In a series of interviews with notable alumni about their experiences at Assumption, we recently caught up with 1984 graduate Michael Poster, Vice President for Finance at St. Ambrose University.
What are you doing now?
I am the Vice President for Finance at St. Ambrose University. I have been in this position for almost ten years now. My wife Kelly and I live in Davenport. Our daughter Caitlin is a 2012 graduate of Assumption; a 2016 graduate of St. Mary’s College and is living in Columbus, Ohio, and working as a registered nurse. Our son Jake is a 2015 graduate of Assumption and attends Central College in Pella. Our daughter Bridget attends Assumption and will graduate in the spring of 2018.
How did you land your current job at St. Ambrose?
I worked for 20 years in public accounting and the college and university industry was one of the areas I focused on, both as an auditor and a consultant. While I enjoyed my time in public accounting, I was ready to do something different and applied for the position when it was open. I am a 1988 graduate of St. Ambrose, so that may have given me a leg up on the competition.
What made you want to go into Finance?
I actually became interested in business while I was a student at Assumption. I took a few accounting courses, an economics course and a business law course and thought this might be a good career choice for me. In college, I majored in accounting, minored in business administration, and decided the business area would be a good fit for me.
What is a typical day like for a Financier?
One of the things I enjoy most about my job is that no two days are the same. At St. Ambrose, I oversee the Accounting, Human Resource, Physical Plant, Compliance, Student Accounts, and Information Technology departments as well as the Food Service and the Bookstore areas. This gives me a big variety of things to work on every day. One day I may meet with our auditors, the next with our health insurance broker, and end the week working with our architect and Physical Plant Director on a building expansion. This variety keeps the job fresh.
What do you enjoy most about Finance?
What I enjoy about the finance area is that I am involved in just about every aspect of our operations. Whether we are looking at adding new programs, constructing or renovating buildings, or analyzing the performance of our departments or programs, the finance area has a significant role. One area I enjoy getting involved in is the investment of the University’s endowment fund. St. Ambrose uses an outside investment manager, but I enjoy analyzing our performance and working with our Finance and Investment Committee to make the needed changes to our portfolio.
What are some of the things you learned at Assumption?
I remember transitioning to college from Assumption was not that much of a change. You had to develop good study habits at Assumption to be successful. My classes at Assumption also required us to develop good writing skills. We had very good English teachers that taught us the proper way to structure a paper and this was very important when I got to college.
How do you feel your time at Assumption has helped you in your career thus far?
As I mentioned above, I think the writing skills we learned at Assumption have helped me throughout my career. When I was in public accounting, I had to write management letters and client reports all the time. Being able to clearly and concisely summarize an issue and report it to the client was very important. I no longer need to document my work in such a formal way at St. Ambrose, but I still need to communicate my thoughts on important issues. Developing those “soft” skills at an early age definitely helped me.
What are a few of your favorite memories from your time at Assumption?
I was involved in football and basketball at Assumption and have great memories of playing games at old John O’Donnell Stadium. Our football teams were not very good at the time, but I loved playing football even though we were not always very successful. The boys’ basketball teams were very good during that time. They made it to the state tournament my freshman, sophomore and juniors years, winning it all my sophomore year. I was on the team as a senior and we made it to the sub-state final before we were beaten. There was not as many things to do back then and it seemed like the gyms were always full for the big conference games or playoff games.
Looking back on your time at Assumption, what are some of the experiences that helped prepare you for what you’re doing now?
Many of the things I do now I did not learn in high school or college. I think to be successful you need to constantly re-train and learn new things. “Learning how to learn” is one of the most important things you can do in high school and college. For me, that all started at Assumption.
Who were some of the biggest influences during your time at Assumption?
The teachers I remember are Ray Ambrose, Sister Donna and Miss O’Connor. I enjoyed their classes, even if they were in subjects where I did not have a lot of interest. Sister Donna taught Biology and made it interesting and fun even though I was not much into science.
Ray Ambrose was also my freshman football coach. All of my Rising Knights coaches (they were all AHS alums) told me I would love having him as a coach. After the first week, I think everyone on the team would have done anything to get him replaced. He was tough on us and would throw us out of a drill if we did anything incorrect. We were not used to being coached that hard. After a while, he started to lighten up on us and we started to do things his way. By the end of the season, I think we all would have run through a brick wall for him. He made us all grow up and I appreciate what he did for us.
What suggestions or advice do you have for students who may want to pursue a career in Finance?
I think the important thing is to take some business and finance classes while you are in high school to see if it is something you are interested in studying later. Job shadowing a business or finance professional when you are in high school can also help you better understand a particular career. I also think an internship in college is an invaluable way to gain experience and see what the job really entails.
Do you have any last words of encouragement for the Class of 2018?
When I was younger, I could not have imagined doing some of the things I do now in my job. My advice is to get outside of your comfort zone and do things that may scare you or intimidate you. If you wait until you are 100% comfortable, you will miss many opportunities. Getting outside of your comfort zone also requires you to grow as a person. Even if you do something poorly the first, few times you do it, the experience will help you and you will develop new skills over time.
Thanks, Mike. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule for the interview. Congratulations on all the great work you’re doing!