Oct 11, 2022
One of the things that I think
is super important is goal-setting in terms of what do you want,
because if you have the audacity to dream and then you have what do
I want out of life - then when I get to the Freeman Center or the
counseling people or the Transfer Center, that is totally different
if you come in there with your own personal goals, where do you
want to be in 10 years? Where do you want to be - it starts with
The workforce landscape is
rapidly changing and educators and their institutions need to keep
up. Preparing students before they enter the workforce to make our
communities and businesses stronger is at the core of getting an
But we need to understand how to
change and adjust so that we can begin to project where things are
headed before we even get there. So, how do we begin to predict the
Hi, I'm Salvatrice Cummo, Vice
President of Economic and Workforce Development at Pasadena City
College and host of this podcast.
And I'm Christina Barsi,
producer and co-host of this podcast.
And we are starting the
conversation about the future of work. We'll explore topics like
how education can partner with industry, how to be more equitable,
and how to attain one of our highest goals; more internships, and
PCC students in the workforce.
We at Pasadena City College want
to lead the charge in closing the gap between what our students are
learning and what the demands of the workforce will be once they
enter. This is a conversation that impacts all of us. You, the
employers, the policymakers, the educational institutions, and the
community as a whole.
We believe change happens when
we work together and it all starts with having a conversation. I'm
And I'm Salvatrice Cummo, and
this is the Future of Work.
Hi everyone, and welcome back to
the Future of Work Podcast, I am your host Salvatrice Cummo. Today,
we are starting our Speaker Series for the Future of Work
Conference slated for November 8th, 2022, where we will take some
time to talk to our conference panel speakers, really to learn more
about them and their fields.
Today, we will hear about a
student's perspective on career pathways, college enrollment, and
potential strategies moving forward to better support our
With that said, we welcome Will
Walls, Principal Consultant at W Sales Strategies and Pasadena City
College alum. While at PCC, Will worked at the Freeman Center for
career and completion, helping bridging academia and industry for
students and alumni. Thank you for joining us today, Will, let's
get started. How are you?
Doing fantastic, Salvatrice, how
So, great to see you again. I
miss you at the Freeman Center.
It's good seeing you and I miss
you guys too, actually.
You have to come visit more
Yeah, I do.
Thank you for accepting our
invitation to join our panel for the Future of Work. And I know who
Will is, but the listeners don't. And I introduced you as Principal
Consultant at W Sales Strategies, tell us what that all about
I help small business owners and
entrepreneurs get more through the language of sales. So, that
means their elevator speech, their elevator pitch. And I basically
show them the compelling words on how to sell yourself; how can you
be compelling? Some people say, it's kind of like, if I say it, you
doubt me, but if they say it, it's true. So, how do I get them to
So, these are the ways, these
are the things that I teach people, especially small business
owners and entrepreneurs, not salespeople because salespeople know.
But small business owners and entrepreneurs who usually have to do
everything, they even have to sell. I teach them those compelling
words to have their sustainable competitive advantage, their unique
value proposition. How do you do that?
So, I specialize in those words
that you use and that you say in order to sell yourself, basically.
I've always been involved in sales forever, done standup comedy at
a time in my life for over 20 years. So, I'm kind of the in-person
There's two things that never
can be outsourced. One is the human connection and the roofer;
somebody's got to get on the roof and hit those shingles. And the
conversation in-person can never be outsourced. So, that's what I
Especially with entrepreneurs
who are seeking capital and trying to position their company for
growth, and it's really all about their story and their
There's a way to say that in an
efficient and an effective way. And what I do is I help small
business owners increase their productivity in that one space,
because if you aren't efficient in that space where you're talking
to people, you're just going to have low productivity in that
place, so a cost of a customer is going to go
So, speaking of that narrative
and this holistic approach to not only positioning your small
business for growth, you've positioned yourself for growth as well.
We're kind of in this space of academia and that's the beauty of
academia, is where we are constantly learning and constantly
So, I'm really curious as to
what brought you back to PCC or what brought to you, I should say,
to PCC, what led you here?
