years of grad school and landing my first full time job!

9. How would your family or friends describe you in seven words or less?

Eclectic, savvy, ridiculous, enthusiastic, loyal, and basic.

10. In one sentence, what advice would you give current business students? 

Your work doesn’t have to be your life, but it should promote your life.