“If you show me a man without a plan, I’ll show you a man who plans to fail.” These words ring true for Valdez Powell, a recent Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) graduate, as he climbs the ladder of success.
With a master’s degree in accounting under his belt, Powell prepares to face life’s challenges head-on and dominate the finance industry. Set to start his new career in just a few short months, Powell shares his story on how his success was not so easily obtained.
As a Suffolk, Virginia native, Valdez Powell saw Richmond as the perfect area to start a new chapter of his life. Fresh out of high school, Virginia Commonwealth University seemed like a promising place to mature both academically and socially. “It wasn’t too far from my parents but it was still far enough to be on my own” Powell explains. This new-found freedom and independence as a first-year college student encouraged Powell to enter higher education as a Business Foundations major with a mission to excel. Never wanting to be considered “average”, Powell planned to work hard to maintain an above-average GPA. However, like most college freshman, the parent-free atmosphere and exciting RVA nightlife took Powell’s attention away from his books and onto a new mission of “painting the town red”. As he spent more time partying, he spent less time studying and, as a result, his grades suffered the consequences. “There were many distractions at VCU” Powell explains. His wake-up call came when he failed his first math test. At that moment, Powell realized that he had gone astray from his plan to be above-average with his below-average grade. He decided to reevaluate his priorities and make drastic changes.
“The important thing is having a killer instinct. You have to do what you have to do and go through what you have to go through in order to reach success”
Powell, feeling defeated, turned to his family for support. “My dad always said, ‘If you show me a man without a plan, I’ll show you a man who plans to fail.'” Powell then decided to change his plan and take a different route on the road to success. After talking with his math professor and finally understanding the content, his grades significantly improved. His academic advisor suggested changing his major from Business Foundations to Accounting, as his math grade proved he was capable of handling the work load. Also, with the condition of the economy at the time, a more specific major seemed more promising for his future. The amount of support Powell received when he changed his mindset proves that success does not come without assistance. “It’s important to have a support system and reach out to people” Powell says. He made it a point to reach out to his professors and establish personal relationships with them. Finally understanding the importance of networking, Powell even co-established and was Vice President of “The Network”, a VCU student organization, during his Undergraduate studies where he taught his peers how to network and create professional relationships.
Powell continued to study Accounting as a Graduate student at VCU. However, his peers as a Graduate student differ significantly than his peers as an Undergrad. “Most of my classmates were already working in field and I was sitting next to CFOs and other established people.” The pressure to succeed was even greater. However, Powell looked at the situation as an opportunity rather than a challenge. Because most of his classmates already had some experience in the accounting field, Powell took the opportunity to ask them questions and learn more about his future line of work. “It was a big plus! I had experienced people to reach out to.” Once again, Powell uses the art of networking to his advantage. As a result, his charisma and willingness to learn landed him his most recent job. Set to start in July, Powell will be working full-time in the Risk Assurance field at PricewaterhouseCoopers, a network devoted to providing professional services. Although his position is mainly centered on IT-related work, Powell is confident he will prevail and master the field.
Despite the obstacles thrown in his direction, Powell takes on every challenge head-on with confidence. “The key is maintaining balance. You have to schedule your time and make time to do something you enjoy to calm you down.” For Powell, cooking eases his mind. In the midst of all of the chaos that accompanies graduate school, Powell finds solace in cooking. He landed his first part-time job in high school at Pisces, a local restaurant in Suffolk, Virginia as a dishwasher and was promoted to a chef position. Although his line of work is much more different now, Powell still holds on to his passion as a source of comfort. Scheduling is a key component to success. However, having the right attitude is also essential. “The important thing is having a killer instinct. You have to do what you have to do and go through what you have to go through in order to reach success.” He stresses the importance of having a support system as well as an “intrinsic sense of motivation” as he puts it. The source of success is mindset. “Keep your goal in mind, pursue your goal, and execute your goal.” In other words, “Stay Hungry!”.
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