Alumni Q&A: Raymond Serzanin, AT&T

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Raymond Serzanin, TCU MBA '15, is a senior strategic pricing manager with AT&T --  a career transition made possible through the resume-enhancing experiences at Neeley.

Ten years ago, TCU MBA Raymond Serzanin set out to sea. A graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, Serzanin worked in the maritime industry from 2006 until 2013, serving in roles spanning port operations to ship captain.

“While I loved the sea, I began to realize that I was quickly approaching the ceiling of my maritime career, plus I was tiring of missing holidays and special events,” he says. “Since my maritime roles did not always align with what corporate America’s HR departments look for, I knew an MBA would help me move my career ashore.”

Below Serzanin, who’s now a senior strategic pricing manager for AT&T, shares below how he made the transition from maritime to finance with the help of the Neeley School of Business.

Tell us a little bit about AT&T as an employer, your position and how you got the job.

AT&T is an extremely forward-thinking employer. I am very fortunate to have started at APEX (AT&T’s Partner Exchange), which is located in Plano. The Partner Exchange is unlike most other business units of AT&T due to its fast-paced, startup-like atmosphere. This channel is the result of a successful endeavor aimed at bringing people from all business functions together into one efficient unit. Unlike corporations that operate with a “silo mentality,” it isn’t uncommon to see meetings that loop together cross-functional teams spanning finance, marketing, strategy, operations and sales.

I first heard about my position with AT&T through alumni referrals to the TCU Career Center. After contacting some of the folks at APEX, I was asked to do a phone interview. I was then asked to come in to meet some of the team and take part in a case interview. The interviews all went well, and I was offered a role with the strategic pricing team.

What’s a typical day like for a pricing manager?

There really isn’t a typical day as a pricing manager. At its core, my role is to enable our sales team to offer competitive prices while maintaining sufficient margins for our business unit and, ultimately, the AT&T shareholders.

While our main role is to protect the margins, it is far from our only task. The pricing team is constantly looking months, quarters and years down the road. We ask ourselves questions such as, “What if our competitors change rates?” “How will we react if we see a drop in sales?” “Are we doing everything possible to enable our partners to succeed and remain competitive?”

Have you had instances in your new position in which you were able to apply lessons you learned at TCU? 

One of my first projects was to provide analytics on APEX’s partner incentives. I used many of the skills I learned through Neeley & Associates Consultants to help me complete the analysis and provide feedback and alternatives to the status quo. As a consultant and principal with Neeley & Associates, I learned project management, data aggregation and how to construct C-Level-quality deliverables. Not only was I able to use these skills to provide analytical feedback on our channel’s results, I was also able to create and present suggestions to make our programs even more successful.

What makes finance a great field to work in?

Let’s face it — most of us are going to work for companies that consider themselves “for profit.” As a finance professional, you see yourself as the defender of the bottom line. Finance and accounting often get the unfair classification as “bean counters,” but the truth is that we’re constantly trying to budget for success. In order to do our jobs effectively, we often find ourselves meeting with units from all over the business to better understand how capital is being utilized. Through this process, financial professionals are able to gain a deep understanding of every aspect of an organization’s operation.

What skills and/or resources did Neeley provide you with to be successful?

When I started my first year of B-school, I knew I would have only two short years to download every bit of knowledge available. Since my interests were heavily weighted toward finance, I took every opportunity to participate in finance case competitions, the William C. Conner Educational Investment Fund (EIF) and Cowtown Angels. The EIF taught me how to perform in-depth analysis of stocks and bonds, as well as the fundamentals of portfolio management. Cowtown Angels placed me in a room with some of Fort Worth’s most successful business people to analyze investments in startup companies. I used the experiences from both EIF and Cowtown Angels when testing my financial mettle by competing in statewide and national case competitions.

What is your top advice for students transitioning into the finance field?

Finance is a foreign language for those who have no experience. I remember sitting in my first day of class wondering if I would ever truly understand interest rates. Using that feeling as a wakeup call, I dove into finance headfirst. Parts of finance aren’t exactly intuitive; but with diligent practice, it can become second nature. My advice would be to use your two years of business school to squeeze every iota of information and knowledge out of the experience. Be inquisitive, network, challenge yourself and, most importantly, ask the “stupid” question (I promise you won’t be the only one wondering about it).

As a Neeley alumni, how do you feel you are bringing value to your organization?

Like our often-underrated football team, TCU MBAs frequently outpace our peers from other top-rated schools. We are ready to prove ourselves and have absolutely no qualms about working our tails off to secure success for our organizations. We don’t operate under the assumption that we have earned a seat at the table based solely on our diplomas. Neeley graduates bring a relentless work ethic to the office every day, and I believe that is the reason you will continue to see us climb higher in the rankings every year.

Finally, how do you stay connected to Neeley and why do you feel this is important?

Many of my classmates and I have made it a point to remain close after graduation. We set up weekly or monthly dinners, cocktail hours and Sunday brunches. One common theme I notice among my fellow graduates is the willingness to forward the cause of Neeley. Any one of us is happy to meet with MBA candidates for a coffee or mentoring session. The best thing for someone trying to figure out their path is to reach out to graduates through LinkedIn or Frog Links and set up a meeting. The more we are able to grow the Neeley network, the more successful we will be as graduates. We are a brilliant bunch, and together we accomplish great things!

Are you looking to make a career change? Learn more about the Neeley School of Business or apply now.

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