Alumni Profiles

Geoff Elliot

Geoff Elliot

Year Graduated: 2013

Occupation: Conservation Corps Manager for Rocky Mountain Conservancy

How has your training in philosophy benefited you in your life or profession?

My study of philosophy provided me with the critical thinking skills, ingenuity, and rationality with which I approach all aspects of my life. In my day to day, this has given me a lens through which to understand political issues both on a global and national scale, as well as within my own community. In my current job, these skills have made me the go-to "idea guy." Whether another department is looking to brainstorm new programming or our organization wants to critically assess current initiatives, the staff frequently turns to me to get my judgement.

How did you manage to get your current position?

I was afforded my current position through an internship that I took after completing my undergrad at University of Montana. The internship was with Rocky Mountain Conservancy, leading youth educational programs in Rocky Mountain National Park. In addition, the internship gave me a chance to work on program development within the organizations educational programs, including the Conservation Corps program, which I am currently managing. While helping the organization develop ideas and assess and improve current programming, the Conservancy asked me to present how I would improve the Conservation Corps program, as the previous manager had just retired. By being able to critically evaluate the current program structure in relation to the goals and objectives of the Corps and present my ideas to the staff in a logical fashion I was offered my current job. Now, I manage a program which provides college-aged youth an internship opportunity to learn about and complete conservation work during the summer, and develop new and innovative ways to engage youth in natural resource careers and stewardship activities.

What advice do you have for current philosophy students about getting a job?

Philosophy provides you with the ability to think. I know this sounds cliche, but once I left the department and stepped into a world outside of like-minded philosophy majors, I realized how true this is. Use this talent to impress upon potential employers your ability to provide well-developed ideas on how you would improve the business or organization. Your critical thinking skills and logic are your greatest assets.

Peter Landsiedel

Peter Landsiedel

Year Graduated: 2011

Occupation: Criminal Defense Attorney

How has your training in philosophy benefited you in your life or profession?

Studying philosophy in undergrad provided an excellent foundation for succeeding both in law school, and as an attorney. Learning how to quickly categorize, analyze, and critique arguments, as well as construct my own valid and sound arguments is an absolutely necessary skill in my profession. Being able to tease out unfounded presuppositions held by an officer on the stand, or call out insufficient inferences in opposing counsel's briefs are both skills I learned while studying philosophy. Additionally, the amount of reading that a philosophy degree requires was invaluable training for the amount of reading I did in law school. Spending four years in undergrad unpacking dense philosophical texts made reading dense appellate opinions much easier. In my personal life, studying philosophy fundamentally changed my worldview, and pushed me into studying the law. I am grateful for the wonderful education I received from the philosophy department at UM.

How did you manage to get your current position?

I hustled. I applied to every job would let me practice in the field I wanted to, and I called friends and friends of friends in the legal profession to get my name out there. Eventually, I got wind of a job in my hometown and called friends and acquaintances to find out more about the firm. It turned out that one of my friends knew the firm owner quite well and gave me a run down of what the firm did, and what would be expected of associate attorneys. Armed with this knowledge, I felt confident going into my interview. I touched on my degree in philosophy during the interview. I explained to the firm owner that being a criminal defense attorney was especially appealing because I viewed the criminal justice system as a deontological application of justice. As long as the rules were followed, and due process was genuinely afforded to every defendant justice would be served. I explained that I believed criminal defense attorneys are in a unique position to ensure the government followed its own rules and I wanted to be a part of keeping the system in check. My boss liked that answer. Regardless, in any field, you have to network and get your name out there. Once your foot is in the door, a philosophy degree will certainly help.

What advice do you have for current philosophy students about getting a job?

Philosophy doesn't teach what to think or what to know, but rather, how to think and how to know. These are valuable skills that transfer to a number of fields, not just law. Employers don't necessarily know this, so you need to find a way to communicate this fact to them, either in your applications, or in an interview. Don't be afraid to sell your skills, and explain that philosophy provides a groundwork for you to jump into many different fields.

Marianne Blaue

Geoff Elliot

Year Graduated: 2007

Occupation: Co-Founder of Truth or Consequences Brewing

How has your training in philosophy benefited you in your life or profession?

After majoring in philosophy at UM, I acquired an entry-level job in technical support for an internet company. I won my interviewers over in a practical exercise where I used fallacy identification to troubleshoot a technical problem. While on the job, I learned about the field of “knowledge strategy”, which involves various methodologies and technologies corporations use to save money through information sharing and data management. I was drawn to this field because of I could see its connection to epistemology, or the investigation of knowledge, which I studied heavily in my Senior year at UM. After a few years, I came to understand that knowledge strategy had additional lucrative and interesting subspecialties, like information architecture, self-service support, content management, enterprise search, and predictive analytics.

How did you manage to get your current position?

After 8 years in the corporate world, I had enough resources and experience to take a year off and start my own business. Currently, I’m working on opening a craft brewery in the desert.

What advice do you have for current philosophy students about getting a job?

Unless you are dedicated to a specialty already, philosophy is a strategic way to approach your college education. It’s impossible to know about all the lucrative and interesting specialties and subspecialties the actual working world offers until you are in it, so don't limit yourself early. For example, I had no idea about “corporate knowledge strategy” as an undergrad, let alone its subspecialties. So, if possible, wait to pick an industry and specialty until after college, even until after your first entry-level job or two. During college, study philosophy so you can become a good thinker without boxing yourself into any particular path. 
Why be a good thinker? Because there is bad thinking everywhere. Everywhere. And so, all employers in all industries will recognize and want to hire patently good thinkers. They are hungry for them. Just make sure that you also develop the maturity and discipline to actually implement your good thinking or you’ll never get anywhere in life. In my experience, learning how to write a good philosophy paper and turning it in on time is an excellent place to start.

Want to share your story?  Please email Armond Duwell.