Sabrina Zook ’89: Wes at Work

By A.N. Kini '13

[Sabrina Zook '89 and Argus]Sabrina Zook '89 reflects on the strong network of Wesleyan alumni who work with her in this piece titled "Wes at Work."

In the picture, (from left) Sabrina Zook '89, Adam Watson '14, David Nam '14, Chenelle Tanglao '08, Nasim Khoshkhou '07, Ronald Nikols '13, Ivan Stoitzev '13, Brenna Sansom '13 and Michael Heller ’87 pose as "Wesleyan U."

The following is Sabrina's article:

There is a strong connection between Wesleyan and Argus Information and Advisory Services, especially for the eleven Wesleyan grads and interns who currently work here. It probably is not a coincidence that the company’s co-founder, Michael Heller ‘87, and head of HR, me (Sabrina Zook ’89) are Wesleyan grads. The connection resonates with me on many levels. The company name is reminiscent of the student newspaper but, more importantly, shares a similar intellectual philosophy with Wesleyan. The name, Argus, comes from Greek mythology, referring to the one hundred eyed “all-seeing” giant. Indeed, Argus, which specializes in data analytics, helps its clients see things in many different ways like the mythological creature. For the past 16 years, Argus has provided many important insights for its clients and continues to expand its reach globally.

Today, the company personifies Wes at Work. “The Argus-Wesleyan connection definitely was a factor in my choosing to work at Argus” says Grant Nikols ’13. “Most of my interviews were with Wesleyan alumni. Because I was talking to professionals who had been in my exact shoes just a few years earlier, I was able to ask questions about the transition to Argus from Wesleyan, how a Wesleyan education would translate to Argus, and how the company culture compares to Wesleyan.” In fact, Argus has been able to attract and hire Wesleyan students due in large part to the many graduates at work there. “The Wes/Argus connection,” adds Michael Heller, “is strong and we intend to keep the pipeline open.”

Over the years, Argus has hired over 40 Wesleyan alumni and has developed an effective recruiting strategy that it recommends highly to other alumni and hiring companies: identify and source Wesleyan students, provide them with continuous training and development to hone their technical and professional skills, and offer continuous growth opportunities to demonstrate their capabilities. In turn, Argus has found huge upside in hiring Wesleyan students as they have the intellectual capacity and motivation to handle complex client projects and progress rapidly.

“Wesleyan alumni should continue to promote Wesleyan in their companies,” adds Michael Heller. “There is great payout in hiring Wesleyan grads given their intellectual curiosity and skill set.” The current group of eleven Wesleyan alumni and students work in Argus locations throughout the world, including in its White Plains, New York headquarters, its London office, and even at client offices in Australia. Asks James Pesuit '10, “How did I end up living in Sydney while servicing one of the largest financial institutions in the country? Why – the Wesleyan network, of course!”

What does Argus do? At its core, Argus is a “big data” company. Since its inception in 1997, Argus has provided the world’s largest financial service institutions with analytics, competitive benchmarking, scoring solutions and customized services to enable better strategy, marketing, and risk decisions. The Wesleyan alumni here work in concert with 200 other colleagues, helping to enhance Argus’s clients’ ability to manage their businesses profitably and better position them to handle key competitive, regulatory, and economic challenges. Argus maintains the most comprehensive databases for credit card, debit card, and deposit transactions in the world with over five billion transactions added each month. Argus was recently acquired by Verisk Analytics, the world’s largest analytics firm.

Argus has had tremendous success in hiring, training, developing, and promoting Wesleyan alumni. It has found it worthwhile to hire smart Wesleyan students even if they may not possess 100% of the requisite skills and knowledge upfront. Attracting both the broad liberal arts and specialized engineering student to the same firm requires some training and development. One way Argus does this is by starting some Wesleyan hires out as summer interns. This is a good way for Wesleyan students to gain an invaluable experience and, potentially land a full-time opportunity. The company gains the ability to jumpstart its hiring process and build its talent pool. At Argus, summer interns have the opportunity to participate in its core training program and gain exposure to its many projects. Adam Watson ’14 explains, “The internship covered a very broad range of tasks that one would be expected to perform as an analyst at Argus, and has prepared me to enter the finance industry after graduation.”

Getting talented Wesleyan grads to join the firm and retaining them requires that we offer clearly articulated career paths and promotion opportunities. Argus has grown rapidly, creating tremendous career opportunities for its employees. Chenelle Tanglao ’08 has successfully navigated her Argus career. “From a career development perspective, Argus has been nothing short of great for me – I’ve moved through several different roles and benefited from some amazing opportunities in the process, including working internationally and managing big clients. I don’t think I would have received these experiences elsewhere.”

While much of one’s success can be attributed to the training and development, Wesleyan alumni here at Argus know that there is an important inherent secret to their success – their Wesleyan education. As Chenelle summarizes, “My Wesleyan education has been key to my success at Argus – you need to be able to think on your feet and learn very quickly. There is and always will be a technical, quantitative aspect to analytics but it is Wesleyan grads’ natural inclination to learn quickly and think critically that really drives their success here. Wes folks are particularly well-rounded: they are good at completing the actual analysis, deriving implications, and communicating solutions.” Through each successful Wesleyan hire, Argus has found that its investment in their training and development has paid off exponentially.

Clearly, the eleven Wesleyan grads and interns at Argus put their education to good use on a daily basis. It is Wes at Work at its finest!

Image: from #THISISWHY

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