The variety-seeking nature of Millennials: Jan Wanot

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"If money wasn’t an issue, what would you do?”

Jan Wanot, a 2008 UWT Marketing Alumni, epitomizes the variety-seeking nature of current day Millennials. Throughout his varied professional journey, Jan has traveled far and wide to finally understand the importance of finding and doing work that you’re truly passionate about doing every day.

Jan Wanot, on campus at UW Tacoma's "W"

Jan’s professional journey began his Junior year at Milgard, as he began applying for internships for that summer. In the process, Jan realized that while he was succeeding academically and was on track for a business degree, he was lacking heavily in the extracurricular area. Jan filled those missing gaps by joining student government and the judicial board the next year, where he would help to improve and supplement legislation for the student body. He furthered his involvement efforts by joining Net Impact, an RSO centered around corporate social responsibility, which enabled Jan to further establish his presence in the student community. Later that summer, Jan attained a marketing internship at a web startup in Seattle, which provided him a glimpse of the real-world experience. Returning to Milgard for his senior year, Jan was ready to be more engaged, taking a leadership role in both the UWT student government, as well as Net Impact. For Jan, going above and beyond to be engaged in the student community was what would open the door to future opportunities.

Net Impact, a non-profit organization for students and professionals interested in using business skills in support of social and environmental causes.

At Net Impact, the organization would often embark on tours of companies who practiced corporate social responsibility within their companies. On the way back from a tour, Milgard CSR Director Joe Lawless overheard Jan speaking to his mother in Polish. Lawless informed Jan that he was a part of an organization called Washington Business Week, who would attend high schools and work with younger individuals in developing business skills. Oddly enough, Jan was Polish, and Poland had just established its own Poland Business week. Jan, who loved working with youth, a former swim instructor, and originally from Poland, found himself unable to deny the opportunity that appeared in front of him. Individuals that served as advisors in the Business Week were typically 30-50 years old and often executives for large organizations; something Jan was not at the time. Unsure of Jan’s abilities, Business Week gave Jan a trial run at Western Washington University, which went much better than anticipated. Jan was all-in for the opportunity, but there was a catch; he didn’t have enough money. Knowing that this was an opportunity he did not want to miss, Jan sold his only car, an old Honda civic, which helped pay for his 3-4 week stay in Poland.

As a result, Jan had the opportunity to work alongside top-fleet professionals as the youngest company advisor for these high school groups, guiding them on building a new product and simulating a virtual company. When executives saw that Jan’s student team was outperforming their own, they were impressed of what the young business student had to offer. After networking with these professionals, Jan was introduced to the Business Career Foundation program, the most competitive foundational business skills program offered at Boeing. Fast forward, Jan became the only external hire for the foundational program, along with 10 other internal hires. 1400 applicants applied for the program that year.

After graduating college, Jan obtained his first job at Boeing in a rotational program. Every four months, he would move to a new city, equipped with a new team and business unit. Throughout his tenure at Boeing, Jan had a total of six different jobs in the two years of his employment. Out of these jobs, Jan had the pleasure of visiting Germany, South Korea, and Taiwan, working in roles such as airline sales and commercial contracts.  

Post Boeing, Jan began to look for work that he truly enjoyed. He started this new mission by attempting a different side gig on nights and weeks: building a party backpack product. Jan built a team, hiring individuals in roles such as industrial designer and electrical engineer. After 12 months of effort and negotiating contracts with manufacturers in China, the trajectory of the product didn’t go as planned. Jan would then take a complete pivot to the real estate industry, attempting to rebuild a house on 13th and James Street in Tacoma, WA. With a $30,000 investment, Jan completed renovations and had it rented out to tenants. As a result, Jan began making $500 a month in passive income. While new to the process, Jan realized that real estate allowed him to be creative in design, structure deals, and utilize his marketing experience; all things he found true enjoyment in. A month after his first successful deal, Jan quit his job at Boeing. Fast forward to today, Jan owns 10 units, with all positive cash flow; making enough to replace his Boeing income with passive income all in one years' work. Jan hired a property manager and trained him to manage the 8 units he owns in Tacoma. Jan then interned for a developer for four months and expanded his knowledge of development as well.

Exterior before and after of one of Jan's real estate ventures in Seattle, WA.

All of these opportunities happened for Jan because he was in proximity of Milgard CSR leader, Joe Lawless; which started a domino effect for Jan’s career. Jan highlighted that he never knew what he was going to do after college. While at Boeing, Jan was paid well and received great benefits. However, he noticed that his peers were truly excelling and seemed much more excited than him. Why? Jan realized that while Boeing was an excellent job, it wasn’t something that would keep him excited for the long term. Jan wanted to do work that gave him internal motivation, work that had intrinsic value. Jan urges students to truly consider their career path: “Is it truly driving you? Is it your passion?”

For those graduating soon, Jan suggests that you must first identify your primary career interests, then begin to look at companies that reflect those interests. Jan encourages students to look for rotational programs, as there are jobs that you may enjoy upon experimentation. Through his time at Boeing, Jan found out that he loved doing airline contracts, something he would’ve never thought he would enjoy prior. Turns out, Jan realized that airline contracts were exciting because they were technical, but also provided an opportunity for creative problem solving and writing.

Interior before and after one of Jan's real estate projects in the Seattle Area.

Through all his hard work, Jan found himself most driven by intrinsic value. Jan would often work 100 hours a week at Boeing and emphasized that he would feel as if he did. But when he ventured into roles that implemented functions he truly enjoyed, time was never an issue. Jan emphasizes that you can only find your own individual motivator by continuing to try new things in your professional life. Some might find the most value in a corporation with stability, but like many Millennials, others may enjoy diving into a variety of work. Jan advises students to put themselves in a position where they are exposed to a variety of work, and to not be afraid of experimentation. Jan urges students to continue pursuing your passion, regardless of where you are currently. “If you end up getting a regular job, work nights and weekends to figure out what you’re really excited about. If money wasn’t an issue, what would you do?”

Written by: 
Trevor Nhan, Edited by Shane Benoit / May 22, 2018
Photos by: 
Shane Benoit, Jan Wanot, Boeing
Media contact: 

Shane Benoit, Trevor Nhan