I have a
Please share. Please
I had a really good friend of
mine who was always talking about her brother and you talk about
your siblings, whatever. So, she was talking about her brother and
she had introduced me to him once and he was like unemployed, not
really doing too much, kind of floundering. And so, she's always
talking about her brother.
So, then all of a sudden, her
brother starts taking classes at PCC; music major, I'm like, okay,
yeah, whatever. So, then she's always talking about her brother,
how he was not doing that well. Then all of a sudden, she starts
bragging about her brother, how he starts doing
He started out as a music major,
then switched his major to computer science. He's getting all As,
he's killing it. Next thing you know, all these companies are
trying to hire him to create apps and all this
He keeps going, he transfers to
a four-year school, keeps going, gets his master's degree and he's
like killing it. This is someone that I saw this happen. I know
this person, I was introduced to him way back. And today, this
person is an actual professor at PCC in computer
In 2020, I was on the phone with
my friend and her brother and we were having a conversation just
about life. And he told me, this was his exact words; "PCC changed
my life, bro." That's what he said. And guess what? It did. And I
saw it, I witnessed PCC changed his life.
So, January 2020, I was like I
want PCC to change my life, so I enrolled. And my first day of
class was February 18th, 2020. And my whole point was to how do I
get this to change my life. And one of the things I remember he
told me - his name is Dave Smith. I'm going to out him. He's
He actually spoke at my
graduation, which was so cool. He was one of the speakers at my
graduation. But one of the things he said in this pep talk was take
advantage of all the resources, be open because you don't know what
you don't know. And I jumped in, and I've been open. It's been
absolutely quite a journey.
And my whole point was how do I
get PCC to change my life for the better? How do I become more? So,
that's what this has been about for me, because I'm not a tradition
student. It'd been like 30 years since I had last been in school.
And so, I decided to go back and that's basically, I saw PCC change
someone's life. So, I wanted it to change mine, and it's doing
You said something very
important. You said I'm not a traditional student. I didn't really
kind of fit the archetype of a traditional student. And I feel like
that is a missed opportunity really for community colleges. I mean,
I'm sure we'll dive into it a little bit later in this
conversation, but it's a missed opportunity when we are potentially
not recognizing a missed market.
We have our focuses as a body of
institutions. We have our focus on the transfer student and which
is great. And then the students coming in from high school. But
what about you and I that are looking to upscale, change directions
- that's all workforce.
So, to me, I'm an advocate for
workforce training, I'm an advocate for upskilling and retooling.
And I'm lucky that I have all that at my fingertips and I have
domain experts and professionals like you at my fingertips too that
I can learn from. But it's like how do we shift the mindset that
the community college is the place to be and to do just
I think it ties into what do you
want? Because I came here with a goal; how do I make this place or
my experience here work for me? Every class, I would meet with my
professors beforehand and I'd let them know that I want to somehow
use this in my life. That's what I'm trying to ... okay, how do I
use this stuff that I'm about to learn in my
So, what I'm saying is that it's
important to have goals before you get here. Even the students,
even the young students, it's like having a goal, what do you want?
What is your why? That's so important because there's a lot of
resources that PCC has. There's a lot of help.
But if you don't know what you
want or what you're shooting for or what you're trying to do, it
kind of makes it, I think, more difficult for you guys to even
help. If you don't have a goal, having an ed plan, it's kind of
weird. It's like how do you really get the best out of an ed plan
If you don't have a personal goal in life, what are you trying to
do? What do you want to be? Where are you trying to
How did that influence your
decision as to what major you wanted to go into? Like because even
prior to that, as students, we need to ask those questions and
figure out what our purpose is here and why we're here to begin
with. But like what influenced the why maybe?
That's a great question. That's
a great question because I love that question. Because I've always
been a sales guy, sales training, helping small business owners and
entrepreneurs. So, I had a whole lot of passion, whole lot of
So, one of the things that PCC
gave me was ethos and logos. It helped me with my credibility to
offset all this passion because I talk about stuff really
passionately. So, in terms of my major, I started out as a business
major and I remember saying quite often, "I don't know what I don't
know. I don't know what I don't know."
