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Life After College: an Interview with Charlie Amato and Gary Dudley


life-after-college-an-interview-with-charlie-amato-and-gary-dudley-bodyAs another semester starts to wind down, thousands of college students across the nation will walk across the stage in the coming weeks to receive hard-earned college degrees. While times have certainly changed since Charlie Amato and Gary Dudley graduated from college, there are some things that remain the same when it comes to life after college. I sat down with Charlie and Gary to discuss their background and what sound advice they can offer to college graduates as they begin the next chapter of their lives.

Lisa Pinto:

So, you guys have known each other since your days as Bearkats. Tell us a little about how you met.

Gary Dudley:

Well, actually, we have known each other since grade school. Then, we were reacquainted at Sam Houston State University when we both pledged Sigma Phi Epsilon.

When we graduated, Charlie passed all the tests needed to become a Navy Pilot, but instead went into banking.

I was hired as a coach and teacher and served in the Marine Reserves for six years.

After that, I joined a company selling insurance products to banks and credit unions in the Houston area.

Lisa Pinto:

And is that when you and Charlie started working together?

Charlie Amato:

No, actually, our paths crossed in 1974 as we ended up at the same party in Houston. That’s when Gary recruited me to come and work for the company where he was working.

Soon after, we both realized that management was treating employees with very little respect and clients the same way. They were treating clients like they weren’t important. We called and complained, but they told us to quit whining.

That’s when we decided to venture out on our own—we left to start our own company built on quality.

Lisa Pinto:

Wow, that’s a great story. So, as two successful businessmen who met in college, what advice would you share for those students that are getting ready to graduate and start their careers?

Charlie Amato:

One of the things I’ve learned in my career is that you have to learn to deal with change. Change isn’t easy, but it’s always going to happen. But, how you react to change is your choice. Either we manage it, or it manages us.

Gary Dudley:

I agree. We haven’t just sailed through the past 43 years. We’ve made mistakes and learned from them, but we have always put our customers and associates first.

You have to put your best foot forward on a daily basis. We actually show up to work each day! We don’t have hobbies—work is our hobby. It doesn't feel like work when you enjoy what you do every day.

Do work you care about. Make sure it’s something you truly believe in.

Use your education and common sense to always adjust to the marketplace, as the marketplace will always be adjusting.

The second you think you have finally succeeded is when you will begin to fail. Always keep working to improve yourself, and learn from your mistakes.

Charlie Amato:

Remember, successful people are not in a job for something to do—they are in their work to accomplish something.

Always keep an eye out for opportunities!

Have integrity in everything you do; in word and in actions—the rest will take care of itself.

In your social life—put your phone down! Surround yourself with people more knowledgeable and experienced than you.

The most important skill you need in order to succeed has nothing to do with technology; becoming too dependent on it to connect with others will ultimately lead to a lack of presence.

Studies have found that being present and flexing your social intelligence is the foundation for all other skills at work, and it can help boost your career more than anything else.

And, some plain old advice we’d like to share – it pays to take care of yourself. Stay physically and mentally fit because it’s not unusual to have 14-15 hour days.

Gary Dudley:

Early in your career, practice a strong work ethic by:

  • Being on time

  • Don’t watch the clock

  • Over deliver

  • Exceed expectations

  • Dress for the job you want, not the job you have

  • And, be a true professional.

Lisa Pinto:

That is all really great advice! Thank you both for sharing.

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