Tamara Niesen

Q: What is one thing you miss about university?
A: I cannot say just one thing… Bomber, wearing sweatpants almost every day, and cramming late into the night with my classmates (I know, crazy to miss that, but something to be said about the camaraderie and supporting each other!)

Q: What did you decide to do after graduation? How is your Economics degree applicable to your field of work?
A: Shortly after graduation, I started my career at BlackBerry (at the time, Research In Motion) and worked there for 7 years full time as a Regional Sales rep and later a Senior Marketing Manager. Currently, I am a Development Manager at St. Mary’s General Hospital where I am responsible for cultivation and solicitation of major gifts ($25,000 +) for St. Mary’s General Hospital Foundation.

My Economics degree was applicable in that it gave me the business credentials required for the roles, but also a solid understanding of incentives and human behavior, pricing models, cause and effect, and an overall good foundation for working with numbers.

Q: If you were to do one thing differently during your undergrad, what would it be? Why?
A: This is a tough question! I made so many mistakes early on during undergrad, both personal and as a student, but I honestly think those mistakes are what landed me where I am today.  I really found my place in third and fourth year. I had a good group of classmates that supported each other and I learned to ask more questions and take advantage of office hours.  I felt engaged and felt like I was a part of something. I wish I had gotten more involved earlier. And of course, I wish I had worked harder to get better grades.

Q: What would be the best piece of advice you would give students?
A: Get to know your classmates and your professors. I learned (later on) that there are some pretty cool profs in Econ that want to see you succeed and are willing to help. Get to know your classmates- beyond your current inner circle. Oh, and get grades you will be proud of… don’t close the door on future opportunities like grad school and you never know, the UW Econ Society might just interview you! When you finish school, get involved in your community and give back with your time and your talent.

Q: What did you want to be “when you grew up”?
A: For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be an orthodontist. I had braces twice, you would think that would deter me!  I grew up in a family who worked in tech and sales and was determined to create my own path. Science at the most reputable University in the country seemed like the perfect fit to start my orthodontic career!

Q: What made you fluctuate between the Science field to Economics?
A: I was fortunate to have summer jobs/internships at BlackBerry during the summer terms.  BlackBerry and the amazing mentors I had introduced me to the business and tech world I wasn’t able to see through my parents…and I LOVED IT.  I was hooked and driven to find a program that would allow me to have a successful career in the corporate tech world. After dipping my toes in a couple of programs, I took a few economics courses and actually enjoyed it! I liked what I was learning and it made sense. I felt like I could take the content and apply it to the real world. Actually, it helped me better understand the real world!

Q: How has family life affected your career?
A: Having a family has certainly given me perspective.  I have always been a driven, aggressive (sometimes to a fault) person who is willing to bust her ass to climb the ladder and take on the next challenge.  Having a husband, a baby (and another one on the way), and two dogs hasn’t changed that. In fact, it has given me more reason to fight for what I want and to make sure I am doing what I love.  If I have to spend the better part of my life working, and be away from my family, it had better be something I enjoy.  I have learned what true happiness is in my personal life, I cannot settle for anything less in my professional life; for me, that means doing something that makes a difference and doing something that I can be proud of.

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