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Andrew Phillips (M.S. in Commerce ’12), an Economic Development Specialist on the Advocacy and Government Team at LinkedIn, has been with the business networking powerhouse since 2014, when it acquired his previous employer, Bizo. The Washington, D.C., native, who earned his B.A. in classics and played football at Stanford (with a squad that crushed Virginia Tech 40-12 in the 2011 Orange Bowl, he’s happy to mention), was initially prompted to move on from his NFL dreams by the sport’s five-month work stoppage when he became eligible upon graduation. Instead, he was drawn to pursue McIntire’s M.S. in Commerce after a conversation with his brother, Colter (A&S ’12), a UVA third-year football player at the time. After acquiring years of experience in Silicon Valley at Wildfire, which became absorbed by Google soon after, Phillips moved to LinkedIn. We recently spoke with him about his journey, the importance of McIntire’s continuing influence on him, and his belief in finding one’s own way.
Can you explain a bit about what you’re involved in doing at LinkedIn?
After the birth of our daughter in 2015, I was offered the opportunity to help open a new office for LinkedIn in Washington, D.C., and it's been an absolute blast for me to come home. I focus on economic development clients, who are tasked with recruiting businesses and investment to their region to bolster the local economy. LinkedIn's product set is perfect for what our customers are looking to do, and it's been really fun to carve out a new niche and help set the culture for a small office within a large company like LinkedIn. I'm extremely grateful that McIntire gave me the tools to begin my career in tech, and if the next five years are anything like the last five, I know it's going to be full of unforeseen changes and a lot of fun.
How did your time at McIntire affect your career?
It's cliché, but I can honestly say that McIntire changed my life. As a classics major who was considering law school during undergrad, I had no idea what to look for when it came to the business world. From my first day of class, literally starting with Professor Ira Harris’s first strategy lecture, I savored every bit of the coursework. The M.S. in Commerce Program tapped into a passion and excitement I didn't know existed, part of which was a fascination with social media's impact on real business results.
That passion for marketing led me to seek out Wildfire, and five years later I'm still in the industry working for one of the most influential social media companies on the planet. LinkedIn is an incredible place to work that invests extensively in the development and transformation of its employees, and I'm extremely grateful to McIntire for helping me get my start.
Were there any particularly influential experiences that you had while earning your M.S. in Commerce?
The individual experiences are too many to count, and I could literally list out every class and professor, pointing to several impactful things I learned from each part of the curriculum. Holistically, McIntire changed the way I see the world. It changed the way I read a newspaper. It changed the way I analyze information and try to find "the signal in the noise," as Professor Peter Maillet was fond of saying. It gave me the confidence to step into the tech industry with knowledge of a world I knew nothing about prior to arriving in Charlottesville. Without McIntire, I can't say confidently that I'd be in close to the same place that I am now.
Any advice you can give to current students?
My best advice is to stop seeking out generic career advice.
The truth is that most standard career advice is unhelpful. Rather than seeking generic answers to simple questions, seek out people willing to be honest with you—brutally honest if necessary—about what you need to do to improve and get where you want to go. Seek the answers to questions that will help you on your unique path, given your interests, your background, and your skills.
If you want to learn anything meaningful about yourself, you need to develop relationships with mentors who are strong enough to tell you the truth, especially when it hurts your ego. You can't get that from the latest LinkedIn listicle about "The Best Career Advice" from some talking head. Raise your standard for the advice you seek out and accept.
Finally, stay positive. I was extremely discouraged at times during my initial job hunt, but if you can stay positive and focus on developing meaningful relationships, you'll be all the better for it.