Leap of Faith

June 13, 2018

By Robert Stephens

Lyndsey Lang ’14 could never have predicted where her first job would take her. Good thing she was prepared for anything.

Lyndsey Lang ’14 had it all figured out. After graduating from high school, she’d break the family mold (her mom, dad, and sister are all Rollins graduates) and attend a big, prestigious school in the Northeast. She’d earn a degree in broadcast journalism, spend a little time working off-air, and then make her mark by hosting an opinion show.

But then, during Lang’s senior year in high school, she visited her sister at Rollins.

“I’d been telling myself, ‘I will not go to Rollins. I will not go to Rollins,’” she says. “Literally my first step on campus changed everything.”

There would be no college visits to Boston. No broadcasting career and no ratings competition with Oprah. In fact, despite her planning sensibilities, there has been nothing expected about Lang’s career trajectory.

Shortly after graduating with a degree in communication studies at Rollins, she sat in a parking lot in Orlando to consider a job that had just been offered to her: to be the first hire for Fattmerchant, a startup credit-card processing company with all the benefits (none) and stability (none) of a startup.

Lyndsay Lang in front of a chalkboard map of the U.S. at Fattmerchant's offices in Orlando.Lyndsay Lang in front of a chalkboard map of the U.S. at Fattmerchant's offices in Orlando.
Photo by Scott Cook.

From the looks of your resume, you took the job as director of marketing and strategy at Fattmerchant.

“The title looked pretty nice. But the truth is, it was just the CEO and me. There wasn’t even any paint on the walls of our office. She needed marketing help for a concept no one had heard of—to offer credit-card processing to small businesses without markups or contracts.”

It was all just a concept when you took the job, wasn’t it?

“That’s what intrigued me. Being a disruptor, a pioneer looking out for the good of small businesses—helping them save money so they could hire more people. In 2016, just in Orlando, we saved our clients $2.4 million in fees and markups. That’s money they can put back into the local economy. To me, that’s exciting.”

Was it a risky first job?

“It was a complete leap of faith. I remember telling my family about the offer, which wasn’t much, from a company barely off the ground, and wondering if they’d understand.”

Did they understand?

“My dad used to say, ‘It isn’t always the things we do that we regret, it’s the things we don’t do.’ So I took that to heart. I totally believed in what Fattmerchant was trying to do—level the playing field for small businesses—and my family respected that.”

Lyndsay Lang working in her office at Fattmerchant in Orlando.Lyndsay Lang working in her office at Fattmerchant in Orlando.
Photo by Scott Cook.

How did Rollins prepare you to make such a bold move?

“My story is a reminder that we have no idea what kinds of jobs will be available five years or 20 years from now. But I truly feel that a liberal arts school like Rollins can provide the best training for whatever is to come. It’s all about identifying problems and solving them in a team context—like in the real world.”

Do you see those skills in other people too?

“I’ve helped get us ramped up to 45 employees, so I see problem-solving and collaboration skills from the other side in a heartbeat. Like most up-and-coming businesses, that’s what we’re looking for.”

How satisfying is it to see how far Fattmerchant has come in three years?

“I’m a firm believer in being blessed and the value of hard work. It isn’t luck. Fast Company profiled us twice, and we were mentioned in the same context as Netflix and Spotify. It’s been incredibly validating and worth all the lost sleep over the past three or four years.”

What about the future reliance on artificial intelligence (AI)? Should that be scary?

“Not really. At Rollins we were always challenged to look at the world from a variety of lenses. That’s a huge skill to take into the workforce, and anyone with that kind of training shouldn’t fear losing career opportunities to AI.”

And to think, you weren’t even thinking of going to Rollins.

“I really thought I wanted those big classes in college. I even had a vision for what my dorm room would look like.”

Then you visited your sister.

“Three things struck me on that visit. The beauty of the campus. The way I saw people being so personable and helpful. And, as corny as it sounds, the campus just felt like home. I never could have planned the odd path I’ve taken, but now it seems like it was all meant to be.”

Students wearing caps and gowns walk to a commencement ceremony on Rollins College’s campus.

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