Justin Sullivan ’97

Justin Sullivan
Class of 1997
Major: French

My trajectory in a nutshell

  • Program Assistant to Professor Read (6 months) in Nantes for the fall semester abroad; ‘Travel Consultant’ (i.e. glorified telemarketer) for EF Education (Boston, 6 months); Executive Assistant to Advertising Agency (New York, 1 year);
  • Business Owner of Sullivan Painting (New York, 3 years);
  • Graduate Student, Fletcher School (Boston, 2 years);
  • Government Consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton (DC, 3 years);
  • Business Owner of Impact Construction and Consulting (DC, 1 year so far, but probably for the rest of my professional life).

The details

At Fletcher, I studied environmental policy and international business. Met some fantastic people, and yes- Fletcher does have a foreign language requirement and test, which was passed with flying colors, all these years later.

At Booz Allen, I consulted for the National Park Service, Dept. of Homeland Security, and Dept. of Defense. I helped them to manage their large swaths of facilities and worked to develop energy management strategies. When I felt I could do more interesting things on my own, I left and started my own company. Now I employ 4 people doing green construction stuff. If you’re interested in the boring stuff, you can check out our website: www .impactbuilt.com

My recommendation has always been to major in a subject that:

  1. Is interesting
  2. Has fantastic, inspiring faculty (I’m being very serious here)
  3. Can provide a tangible skill.

Life is short, so do what you like. If you don’t see an automatic correlation to a job, who cares- as long as you can demonstrate a high level of success in your chosen major you will be an attractive candidate for most positions available to college grads. Now, if you’re still taking the same approach in grad school (like some of my Fletcher friends), then you’re in trouble. Grad school is the time for focus. Undergraduate is the time for learning and exploration. Competence really is the key, not subject matter.

For me, it was always going to be French- it was always interesting to me (since high school) and it had the most inspiring teachers (also since high school). The tangible skill thing, I think I realized a bit more in hindsight. I can communicate with different cultures, and learn different perspectives. This makes me a better human being, and a better business person. Now we’re drifting into opinion, but if people want to hedge, definitely minor in economics, or take a good number of classes in economics. It’s important stuff, and can give you a solid base, but I don’t consider under-grad level econ and political science stuff quite as difficult to pick up on your own. Language, however, requires time and attention- two luxuries that aren’t as easy to come by after college is finito. I was lucky to realize this when I taught myself guitar in college. I’d never be able to do that now! Also, it almost forces you to spend a year in a foreign country. Another experience that you’ll never get again (unless you get to go to Nantes after you graduate).