Seven Questions with Alum Noah Caust
An avid leader, learner, and 2006 Capstone Award winner, Noah Caust’s (CGS’06, SHA’08) time at CGS helped him discover the true strength of his interpersonal skills. With a passion rooted in finance, his journey has taken him from a Student Ambassador to a Manager in Sales. We spoke to Noah about how his life has changed since BU and CGS, and where he hopes it will take him in the future.
What have you been doing since you graduated from BU?
I graduated in 2008 as a Hospitality Administration major, which was a tough time to graduate in that field, given the Great Recession. I started out as a financial advisor at Ameriprise, and was laid off after three months because of the state of the stock market. In the meantime, while I was looking to start my career, I worked at BU Dining Services and as a summer RA. In late 2008, I began my career officially on the John Hancock Institutional Sales Desk selling group annuities and 401(k). I liked the product and the selling, but I didn’t love sitting at a desk all day. I loved talking to people but much preferred face to face. I also feared getting laid off again, so I started my MBA at night just in case. I worked at John Hancock for 18 months and then found an External Sales role back in New York, where I grew up, at Automatic Data Processing (ADP), selling 401(k) plans to small businesses in the field. I was there for 3 years and then found a home at Paychex, Inc. managing a team of 10 that sells 401(k) plans to larger companies and institutions in the Midwest. I also finished up my MBA online in 2012 at Excelsior College.
Why did you choose that pathway?
Our team in 2006 won the Capstone Award because we did a good job at playing to everyone’s strengths. My job was to present the material and help delegate roles. I very much enjoyed the presentation and leadership role. Also, being an RA and helping people played into this career path as well. Further, I was always interested in the whole finance game but it was also important to me to help people. Finding a career in 401(k) plans really is the best of both worlds. It’s both very cerebral and heartwarming to know you are helping people save for a more secure retirement. I always saw myself doing something like this, and leveraged my strengths, which are sales, presentation, leadership, and helping others.
How did your time at CGS help prepare you for what came after graduation?
CGS definitely gave me a lot of great guidance, allowed me to meet a lot of great people, and fostered a lot of the skills that I didn’t even know that I had. Had I just been thrown into BU, it probably would’ve been too intense and overwhelming for me at the time. The cohort system we had in CGS fostered a great community, and was exactly what I needed to thrive. In addition, the Capstone project helped me realize my strengths in the real world.
What are your goals and aspirations for your career?
Financial stability has been a big goal of mine since my family was not comfortable in this matter. My great grandparents were immigrants from Russia who couldn’t speak any English, and came to this country with no money at all. They went through a lot of hard times in the Depression, which ingrained in me and my brother the value of economic security early on. So, the goal has been to achieve financial independence, which thankfully we’re pretty close to achieving. But more importantly, once I get beyond that financial threshold, I’d like to explore how I can give back to society and make the world a better place through philanthropy.
From a career perspective, I’d like to continue selling and or leading teams that sell financial products to institutions; I find that really engrossing and I’m interested in the psychological aspect of it too: why do people buy, and why do they not? I wish to understand a more complex, involved sale, whether it’s parts of businesses or pensions or otherwise.
What extracurriculars, internships, or other out of the classroom experiences were most valuable to you as a CGS student?
At CGS, I was a Student Ambassador, leading tours of prospective students around campus. After college, I continued to visit high schools to talk to students about BU. I was also involved in the College of General Studies Student Government, and the Intramural Basketball League (we won!).
During my junior year, I studied abroad in New Zealand, which was a really cool experience. My senior year, I was an RA and enjoyed it so much that I continued it the following summer. I was also a part of the 2008 Class Gift Committee. We had a great turnout and lots of fun ways of rallying BU spirit, and were able to raise a good amount of money. It gave me the opportunity to connect with Deans Elmore and DeLuca, both of whom believed in my potential and have continued to support me today.
What was your favorite part about your CGS experience?
To know that I could do it. To know that I could make it at a school like BU. And to build the self-esteem and the self confidence that I could do it. I felt like CGS cared, and even in the times where it was rigorous and tough, it wasn’t too much. Even as an RA, I’d tell kids, “If you make the effort, BU will make the effort for you,” and I appreciated that. If you have the “Get knocked down seven times, get up eight” kind of mentality, then BU is the right place for you, and CGS is the bridge between those two.
If you could give one piece of advice to current CGS students, what would you say?
Don’t give up. Whatever your struggle is whether it’s academic, emotional, personal relationships, self-doubt, we’ve all been there. Be kind to yourself through the process of learning and growth. Wherever you are in your process, just keep moving that foot forward and ask for help when you need it. You write your own ticket! So keep fighting, and try to remember that learning is not linear; same with life, same with success, same with riding a bike, etc. It’s important to be kind to yourself when things are not going great, and to be humble when things are going well.
— Compiled by Mehreen Kamal