October 29, 2014
Stephen Davis has always tried to make the most out of every opportunity.
A Baltimore native, Davis came to WVU in 2001, receiving his undergraduate degree in computer engineering in 2006, his MBA in 2007 and his MSIR (Master of Science in Human Resources and Industrial Relations) in 2008. While at school, he dove into a variety of organizations, like the Alpha Omega Omega coed service fraternity, the National Society of Black Engineers, the National Black MBA Association and the African Student Union. He was a member of the WVU Boxing Club, a resident assistant (RA) at Summit Hall and a recipient of the W.E.B. Dubois Fellowship.
All of those rich extra-curricular experiences, coupled with a diverse educational background, have propelled him to a rewarding career as an engineering field specialist for the U.S. Treasury in Pittsburgh. He works with professionals such as accountants, lawyers, geologists, financial planners and international agents, just to name a few.
Davis had a great technical background after undergrad, but he was looking to expand his skill set.
“I knew I had to be diverse to be competitive (in the job market.) I didn’t see anything wrong with making myself better (by continuing education,)” he said.
In the MBA and MSIR programs, he learned skills that his undergraduate degree didn’t thoroughly cover, like debits and credits, labor negotiations, teamwork, management and the importance of being results-driven. Those programs also opened his eyes to the global marketplace. The class trip to China, in particular, expanded his horizons.
“For me, that was big. I never even considered leaving the country, never had a passport in mind. I had no idea what to expect, but it was a phenomenal two weeks. I have classmates that still e-mail me today about that trip. Since then, I’ve been to five different countries, and I don’t think I would have even considered that until the business school gave me that opportunity.”
He also made the most of the career development resources available at WVU.
“I was always happy with their flexibility and willingness to help, and with Bonnie Anderson in particular. Especially considering the job market,” he recalled. It was through those resources that he obtained a marketing internship at the end of his collegiate career.
The combination of degrees and vast experiences has set Davis up for success.
“Whenever you mix a technological background with business, you pretty much turn bilingual,” Davis said. “I can talk on both the engineering and business ends, and that’s something a lot of companies value.”
Davis continues to be well rounded. He volunteers in a handful of organizations, including Pittsburgh’s Amachi Program, a youth mentorship program for children overcoming the challenges of parental incarceration. He enjoys taking his mentee, a 12-year-old boy, rock climbing at REI, to Pittsburgh sporting events, to events at the library, and to the zoo.
“Even just taking them into your house and allowing them to watch TV means a lot. Just getting out of the house is a big thing for them,” he said. “I listen to him, and slip in some ideas about what he might want to do in the future and what steps he can take now to get there.”
Davis spoke passionately about inspiring youth — and not just his mentee. While at WVU, he served as an academic advisor and orientation instructor, giving guidance to new students. Today, he has plenty of excellent advice for current college students and job seekers.
He encouraged students to build and learn from their classmates.
“Find someone you respect and admire and digest what they do. Ask them questions about how they developed those skills you admire. Did they take a class? Did they read it in a book? You can learn a lot from your peers,” he said.
Davis felt that the never-give-up Mountaineer spirit was one of the best qualities to have.
“I wasn’t someone who got everything the first time I heard it, but I think my persistence when it came to learning and improving myself has helped me reach where I am today,” he said. A great way to stay on top of things, he said, was to always keep learning.
“Like companies on Facebook and they’ll give you articles on your industry every day right in your News Feed. Use LinkedIn to check out the company, how employees there present themselves and what their backgrounds are. Getting a degree is not the end of your journey; it’s the beginning. Get familiar with your industry (to succeed,)” he said. “And before a job interview, write down all your accomplishments from the past 10 years and see which ones are applicable to the position. You’ll be surprised at how much material you have.”
Finally, Davis encouraged all Mountaineers new to the job market to be proud.
“You’ve got a degree from a very good program. Don’t be afraid to talk about that,” he said. “Wear your B&E gear with pride and always be willing to talk about how you enjoyed your experiences there.”