Former swimmer, Wendy Trott, shares her experiences since she graduated from UGA in 2012.
Cape Town, South Africa
Major at UGA:
A.B. in International Affairs with a minor in French
Masters in International Development, Concentrations in Africa and Emerging Economies from SciencesPo (Paris, France)
University highlights, achievements and awards:
—NCAA Top 10 Award
—UGA L.E.A.D. and S.A.A.C member
—NCAA and Southeastern Conference Post-Graduate Scholarships, Recipient
—2012 SEC Boyd McWhorter Female Student-Athlete of the Year
—2012 UGA Clifford Lewis Leadership Award
—2012 Elite 89
—2012 UGA Marilyn Vincent Award
—NCAA Champion in the 1650-yard freestyle (2009, 2010, 2011)
—2012 Joel Evans Scholar Athlete (highest GPA)
—Graduated Summa Cum Laude
—South African Olympic Team Member, 2012
What are you currently doing?
I just started a new job with the Jameel Poverty Action Lab, an academic research network headquartered at MIT. My regional office works out of the University of Cape Town and I am based in Johannesburg where I’m working on a Randomized Control Trial evaluating the impact of low-cost information tools in overcoming market frictions for unemployed young people in Johannesburg.
I am incredibly happy to be doing what I do because I feel like I am working on one of the most significant issues in South Africa (and the rest of the world) today: youth unemployment. I particularly love it because it is a concrete, practical job. I get to work with an National Governing Organization and unemployed young people on the ground, but I also get to be on the forefront of cutting-edge academic research and see how what I do every day fits in with the larger economic literature, so that I feel like I could really make a difference. Everything we do is about building up the evidence base and getting it out to policy-makers so that I don’t feel like the work I do is too abstract.
What about being a student-athlete prepared you for the workforce?
Being a student-athlete at UGA was instrumental in helping me cultivate a fantastic work-ethic. I think that employers were really able to recognize that motivation and ability to work hard when I was interviewing, and it is an incredibly tough job market out there right now so this is hugely valuable. The other thing being a student-athlete gave me was time-management skills, which are a massive asset in the working world. Even when I was in graduate school I felt like I was better able to manage my time and responsibilities than my peers because I’d been forced to do it my whole life. While others were stressing and staying up late the night before papers were due, I had managed to get them done ahead of time and then go for a run.
In a job the same thing goes. Being organized, planning ahead and anticipating then managing delays are fundamental to project management, and every job involves large amounts of project management.
What did you do well or what could you have done differently during your time as a student-athlete at UGA?
The most important thing I wish I had done when I was a student-athlete is making connections with my professors and getting to know them. Recommendation letters are absolutely vitally important, and no professor will remember you if you don’t make a significant effort to go talk to them (even then they may not). It can also be hugely helpful in finding out about job opportunities and connecting to others in your field. Finally, it’s a good way to find out more about what job options there are in your field and which way you want to take your career. I highly recommend asking your professor how they got into what they do, what options they faced when they were your age, what made them choose the route they did, and if they have anyone who chose a different route that they can put you in contact with.
The other thing I wish I had done a better job of was learning the technical requirements of my field as soon as possible (in my case statistics and statistical packages). These hard skills look amazing on your resume, and a wide variety will be helpful. The best suggestion I can give is go onto Coursera, or Edx or any other free online course website and sign up for things you find interesting, that could be Excel, R, Python, photo editing software, anything! As long as you find it interesting, chances are it’ll seem interesting to whoever’s looking at your resume.
What career advice would you give to current or former student-athletes?
My only other advice is to do what makes you passionate. This sounds like a cliché, but it is so true and so rarely followed. The world had plenty of people who do typical things, and it’s very rare that anyone becomes successful at something they only do because they think they’re supposed. There is however plenty of space for the weird, innovative and niche ideas. Do what you love and you will find a way to be successful at it, and once people see how good you are at it they’ll stop trying to convince you otherwise.