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Alumni Spotlight – David Vangeison ‘76

The first time David Vangeison ‘76 flew on a jet he was close to completing his business administration degree at Illinois State University. Decked out in his 3-piece suit from Sears, he was heading to Minnesota for a job interview with the George A. Hormel Company. Three days after graduation Vangeison was at a meat processing plant learning about the industry and the ins and outs of selling everything from pig snouts to SPAM.

Today, as director of federal aerospace and defense for Sopheon, Vangeison sells specialized software solutions for strategic roadmaping, idea development and product life cycle management that streamlines collaboration among globally dispersed teams and suppliers. His clients include various branches of the U.S. military, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Security Administration (NSA) and National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which conducts intelligence-related activities for U.S. national security, BAE Systems, Bell Helicopter, and Northrop Grumman.

When Vangeison came to Illinois State University as a football player he wasn’t even a business major. But by his junior year he had not only focused on a career in business, but specifically on sales. “As a business professional there is no better way to get to know the customer, the market, the company, or how it is perceived in the field than through sales,” he explained.

Interacting with customers, analyzing their needs and working together to find a desirable solution or outcome has been the foundation of his highly successful and rewarding career. Vangeison says he uses technical skills and understandings learned during his college years every single day, but believes true professional success requires other capabilities and attitudes as well.  “Integrity is essential. Customers must be able to trust you to do what you say you’ll do. If the product or service you can provide is not the right solution for a client then you need to walk away from the sale,” he added.

As an executive who does a lot of hiring, Vangeison has this advice for students, “You have to be well-rounded and you have to learn to listen. Since you have two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you speak because as a careful listener you can analyze a situation and think on your feet.”

It is a long way from selling hot dogs to working with four-star generals and executives in the aerospace and defense industry, but Vangeison has enjoyed every step of the journey.

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