Working Through the Recession to Find My Way to Criminal Justice
When I left Hamilton, my intention was to go directly to law school; however, I took the LSAT on the fly, and failed miserably. It was like a punch to the gut but this gave me time to take a step back, dust myself off, and re-orient myself. I liked the law and knew I wanted to stay in the field, so I started interning at law firms during the summers as a paralegal. I thought it would be good to continue in that fashion to feel out the field of law and see if it really was for me. After interning I interviewed at Proskauer Rose LLP, a high profile intellectual property (IP) law firm that represented Facebook during the dispute between Zuckerberg and ConnectU. Luckily, my interview went well and I ended up getting the job. I was ecstatic! I had secured a job right out of Hamilton.
I did not last at the law firm because I soon realized that my interest in the law was less about IP and more about criminal justice. I had a detour in my career at this time because the markets crashed and jobs were hard to come by. A family member recommended I come and work with them at a medical equipment company. The pay was not great, but it was great working at the same company as two of my cousins. I eventually got to help manage drivers who were delivering medical equipment throughout all of New England. This job enabled me to develop my skills in the area of information management and information technology. I had been a student technology consultant for ITS at Hamilton in the Burke Library, where I learned how to help people with their computer software problems. As I helped people with their computer problems in this role, I became better with computer programs and my agility with IT altogether. My strengthened IT skills were put to great use when I was analyzing data for the entire medical equipment company to show productivity and efficiency via Microsoft Excel data input, and analyzing charts and graphs.
My frustration with low pay and little advancement in my career during the recession motivated me back towards the law. I continued my search for law-related jobs and I eventually found a position open at the nation’s leading arbitration services firm. Although the pay was not much more, I was just happy to move on and work on developing my career. I was assigned to administering arbitration for the ADR (alternative dispute resolution) process for labor dispute cases between union and employers. Much of the work I covered was for municipalities and local labor unions. Even though I was not getting the exposure to criminal justice, I did enjoy figuratively playing referee between the wronged employee and the offending employer, and vice versa. I was interested in shifting gears though and eventually attended an informational session about professional degrees offered at Boston University. Much to my joy and interest I found them to be advertising a degree in criminal justice. I actually signed up for the program and started going to school at night and continued with my day job. I will say it was not easy. Any misstep with school work or daily planning made it hard to catch up with so little time between work, homework, and attending classes.
Since salaries were starting to rebound after the recession, I had started to refine my job search and look for an introduction into the criminal investigator field. I got a hit off of a job in the BU database using the keyword “investigator.” The word was found in the term “principal investigator,” which is a researcher at a university/college. I was so happy to start a new job, even if it was not in criminal justice because I was finally in a position where I felt respected as a person and connected with my boss.
Interesting enough, the Hamilton network enabled me to stand out among other candidates during the interview. When my soon to be boss was reviewing my resume she mentioned she was engaged to Hamilton College alum, David Winer '05. She said she loved small liberal arts colleges and Hamilton was great. In the research compliance office at BU there was much data to collect and manage and it was my duty to collect the financial conflict of interest forms from all researchers at Boston University and Boston Medical Center. At BU I flourished because I was given space to grow and to expand upon my IT, coding, and VBA skills and the work environment was a good fit.
A Dream Deferred
I was working on improving the data collection program for the university and the hospital. I enjoyed this work so much and would go to sleep at night dreaming about ways I could improve the system. I would come in early and stay late trying to improve the program. I might have stayed at BU had it not been for a major administration change. After this change I realized it was time for me to leave and finally find a job that was in line with my degree in criminal justice.
I started my search again and this time found work as an AML (anti-money laundering) investigator in the financial intelligence unit at Citizens Financial Group, Inc. I would more aptly call it a financial crimes investigator because the investigations are in many financial related crime such as structuring, terrorist financing, tax evasion, Ponzi Schemes, romance scams, elder abuse, fraud, etc. There are no words for the joy I have of finally being in what I would consider to be my “final destination.” Although it may not be my last job, I am role that is in line with my graduate degree and it is fulfilling to be working in a field where my interest lies. Every day I am learning so much and applying my education and skills to their max. The journey has been tough, but it is my journey and I am proud. Hamilton played a major role in preparing me to present myself with my best foot forward in every facet of this journey.
Andre Chapman '07 was a philosophy major at Hamilton. He has worked for various companies in the following fields: legal, managerial, administrative, compliance and financial crimes investigation. He completed his graduate studies in 2010 with an master of criminal justice degree from Boston University.