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Steven Grant’s Formula for Career Movement

December 04, 2019

When you walk toward Steven Grant’s office on the 4th floor of David Rittenhouse Laboratory you see lots of equations scrawled across chalkboards and whiteboards. Faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy often sit outside Grant’s office debating how to use specific computations. It seems only fitting that Grant would find himself working in this environment because from the moment he started at Penn, he’s had his own formula for career success. 

“I was always trying to find those skills that I could bring to the table and enhance my profile. Plus, I was pretty aggressive about networking and using my connections to get advice and get my name out there,” Grant says.

“I’ve also never been afraid of being honest with my supervisors about my intentions to move my career forward. Within the first two weeks of one of my positions, I talked with my supervisor about my vision for the job, my career goals, and what I wanted to do next,” he says.

Grant started working at Penn in 2015 as a temporary customer service representative in Wharton Printing. He worked six and a half months as a temp before getting full-time employment in the print shop in 2016.

Today, Grant is an administrative coordinator in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the School of Arts of Sciences (SAS). In this position Grant supports 15 to 20 faculty members in two research interest groups within the department: Astronomy and Cosmology, and High Energy Physics. Among his duties are arranging travel for faculty and guests, processing travel reimbursements, planning and organizing workshops, and managing the appointment process for visiting scholars.

“When Steven started he immediately took control of his responsibilities,” says Millicent Minnick, Department Administrator, Physics and Astronomy, and Grant’s supervisor.

“He constantly shows interest in learning and growing in the department, as well as the University, while continuing to pave the way for his future goals,” she says.

Before Grant came to Penn he worked as a consultant for a non-profit organization in Boston. When his partner, Ryan Tsapatsaris, was accepted to a graduate program at Penn, the two moved to Philadelphia, and Grant decided to apply to the University. He figured temping might be an entry point to the University. 

“I wanted to work at Penn because a lot of my family works in higher education and my mom and step-dad spent their whole careers at Yale, so Penn seemed like a space that I would be familiar with,” says Grant, who earned an American Studies degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Grant says part of his success at Penn stems from his willingness to take on assignments beyond the scope of his core responsibilities. While working at Wharton Printing, Grant seized an opportunity to work closely with a vendor to help design and implement the print shop’s online ordering system. That experience allowed him to learn technologies he ended up using in other positions.

“I sought opportunities to take on more responsibilities no matter what position I was in because I saw that as the most effective strategy to get promoted internally or find another position,” Grant explains.

After Grant left Wharton Printing in 2017, he secured a position as an administrative assistant at the College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS) in SAS. He provided office administration for two LPS suites, but “once I got a handle on the basic stuff, I was very vocal about wanting to do more,” he says.

At the time LPS needed some help processing travel reimbursements for prospective students, so they recruited Grant since he was always interested in learning new skills.  

“Steven’s eagerness to learn and take on new challenges made it extremely rewarding to encourage his success,” says former supervisor Carol Chason, who is now Business Systems Analyst, Office of the Provost.

“The dedication and professionalism Steven displayed day after day on the job opened doors for him.” Chason says.

Grant worked in LPS for two years before moving to his current role. He says he’s comfortable staying put for a while but he continues to search for additional assignments to build his skillset. In fact, he’s currently experimenting with various technology tools to streamline processes to better support international postdocs and visitors when they arrive on campus.

“To move your career forward at Penn you have to have a strategy for selling yourself, but also be very open about where that could lead you,” Grant says.

“Being at Wharton now doesn’t mean you have to be at Wharton forever. Being in SAS now doesn’t mean you can’t work in the School of Dentistry. Be cognizant of the skills you have and think about those skills in a broad way so you don’t select yourself out of a position.”