During his sophomore year at Lafayette, William “Bill” Wagner ’89 had a life-changing conversation with older alum Robin Amesbury ’71. “He told me that I should do what I love and do as well as I can. It was the best advice I’ve ever gotten.”
Recently named executive vice president and chief operating officer of Vocus, Inc., Lanham, Md., Wagner was featured in an article in The Washington Post in which he recalled receiving that advice. He is leading daily operations and guiding the execution of the cloud-based software company’s international growth strategy.
Wagner switched his major from engineering to history, with a minor in technology studies. In his new field of study, Wagner honed skills that have been critical to his career success.
“I learned how to really look at the written word and evaluate it critically,” says Wagner. “And, in today’s age of 140-character Tweets and text messages, the ability to write is becoming increasingly rare.” Wagner credits his faculty adviser—Robert Weiner, Jones Professor of History—with opening his eyes to future possibilities.
Wagner started out selling computers for AT&T. He worked his way across departments, leaving a wake of success as he went, which led the company to send him to earn his MBA at Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania.
“I’ve always believed that there are two types of people in the world—people who enjoy and embrace technology and those for whom it’s just an annoyance,” says Wagner. “I’m clearly in that former category. Technology keeps me invigorated.”
At Vocus, Wagner and his team are putting the most cutting-edge, on-demand marketing and public relations software to work to help companies better connect with their customers. From the Vocus platform, more than 30,000 organizations worldwide execute their media and public relations and social media strategies without loading a single program on their computers.
“To be part of the next wave of software is really exciting,” says Wagner.
“There have been three significant shifts in this field in the last 15 years,” he says. “The first was the Internet, second was paid search, and the third is social media, which is breaking barriers that exist between customers and companies.”
Looking back over his more than 20-year career, Wagner credits his success to being open to new possibilities—the cur non point of view he experienced at Lafayette. “I’m still making mistakes every day. If you’re not making mistakes then you’re not learning, you’re not doing anything that challenges you.”
Wagner recently became a member of Lafayette Leadership Council.