Cougar Interview—William Lisbin ’12

by APU Life

As a financial analyst for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, William Lisbin ’12 supports projects that are out of this world—literally. While his day-to-day responsibilities focus on supply chain management for the fabrication of spacecraft like the Mars rover Curiosity, his reflections on career advice, extracurricular interests, and calling are down-to-earth.

APU LIFE: What helped prepare you for your job at JPL?

Lisbin: Certainly my business economics major readied me for the daily tasks of budgets and variance analysis, but there is so much more that goes into working at a place like JPL. Throughout my college career, many of my professors helped nurture my propensity for learning and overwhelming sense of curiosity. As the world’s leader in Mars exploration and deep space, JPL offers the perfect environment for somebody like me who loves to discover new things.

APU LIFE: How important is networking in today’s marketplace?

Lisbin: Vital. I actually got my job at JPL on a 10-day hiking trip in the middle of the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada. On the fifth day of that trip, I met my boss; we spent the day talking about JPL and space exploration. I kept his information, and when the time was right, I reached out to him to inquire about available internships. It took two years, but the power of networking and persistence paid off when he offered me a summer position that eventually grew into a full-time role. It’s all about getting outside, meeting new people, and creating personal connections.

APU LIFE: What advice do you have for those about to graduate?

Lisbin: Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who is doing something that interests you. Once you graduate, the world offers a host of different opportunities. Find something you’re truly passionate about and go connect with the people who are doing it now.

APU LIFE: How have you paid it forward by assisting fellow APU alumni?

Lisbin: I’ve had the opportunity to help bring on new employees to JPL who are recent APU graduates. New opportunities emerged at JPL with the recent announcement of a couple of major missions. It’s been really great to see a growing APU presence on JPL’s campus.

APU LIFE: As an avid outdoorsman, how do you balance those passions with your work life?

Lisbin: Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in a day, so sometimes it’s challenging to find that balance. I’ve been surfing for 17 years and I love to travel, so those I make a priority. Fortunately, JPL’s company culture makes that doable. I’m able to use my free time to surf, travel, and indulge my adventurous side. I’ve gotten up at 4 a.m., raced down to the beach to catch a couple of waves, and still made it to work on time. I actually value my time in the water surfing more than my time sleeping. I guess when you find something you love, sleep deprivation doesn’t seem like a sacrifice.

APU LIFE: What is your perspective on the relationship between career and calling?

Lisbin: For me, those go hand in hand. Originally, I enrolled in a different college as a premed student, which made no sense, as I’m the first person to pass out during the simplest medical procedure. One day, I realized I wanted to have a college experience that was centered on the foundation of God First, so I transferred to APU. Fortunately, when God spoke, I listened. I believe that my true career path can only be accomplished if I respond to God’s call upon my life.

Originally published in the Fall '15 issue of APU Life. Download the PDF or view all issues.