Alumni Success Story: Cal Knecht

Cal Knecht graduated from UConn in 2016 with a B.A. in Latino and Latin American Studies. Currently a realtor at RE/MAX, Cal works in Georgia and Alabama. Cal has previously served as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army and a CEO of two clothing companies he founded tailored to veterans. In 2018, Cal was honorably discharged from the Army after suffering a parachuting accident. He had to switch careers, and his story of adaptability is especially relevant during these unprecedented times.

What made you decide to major in Latino and Latin American Studies (LLAS), and how has your degree helped you throughout your career?

I always wanted to work in the business field, particularly within South America. When I started at UConn, I was an international business major. When I found that there was a smaller, more individualized major in LLAS where I could choose what courses I wanted to take and it focused on Latin America, I was sold. This degree set the foundation for working with clients from all over the world.

You also did ROTC during your time at UConn. What did you learn from having to balance school with military training?

Time management and discipline. Every morning I had to start my day by at least 5:30 am balance workouts and the curriculum that the ROTC program maintained while also conducting all of my coursework. It wasn’t easy.

Did you overcome academic, career preparation, or job search obstacles during your time at UConn? How?

I was fortunate that I did not need to search for a job upon leaving UConn because the ROTC program automatically slotted me to become an Active Duty Army Officer. That said, career preparation was something that was quite a challenge. I had to do a lot more preparation than usual for the transition because I graduated on May 8th, was commissioned on May 16th, and on May 17th was on a plane with all of my belongings to report for my assignment with the Army.

Speak about your time in the Army as an Infantry Officer. What skills did you develop the most?

Leadership and clear communication were the two most important things I had to nurture until they became second nature.  The biggest thing that was always impressed upon was that we were dealing with lives. There were no second chances. You had to be an expert at your craft, and poor communication was not going to help you in leading your subordinates.

So much of 2020 is about adaptability. The pandemic has closed many doors but has opened new ones at the same time. In 2018, you were honorably discharged from the Army after a parachuting accident. You found a new career path in business and real estate. How has previously adapting to change prepared you for this present moment?

Focus on your purpose, your “why do I get out of bed in the morning?” My purpose has always been to help others. Whether it’s serving in the military or assisting people in real estate, what I do isn’t the focus. Life will have tough times, but they will pass. As long as you focus on your purpose, you will be successful.

What advice would you give to current UConn students who are ROTC or looking to go into real estate?

For the ROTC students — whatever you do in the Army, do it with pride. The military has a lot of great opportunities through SFL-TAP (Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program) that I encourage you to explore and take advantage of to help continue your growth and learning in your career.

In real estate, you work for yourself. You don’t have a boss. You need to stay disciplined to manage all the tasks at hand and be able to travel often around your region. It is a great career option and financially is very rewarding, but if you solely do it because of the money you will burn out. You must focus on your purpose.

Please feel free to share recent accomplishments and achievements in the workforce within the last year. Include projects, awards, and any relevant information.

2020 Columbus Ledger-Enquirer Reader’s Choice Award for Favorite Real Estate Agent

2019 Columbus Board of Realtor’s Rookie of the Year

2019 Circle of Excellence Recipient

By Erik Zawodniak
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