And I remember Dave told me to
be open. So, I got my goals, I know where I'm trying to go, but I'm
open because I don't know what I don't know, and I often said that
to counselors, professors. And so, I took a class in anthropology
(study of people) and then they told me there's four different
One was linguistics. I'm like,
oh my God, are you kidding me? That's a thing? You mean I can major
in that. So, it like totally blew my mind that that exists and that
I could focus on that and met with my professor. And I told her
about my goals, what I'm trying to do, who I am, and how could I
tie this in? And they helped me see it. They helped me see
I met with a counselor and I
said, "Hey, this is who I am, this is what I do. This is what I'm
thinking. What do you think?" I mean, they're the experts, you know
what I mean? So, they said, "Yeah, that makes sense. I can see
yeah, that makes sense. Yeah, you should." So, it
So, for me, I went from a
business major, switched to linguistic anthropology. That's my jam
because I have the business background. I already have that. So, it
compliments me as a speaker, as a person that teaches the language
of sales language. Sales has been around for hundreds of
For years, I've been saying
that. That totally ties into linguistic anthropology, cultural
nuances. It ties together. So, that's how it all ties in for me.
But that's from being open, totally being open, and listening to
the counselors, listening to my professor.
My anthropology professor, she
told me once we had this conversation; she said "Welcome to the
discipline." That's the last thing she said to
I love that. And through these
experiences, Will, did you feel there could have been room for more
opportunities for us as PCC to provide different or better career
exploration or even as a system - like it's not just about PCC, but
it's about our system of community colleges.
Was there a point where you
said, gosh - or maybe you've witnessed it or experienced it; there
could be a moment here that we didn't capture that we could be
Me being the entrepreneur person
and then working at the Freeman Center - I'm going to say this in
the most loving, kindest, gentlest way; one of the things I think
the Freeman Center kind of misses is the whole aspect of these kids
wanting to be an entrepreneur. Maybe some of them don't really want
a job, they don't want to work for someone else, they want to start
They want to have their own
business. And I think that it's a whole area that we're missing in
terms of talking to the kids from the perspective of some of you
aren't going to go and work for someone else. Some of you are going
to start your own business and have a business plan, and everything
that goes along with that.
Especially these millennials
today with influencers and all that and everything, if there was an
area where we made some of that available, where we talked a little
bit about having your own business, being an entrepreneur, working
for yourself, I think it would attract more of the students that
are already here.
I think the Freeman Center would
attract more students in general because part of being an
entrepreneur, building your own business, you may have to get a job
to support your dreams and your goals. So, they go hand-in-hand.
I've always been an entrepreneur, but I always had a job as well to
support my dreams and goals until I can make the total
But I think that is an area that
we kind of miss by not talking enough about the entrepreneur
spirit. With the pandemic that happened, a lot of people worked
from home. A lot of them don't want to go back to a job. A lot of
entrepreneurs out here, that whole area is an area that I think we
may miss just a little bit.
So thankful you said that. I
feel like this is a universe working at its finest right now
because there's been so many moments. There's two things happening
here; one, you're absolutely right, capturing the entrepreneurial
spirit. We're in the Mecca here of entrepreneurial ecosystem just
within the city of Pasadena.
And even if we just took what
already exists, like the Small Business Development Center, and
continue to braid further into the college campus is amazing. When
I say the universe is working at its finest, because it's been one
of my goals to build an entrepreneurial center within the Freeman
Oh my God.
It really has, honest because
you're right, like there's so many disciplines. Like
entrepreneurial spirit, the entrepreneurship, in general, is
braided across disciplines. It's not a single standalone
I have a master's in
entrepreneurship and innovation and I always go back and forth, can
entrepreneurship be taught? Can it not? And I'm always doing this
dance of whether or not it can or can't be, but I think there's a
happy medium. I think that there are tools, elements, both on the
soft skill side and the hard skill side.
