Works and Days

Interview with William Vickery

Madeline Wagar ’16, Assistant Editor with Works & Days, interviewed William Vickery '10, Classics major and Senior Investigator at Mintz Group.

Tell me a bit about Mintz Group.

I’ve been working with Mintz since January of 2012. Mintz is a traditional private investigation firm specializing in corporate intelligence gathering. Clients contact us when they are interested in figuring out what their competitors are doing. Clients are often interested in looking into how other people in their field are using similar trademarks, or in figuring out who is the best to do business with in their field of interest. It’s a very diverse company. Our operations fall into three categories. The first is foreign relationships, so we are investigating corporations around the world and making sure they are reputable. The second category is disputes and litigations. This category contains a lot of white-collar work. It’s often employment related, or dealing with the Internet, tasks like website preservation. We try to discover what has worked successfully in the past. We also investigate employee misconduct, so we might come in after an employee makes off with $100,000 to figure out how they did it. We will put together a profile of how it was accomplished, and the client can work out a plan for prevention in the future.

What is your role with Mintz Group?

I split my time between different kinds of work. I spend part of my time doing executive due diligence work, which is work for major executives interested in investigating big companies. I do background assessments, making sure the company has no hidden bombshells or history of misconduct. I also do litigation support work. A client may come forward when they are wondering about the assets of someone they are looking to go after, or if they want to investigate damages. Sometimes clients are wealthy individuals trying to figure out what their hard assets are.

My work changes day by day. It is very episodic. It’s a situation where if you’re bored with what you’re working on one day, it will change. It doesn’t ever feel like its getting stale.

You were a Classics major at Reed. There seems to be a common (mis)conception that a Classics degree can only lead to a teaching position. How did you transition from majoring in Classics at Reed to investigating business practices around the world?

I originally thought I’d go the Ph.D. route and eventually teach, but when I was writing my thesis, my thesis advisor told me there are far fewer positions in the Classics world than there are available professors. It’s fiercely competitive. He advised me to take a year off and assess, and figure out whether I felt a real need to teach. If I didn’t, he said professorship probably wasn’t the right choice for me.

I spent six months outside of Reed unemployed trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I started volunteering with the Washington office of Greenpeace. A lot of the skills I picked up there were directly useful to what I do at Mintz. I was doing public research, compiling reports on the state of the chemical industry, stuff like that. I had a temporary position, so in December I had to start looking for work again. I knew of Mintz because my sister had interned there while she was college.

I liked Classics because it requires a lot of close reading and paying careful attention to detail. In Classics, you read reports on similar events from different perspectives. Classics teaches how to interrogate your sources, and be capable of pulling information from a story all the while not trusting the story or the authors as 100% accurate.

At Mintz, we will get interviews or statements from people, and frequently we get conflicting statements. So we do a lot of editorial work, trying to figure out the factual information to build a narrative of what actually happened. Classics was great training for what I do now.

A lot of what goes on at Reed in the social science and humanities classes, and what Hum 110 really contributes, is teaching people to read closely and pay attention to detail.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? The most challenging?

The most rewarding is getting good feedback. I might send out two to three reports a week to different clients. It is always so nice to do that final proofread and send off the report. It’s like the weight of the world is off your shoulders every time.

The most challenging… My job requires a lot of picking up new skills as I go. One case might require looking into esoteric databases, and another case might require me to get really familiar with hidden filing in SCC. I sometimes need to figure out someone who can drive to a courtroom for me in New Jersey, go into the archives and send me photocopies within the next day. It is really difficult sometimes. When you can figure out how to accomplish something really challenging, and you see people are shocked at what you’ve been able to pull off, that’s a great feeling.

What do you do outside of working for Mintz? Do you have any hobbies or project you plan to undertake in the near future?

Tons of Reedies move to D.C., which is great. My circle of friends has remained wide and my Reed friends have stayed around me. D.C. is also great because it’s so close to the coast, and I'm able to go out and do some sailing. A very nice thing about my job is that it is super flexible, so I’m going back to do a masters program in accounting in the fall.

Do you have any words of advice to pass on to current Reedies?


Apply for everything out there. The best you can do is sit down and figure out what sector you want to be in, and then you can begin to plot how you want to get there. You have to ask, whom do I know? Start with parents and their friends, and then build from there. Find people to talk to, connect with others in the industry you want to break in to. It’s really hard to get into an industry cold. Which is unfortunate, but that’s just how it works today. You have to network.

Tags: alumni, interviews, private investigation, classics