After being medically discharged from the Air Force, Rob Versaw found himself on BYU campus as a new student without a clue about how to get around.
“Ziggy was the first person that said hi to me on day one,” Versaw said.
Ezekial Ansah, otherwise known as “Ziggy,” is of course the former BYU football player and current defensive end for the Detroit Lions. Ansah saw Versaw looking at a map of campus and asked him which building he was looking for.
“I said, ‘I’m looking for the stats building.’ And he’s like, ‘I’m going there! Just follow me,’” Versaw said. “I had no idea who he was.”
It’s a good thing he found the stats building because Versaw’s bachelor’s degree in statistics has launched him into an impressive career that has just begun.
Although he only graduated five years ago, Versaw is currently the Director of Mobile Apps at Overstock.com—a company with over 1,800 employees. He has founded a non-profit organization with fellow BYU statistics alum Jared Ward and was recently named to the Forbes Technology Council—an invitation-only organization for senior-level technology executives.
What’s the secret to his success? Well, there’s actually a couple.
“One piece of advice I give to a lot of people is ‘don’t be picky about your experiences,’” Versaw said. “I’ve seen a lot of friends who want that perfect job outside of college and they don’t take a good job. Your first job is to get experience. And then it’s the second and third jobs where you really want to get into a career that you want to be in.”
Versaw’s first job out of college was working as an engineer at Lockheed Martin, an aerospace and defense technology company. Although he liked the company, Versaw knew that’s not what he wanted to do forever. So he looked for opportunities to grow.
“[I tell people] to take on responsibilities outside of your role. When I was a frontline engineer at Lockheed Martin, I took on cost management because I realized I didn’t want to be a software developer for the rest of my life,” Versaw said.
Additionally, Versaw returned back to school during his time at Lockheed Martin and received a master’s degree in systems engineering from George Washington University.
His seemingly insatiable desire to learn and develop was a habit he picked up from his mentors at BYU, specifically statistics professor Shane Reese, the incoming CPMS dean.
“I am very thankful for my time here,” Versaw said. “Dr. Reese was so passionate about Bayesian statistics it became contagious. I wanted to learn more. His class was ridiculously hard, but I enjoyed it because it inspired me to learn and continue to learn.”
Although, many of his jobs post-graduation have never been statistics-heavy, Versaw’s BYU education was never wasted. His BYU-inspired grit and determination to learn has pushed him to explore new career opportunities—improving the organization he works for each and every time.
“From my time at Arizona MileSplit (track and field website), I turned the first profitable year in franchise history. At Vivint I helped open up a new strategic line of business. At Overstock I have tripled our [app] revenue while maintaining one of the highest rates in the retail industry,” Versaw said.
According to Versaw, only two e-tailer companies have net margin managed to become profitable—Overstock and Amazon.
Currently, most of Versaw’s job responsibilities are managerial, but he would be lost without his math and science background.
“As a manager I need to have enough technical knowledge with my engineers to be able to push back at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way. I need to have enough industry knowledge or best practices in design to be able to push back at my designers,” Versaw said. “I need to know strategically what’s going on in the industry to help coach my product manager. And I still need to know some stats to help out with my analyst.”
The future looks bright for the BYU alum who shows no sign of slowing down, as long as there are chances to grow.
“I like learning new things and tackling different challenges,” Versaw said. “That’s what gets me up in the morning—finding a new challenge.”