Q. What would you say is one of your fondest memories of being at Castleton?
A. My professors were very open, and they were available to work with me or answer any questions that I had. I also worked with the IT department as a technician, and I was more of an adult student, if that’s the right word. I wasn’t the typical age range when I was at Castleton … I had a family to support, I was married with kids. So, I had to juggle going to school, and taking care of my kids, being at home with my wife. And being able to have access to the teachers to explain things to me and help me with some of the difficulties that I had understanding certain topics, was very helpful.
I also enjoyed going to the Spartan games. I’m into soccer, so I went to the soccer games, and I played, I think, on one of the intramural teams during the one of the [fall seasons] … I had really great friends, too, that I’m in touch with … So I really enjoyed my time there making friends, lifetime friends, and building really strong relationships with people over there. Like, if I go there right now, I know someone’s going to remember me because of what I did there.
Q. Do you mind talking a little bit more about what it was like to be a non-traditional student and to have a wife and family while you were studying?
A. it wasn’t easy … I work well with structures and I’m really good at setting goals for myself, so when I started at Castleton, my goal was to graduate within two years. And I already knew what degree I wanted to pursue, so that helped me a lot. I knew I wanted to do something IT and business-related, and computer information systems set me up for that … Also, my wife was very supportive. Sometimes I’d stay up late doing my assignments, sometimes I’d go to school early to do assignments, because [at home] my kids might be screaming and that might not be conducive for me. My wife was very understanding in that sense with me, and we worked as a team to balance everything with working, going to school, studying and getting all my things done so I could graduate on time. We worked really well together, having a solid partner was really helpful.
I had some friends who were also just like me. And one thing that helped a lot was pretty much prioritizing my education. I, for example, wasn’t going to parties and stuff like that. It was pretty much go to school, go to work, come home and take care of the things that need to be done … Definitely having that goal was really helpful and working towards that was something that helped me a lot.
Q. What brought you to Castleton?
A. My wife was from Vermont, but I met her in Virginia. I was talking about school and coastal schools … and she was familiar with Castleton. I wasn’t familiar with Castleton, but I looked the school up and I was like ‘oh they have the degree that I want to pursue,’ which was computer information systems … The biggest thing was the degree was there, I could afford it financially with loans and support from my wife, and then being able to have small classroom sizes. With big schools, you probably won’t be able to know a lot of people. People wouldn’t know who you are. [At Castleton] we can talk to people and get to know people easily.
Q. What is one of the most valuable things you learned in your time here?
A. Learning how to work on a team and being able to solve difficult problems with other people. I also learned a lot about customer service through IT support because I had to help people –students and faculty and some of the employees at Castleton – resolve IT issues. That helped me improve and develop my communication skills and customer service skills and problem solving.
Q. What are you most proud of from your years at Castleton?
A. The relationships that I built. I built a lot of really good relationships while I was there, and I enjoyed my time over there a lot.
Q. Can you tell me about your first job out of college?
A. My first job out of college was with the state of Vermont. I worked as a business analyst, and I was informed about that job through Gayle Malinowski. She’s the head of IT … and she forwarded me the job listing, I applied and I went through the whole interview process … I worked there for three years until I resigned, but it was a really good job going in because I learned a lot of skills that set me up to succeed as a business analyst that I’m using today in my current job.
Q. Is your current career path what you expected it would be?
A. No, I didn’t have this plan. When I graduated from Castleton, my wife and I were planning to move to Virginia. But things didn’t go the way we were expecting, so we had to quickly change plans … Three years into [my first job] I had to resign because my wife got diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and we had two kids then, two toddlers. When I resigned, I was home with her and taking care of her and our kids.
We also had a marriage blog at that time that’s still online now. It’s called ourpeacefulfamily.com. We run the website together, and during that time, we started writing romance novels under a pen name, which is A.M. Kusi. And while we were doing those two things together, my wife was still recovering, and our kids were getting older, and just last year, we made a decision I was gonna get back into the workforce.
And so last year, I started looking for jobs again, and I applied to one at TDS Telecom. It’s a business owner’s role … I’m using the skill sets and tools that I developed at Castleton, and from my job with the state of Vermont … I love the company, and everything is going really well right now.
Q. What led you to starting your blog?
A. The blog started because my wife and I wanted to share our marriage journey with other couples. When we started our blog in 2013, there weren’t a lot of blogs on the internet … Then the romance novels started because my wife is a writer and I’m more analytical, I can create structures. And so we teamed up to write stories together.
Q. Can you talk to me about how you balance your job and your blog/content? What advice would you give to people trying to pursue that?
A. We’ll do the plot structuring of the story, my wife will write it and then I’ll do the formatting and the marketing of it and then we publish the books. Juggling that with my day job – it’s not easy. My wife works certain parts of the week on our blogs, other writing business and our romance novels. Then on the weekends I spend most of my time doing what I need to do to support what she’s working on. She’s a creative person and I’m more of an analytical person and so we use our skill sets to complement each other.
Let’s say I have to send out a newsletter, then I’ll come home from my day job, and [once] my kids go to bed, then I will write up the newsletter and set everything up so it goes out when it needs to go out. I schedule everything in advance … Sometimes we need to tweak things here and there to make things work with our family lifestyle and our kids’ needs – balance and everything.
If somebody wants to do something like that, you first have to have priorities. My priority right now is that I’m going to be working 40 hours a week, so I know that I need to do certain things to work for that long during the week, and to find rest, and integrate my kids’ needs, my wife’s needs and our family needs in together … It’s all about how to integrate everything based on your needs and what you want to achieve.
Q. What advice would you give to Castleton students looking for future careers or still figuring out what they want to do?
A. I would say figuring out what you want to achieve with your time at Castleton is going to be the most important thing. If you want to finish at Castleton and travel the world, your plans are gonna look different from somebody who wants to graduate from Castleton and go straight into a job, or some people are going to finish at Castleton and go straight to getting their masters.
Determining what your goals are after Castleton is going to be really, really important … Even if it’s just a one-year plan for when you graduate. You don’t have to have this five-year plan, just one year. When I’m done with graduation, this is what I want to do, this is where I want to live.
The one thing I also say is take advantage of the internships that are available through Castleton or that you can get because you’re still a student … I would recommend doing as many internships as you can in the field that you’re interested in. If you want to work or start a business, internships are really, really important. If you’re applying for a job, and through your internships you’ve been able to develop those skill sets, you can show that on your resume … Sometimes internships also help you identify, ‘oh, that’s something I don’t really want to do,’ and sometimes it helps you build relationships with other people who can present you with opportunities … [And] when you go into interviews, be enthusiastic about the position and the company. Be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm will be the thing that sets you apart from different candidates, because you’re not the only one who is doing internships and developing these skills in school.