Dan Maguire (class of 1994, Management Science), a member of the DSA Alumni Advisory Board, supports his alma mater -- not just as a generous donor but also as an engaged mentor to current students. Along with his business partner, J.P. Foley (class of 1992, Management Science), he created an endowment within the Division of Student Affairs to support Leadership Tech, an undergraduate leadership training program. Last fall, Maguire led a discussion with students in Leadership Tech and the Thrive living-learning community. The group explored topics designed to help the students learn more about themselves, their unique definition of success, how that definition interacts with the university environment and the world at large, and what they can do to thrive personally and professionally.
In this candid and thought-provoking interview, Maguire talks about passing along life lessons he has learned to current Virginia Tech students. To quote Maguire, “Our pain is their gain. We’ve already made some mistakes, bad choices, and we can share that. Conversely, we have also had many successes and we know why. That should also be shared.”
Full name: Dan Maguire
Year you graduated: 1994
Your major: Management Science
Activities you were involved in as a student: Sigma Chi Fraternity, many intramural sports, Norfolk Southern co-op program.
Current position and title: Co-Founder and CEO of Dominion Consulting Inc.
Where you call home: Great Falls, Virginia
Spouse: Katie Maguire
Children: Kayla, Taylor, and Drew
Q. How did you find your “place” at Virginia Tech?
A. Finding my “place” at Virginia Tech was not too terribly difficult. As a transfer student in my second year of college, I was warmly welcomed by old high school friends and new college ones. Within a short few months, I was engaging with people from both the academic side of life, but also the social side within the Greek system. Academically speaking, I engaged with counselors in the Pamplin College of Business. I was given great advice regarding which major to choose and, as they say, I was off to the races.
Q. What was the highlight of your college experience?
A. That is an interesting question. I guess I would say Graduation Day! Sounds kind of like a stock answer. Anyway, my college experience was full of highlights (and maybe some that weren’t so…) and great memories. I can honestly say that I feel like I did “everything” that VT and Blacksburg had to offer. Whether it was hanging by the Duck Pond or rafting down the New River, we were always up to something.
Q. In your case, how did learning outside the classroom complement learning inside the classroom?
A. I grew a lot throughout my college experience. As a young person living away from home for the first time, you can’t help but grow as you find your way. All those experiences are the life lessons that are hard to learn from a book or even a parent. They just must be lived to be learned. The most impactful example of outside of the classroom learning was my time in the co-op program with Norfolk Southern Corporation. That experience was incredibly beneficial to me as it showed me some of what I should expect after college. It gave me a perfect balance of real-world responsibility within the context of being an undergraduate student. I was somewhat protected from the sink-or-swim reality of life. I see that looking back now, but certainly didn’t recognize it at the time. I simply worked hard in that role and it paid dividends in the form of a job offer post-graduation. Ironically, I still have my first performance review from that job. I remember being very proud of it and it motivated me to keep working hard and find ways to improve and grow.
Q. Are you a different person because of the experiences you had at VT? How has it impacted your career?
A. I think that some of the experiences I had at VT have had positive impacts on my career. I found myself in multiple leadership roles in our fraternity and led several other extracurricular activities. Taking the lead on anything requires certain traits and talent to effectively manage people and achieve success. Within the fraternity environment, let’s just say I was “tested” on those skills. In the end, I learned quite a bit about leadership and getting the most out of my team. The other experience that clearly impacted my career is the previously discussed co-op program at Norfolk Southern. That program was the start of my career and without it, I may have gone in a completely different direction.
Q. What do you know now that you wish you had known as a student? What have you learned that you would like to pass on to current students?
A. Somewhat contradictory to my earlier comments about doing “everything,” I wish I had taken more time to explore much more of what VT had to offer to learn and grow beyond academics. The parallel to what I know is happening today would be the living-learning communities, Leadership Tech, and programs like those. There are also so many other areas that a student can benefit from, including health, fitness, volunteering, etc. It is a big world and getting involved in a diverse set of activities will create a much more well-rounded perspective to take to the world post-graduation.
Q. Tell me a bit about the Leadership Tech and THRIVE presentation you did last fall. What did you hope to teach students? What did you learn from them? What were the most gratifying, surprising, fun, interesting, or difficult aspects of this presentation?
A. I was invited to come to campus and speak to students, the target audience being the Leadership Tech and the THRIVE communities. I was excited about the opportunity but as I sat down to prepare, I found myself short on ideas for meaningful content that would create an engaging, yet informal, session. As I often do, I figured I’d prepare with the end-state in mind. I already knew a lot about the Leadership Tech program, but THRIVE was new to me so I started with that.
A few online searches and I was immediately impressed and found my answer. I figured I would prepare a discussion on what experiences, both college and other, allowed me to thrive in my life. Starting with the end in mind, I would work the conversation back to undergraduate life and find the parallel to relate to the current students. Well, that was the plan anyway. My hope was that I could share some insight that would encourage the audience to think bigger and broader about their interactions with school, work, and even themselves -- to push to be their best.
Tactically, I was still not sure how I wanted to “present” my thoughts. As a career consultant, we have grown to hate PowerPoint presentations, so that was not my plan. We recently were utilizing mind-mapping techniques on an internal project at work and I figured that would be a great way to share the content. I set out to create the mind-map, and, after a few false starts, I was happy with the direction and the outcome.
Another desired outcome was to have an engaged audience. The best learning, in my opinion, comes from hearing about other people’s successes and failures and the lessons learned. I wanted to go wherever the audience took me, but all the while, tie it back to the concept of “What does it mean to thrive?” It seemed to work. We went well over the hour allotted and it was a very engaging audience. I was very pleased with the outcome and maybe a little surprised at how laser-focused the students were during the discussion. I didn’t see a single cell phone or other expected distraction. The funny part was this was pointed out to me back at work when I was sharing some of the pictures that were taken during the event. Our director of human resources said I must have done well as nobody had their phones out. I took that as a compliment.
Q. Why is it important for alumni to be involved in current students’ college experiences?
A. Because our pain is their gain. We’ve already made some mistakes, bad choices, and we can share that. Conversely, we have also had many successes and we know why. That should also be shared. I don’t ever remember a formal setting in undergrad when I was being coached or mentored by alumni, but now, some 22 years later, I see how important it is and that is why I jump at the chance to be involved.
Q. You are engaged with and support your alma mater. Why?
A. The summary answer is that I look for areas where I can take my experience and apply it to help a network and community of people that matter to me. I mentor employees and colleagues at my company and within my business network all the time. I enjoy that for sure. There is just something totally different and incredibly refreshing about engaging with students. I get a lot out of it and I think the students do as well.
Q. Why did you decide to serve on the DSA Alumni Advisory Board?
A. I think the DSA is doing a tremendously good job. Since my undergraduate career I have been close with [former Vice President of Student Affairs] Dr. Ed Spencer. Thus, I probably had more insight to DSA and the value they bring to the university. I like what [Vice President for Student Affairs] Dr. Patty Perillo is doing and the messaging from the DSA. I like the priorities I see and the “product,” if you will. I like being part of successful organizations.
Q. Do you feel you are a part of the Hokie Nation? What does it mean to you?
A. Yes, for sure, I feel part of the Hokie Nation. Hokie Nation is everywhere – it runs deep and wide. I’m proud to be part of Virginia Tech in any capacity – sports fan, volunteer, speaker, and, hopefully, someday a parent of a Virginia Tech student. It means a lot to me and that is why I give back.