Conor O’Reilly ’18 Reflects on the Holy Cross Advantage

Male headshot

Conor O’Reilly ’18 – psychology major
Account Executive, Oracle NetSuite
Interviewed by Ciocca Center intern, Conor Joslin ’23

“You have to recognize that you have an advantage.  Having gone through that major and learning all of those essential skills is a benefit that not a lot of people get to learn through their college education if they’re not going to a school like Holy Cross”. 

  • Please share a  bit about your background, where you’re from, and why you decided to attend Holy Cross?

I am from Andover, MA which is just about thirty minutes north of Boston. Growing up, Holy Cross always had a fantastic reputation. I had toured it one spring day and it was a beautiful sunny day on campus. Students were out and I just kind of felt at home there. So I applied to Holy Cross kind of knowing that was where I wanted to go. I had no idea what I wanted to study at that point in high school, but I knew that it was the place for me. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

  • Can you speak a little bit about what your major was and the impact that it had on your professional career?

I went in pretty undecided. I didn’t declare a major until the very last second, which was at the end of my sophomore year. For a little bit of time, I was a double major in psychology and economics. I got into the economics major but ultimately I just had a huge passion for psychology. I absolutely loved all of the classes beyond just the major requirements, and I wanted to take all of them. Even with all of my electives, I wanted everything to be related to psychology. So, I decided to go that route and really immerse myself in it.

The psychology major made me really think analytically, write papers, take data and make conclusions. It helped me to be a problem solver and ultimately has helped me in my sales job now. I work with a really complex product for businesses that have pretty complicated needs to solve; so I take what they’re currently facing challenges with and try to work hand in hand with them on mapping those challenges to a solution, which is very similar to my assignments as a psychology major. For me, psychology to sales was a very clean cut transition. Also, when it comes to the entry level sales jobs, just getting on the phone a lot and running a lot of cold emails and things that I still do today; having a psychology background has been really helpful to me just in terms of understanding what’s important to people. I definitely loved studying psychology and am really glad that I did. 

  • As any college junior, senior, or graduate knows, the internship/job hunt is a very stressful experience trying to manage it with school work. Can you tell me a little bit about your experience? 

I had a couple of internships, and when I was at Holy Cross, I was really interested in finance which led me to pursue an internship in wealth management for a few summers. After my sophomore year, I interned at UBS which was great; I got a lot of exposure working with a couple of senior partners. The year after that, I worked at a smaller wealth management firm not too far from Worcester at a place called Financial Foundations in Westboro, Massachusetts. The internship is really important because for me, interning in wealth management, showed me that I love the sales aspect of it. However, I did not love the number crunching Excel part of it.  I think my friends, some of them hated the sales aspect of it, but loved the number crunching and went more in that direction. Internships are a great way to explore and experience that. Don’t focus on the name of the company so much, but it is important to focus on the role, on where you can learn, on where you can really get a taste for what the job is like and what the field is like. 

After my first summer at UBS, my boss invited me to come back, but he told me straight up “if you go to a small wealth management company with maybe not as many fancy tools in place, you can really get in the weeds of the day to day, you might learn a lot”, and he was so correct about that and I am so glad that’s the direction I went. Especially in that second summer of interning at Financial Foundations, it helped me clarify what I did and did not want out of a career.  Another important piece, too, is to understand that you don’t necessarily need to work after school where you interned. I did get a full time offer from the company I interned with, but, as I said, at that point in time, I had figured out that I wanted to go in a slightly different direction, and so I had applied to other jobs and ultimately landed at NetSuite but was still able to leverage that internship experience in my interviews and in my networking.

  • You have worked in four different positions since starting at Oracle Netsuite. Can you share your path from where you started at Oracle NetSuite to where you are currently?

