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Employee Spotlight

The Algorithm for Contentment

For Clay Posey, a professor of information systems (IS) at the BYU Marriott School of Business, two things his students do give him pause. The first is tolerating massive amounts of stress as they try to fit multiple activities, school responsibilities, and other obligations within limited time frames. The second is consuming fry sauce.

Professor of Marriott School IS Professor Clay Posey.
Photo courtesy of Clay Posey.

The “fry-sauce addiction,” as Posey calls it, is a mere Utah cultural quirk. He was born and raised in the South, earning his bachelor’s degree in business information systems from Mississippi State University, his MBA from Jackson State University, and his doctorate degree from Louisiana Tech University in computer information systems. After a lifetime of Southern fare, Posey has no special love for the mayo and ketchup combination.

The occasional tendency toward perfectionism that exists among his students, however, is something Posey tries to alleviate. “I've been interested in finding out why my students can be so stressed sometimes,” says Posey. “What I say to them is, ‘Take a deep breath. You don't have to be perfect at everything. Find out what you like and be good at that. You were born with certain characteristics, skills, and attributes that can better the world. Find those and stick to them, and you can stop worrying about everything else.’”

Posey with his family.
Photo courtesy of Clay Posey.

Posey understands the need to achieve and race toward the next phase of life—he’s battled that feeling himself. “I often think about what the next 5 or 10 years hold instead of enjoying where I am today,” Posey explains. “That's been one of my struggles. However, wherever you're at, it is worth doing something good that day and not being paralyzed by what tomorrow holds.”

Beyond helping students manage stress and live in the present, Posey’s current focus as a professor is teaching cybersecurity to people of all backgrounds. “One of the reasons organizations experience issues in cybersecurity is that individuals from non-STEM backgrounds like marketing, finance, health, and political science are typically overlooked as important components of our current systems,” says Posey. “Unfortunately, those individuals aren’t introduced to cybersecurity topics until they enter the industry.”

Posey playing the guitar.
Photo courtesy of Clay Posey.

This gap in cybersecurity education can leave people vulnerable to online privacy issues and attacks. “My goal is to educate individuals from non-STEM disciplines on cybersecurity and privacy matters,” Posey explains.

Posey’s interest in the human element of computer interaction, including helping people with cybersecurity, is what drove him to information systems in the first place. While in college, he studied mechanical engineering and physics for a few years before finding information systems, a major that provided a nice intersection between technology and people-oriented business operations.

“Information systems fit my interests a lot better than the other majors I tried because I'm somewhat of a people person,” Posey says. “I also enjoy seeing politics, organizations, and society change with the addition of new technologies.”

Posey and his family on a hike.
Photo courtesy of Clay Posey.

While he focuses on computers and technology as part of his day job, Posey puts information systems aside to be with his wife and four children. “My kids and my family are my greatest personal accomplishment,” Posey says. Together, they enjoy being outdoors and exploring Utah’s unique landscape. This year, the Poseys visited Canyonlands, Goblin Valley, and Snowbird—all locations with scenery far different from that in the South.

As Posey reflects on memories with his family, he notes that “the informal moments are much more important than the formal ones.” He wants his students to be able to enjoy moments like these as well and revisits his earlier message: “Try to find some time to relax. Realize that we're not meant to be perfect at everything, and recognize that we’re supposed to be happy in this life.”


Writer: Zelle Harris