College of Business
Business graduate feels he’s stepped into corporate career fully-prepared
Riley Dixon watched his sister going through Anderson University. He then participated in Palmetto Boys State on the historic campus and realized he was where he wanted to be as a college student. He has learned lifelong lessons in leadership, made lifelong friends and met his wife at Anderson. By the time he graduated, Riley felt well-prepared for the corporate world. He continues to be plugged into his Anderson community as a member of the Anderson University Alumni Association board.
Tell us about your job:
I’m the Public Sector Account Lead for AT&T’s government and education customers in South Carolina. Basically, I get to manage and lead customer relationships, most of those being local government, for example, Anderson County. Actually, Anderson University is a relationship I get to manage. It’s exciting to get to steward that.
How did you find AU?
I grew up with my parents and sister in Anderson County, more towards Powdersville. My sister, she’s older than I am, chose three years before I would make the same decision, to go to Anderson to run cross country and track. So while I was in high school my family was visiting campus, going to athletic events, etc. I was being pretty deeply ingrained with the Anderson culture from early on. Then when it was my time to make that decision come my senior year, I was also running and looking at some schools.
Really, God’s favor and kindness was over that whole decision. I can remember going to the Palmetto Boys State scholarship competition my senior year and coming on campus and seeing a couple of faces I recognized from tours or missions events and thinking “this is home.” “Home” felt like the perfect word for it, even when I hadn’t become a student yet. From that day forward, there was no question in my mind that Anderson would be the place I would venture into.
Tell us about your experience with Palmetto Boys State.
Boy’s State was my first extended amount of time on campus, which was so much fun. I loved Boy’s State. It takes a village to make that whole thing happen.
I remember leaving Boys State and feeling a few things. I remember feeling a sense of brotherhood, genuinely, and that felt very unique, very special to that week. I remember thinking how much I enjoyed being at Anderson—God giving me some desires early on to venture there one day. Also, my interest in government and love for relationships… Those are things I already knew that I enjoyed, but Boys State really pulled them out of me. Ultimately I think the sense of brotherhood was very special, very unique from my time there.
Being on campus, it is crazy how close you can get to a group of guys in six days, like you can at Boys State. I think it being at Anderson is a big part of that, too.
What are some favorite memories of college life for you?
I could write a book on it, seriously. I got the privilege to be a part of some really cool opportunities at Anderson. I got to lead in SGA and as Student Body President. I got to be an intern for student activities. And ultimately the most impactful thing about my time in college was being a part of BCM (Baptist Collegiate Ministry). Those community groups, getting to lead in that space, and getting to be discipled… God did so much through the opportunities, through those groups of guys who became quite seriously my best friends. My Best Man in my wedding, Sam Walker, was my freshman year community group leader. I think that speaks volumes to BCM, what God is doing there, and the leaders that are in place. BCM is where I really learned to love God and love people. Those are a few things I loved taking part in.
One of my favorite memories at Anderson took place in the Town Homes. My junior and senior year I got the chance to live with three of my best friends. Within our section, there were two different units including eight of all of our friends, some of our all time best friends. I can just remember all the times we were playing basketball on the ‘mini hoop’ in the dorms or going to student activities events or going to CookOut after BCM. There’s an endless amount of memories. Some of my favorites definitely would be Fall Retreat and BCM, the West Fest and other student activities events. Really any night back in the town home with all of our guys. There are so many funny stories, so many memories.
You said earlier that you were a runner. Did you run for AU?
I did run—my freshman year only, though. I ran for the school my freshman year, and then after that, made some decisions to be involved in a local church as an intern and then also as an intern for Student Activities, and decided to no longer run.
What are some ways your AU education helps you professionally?
I really believe Anderson University gave me the “knowledge for my journey.” I really felt like I was developed by my professors and by my bosses on campus as a student leader, in a way I could step into my corporate job and be fully prepared. Not saying there weren’t learning curves or days I didn’t know what I was doing, but I think coming from Anderson and stepping into a sales role at AT&T, practically speaking, I had learned so much from Dr. Joe Spencer and Dr. Giovanni Calise. All of the marketing department—some fantastic guys. But even more so, I think Anderson taught me what it looks like to be a servant leader. Not saying I did that well all of the time, but that’s one of those things I got to take into the workforce—what it takes to love my coworkers well, what it looks like to really value relationships over performance. In a cutthroat corporate environment it is very easy to lose sight of “I’m here to love my neighbor.”
