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What’s an ArtSci degree worth?

What’s an ArtSci degree worth?

Here’s one young alumnus who’s proving that career success is more about the person than his or her degree credentials.
Zach KatsoffZach Katsof

The skeptics will tell you that an undergrad student nowadays is well advised to steer clear of degree programs in Arts and Science and instead study in Commerce, Engineering, or some other vocationally oriented faculty or school.

But don’t tell that to Zach Katsof, Artsci’06. He’s not buying it.

Zach insists that new grads’ chances of landing good jobs are – and should be – less about the kind of degree they’ve earned than about their people skills, aptitudes, creativity, and ability to think critically. It’s hard to argue with him. Zach is a living example of his own philosophy.

In eight short years, the 30-year-old Oakville, ON, native has risen from raw recruit to senior executive with Arkadin Collaboration Services. The ­Atlanta-based company has grown from a 2006 start-up in Paris to be the world’s third-largest provider of audio, web, and video communication services. Today, it has more than $300 million in annual sales and a workforce of 1,200 employees in 33 countries.

When Zach found work in Arkadin’s Toronto ­office, he was one of just three staff.

“I made 160 sales calls a day, and I worked non-stop. We went from zero to $10 million in sales over the first six years.”

Zach’s climb up the Arkadin corporate ladder has been nothing short of amazing. He rose from entry-level account executive in 2006 to North American Business Manager (United Communication) in December 2011.

A self-described “social person,” Zach is a born salesman with “the gift of the gab,” persistence, and an enthusiasm that’s nothing if not infectious; he could sell weeds to a gardener – as long as the gardener needs the weeds. Even so, it took him six tough sessions to sell himself to the Arkadin executives who first interviewed him. “When I graduated from Queen’s with an Honours BA in Political Studies, I knew nothing about the collaboration services business,” he confides. “I had to learn quickly.”

He did that because he’s a go-getter. Always has been. It runs in the family.

In his undergrad days, Zach ran his own summer business – a boat-cleaning service – and when he wasn’t in classes or hitting the books during the school year, he was busy volunteering with the AMS Walk-Home Service, working as a student constable, and participating on the Varsity Competitive Cheerleading squad. In his spare time, he relaxed by snowboarding, playing golf, and fitness running.

“I originally intended to go to McGill, but my mom suggested that I should also check out Queen’s. When I did, I changed my plans, and I’m glad I did. I loved going to Queen’s. I bleed ­tricolour.”

“I learned a lot as an undergrad: how to think ­rationally and critically; how to read, digest, and synthesize large amounts of information; and how to express my ideas clearly. My experience is that Arts and Science students at Queen’s are exposed to lots of different ideas. They’re taught to see the world as a complex place that’s about more than just numbers, and that’s really important.

The one thing Zach wishes he could have taken time to learn more about in his student days was how to canvass the job market for career opportunities. “I sometimes wish I could have known as a student what I know now,” he says.

What Zach does know now – especially since his 2012 move to Atlanta – is that the quality of his Queen’s education rates with the best. “I work with people from some of the top schools in the U.S., and I see that the levels of education, literacy, and communication skills that students acquire at Queen’s are second to none.”

That’s as true of students in Arts and Science as of those in any other discipline, Zach says. “Arkadin recruits new talent on a regular basis. Whenever I’m on hiring committees, I look at a job applicant’s résumé to see if he or she has a degree. I don’t care what it’s in. We look to hire people who are well-rounded, are team players, and can think for themselves. A lot of Arts and Science grads meet those requirements.” 

[Queen's Alumni Review 2014-2 cover]