3.27 Apiture keynote
A roomful of students at University of North Carolina Wilmington on Tuesday got some first-hand career-building advice from a local executive.
Apiture CEO Christopher Cox was the keynote speaker at UNCW's Cameron School's annual Business Week. He used his own experience, from college math major to head of a financial technology firm, to share ideas for charting a career path.
He reassured any students in his audience who have not decided what they want to do in life that indecision at this point is not a problem. "But you need to get on the right path," he added.
As a starting point, he suggested that developing an EQ [emotional quotient] is as important as having a healthy IQ.
"Most successful business leaders have a high EQ," Cox said, suggesting to students that they were well positioned to improve their emotional quotient during their college years.
"Go outside your comfort zone; use those awkward interactions - with your professors, with others - as learning experiences," he advised.
Cox told his audience that his first job out of college was one that, overall, he didn't love. But he found a part of his responsibilities very interesting, and in the process discovered his passion.
"Look for an area of passion and turn it into something better," he said. "Always focus on managing your career. Get yourself unstuck if you need to leave a job."
In the early days of a person's career, Cox said, there is no substitute for "good, old-fashioned hard work. You are there to outwork your boss and everybody else."
The next step is to focus on building a network of "meaningful and impactful relationships," the CEO said. "You will need to call on your network for job leads, sales leads, references. Be a gardener: keep your network growing. Prune it when you need to."
As a young person continues on a career path, Cox said, it's important to understand his or her unique value and how to communicate that value to current or prospective employers.
"Sell your own story, your brand," he explained. "Convince people you are a leader. Your answer to any assignment offer should always be 'yes.' Say yes and then figure out how you are going to get it done. Keep a mindset of being helpful.
"When things are not going well, you want to take accountability. When things are going well, you want to share the credit. That goes a long way toward establishing yourself as a leader."
There should never be a time at which a person decides he or she knows all there is to know.
"Always be learning. Read, talk with co-workers, attend and speak at conferences. Stretch yourself," Cox said.
And finally? "Be patient," the CEO advised. "Step by step is a much more common path to success [than overnight stardom]. Give yourself time to develop."
Asked what his biggest career mistake had been, Cox said that he probably had remained at one company too long, reducing his chances of a more rapid rise. But his willingness to tackle difficult assignments, such as developing a strategy to take payments on mobile devices, paved the way to his current position as the leader of Apiture.
Apiture, which opened its Wilmington headquarters in October 2017, is a joint venture between Live Oak Bancshares and Atlanta-based First Data. The firm develops tools for online and mobile financial transactions.