Alumni Story: Throwback Featuring Sean Mullen, SVP at Envestnet

sean mullin hero image

Those of you gearing up to study abroad, may not know that USAC has been around for over 30 years. For reference, we’re about as old as the creation of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, circa 1984.

In today’s throwback post, we’re featuring USAC Alumni Sean Mullen now SVP at Envestnet, Inc. who once upon a time studied abroad in Santiago, Chile, one of our now more tenured program sites, during the early days of USAC.

Read on about the risks, benefits, and, ultimately, the lifelong impact studying abroad can have on your life.

Life’s Questions

Photo of my host family and me at their beach house in Algarrobo, Chile
My host family and me at their beach house in Algarrobo, Chile

Choosing a semester abroad changes everything.

You are at a crossroads of your life. No doubt you are questioning the direction of your studies. Will it lead to a challenging and fulfilling career? What am I going to do? Will I get paid well? Will I be a success? Only you hold those answers, but I can offer some advice on making some good early choices that could pay off in the long run.

Humble Beginnings

Thanksgiving 1994 with other USAC students downtown Santiago
Thanksgiving 1994 with other USAC students downtown Santiago

I was born and raised in the Reno area. I attended Reed High School and then the University of Nevada graduating in 1995. I paid my way through school working as a Technical Director for the local ABC news affiliate, KOLO-TV. I chose to major in Foreign Languages & Literatures and minor in Political Science.

Throughout school though, I always had an interest in investing. I had helped family members and colleagues with their investment choices. But how could I break into the finance industry, and what did I have to offer without business or economics as my focus?

Enter USAC

Myself and my host dad at the beach house. One of the nicest individuals I have ever met.
Myself and my host dad at the beach house. One of the nicest individuals I have ever met.

USAC’s study abroad program was in its infancy. The choices at the time were a few cities in Europe and one option in South America, that being Santiago, Chile. Chile offered living opportunities with local families, which I jumped on as a way to truly learn the language.

I lived with a wonderful family, who I remain in touch with to this day, for 9 months. I took advantage of travel to Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru, Bolivia & Brazil. The ties I made with USAC students from other Universities are still the strongest amidst all of my friends to this day.

Set Yourself A Part

My friends Ben Contine (UNLV) and Danette Rainey (Chico State) at Vina Del Mar, Chile 94
My friends Ben Contine (UNLV) and Danette Rainey (Chico State) at Vina Del Mar, Chile 94

After graduation in 1995, I approached the local Reno office of a large brokerage firm to become a stock broker, referencing my study abroad as knowledge of emerging markets. It worked, and I was hired.

Later on, a friend from Chile via UNLV’s USAC program was moving to Washington, DC and I thought if I were going to make a career in finance, I’d have to consider larger cities. I found a bank position open in DC and applied.

The hiring manager asked me extensively about Chile. He said it “stuck out”. I was hired at the bank, left Reno and moved to DC. Finally, my big break was with a small investment advisory firm a year after.

That hiring manager told me much later that he chose me specifically because living abroad, especially in Chile “takes a risk”, and “shows an open mind” and “offers insight & life experience that books can’t offer.” He wanted that type of individual at their rapidly growing firm.

Parting Wisdom

I’ve been very fortunate in my career no doubt. I’ve worked with excellent people and interesting firms. But don’t chalk that up as luck. I took a risk to leave my KOLO-TV job. I had been there 6 years and it had promise, but it wasn’t what I wanted for myself. A tough decision had to be made.

Exchange the short-term security of a job, for the intermediate and long-term opportunity of a career. Today’s job market leaves you no choice but to differentiate yourself. Take a semester with USAC for the benefit of your career, but also for experiences and friendships that last a lifetime.

-Sean Mullen

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