“I can control my attitude and my ability.” -Devonte West, ’18
Fort Valley State University senior Devonté West had no idea his summer internship would turn out to be a lucrative and a deciding factor in where his career would lead. The captain of the Wildcat football team and an accounting major, West graduated in December 2018. His career has already received a jumpstart.
West accepted an offer to work with RSM Global, a world-leading provider of audit, tax and consulting services for middle market companies, based in Tampa, Florida, after graduation. He connected with the company at a National Association of Black Accountants conference he attended with FVSU students. Though he was a bit intimidated at first, he soon found no need. His FVSU education had more than prepared him to land a prestigious internship.
Pointing to West’s Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship ring, a RSM Global representative encouraged West to tell his FVSU story as a way to stand out from the crowd of student attendees, which included students from the University of Central Florida the University of Georgia, the University of South Florida, the University of Florida, and Florida State University. That’s exactly what he did. Soon, associates at RSM were asking where they could find more students like him.
He landed an on-the-spot interview at the job fair which led to an in-person interview days before the Fountain City Classic in 2017. Though he was excited about the big game, he was just as focused on his life after college. His interviews landed him a summer 2018 internship.
One way or another, West plans to make it into “the one percent,” but not just in the socio-economic way the phrase is commonly used. He said that he remembers the words from his freshman year accounting professor, Dr. Regina Ivory Butts.
“One percent of all certified public accountants (CPAs) are African American,” she said. (Ironically, head football coach Kevin Porter gave him similar guidance, advising that, “one percent of all college athletes make it to the NFL.”) West’s work with RSM is his first step towards becoming a CPA.
“You let your personality shine,” is something he was often told by associates at the firm. He shares this mantra with fellow students as one of the things to take with them on the job and on internships. “I walked around and checked on everyone when I arrived to work each day and I used my humor to lighten the mood on stressful days,” he said. During his internship, he studied on the weekends to sharpen his skills. The company’s clients were often surprised that he was only an intern, he recalled. At the end of the internship, out of a team of interns, only he was offered a full-time position and signing bonus.
West said that his mother, Lou, constantly inspires him with her will to fight through health issues associated with diabetes. He has also battled homelessness but has endured thanks in part to the generosity of others. Coach Porter, he said, taught him and other football players lessons beyond athletics. “Control what you can control,” Porter admonished the players, according to West. “You can’t control what’s happening, but you can control how you react,” Porter said.
That’s precisely how West impressed his interviewers, explaining how he could control the things needed for the job, such as preparing financial statements and operating expense reports.
“I can control my attitude and my ability,” he said.