Wilson Parnell graduated from Chapman University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with minors in Business Administration and Leadership and a Master of International Studies with an emphasis in International Disability Rights and Leadership. With two degrees under his belt, the former men’s water polo player uses what he’s learned at Chapman to help him navigate finding a career.
Despite being in the workforce for just a couple of years, Wilson has had an immense amount of experience in several different careers. He has worked in Human Resources at a software development company, coached men’s and women’s water polo at the University of Redlands (traitor?), given his very own TedX talk on the disability spirit, all leading to his current job as a Resource Manager for The Crypsis Group, a cybersecurity company.
Wilson’s first job after completing the 4+1 graduate program at Chapman was in the HR department of one of the only major software development companies in the Inland Empire, ESRI. In this position, he helped with onboarding and training, using the skills he learned in his leadership classes to build relationships with new hires and make them feel comfortable in their new roles.
A new resident of the Inland Empire, Wilson made connections with the water polo coaches out at the University of Redlands and secured an assistant coaching job for both the men’s and women’s teams. A job, he said, was totally worth it.
“It made for long days, definitely. Early in the morning, having to go to practice, then work, then more practice and weekends. Not too much social or free time, but it was definitely worth it. It was actually a lot of fun.”
While coaching the men’s water polo team in the fall of 2019, Wilson realized that he could draw on the training he was doing at work to help his student-athletes. His trainings for employees centered around emotional intelligence and how you handle your emotions paired with stress in and out of the workplace. After leading one of these workshops with members of the water polo team, they nominated him to give his very own TedX talk at a conference the University was hosting the next year.
“I kind of adapted some of what I was doing in the workplace and did it for the men’s team”, Wilson said. “They seemed to really like that and after I did one of those sessions and they nominated me to speak at a conference and it happened to be a TedX talk.”
Wilson’s TedX talk was on the disability spirit. For those of you that don’t know, Wilson was born with fibular hemimelia, a condition in which a person is born with no fibula. His leg was amputated at just 16 months old to ensure that he would eventually be able to walk. You can read more about Wilson’s journey as an athlete here.
Wilson continued to coach at Redlands and work at ESRI until COVID-19 hit. The women’s water polo season was canceled in the middle of March and he was also looking for new opportunities for his career.
“Right around the time COVID was really starting, I was looking to see what else was out there in terms of other jobs. I wasn’t really planning on leaving but I got a pretty great opportunity as a Resource Manager for a startup cyber security company.”
This is where we find Wilson now, helping to put out the many fires that come with the cyber security territory. “You may see things in the news like a company gets breached or there is ransomware, we handle and investigate these types of cases”, he said. “We’re kind of like an emergency room for cyber security. A company comes to us with a problem and we have to figure it out right away.”
Although Wilson said his major is “totally unrelated to what I’m doing now”, he is grateful for his time as a student-athlete at Chapman to help with where he is now in his career.
“The student-athlete part is important because you’re definitely juggling a lot. My last year, I was juggling working, playing water polo, doing research and going to class. The student-athlete portion definitely prepared me in the time management portion of working.”
He explains how an athlete’s sense of competitiveness and willingness to yourself in tough spots makes you a key player in the work force.
“Other athletes I have been engaged with who are working now are all generally competitive and competitive with themselves. I feel like an athlete to some degree enjoys that level of competition. They want to be that one to take the winning shot or make the winning play and that definitely translates into working.”
When asked if he had any advice to fellow alumni, Wilson touched on how important it is to build relationships with the people that you meet throughout your life.
“Being on a team and networking and connecting with people is a big key. That’s kind of what I’ve done. Connecting with people on a different level.”