Brett Veerhusen '08 Business & Spanish Majors
CES: Since graduation, you’ve lived, worked and volunteered in a variety of places, and roles. What experiences during your time at Puget Sound (classroom, internships, clubs, etc.) prepared you for this career path?
BV: Taking advantage of extra-curricular opportunities really helped me distinguish and define my interests and passions. My involvement and work with the Business Leadership Program, the Campus Visit Program in the Office of Admission, and Sigma Chi helped me develop my ability to lead groups toward a common goal and I found that the skills I learned have been directly transferable to every role I’ve taken on since graduation.
CES: You've come a long way since your on-campus job with the Office of Admission! Your current roles listed on LinkedIn are Captain at Castle Cape Fisheries, and Development Manager at blueEnergy Group. What do these roles entail?
BV: As the Development Manager for blueEnergy, my role is to establish a network for the company within the Puget Sound region. I started as the volunteer Controller based out of their field office in Nicaragua. Upon my return to the U.S., I wanted to remain involved and realized I could utilize my networking skills to build interest and awareness. I am utilizing social media to market blueEnergy’s cause, connecting with individual and corporate donors, and organizing fundraising events.
As a captain I am responsible for a commercial fishing boat based out of Bristol Bay, Alaska - the largest salmon fishery in the world.
I begin planning and coordinating the fishing season a few months before heading to sea. This includes ordering supplies, food, etc. and establishing contracts for our catch. The better prepared we are before leaving port, the better things go when out on the open water.
Once at sea, I lead a crew of men through 16+ hour days of hard labor for roughly seven weeks straight. The skills I learned through BLP are extremely helpful, as I am responsible for the safety of the crew, and as Captain, my attitude sets the mood and tone of the boat. If I’m angry or anxious, the crew is too. Remaining calm and composed even when stress attempts to take over is a constant challenge, but one that keeps the work exciting and exhilarating.
CES: We hear that an aspect of salmon fishing is that fishers quickly become covered in fish slime and fish scales. After returning from sea, how long does it take to get all the scales off of your skin?
BV: I attempt to get the scales off in the first couple of days, but they seem to appear on everything for far longer than I’d like to admit. I have to designate a “bio-hazard” clothing section in my room that is strictly used for fishing clothing, or anything that comes into contact with it. The smell of fish-slime does not leave easily.
CES: What do you wish you had done or known during college that might have been beneficial to your career development?
BV: Working in Nicaragua, knowledge of Spanish was essential. If I had realized that I was going to live somewhere, where English is not an option, I would have put even more work into my foreign language skills. The classroom is great for getting down the reading and writing, but to really get a handle on the colloquial spoken language, you need to fully immerse yourself into a culture. Not to mention each country has its own version of the language. If you go abroad, this helps, but push yourself further – do a homestay instead of living in the dorms, make friends with the locals, and consider locations where you are forced to speak the language. While you’ll have a headache the first few weeks, you’ll return with a much stronger control of the language. Besides going abroad, I highly recommend going down to Latin America, where you can learn cheaply, for roughly two months and vow to not use English during the whole time.
Also, become comfortable listening to the voice inside your head of what career path is right for you. It’s okay to change directions multiple times while you’re a student, even if it is an entirely new path.
CES: Your first job after graduating was in finance and banking with BlackRock--in what ways did that experience meet or not meet your expectations?
BV: I entered the world of finance in its darkest hours, and witnessed very difficult times with very low morale throughout the industry. This helped me realize what I wanted from a career and just as important, what I didn’t want. I also realized that by putting the time in with a well-respected Fortune 500 company, many doors opened for me. Also, the technical skills I gained at BlackRock were priceless for my role as the Controller at blueEnergy. The skills you learn in any role are almost always transferable, keeping this in mind helps you enjoy your role even when times may be hard.
CES: How did the time at BlackRock help you develop/plan your current pursuits?
BV: You can’t figure out what you love until you know what you don’t like. No experience is a mistake, it is always an opportunity to learn. I really respect BlackRock, and it gave me insight into the fact that I enjoy finance, I just wanted to take my skills and apply them in a manner where I could see directly the impact I was having on our world. If I hadn’t worked there in such a volatile climate, I may not have realized this as quickly.
CES: How did you make the decision to pursue your current path? Were there pivotal moments?
BV: I was hiking in the Patagonia region of Argentina with my Dad, who proposed the idea of joining him as a captain of a boat. It made me think deeply about my current career path, and helped me realize that I wanted to return to Alaska, gain more international experience, and be a part of the family business. I took these thoughts and had serious discussions with a few of my past professors who are now good friends. They really helped me reflect on my ideas, and make the best decisions for myself.
BV: If there is someone you want to talk to, don’t be intimidated--just get in touch with them and set it up. People love to talk about themselves. Once you’ve made connections, remain consistent and follow up with them, even if you might not see the direct benefit of what that individual might provide right away. Down the road, they might be able to assist you in some way. Also, read Never Eat Alone by Keith Farrazzi. This is a great book to assist you with your networking skills.
CES: Do you have any tips or resources for students looking for entry-level positions in finance, alternative energy, or entrepreneurial endeavors?
BV: Get involved with a social networking community. For me this was the Seattle Microfinance Organization. You should be able to find one of these for any subject area in which you are interested, or if there isn’t one, you can start one! Use social media. Gain internships as early as possible. The sooner you start, and the more real-world experience you gain, the better. Volunteer. Find any way to get practical experience, and use those opportunities at the same time to hone in on what your personal interests and passions really are.