biotech

From Biotech to the Belmont PD: Siracusa Tells His Story

Only a few weeks ago, while strolling the streets of the Belmont/Watertown area in Massachusetts, One Thing after Another encountered James Sicracusa ’08. Having graduated from St. Anselm College with a BA in History, Siracusa went to work for Cambridge-based Genzyme, then the third-largest biotechnology firm in the world. After having been employed at Genzyme for almost five years, Siracusa decided to switch careers and became a police officer for his hometown of Belmont. What One Thing after Another found striking about Siracusa’s story is the extent to which his degree in History gave him a flexibility and versatility that served him well in the job market. But why don’t we let Siracusa tell his own story?

Q: What brought you to Saint Anselm College, and why did you major in History?

A: I looked at several schools in the New England area before visiting St. Anselm College. I wanted to attend a small college where I could develop one-on-one relationships with staff and students. I know it sounds like a cliché, but I remember the moment when I first drove on to campus from St. Anselm Drive, and I knew I was going to go to school there.

I majored in History for several reasons. I always had a fascination with history. I would watch the History Channel all the time when I was younger (back when it actually had programs about history). In middle and high school, my Social Studies/History classes were the only ones that I really enjoyed going to. I actually liked reading my history textbooks and listening to my teachers lecture. During the first semester of my freshman year, I changed my major several times. Most people feel like they need to major in business because they think it’s the only way to make money. It’s not. I realized that if I was going to study a field for four years, it had to be something that I actually enjoyed. I told my brother, Timothy, the same thing. He’s entering his junior year at St. Anselm as a History major as well.  My friend and roommate of 3 years, Michael LaBrie (now at Recommind), had already declared History as his major, and he enjoyed it too.

Q: You worked in two very distinct professional fields after graduating from St. A’s in 2008 – five years as an office worker at the biotech firm Genzyme and a now as a police officer in Belmont, MA. How did your liberal arts education and particularly your history major prepare you for these jobs?

A: Believe it or not, my background in History and the liberal arts is what got me hired at Genzyme. Generally speaking, most Genzyme job applicants have degrees in science or business. I had neither. My educational background made me stand out as a job applicant because I was different.

The critical thinking, reading, and writing skills I learned as a History major were invaluable. Being 22 and working with people who were more than twice my age, in a field I had no background in, was initially intimidating. I feel that my education gave me the necessary foundation to succeed in both the private and public sectors.

Q: When did you decide that you wanted to be a police officer? How did you go about placing yourself on a career path that led to policing your hometown?

A: Growing up, I had FBI agents and state troopers on both sides of my family. It was always a career that I had thought of, but I wanted to try my own thing out first. After about three years at Genzyme I realized that 40 years of sitting behind a desk, answering emails, and going to meetings was not for me. I wanted to have the opportunity to make a difference. Just as when I chose History as my major, I wanted to get into a career that I actually enjoyed. I signed up for the police exam and took that in the spring of 2011. Two years after taking the exam, I was fortunate enough to be offered a job in my hometown of Belmont, MA.

Q: What are your responsibilities as a police officer in Belmont, MA? Which of your tasks do you enjoy the most?

A: Right now I am on a temporary assignment working on our computer and IT systems. We are in the process of eliminating our old paper systems and making everything more efficient by replacing them with electronic databases. Before that, I worked the night shift on patrol. I would respond primarily to calls and initiate motor vehicle stops. I really enjoy working out in the streets on patrol. Helping the community is something that I find rewarding.

Q: Some students might think you need a Criminal Justice degree for your type of job. How did a History major prepare you?

A: Honestly, on a day-to-day basis, I use my BA in History more than my MA in Criminal Justice. History is basically the study of people and civilizations and why they did the things they did. This translates to police work quite nicely. Speaking with people on a call, understanding and listening to both sides of an issue, conflict resolution, and the ability to communicate and write effectively are all skills that I use daily. My History degree prepared me to do all these things.

Q: Tell me something memorable about one of your classes at St. A’s (doesn’t have to be history!).

A: During the second semester of my freshman year, I had to pick an elective, and I chose Origins of European Civilization with Professor Pajakowski. At the time, I was an International Relations major, and one of the major requirements was to take a History class. I was in that class with another friend, Kevin Golen (formerly of Fox News and now a manager at Dataminr, Inc.). We both always enjoyed History and really enjoyed that class. About halfway through the semester we changed our majors to History. I remember discussing it with Kevin one day after class, and we both decided to make the change! He and I both walked over to Bradley House and spoke with Professor Shannon about changing majors.

Furthermore, I consider that the myth of the unemployable History major must be destroyed.