Lindsey Waress earned the title of computer guru in her family. Any phone, computer, tablet, remote control — if it broke, the family brought it to her to fix.
She took her knack for technology and combined it with business, a field she always knew she’d focus on in college, and received a computer information systems degree in May 2016. The alum didn’t waste any time after graduation. She jetted off to San Antonio, Texas, to begin a promising career at United Services Automobile Association (USAA), an insurance, banking, and investment company serving military members and their families.
Waress, a Tucson native, said it was tough to leave her family and be so far from home but she knew if she didn’t make the leap, she’d regret it later. Her advice for soon-to-be graduates is not to hesitate if offered a good opportunity, even if it’s in another city and out of your comfort zone.
“Leaving is probably the hardest,” she said. “So if you have the opportunity and it’s a great job, I would say don’t pass it up.”
Pushing past the comfort zone
The advice holds true for events or activities, too, Waress said. The W. P. Carey School of Business offers many events to network with peers and potential employers, but many students are nervous about being in those situations. Waress instructed, “Just go!”
“Half the battle is just showing up. You never know who you will meet or what new skills you will pick up that may be beneficial to your future,” she said. “You can’t even be considered if you never show up.”
San Antonio was not on Waress’ list of ideal cities to live and work but she was familiar with USAA, she was already a member. Her father is retired from the military.
“I knew they were a great company because I already banked with them,” she said.
Keeping an open mind in class
What really drew Waress to the company was their renowned information technology department. The more she researched the company, the more she learned about the company’s reputation for being on the cutting-edge of technology, which is something most people don’t know about USAA, Waress said.
“It’s more an IT shop that happens to have some banking and insurance,” she said jokingly.
Waress is now in the USAA IT training program, which is for new hires and recent college graduates. There are 27 trainees learning the USAA ropes with her.
“It’s a 10-week IT training crash course to get us up to speed on all of the USAA technology,” she said. “So we’re already in the know a little bit about the company and how it works.”
Once she settles in, Waress will be a software developer and integrator III, focusing on Java software development.
Waress went through a major learning curve to get there. She admits that at the start of her college career she didn’t know much about advanced computer technology, like coding. It wasn’t until she chose her major that she began to learn the ins and outs of CIS.
“I really just kind of went with it. I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” she said.
It was CIS 105, an introduction to computer applications and IT, that got her hooked. She loved the course, she said, and often helped classmates.
Enhancing college with extracurricular activities
In addition to setting Waress on her career path, W. P. Carey was instrumental in helping her connect with employers. As a member of the Business School Council and the Department of Information Systems Club, Waress was involved in the planning of career fairs and events with companies. She enjoyed rubbing elbows with potential employers and leaders in the community.
“W. P. Carey was always sending me updates via email for career fairs, well-accomplished speaker events, and new clubs to join,” she said. “There were continuous opportunities offered to network and gain additional business experience that grew my confidence in my own personal skills.”
Waress met USAA at a career fair. After a couple interviews, the company made her an offer seven months before she graduated.
Raghu Santanam, department chair and professor of Information Systems, said faculty and staff encourage students to take the lead in organizing activities, whether it be volunteering in the community or inviting corporate partners to speak at events.
“Our aim is to provide students a multitude of opportunities to develop professionally and personally,” he said.
Waress did her best to take full advantage of the opportunities the school offered, and she credits much of her success to the care and dedication of the faculty and staff. She advises students to “enjoy it all now while you’re here, experience everything, and reciprocate the hard work and dedication of the W. P. Carey staff. You won’t be disappointed with yourself or your outcome.”
Whether she’s at work or at play, Waress likes to stay busy. She loved hiking around the mountains in the Valley and now in San Antonio. She plans to join USAA’s intramural volleyball team.
To satisfy her competitive nature, Waress takes CrossFit exercise classes daily. She said it’s an intense but fun workout. Fellow exercisers cheer you on and build you up, she said.
“If you like a challenge, it’s fun. I’m pretty competitive,” Waress said. “It’s a good way to blow off steam after work.”
If Waress could solve one world problem, she would focus on childhood obesity. “I think this issue is pushed to the side way too often, especially by Americans. Education in schools is obviously incredibly important, but if these children aren’t healthy, they lose motivation to learn, which negatively affects all aspects of their lives. Living a healthy lifestyle is incredibly important to me, and I know that it helps me make a more positive impact on my life overall. I would put in the time, effort, and money to help increase awareness for staying active with sports, something fun for anyone, and also teach the importance of eating healthy. I think if more effort was spent on this problem, it would lead to more young people being active and making a positive impact on their community and the overall happiness of their own lives. It’s a root problem that has the potential to create other problems down the line for some people. Why not be a part of solving the overall issue to help others avoid childhood obesity?”