Yeah absolutely, I’m always happy to talk about this stuff. So I started in 2018 which was great. It was obviously pre-covid at this time, so we were in the office, every day, and it is the era where you are experiencing entry level sales. It was a good year to dig in and it kind of reminded me of freshman year of college, where it’s a little tough and everything’s new, but you go through everything all together. I think that one of the best things about tech sales is you learn to work really hard, and you really meet some great friends on the way. You kind of muscle through it together. So I did that my first year and then worked in an actual closing sales role for a couple of years after that. Most recently, I actually managed a team of account executives selling to some of our smaller mid sized clientele and now in my role I work as an account executive again focusing on our work with some larger companies, which made me grow fond of the software industry. In the last four years, I’ve held about four different jobs so there’s been plenty of room for career growth at NetSuite and overall in the tech sector, and that is definitely one of the things that led me to pursue a career in the field.

  • What advice would you give to Holy Cross students who are pursuing a career in business?

It is important to recognize that Holy Cross is something to use to your advantage. As I had mentioned to you before, a student studying at a liberal arts college like Holy Cross can be viewed as a diamond in the rough among so many other large school undergrad business applicants. There is a very unique skill set that students from Holy Cross have when they are applying. For example, how can I tie my classics major or my philosophy major into the business world? You have to recognize that you have an advantage and having gone through that major and learning all of those essential skills is a benefit that not a lot of people get to learn through their college education if they’re not going to a school like Holy Cross. Holy Cross students know how to write and know how to read, they know how to speak, they know how to effectively persuade, how to communicate; and these are all important things that are going to matter in the business world. I think it is important to make those known and a good hiring manager is going to see all of those qualities in you during an interview.

“I think Holy Cross students, especially when they get to that interview phase, just tend to win. So don’t be afraid to get in front of people and network, to put your face out there and have a conversation, because I think that’s where Holy Cross students tend to shine bright”.

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there; I think Holy Cross students really stand out in an interview setting. The Center for Career Development always did such a great job in helping me at least get my resume ready, but also, I think they did a great job helping me prepare for interviews. Resumes can oftentimes look rather similar across the board, and at the end of the day, it is important to consider “what can make my resume stand out”? But I think Holy Cross students, especially when they get to that interview phase, they just tend to win. So don’t be afraid to get in front of people and network, put your face out there and have a conversation, because I think that’s where the Holy Cross students tend to shine bright.

  • Have there been any specific experiences, classes, professors, or activities that have helped you the most in the professional world?   

I and the other psychology majors had to partake in courses such as statistics and research methods. I took both of those with Prof. Charles Coey and that was awesome for me because it was way outside of my comfort zone and was very quantitative. It helped me to deal with a lot of different variables, think about solutions and work in a team environment. At Holy Cross, students are all very smart and definitely like to take initiative, and I think working on a team project as we did, ultimately helped my career in business. For example, we developed a study and ended up writing an 80-page analysis of our findings; and I think that was just so cool to start at zero and see how far we can go.

One thing worth mentioning outside of the classroom is that I played club hockey where I met some of my very best friends. I think playing club hockey with those guys on the Hill and going through wins and losses together, bearing down and competing, making the time while managing busy academic schedules, and continuing to develop that grit that you need in the workplace have been very helpful. And that competitiveness and time management, by leveraging the time that I spent at practice, weight training,  games, and travel as well as keeping up with school work is definitely something that helped me. Finally, I did SPUD. My girlfriend who I met my sophomore or junior year, who is still actually my girlfriend today, was one of the site leaders for a SPUD site and she really got me involved. With everything that you do in life, you know the focus in business is more than just the revenue; if you can be focused on making an impact; whether it be improving the lives of others or just the way that your client is functioning, if you have that mindset day in and day out, you’ll be very successful in business. 

  • Looking back at your time on the hill, is there anything that sticks out to you as a favorite memory or favorite aspect?

Well it’s March right now… St Patrick’s day weekends are usually pretty fun. I have so many that I don’t think I could pick just one. I think the whole four years blended into one. It’s just always so nice to look back on and to visit campus for homecoming in the fall.  It’s absolutely blown my mind how tight-knit of a community we have even after graduating and I am so fortunate that I get to stay in touch with current students like you and fellow alumni in the area. It’s tough to pick one memory. I think just overall, the experience I had at Holy Cross was phenomenal and certainly helped to shape who I am and what I do today.

Many thanks to Conor Joslin ’23, Ciocca Center intern, and Conor O’Reilly ’17.