Alum Sydnee Distance Credits Much of Her Success to Capitol TechMay 25, 2021
Capitology Blog sat down with Capitol Tech alumnae Sydnee Distance to talk about her time at the university and how it has helped to lead her into a successful career. Sydnee graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. She later obtained a Master of Science in Acquisition and Contract Management from Florida Institute of Technology and holds several certifications. She is currently a government contract administrator (procurement/ acquisition professional) with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).
Q: Tell me about getting your degree at Capitol.
A: I had an amazing experience. I was able to connect with Dr. Helen Barker (former vice president of academic affairs). She literally took me under her wing and helped me sign up for classes. Anything I needed, she was there and helped me. A lot of my success can be attributed to Dr. Barker, but there were so many really great professors there.
I took a semester with 21 credits and Dr. Barker was concerned about me. I made a giant spreadsheet of every course that I was taking with all assignments and when they were due. She said after seeing that, she knew I’d be fine. She also referred me to my first real job, which was working for the school in grant management. That lead to my career in contract management.
Q: What made you choose Capitol?
A: I was a transfer student. My grandfather passed away when I was out of state attending a school in New York. I wanted to return to be closer to family, so I started researching schools in the area. Capitol seemed to have a similar curriculum to the school in New York so I could transfer a lot of credits instead of starting over.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your job?
A: I am currently employed by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). I serve as a Contracting Officer. In laymen terms, I buy whatever the government needs through various contracts and solicitation methods and file reports on everything that I purchase.
I’ve been there for about a year. I started there in the middle of a quarantine, but I've been in the acquisition and contract management field for the last 10 years.
Q: What did you learn over that time?
A: There are a lot of organizations that are lacking in procedural manuals. We need the details to function, so I don’t know why this is overlooked in so many entities. On the other hand, the lack of information has helped me realize that’s what my niche is – creating that documentation. I’m a self-proclaimed perfectionist and my life long question is: how can I make things perfect and correct if I don’t know what you expect of me? With every job I create documentation related to processes. I lead trainings in this area as well.
Q: What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing degrees in the business administration realm?
A: My advice would be:
- Truly understand what running a business entails. Once you understand the facets and various roles it will help you better understand the structure of where you work and how to be successful. It’s very important to understand the flow and hierarchy so you know your role and how you can help.
- Proficiency in the Microsoft Office Suite should be a key skill set to your success.
- I would definitely take advantage of career services Capitol Tech offer. They will help you to get experience and help you on the road to finding your dream job.
- Volunteer for as many opportunities as you can. It helps you learn on the job and helps you learn to relate to other people that one day will be in your shoes. I used to volunteer with several grant programs and that’s how that led me to the grant management opportunity a Capitol, and later to my career.
- I’ve seen so many smart people get overlooked because they can’t communicate. They’re genius at their jobs but they lack the communications skills to help other people. Communications skills are key. No matter your major, try to add in a Business Communication course.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: My five-year plan is to move into management. I’ve held positions as a team lead but would like to move to management and/or find my niche in teaching. I’ve realized that sometimes people are afraid of government contracting/procurement because we’re talking multi-million-dollar contracts and that can be very intimidating. To me, nothing is intimidating if you know the rules. If you take that a step further, nothing is intimidating if you are also able to break things down into easily understandable bits of information- also known as layman's terms. That is one thing I learned at Capitol. The key to teaching is the ability to deconstruct complex and complicated terminology into language that a child can understand. I pride myself on the ability to break down these complex contracts, rules, and regulations into something my 4 and 5-year-old could understand.
I’m hoping to return to Capitol to finish my doctorate. I was enrolled at Capitol to pursue my PhD in Management and Decision Sciences in 2015. Unfortunately, on the first day of class, I ended up going into labor. It was pretty funny to me. I had my mic turned off and the professor asked me to turn it on. I said, "I'm not sure you want my mic on as I'm having contractions right now!" I ended up delivering my daughter the very next day!
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: I owe Capitol my success and I’m constantly referring employers to find other Capitol students. They were great to me so I know they’ve been great to other people as well.
Capitol Tech offers a number of certificates, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in business administration and related fields. Many programs are offered both in person and online. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.