U.S. Customs Representative Leslie Williams speaks with SC State students

Friday, May 7, 2010

Leslie WilliamsSC State University alumna Leslie Williams, ‘94 thought that she would never carry a gun. In fact, the thought never crossed her mind until she was interviewed by the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency (U.S. Customs) just two days after her college graduation. When interviewers asked her if she was comfortable carrying this weapon if hired, Williams recalls shrieking during the middle of her interview. “A gun! I have to carry a gun!”

Williams spoke of her impromptu outburst to SC State students during the Career Center’s opportunity presentation held recently in Belcher Hall. Williams informed these students that she was certain her inexperience would ruin any chances of obtaining employment with this credible organization. However, exactly two months after graduating from SC State, Williams was hired as a customs officer with U.S. Customs.

Williams’ path to U.S. Customs, however, is an uncanny one. You may say that it adheres to the adage, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Williams’ preparation took place during her four years as a student at SC State. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in business management from the University. While a student, Williams was a Xerox Corporation Scholarship Recipient and a Presidential Scholar. She also acquired memberships in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society, Delta Mu Delta Business Honor Society and Phi Beta Lamba Business Fraternity.

Opportunity came for Williams approximately two weeks prior to graduation. “My roommate begged me to walk to Belcher Hall with her so that she could look at her exam scores,” recalled Williams. “She had to go to the third floor and the elevator was broken. I chose to wait downstairs and that’s when I saw former Dean Karl Wright who asked me if I had found a job.” With an unfavorable response, Wright requested that Williams contact U.S. Customs. “I graduated on a Sunday and my interview with U.S. Customs was on Monday,” stated Williams.

Luck was also one aspect of Williams acquiring an opportunity at U.S. Customs. With no experience in the field, Williams often wondered why she received such a significant position. Her supervisor informed her. “I was chosen because I was honest and willing to do something that I had never done before,” noted Williams.

The integrity that Williams possessed ensured the longevity of her career with U.S. Customs. Now an employee for 16 years, Williams has excelled to the position of senior import specialist, responsible for detecting and preventing violations of U.S. Customs laws and import/export regulations. Williams works with law enforcement officers and legal professionals to curtail the entry of illegal drugs and other prohibited items. She also prevents terrorists, terrorist weapons and weapon components from entering the U.S.

Williams says that her road to success was wavering, but with a recipe for achievement, all students will accomplish their goals. “Have self respect and respect for others,” said Williams. “Study hard and take advantage of opportunities. Move out of your comfort zone and never underestimate what you can do.”

Williams’ recipe for success propelled her to the senior import specialist position. She says that there is a potential for all students hired to ultimately obtain such supervisory positions. U.S. Customs jobs run the gamut from human resource opportunities, to legal careers, public relations, canine officers, auditors and national account managers. You name the career and U.S. Customs will typically have a position within that field, noted Williams.

Rhonda Pereira, a customs officer who also spoke to SC State students, agrees with Williams, stating how much she has enjoyed her years of employment with U.S. Customs. “The opportunity is what you make it,” stated Pereira. After working with the company for several years, Pereira has grown accustomed to her comfortable life in Charleston, S.C., as well as great working hours that are accommodating for her family.

Joseph Thomas, interim director of SC State University’s Career Center, has been apprised of the opportunities that U.S. Customs offers and is exceedingly proud of employees such as Pereira and his former students like Williams who continue to provide assistance to SC State.  “It’s a joy to see students transition into the world of work,” said Thomas. “We’re here because our success depends on your success, and hopefully a few students will emulate some of the grand accomplishments that Williams achieved.”

For additional information on upcoming career opportunity presentations, or for available positions at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, contact the SC State University Career Center at (803) 536-7033, or visit the U.S. Customs website at www.cbp.gov.