I think there's a good way for
us to braid that. And I think that having an entrepreneurial center
presence on campus will really help what you're talking about. It's
like, we have a massive opportunity here to even shift career
Because I think about careers
that we talk about all the time and it's like, well, there is a
level of entrepreneurship within there. And there's also a level of
entrepreneurship where companies are seeking entrepreneurs to solve
some of their largest problems. And it can be in the most
non-traditional industries, but they're out there. They're out
there seeking entrepreneurs to help solve organizational
I think they would complement
each other. It would totally complement everything that Freeman
Center does because Freeman Center does what it does very well. But
I think that other part will totally complement it. Because I think
in 2022, you kind of need both. You just do.
They need to be able to see and
witness and experience what that looks like and what is possible.
Now is a perfect timing, actually, I think, and maybe you would
agree as an entrepreneur, just to be bold and be
I heard those two phrases at one
of our CEO meetings. In fact, Dr. Keith Curry - make sure I share
where I got that from. He shared that with us. Dr. Curry said, he's
like we got to be bold and we have to be unapologetic. And I
thought, God, that hit home for me. And now, through our economy,
like this is the time to do it. This is the time where we can shake
things up a little bit and test things out and see if it
With that being said, for me,
when you talk about this and entrepreneurs - I think it always gets
back to goal-setting. I watch these kids come into the Freeman
Center and ask for help. And one of the things that I think is
super important is goal-setting in terms of what do you want,
totally what do you want.
Because if you have the audacity
to dream, and then you have your own personal, what do I want out
of life - then when I get to the Freeman Center or the counseling
people or the Transfer Center that is totally different. If you
come in there with your own personal goals in life, where do you
want to be in 10 years? Where do you want to be?
Because I always feel like it's
like a Smörgåsbord. You get to pick what you want, what you want to
be. It starts with that.
When I first started my
business, I started by helping youth that were being emancipated
out of the foster care system and I'm trying to teach them sales
skills and all this stuff, but it was too much. I have to go back
and spell it back to goal-setting. Just simple.
Do you think that the student
mentality has changed towards that after experiencing the last two
and a half years now, since 2019, with this shift in our
environment, shift in economy, and everything got thrown upside
down? Do you think that the student mentality has changed towards
that? Or do you feel like they're kind of going the other
What I see is students show up
and I don't see them taking advantage of resources. I can't tell
you how many times I've said to someone, "Have you been to the
Transfer Center?" "No." I'm like "How long have you been taking
classes? Have you met with the counselor?" "No."
I'm shocked when I hear a
student say that. And so, in my mind, that's a huge problem. They
show up and not take advantage of meeting with counselors, meeting
with the Transfer Center. To me, that's a big issue because what's
going to happen is they'll end up taking classes, and next thing
you know, they're on academic probation because they've taken too
many classes and they're kind of all over the place, and they don't
see the importance of transfer center,
And I'm not talking about just
one counselor. I mean, meet with as many counselors as you can,
meet many advisors as you can, as many professors as you can. I
think that's one of the biggest issues that surprised me, because
it's not like it's your area of expertise. You don't know this
stuff. You don't know about transfer and what it requires and all
that. So, why are you trying to do it on your own? That blows my
But I don't know what it takes
for them to see and understand that you don't know what it takes to
transfer. You're going to make a mistake if you're just taking
classes and you're not relying on the guidance of counselors and
advisors and as many people as you can to help
Maybe it goes back to not having
a goal. How do you get people to see that you need help? You can't
do this on your own. This isn't your area of expertise; picking
classes, and knowing how to transfer appropriately and
I think that's a real struggle,
Will, like a real struggle across higher education, is how do we
ensure that all the students know what's available at their
fingertips? What are ways in which we can do that to the existing
But then the other side of that
is how do we even appeal to them to begin with? Our offerings, our
positionality in the community, our wraparound services that we
just talked about now, how do we appeal to incoming students? And
then also, demonstrate and share and connect students to the
services and resources that are available.
We're always testing those two
things. I really feel strongly that in the next five years, our
student archetype is going to look drastically different than it
did even two years ago, or now for that matter. So, from a
non-traditional student lens, what could you think are some things
or some thoughts or some initiatives or ideas - what could we do to
appeal more to that non-traditional student
When you were asking me that, I
was thinking of my own process and what I was thinking, what did I
want? I want what Dave had. I want what Dave got. He got his life
to change for the better. And I saw it happen. I know Dave just
bought a house in Pasadena, that's what I heard.