God ingrained in me, in His kindness through Anderson, some ways I could see my neighbor and care for people around me in ways I really wouldn’t have noticed if I just hopped into that role. Because I love to compete and do my best at everything I do, it requires a different perspective for God to be the reason behind “winning'' at my job, instead of just a paycheck or a promotion. I give so much credit to Anderson for ingraining those things in me, for teaching me those things… again, not that I’m perfect now, but now I have some context for what that looks like. I got to lead and sit under some really intelligent men and women at Anderson to learn those things.
Tell us about your job. What excites you in the day-to-day?
My favorite part about my job is that it happens here in South Carolina. Everyday, I work with the people and governments across our state. I stepped into this role in June after doing a couple leadership development rotations in Dallas, Texas for my first year at AT&T. But day-to-day, I get to work with some really incredible people. People like Andy Tribble in the Sheriff’s Department at Anderson County. Or like getting to work with the City of North Charleston or Town of Mount Pleasant helping to build out some crucial government infrastructure that serves the people of South Carolina. Very often, I work to support 911 and public safety—those are intense things. We’re talking about physical safety, cybersecurity—all those things. I think it can be easy to forget sometimes that the conversation I’m having and “sales” I’m making actually impact the lives of the people of our State.
Really getting to build relationships with customers, getting to talk about “Oh yeah, I went to
Anderson” and sure enough that person’s daughter, son or grandkids also went to Anderson. Things like that—getting to build relationships, getting to know people and also the fulfillment in my line of work, supporting some crucial operations across our state—it’s exciting. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to carry the responsibility, but also, it’s fun.
Your job is more about technology than telephones, isn’t it?
My first rotation in Dallas was working with small business customers, like mom and pop shops. It’s funny, you call them and talk about some of these things and they’re like “oh, I thought you guys just sold telephones. I thought you guys just had the new iPhone to sell.” Going beyond being just the telephone company and rather being the person getting to lead a team who designs entire private networks for our Counties and Cities—it’s very cool to be a part of a plethora of technology.
What excites you the most?
I think it’s getting to work with people locally. I get to work with the people of South Carolina to serve genuine needs in our state. People that I live with, go to school with, shop at the grocery store with—that’s accomplishing and refreshing.
Tell me about why you chose to major in business.
I think marketing, specifically because it was still a business degree that required the least amount of math (laughs). I was never great at math. So I was like “let me pick something that doesn’t have any math in it and I’ll do it.” Funny enough, a couple of years later I get into my junior year and Giovanni Calise breaks the news that there’s plenty of numbers in Marketing. He was right. I chose business because the business world, the business environment, how it affects everyday economics, also politics—that was also super interesting. But then marketing, because it was more people-based, more creative.
I understand you met your wife at Anderson.
I did! Lanie James Dixon—we both graduated last May. We met through BCM actually, and so our senior year we got to be in leadership together and started talking and hanging out together through that. She’s the best. I love Lanie so much. She’s wise. She’s way smarter than I am, but also really loves people and loves God. Lanie’s a fourth-grade teacher at Sarah Collins Elementary. She had an Elementary Education degree.
What advice would you give someone considering a career in the corporate world?
Internships are huge. Internships gave me some practical real-world experience. I got to be hands-on—learn a job, learn an industry. It also gave me a chance to see “do I like this? I’m majoring in marketing, let me do a marketing internship and see if I actually like what I’m studying.” Lastly, internships give you so many connections. I still talk pretty regularly with some of the guys I interned under at other companies and really appreciate their wisdom, their guidance and their mentorship.
Go be invested somewhere for a few months over the summer. Get to know that business. Get to know that work. Get some connections made there. Learn the space. I’m thankful for my internship experiences.
I got to do some cool things. One of the things I did was intern for U.S. Senator Tim Scott in his office in Greenville. I got to talk to constituents over the phone, go to outreach community events, go to the unveiling of new government buildings. That was really unique and gave me a deeper appreciation for some of our government—parties aside—it helped me gain some respect for the government processes in our state and what it does for our people in South Carolina. A few other Boys State alumni were working in the office as well.
I also interned at an IT software startup company. The founder of that company, I got to work under him and learn the business, learn some marketing and sales stuff from him. That is an invaluable experience—I was in between my junior and senior year. I also spent a year and a half interning at Grace Church my freshman and sophomore years.