Paul Grassi '96 (Image provided)
After all these years, one thing still puzzles Paul Grassi ’96.
“I was in a fraternity, and it was Friday night,” he recalled. “Why I was in my dorm room is beyond me!”
Looking back, however, he’s glad, else he would have missed the phone call that changed his life. On the other line were then-Assistant Dean and Internship Coordinator Roseann Mayo with the School of Business, whom he had never met.
“I figured I was in trouble,” said Grassi, now a partner and senior vice president of cybersecurity at Easy Dynamics Corporation. “But then she asked, ‘Are you going to apply to the Preferred Care scholarship?’”
Grassi remembered that announcement — paid tuition for junior and senior years with an internship and a summer job, too — but had dismissed his chances based on stiff competition on campus. He told Mayo, “no,” only to hear her reply, “Do you realize that you are the only one in this entire school who qualifies for this scholarship?”
The minimum requirement was that applicants major in business administration and minor in computer science: Grassi’s academic pursuits were a perfect match.
Mayo negotiated a short extension, Grassi applied, and the rest is history. He received the scholarship, commuted to downtown Rochester for his internship, worked for Preferred Care during the summer of 1995, and was even offered a job after graduation.
As it turned out, it wasn’t his only offer. At the time, Washington, D.C.-based American Management Systems (AMS), a global management consulting firm since acquired by CACI International Inc. and CGI Group, recruited on campus. An AMS vice president (and Geneseo alumnus) had traveled back to his alma mater to conduct interviews, and Grassi was on the list.
“Keep in mind the schools around D.C. — Georgetown, George Washington, UVA, Virginia Tech, William and Mary, the University of Maryland — the list goes on,” Grassi noted. “And he comes here. It’s amazing that AMS even let him spend the travel money to come to Geneseo to interview with the pipeline of candidates just sitting in D.C.”
Grassi ended up accepting an offer from AMS, which set him on his current trajectory in cybersecurity and management consulting.
“Many people impacted me at Geneseo, but without these two moments, who knows what I would be doing now,” he said. “Getting that scholarship, beyond the financial benefit, put me into a real workplace environment for two years, with all the experiences that come with it. I was able to walk into interviews and interact as a peer with the interviewer, not a college student who happened to take a couple classes on programming or business case development. Every job I applied for, I received an offer — all due to this experience.”
Since then, Grassi has interviewed numerous college and MBA graduates, including those who had an internship. He admits he’s tough on candidates.
“They often can’t answer much based on real-world application experience,” he explained. “‘I took a course in x’ doesn’t cut it for me. In my case, I could talk about true business application because of the investment Preferred Care made in me. That all came from Ms. Mayo and the amazing thing she did for me, plus a Geneseo alum traveling from D.C. to snowy Geneseo to hire students. That materially shaped who I am today.”
In his current position with Easy Dynamics, Grassi is responsible for strategy and delivery of the company’s Identity Management and Cybersecurity portfolios. Previously, he served as the senior standards and technology advisor and lead for Digital Identity at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Grassi looks forward to reconnecting with Geneseo and hopes to pay it forward. He participated in the School of Business’ recent alumni panel event, Cybersecurity: Trends and Challenges for Organizations, in New York City, and will come back to campus in Spring 2019 to teach a course and begin recruiting discussions. In addition, Easy Dynamics plans to begin an internship program that will offer Geneseo students opportunities to work on client deliverables, company quality standards and processes, and projects to help them understand the business of professional services.
“Paul’s story immediately resonated with me because it is so representative of the transformative experience that many students have at Geneseo,” said School of Business Dean Mary Ellen Zuckerman. “Mentors like Roseann Mayo play a key role in our students’ education and the faculty and staff at Geneseo are passionate about taking on that role. Paul’s desire to give back by sharing his time, talent and expertise is a testament to the impact individuals had on him and the value he places on his years at Geneseo.”