So, I saw and heard his
experience and I saw his life become way better. I saw that. So,
that's what I wanted. I wanted my life to become better and I
wanted to use PCC as the vehicle to get me there. I think from a
sales perspective, you got to find out what the person wants. And
that's the question; what do you want?
So, whoever it is, whether it's
somebody right out of high school or a non-traditional student,
what do you want? Not what do you want to be? That's different.
What do you want? So, that might mean I want to buy a house on the
coast, I might want to be an internationally known speaker. What do
If you find out the want, what
they want from a sales perspective, then you own them because all
you have to do is connect the vehicle, meaning PCC as the vehicle
to get you to what you want. I think that's the key, I really
Are there barriers you think to
that for us as higher ed or even as a student, are there barriers,
The barriers is going to be
goal-setting. That's going to be the goal - so that'll be a barrier
for you if I don't have a goal. It's going to be hard for you to
help me if I don't have a goal. And guess what? It's going to be
hard for me to help myself if I don't have a goal. I say, "What do
you want?" That's the first step.
The goal-setting thing I use, I
get it from Zig Ziglar. I've been from way back. The first thing
you do is you have to identify what do you want, and that is the
goal. So, if you don't figure that part out, nothing happens. You
can't help me and I can't even help myself.
Well, I guess what I'm saying,
Salvatrice, is that somehow, PCC should be the place of asking what
is it that you want. If you can find out what people want and get
them to say it, not you - not PCC, get them to tell on themselves -
from a sales perspective, you got to get the customer to say it.
Because if I say it, you're going to doubt me. But if you say it,
So, how do I get you to say it?
I got to ask you the right question. What do you want? And if they
tell on themselves, guess what? The answer to that or the vehicle
to get you to what you want is PCC and all its resources; the
Transfer Center, the Counseling Center, the Freeman Center, the
other counselors, the advisors.
Those are all the things that
are going to get you all the resources. This thing that you said, I
didn't say it. But this thing that you said, you want it. Either
you're telling the truth or you're wasting time.
That's right. I usually like to
close out the session by sharing or asking the question, hey, if
there's one thing that you want to share to our listener about ...
just one takeaway from this conversation that can impact them in
the future, I feel like you've said, it's like what do you want? In
goal-setting, that hit home for me too. It should hit home for
Because I think you would agree
with me, Will, that we are each and every one of us, we are always
in this constant state of improvement, this constant state of
evolution, and our mindsets change, our environments change, people
around us change. And so, we always have to be asking these
questions about goals and what do we want.
But is there one thing that you
would want our listener to understand about what you talked about
that can impact them in the future?
Of course, I keep going on and
on and on about goals and having a goal. But before you can have a
goal, I'm going to say, give yourself permission to dream, because
I know what it's like to lose that where you just stop
I got connected to that again.
And so, I just can't stress how important it is to have a dream of
... you know what I mean? So, in your mind, in the invisible place
of your ideas is that place where you give yourself the permission
to dream again.
Because once you do that, then
you can get to the goal-setting part of it, and then the writing it
down, and then the action and all that. But it all starts with
giving yourself permission to dream because it's just
I really appreciate that. I
really appreciate it. I hope that our listener is taking that to
heart too. Thank you Will so very much. Again, privilege and honor,
and I can't wait to hear you and see you at our upcoming conference
on November 8th here at PCC.
We'll put all the details in the
show notes, but if there's someone in our listening world out
there, they wanted to connect with you, what's the best way for
them to connect with you?
My website is willwalls.com.
It's pretty simple. If you can't get in touch with me, you're not
trying very hard. I'm pretty sure. Willwalls.com and there's many
ways; you can email me, it's pretty simple.
You're incredible. Thank you so
much. We'll put those in the show notes as well, and we'll look
forward to pretty soon just right around the
Sounds good. Thank you,
Salvatrice, this was fantastic. I loved it.
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