A telescopic view of the summit of Quandary Peak on Halloween, 2015, would have revealed an orange flag billowing in the mountain breeze. On closer look, one could see that the flag bore the name and logo of the University of Findlay. This testament to “Oiler pride” was accomplished by Dave Willis ’14, who hiked the 14,265-foot mountain located in the White River National Forest, Colorado. Colorado boasts 54 “14ers” (mountains of 14,000 ft. or more) and Willis plans to climb every one of them!
“After I climbed my first 14er on Aug. 29, 2015, I knew I had to get something to represent UF during my next ascent because of the experiences and accomplishments I received while going to school that got me where I am today,” Willis recalled. “My sister (Traci Willis ’16) sent me a UF flag and that is what got me to actively plan my next trip.”
Willis has now reached the summit of eight of the 54 peaks on his list, climbing both Grays Peak and Torrey’s Peak in one June 2016 weekend. He plans to climb roughly 5-10 more 14ers in the near future.
“The big goal is Long’s Peak, which I can see from my balcony,” he added. “I’ve been staring at it since I made the move for work. It is a Class 3 and about 14 miles round trip. That will happen when the snow is completely gone.”
Going in One Direction … Up!
Coming to the University of Findlay in 2010 on a football scholarship, climbing mountains wasn’t exactly on his radar. Majoring in marketing with a minor in finance, Willis left the Oiler football team in 2013 due to an injury. Wanting to focus on his career, he decided to get as much experience as possible before graduation. He worked as an intern in the Mortgage Department at Huntington Bank, Findlay, and then traveled to
Atlanta, Georgia, to complete a wholesale marketing internship with Marathon Petroleum Corporation. He also found room in his schedule to become involved in Students in Free Enterprise (now known as Enactus), the Investment Club and Law Society.
“I also got certified in Six Sigma Green Belt and SAP,” he said. “I strongly recommend current students do the same. Those two pieces allowed me to stand out while applying for jobs.”
After graduation, he connected with his first employer, SourceGas in Golden, Colorado, through LinkedIn. He began as a billing analyst and was promoted within six months to sales and marketing analyst. He has been with his current employer, Sundyne Corporation, Arvada, Colorado, since November 2015.
“The hiring manager at Sundyne said my resume stood out because of my experience with Marathon Petroleum Corporation,” Willis remembered. “Sundyne does business with them so that, once again, gave me an edge during the interview process.” Willis also credits the UF Center for Career and Professional Development for its efforts in setting up mock interviews, providing resume building tips and organizing job fairs “because those tools and resources empowered me to be well prepared during interviews.”
As a market analyst for Sundyne, Willis collects and analyzes data to evaluate the company’s markets. He tracks competitors’ performances and has been involved in numerous projects on cross-functional teams. Currently, he’s working on an analysis of chemicals used to make plastics, which are in high demand in China and other markets. Willis said that he studied marketing and finance because he enjoys finding ways to grow a business, implement growth strategies and being data-driven.
Chris Ward, Ph.D., professor of marketing, was a true mentor to Willis during his time at UF. He feels that her courses gave him the tools and skillset needed for problem solving through creative solutions. He enjoyed her real life case studies and hearing what corporations face on a day-to-day basis.
“Dr. Ward is a great professor because she knows how to take information and translate it in a way that others can learn,” he added.
The young man who has set a goal of climbing dozens of challenging mountains encourages current UF students to “dream big,” and actually write down goals on a piece of paper. He then recommends creating a path to get there, which would be the “vision” piece of the puzzle.
As for his own vision, Willis is keeping his “eye on the prize” of 46 more ascents. Along the way, it’s very possible that he’ll continue to ascend the career ladder as well.