Kevin graduated from Chapman University in 2013 with a B.A. in Communication Studies. Today, he works in the tech space doing procurement for Unitas Global. We caught up with Kevin to learn about how he got into the tech field and how his degree in communication helps him in his daily work and life. If you want to connect with Kevin, you can find him on LinkedIn.
Where do you work and what is your job title?
I work as a Director of Global Procurement at Unitas Global
What does your job entail?
My primary responsibility is to protect my company’s profits by minimizing our costs. That goes for internal expenses, as well as project-related costs for customer deployments. At Unitas Global, we build IT cloud environments for our customers. Each time we implement a customer environment, my job is to negotiate the costs and terms of all associated purchases and contracts. These include commodity costs like hardware and software, service-based costs like datacenter colocation and internet bandwidth, logistical costs like international shipping and taxes, and professional costs, which are the engineers, developers, technicians, etc. My goal is to buy at better costs and terms than the project team budgeted for, which will expand our margins. This is all heavily rooted in financial analysis and negotiation.
A big part of buying well is managing relationships with my vendors and partners. This part is the fun side – the happy hours, basketball games, and Vegas conferences that balance out the spreadsheets and brass tacks of the other stuff. Kind of like sales, but from the opposite perspective since I’m the customer. I need to make sure these people hold the company and me in high regard, so when the time comes to ask for a favor, they’re open to it.
How did you decide to pursue a career in procurement in the tech field?
I wanted to find something that would offer me the best return for my time. Leverage is key in building anything – wealth, experience, social impact, etc. Tech has a reputation for competitive salaries, stock options for longer-term financial gains, and a fast learning curve. All of those were attractive to me. At the time I was graduating, cloud computing was becoming one of the hottest verticals in tech, so I wanted to get in. If I were doing the same thing in the current climate, I would probably look at AI as an entry point.
Over the past few years, I’ve become more entrepreneurially inclined in my thinking. If I had that type of mentality coming out of college, I probably would have tried to pursue something on my own. Having said that, there is so much to learn from working for someone else, so I’m glad I took the path I did.
How has your communication degree benefited you in your career?
Communication is an interesting discipline, not for its novelty, but for its utility. It’s not a focus that blows your mind very often. More likely what you’ll find is that you refine your understanding of common knowledge and existing skill sets, and there’s a lot of value in that. In fact, relating to people and navigating social situations has been one of the most beneficial skills in my arsenal. It serves me in every aspect of my life, not just business.
Negotiating is a big part of my daily responsibility. Argumentation and debate was a great intro to getting comfortable disagreeing amicably, but my time spent on the Speech and Debate team was what really shaped my confidence and set the groundwork for this skill set. Regardless of what business venture you go into, you will find yourself negotiating at some point, whether asking for a salary bump, new title, more stock options, or whatever.
What courses or professors helped you the most in your career journey?
From a strictly business standpoint, the two most directly impactful courses were probably Intercultural and Interpersonal Communication.
Intercultural Communication- I work with partners all over Europe, AsiaPac, North and South America, and a bit in Africa. Knowing that people from different places think differently – fundamentally differently – helps me be more empathetic and manage my expectations for their business style. There are very few cultures in the world who value productivity and timelines the way we do in the States. Though the American business mentality has become the standard for conducting international business, cultural sensitivity can help build relationships with international partners, which has long term value.
Interpersonal Communication- being likable is incredibly beneficial, and knowing how to communicate effectively is a huge part of that. Part of that was learned in the classroom, but mostly these are skills you pick up when you’re out and about with friends. So, while academics are important, it’s equally important to have a life outside of studying. As an example, I play racquetball with my CEO whenever we are in town at the same time. Of course, he likes the fact that I am a diligent, competent, and productive employee, but the fact that he wants to hang out outside of the office has opened up a much more profound mentorship than I would have otherwise had access to.
Speech and Debate was the single most important thing I did in college for personal growth. Conquering the beast of public speaking gave me confidence that I had never felt before. For one, it got me out of my shell and taught me there is value in my words, and that people want to hear what I have to say. Further, the ability to take on a skill and succeed (especially something as terrifying as public speaking), showed me how good it can feel to persevere and accomplish something. In turn, it made me hungry for future skill-building, and I am now on a path of self-actualization that I probably would not have found for myself otherwise. I would have likely settled for a lesser version of myself.
What advice do you have for undergraduate students or recent graduates?
Learn to think critically. It’s valuable to be able to ask how and why rather than just who, what and where. Keep a healthy appetite of curiosity, life is more interesting when you seek knowledge.
Learn to think entrepreneurially. The age of the internet has created so much potential for independent ventures.
Think beyond the traditional paradigm. Productivity is important, but it’s not the only thing. Don’t forget to enjoy your life.
Leverage your network. First, you have to build one though, so be open, meet people, pursue deep relationships.