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Delivering on Potential

March 29, 2021 Jim Warner
Michael Chesser CoB Student

For some students, a part-time summer job in high school helps to fund your weekends. It puts gas in the car, some cash in your pocket. For others, part-time work helps support the family, offers a nest egg for college. These are rarely the jobs we would attach to a future “career.” The reality of what a summer job could offer Michael Chesser came into sharp focus early on, and while he may have had the restaurant jobs and worked away at minimum wage gigs as well, he was already thinking ahead.

“I did well in high school, but even with scholarships, I was not going to have the money to pay for college. My parents couldn’t afford to pay for it, and I was going to be stuck with student loans,” says Chesser. “For me, it was important that I [worked at] a serious job and that I could build a career [while going to school].” Enter UPS.

Chesser began working part-time (through a co-op opportunity) at UPS before graduating from high school. The summer before his senior year saw Chesser getting his feet wet, working only three hours a day (due to being under 18) as a package handler. From the very start Chesser put in the effort and hustle at the job — a work ethic instilled by his family. “My father [says] to put in a fair day’s work. I’m pretty flexible and willing to do what’s asked of me…so when [offered additional] shifts, I’d say yes because whereas other people might see it as extra work, I saw it as an opportunity to say ‘I know how to do more things.’”

The Metropolitan College program at UPS offers paid tuition, money for books, and other incentives — equating to thousands of dollars to offset the cost of pursuing a college education.

The program levels the playing field, giving students the chance to attend college debt-free while offering opportunities to build a professional career simultaneously. The opportunity was one Chesser embraced without looking back.

Chesser’s can-do attitude served him well, earning him the trust of his supervisors and propelling his career path forward. It’s a drive that has already paid off beyond the pursuit of his degree — at the age of 21, Michael Chesser is a homeowner and drives a new car. He has a clarity of thought and direction that betrays his years. The focus and discipline were only amplified by his approach to the job, and his schoolwork, which meant taking in-person classes.

“Pretty much my morning [started at] noon, one o’clock. I would get up, go to school for four hours…come back home and sleep for another three hours. I would get up and go to work around nine and then work until about four or five in the morning and come home—I’d sleep in two shifts of three to five hours to keep up my routine.” One of the lessons Chesser learned early on was to distribute his course load over summer and winter sessions. He also began taking more classes online, as they were available. Being able to take advantage of these sessions meant not only could he still graduate in four years, but he could also get an extra hour or two of sleep.

After working the third-shift (including working in the main hub moving and transporting cans on the loading ramps, and part-time supervisor positions), Chesser was ready for a change. He recalls, “Once I got to a point that I was far enough in school, and looking to be more in line with my career path, I started looking for co-op positions to open up.” While the part-time supervisor positions on the third shift are only guaranteed 27.5 hours a week, the co-opt mean a straight 40 hours. The home stretch of his college years has been spent working full-time (7 a.m. – 3 p.m.) in the Aircraft Materials department. The department (Loans and Borrows) deals with purchasing/loans of parts and materials for other airlines. The dayshift gives him the chance to have a more typical schedule; it complements his course load, which these days is all online.

In his final semester, Chesser switched from being a finance major to earning his Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Management. It’s an education path he had wanted from the beginning, but there wasn’t an active management degree track until recently. “I enjoy working in true finance…and I can do that while being able to give myself that creativity to make a decision and help set the direction of a company. When [The College] offered the BBA with a management focus, I realized I could finish on time with the degree I truly wanted,” says Chesser. He points to his first experiences as a part-time supervisor driving his interest in management. On any given night, Chesser was overseeing between 10 and 40 people unloading packages from trucks (aka feeders) and containers that came off planes. “Being a sup [supervisor]…is tough at times, but I really liked being able to have some freedom and a chance to make some decisions.” 

The flexibility to work and study, with one foot firmly planted in today and one in the future, was ultimately made possible by UPS and UofL’s collaboration. That sense of investment in growth is not lost on Chesser. Even with his determination and focus, the path he has set out on is only possible by both institutions holding the doors open. 

“UPS has tons of room for advancement—look where I’m at now from where I started. I’ve continued to make moves, worked myself up…I think knowing that I am making a career path…and they’ve given me the opportunity to do that.” For Chesser, it means staying at a company that has given him so much in just a handful of years.

As he starts the next phase of his professional life, he is likely to stay at UPS, looking for the next opportunity. His co-op contract technically ends in October, which means he will have from May until then to find another position. If he doesn’t, Chesser will go back to being a part-time supervisor in the main hub. That said, he’s not worried about it. “When you look at it from the perspective of [UPS], the company has invested in you and put you in this spot…having all of this on your resume and having all these people know me…it gives you a huge leg-up.” Given Chesser’s drive, it’s a matter of when, not if, the next opportunity comes. Whatever shape that chance takes, he will be ready to deliver.

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