Aug. 23, 2010
SEATTLE - Each morning, Simon Taylor endures a two-hour commute to a job he's worked his entire collegiate existence to find.
The trip from Agoura Hills, Calif., to North Hollywood is tiresome - and has Taylor contemplating a car - but the personal satisfaction and excitement that comes with beginning a new career in a new city makes the experience worthwhile.
In a little over two months, Taylor has gone from winning national championships with the Washington rowing program to taking on corporate America. After graduation, Taylor found a job as the Coordinator of Recruitment & Operations for the Disney Interactive Media Group. When Taylor comes to work, he puts to use the skills he's crafted and refined through various internship programs and helpful UW advisors/mentors from upper campus and Student Athlete Academic Services (SAAS). A lot of the work Taylor does is behind the scenes; meeting hiring agents, interviewing candidates, talking with staffing companies and search firms, getting feedback from managers.
As a Washington undergraduate, Taylor fell into the field of corporate recruiting after meetings with professors and SAAS to discuss his goals as a student. The idea of human resources came up, but Washington did not offer it as a program of study. Nevertheless, Taylor and SAAS worked to blend classes and internships (including one at MTV), creating an individualized path towards a degree.
This is in keeping with the ethos of the Washington rowing program, which asks its student athletes to "maximize your academic potential."
"We're not a shallow promise of a brand-name education," said assistant coach Luke McGee.
Meaning that while Washington has the prestige of a highly ranked research institution, student-athletes are better able to take advantage of what's offered to them academically throughout the university.
Taylor is the archetype when it comes to student-athletes utilizing the services available to them at SAAS and upper campus. Self-motivated and inquisitive, Taylor made connections and friends throughout the campus infrastructure. But his biggest influence came from rowing, a sport that not only pushed him to his brink physically, but taught him about discipline and goal-setting. Those skills have translated to the corporate environment, where Taylor thrives as a positive personality who integrates well in the corporate culture of Disney.
"The crew team was an integral part of teaching me how to do that," Taylor said.
A native of Hamilton, New Zealand, Taylor was a prodigious junior rower who competed for the Kiwis in several international events. He wanted the opportunity to pursue a high level of academics as well, which pointed him in the direction of American universities. Seattle and the UW were the best fit both athletically and culturally, and Taylor now leaves with a pair of IRA Gold Medals. In June, Taylor was the central figure in the second varsity eight that called a perfectly timed sprint to help the Huskies slingshot past Brown in the last 200 meters of the race in New Jersey.
For his academic work, Taylor received plenty of accolades at Washington. He was a fixture on the Pac-10 All-Academic team, and earlier this year he was named the Conference's spring Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
And as a rower, the 6-6 Taylor was the rare type who was not only talented, but trained extremely hard during each practice and lifting session. Men's crew coach Michael Callahan raves about Taylor's work ethic, as well as his ability to not only connect with his teammates (such as teaching them the Haka, a Māori tribal dance, and other Kiwi'isms), but also challenge the coaching staff. In turn, the coaches place high expectations on the rowers at Conibear Shellhouse to develop in a variety of ways.
"I wanted a culture of guys who were not only reaching their potential, but exceeding it," Callahan said. "This means on the water, in the classroom, as people and I wanted a boathouse full of that culture. We have to prepare them for a post-rowing life after the University of Washington."
While goal-setting was the bedrock of his success as a collegian, Taylor is taking his approach to adulthood and the corporate world with a day-by-day approach. The goals he now strives to achieve are professional, but focus more on making a positive impact in both the working structure of Disney and his coworkers.
When he looks back on his college experience, the biggest takeaway Taylor had for his peers is simple: "find an internship." His MTV connections, for example, helped him land the gig at Disney because he had a wealth of professional contacts who could speak highly on his behalf.
In a sense, empower your educational experience.