Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open: Video Transcript

Stetson Siler (BS Mathematics, Miami, 1975; MS Mathematics, Miami, 1976) [U.S. Air Force, ret.]: I spent my career in the U.S. Air Force and retired in 2006. My military specialty was operations research, and that enabled me to use a lot of the academic training that I got here in the math-stat department, which were combined at the time, in that specialty within the military.

I spent more time than anything else in the operational testing business, the testing of new weapon systems, new pieces of equipment, new aircraft, and operational testing involved an evaluation of whether a piece of equipment or type of aircraft that was being procured, whether it met the needs that it was purchased for. So we would look at all kinds of different measures, and that frequently involved planning the tests, conducting the tests, and analyzing the tests, use of statistical techniques and other mathematics procedures to do that.

When I was 18 years old, I probably didn't know what I wanted to do, and when I got here, I remember being here at freshman orientation and needed to decide what I was going to major in. "I always did well in math, I'll major in math." That's what led me to begin with here. I think in terms of other interests, I got into ROTC when I was a freshman, because in 1971 they were no longer giving draft deferments to students just because they were college students. However, you could get a draft deferment if you were in ROTC, so I joined ROTC, but after a short period of time, I came to the conclusion about, "I'm enjoying what I'm doing and I'm liking what I'm doing. I think I'll give this a chance." And I was able to work a three-year scholarship for my last three years here, a military scholarship to get through the rest of my school years.

An education, a broad liberal arts education, like you would get from the College of Arts and Science gives you the advantages of being able to interact with different types of people, it gives you a broad background, you can enter discussions on many different topics and be knowledgeable about those subjects. It gives you a broad background; it gives you a foundation to build on.

My advice is to keep your eyes and ears open. I've seen examples where a lot of young recent college graduates are arriving at a job and they're of the opinion of, "I've got this high-powered degree and they ought to be rolling out the red carpet for me here," but I've found over the years that there's really nothing to compare to compete with experience, and keeping your eyes and ears open, talking to people who've been there and who have done this and watching how they do it and watching how they get their job done to me is a critical factor in getting ahead. So I'd say to approach your first job after you graduate with that kind of attitude.

[November 2013]