David Versaw ’90

What was your major/minor and when did you graduate?  My major was Business Administration and I graduated in 1990.

What is your current position?  I am the CFO and Director of Business Development for WILL Interactive in Potomac, MD.

How did your major prepare you for your current job?  My UMW (back then MWC) liberal arts education and business administration major provided a broad preparation to begin my life the business world, which I believe is extremely important.   In reality, the chances are close to zero that you will walk out of the comfortable confines of campus into a job or career that you will stay in for the remainder of your working life.  My first “real” job after college was as an investment banker, and now I am in senior leadership of a software development company.  These are two vastly different fields.  While my business administration major provided courses in corporate finance, statistics and analysis that were helpful in getting me started in investment banking, other courses in management, marketing and business law are more relevant today.  However, it is with complete transparency that if you asked me what I remember academically at UMW and how am I applying what I learned in my day-to-day job today… I wouldn’t be able to tell you… not one single aspect.  And that is not the point.  Now that I am a bit more experienced (a nice way to say “older”) I view academics as the door opener, career launcher and opportunity builder.  Your UMW degree gets you started.  No matter how great your professors are, you are not going to walk in the door with the knowledge you have learned at UMW, understand how everything works and start running anything.  You learn 98% of what you need to know on the job.  But without your UMW degree, chances are you won’t even be given a chance to begin at many companies or organizations.

What primarily helped prepare me for my current job were the social constructs that Mary Washington provided.  What does that mean?  College is about learning academically and socially, and I am a firm believer that you should try to divide those two aspects equally if you want to reach your full potential in the business world.  If I am hiring someone, I am far more likely to choose someone who fits in with my team, gets along with everyone and is willing to work together towards a common goal.  If I get the impression that you spent all your time studying alone in the library or your dorm room, I’m not hiring you.  I don’t care if you have a 4.0 and a ton of academic honors.  We are a team.  We are looking for team players, not individualists who lack communication skills.  So what does that ultimately mean for you at UMW?  Even if you tend to be more introverted, make an effort to go out and have fun.  Join some clubs.  Go to that party.  Meet people.  It is not all about academics and getting As, no matter what your parents tell you.

How did you become interested in your field?  I sort of fell into it.  Starting at UMW/MWC I wanted to go the pre-med route.  I ended up Business Administration.  Who would have guessed?  Life is the same kind of thing.  My UMW education (along with a friend who gave me a glowing reference) helped me land an entry-level job at a national top-ten investment banking firm.  Within 5 years, I was VP of Investment Banking and subsequently VP of Mergers and Acquisitions.  Got married.  Started a family.  Time came to be a father and leave the jet setting, always travelling life behind.  Was offered the CFO position at software client of mine.  Seem to line up perfectly with where I was in life.  I’ve been here for 19 years.  Who would have guessed?

What’s the best career advice you ever received?  Never veer off course and take short cuts if they compromise your ethics, honesty and integrity.  These shorter paths are littered with trip wires, explosive devices, quicksand and alligators.  ~~from my Dad, circa 1990s

Was there a professor, advisor, or fellow student who made an impression on you or helped   you when you were at UMW?  The professors that made an impression on me were ones that were great communicators.  It was how they taught, not what they taught.  They made me think.  Their classes were not centered around memorizing facts and figures and regurgitating them on the exams.  They were about imparting an understanding of the second and third order effects of everything and the importance of information, history, choices and decisions.  They made me enjoy the learning experience.  Those who made the greatest impression on me were Dr. Richard Palmieri and Dr. James Farmer.  In Dr. Farmer’s classes, he would just tell stories.  Seriously.  Just stories about the civil rights movement and the history of diversity in the U.S.  Very relevant stories because he was in the middle of it and lived through it.  I remember several of the stories he told to this day.

What’s your fondest memory of UMW?  Fondest memories of UMW/MWC center around all the friends I made, the fun we had and the safe community that Mary Washington provided.  I view it now like summer camp, mixed in with the pain of classes and anxiety of exams.  If any students reading this would like to swap places in our lives, I’d do it in a second.  Take advantage of every opportunity while you are there.

Are there any special accomplishments you’ve achieved after college that you’d like to share?  The accomplishments that I am most proud of are being a father of 3 great kids, being a coach to their sports teams, and living a life that is fun and still filled with adventure.  Work accomplishments?  In the grand scheme of things, all those pale in comparison to what is really important in life.

How would your family or friends describe you in seven words or less?  How am I supposed to answer this one without sounding self-absorbed?  Well… I’ll pass along what my loving brother Greg says when referring to me:  “Complete loser, family embarrassment and all around failure.”  Wait… that’s 8…

In one sentence, what advice would you give current business students?   Have fun, take advantage of everything that “summer camp” offers and enjoy your time there because you can never get this time back again.