Career Connections

Students make the most of spring break with Career Treks to Bay Area, D.C.

For some, traveling over spring break means trips to the beach or going back home. This Spring Break two dozen students took a different kind of trip — Career Treks to the Bay Area and Washington D.C.

“I grew up with the narrative that you have one job and keep it for 30 years… Something I heard from everybody [is] you think your career is going in one direction and it takes you to a totally different place.”
— Senior Shayla Collins

Career Treks are a program of the UW Alumni Association, part of their mission to connect students with alumni and help as they plan their careers. On each trip about a dozen students get the chance to explore another city with fellow Huskies; visit a range of businesses and organizations, from global companies to startups, with local alumni employees as their guides; and network with a group of local alumni at happy hours and receptions.

On March 19-22, students explored Bay Area careers, visiting Pinterest, Dropbox, Wells Fargo, Cutler Group, Niantic and the Human Resources offices for the City and County of San Francisco. With majors in subjects such as engineering, computer science and business administration, the students had interests matching the industries of the area.

“Common themes coming from alumni were to follow your passions, continue to learn and don’t be afraid to fail,” said Alicia Flint, who helped organize the trip as UWAA’s assistant director of alumni and student engagement. “They really emphasized that you should find the workplace culture that fits you, not just focus on finding a job.”

UW students at Dropbox

Students visit Dropbox as part of the Bay Area Career Trek

Senior Shayla Collins, a senior in Law, Societies & Justice, took part in the Bay Area Career Trek because she’s thinking about working in California after graduation. Even though her major is not as intuitive a fit with the trip as computer science and business majors, her eyes were opened to new possibilities. “Visits to companies like Dropbox taught me how to integrate my major into different positions,” she said. “Even with visits where I didn’t see a link between my major and the careers there, every single alum gave career insights that were useful.”

One lesson resonated with her and changed how she’s thinking about her career: “I grew up with the narrative that you have one job and keep it for 30 years. Danté (Taylor with the City and County of San Francisco) told us his story and illustrated how frequent it is to change jobs throughout your career.  That’s something I heard from everybody — you think your career is going in one direction and it takes you to a totally different place.”

Students who traveled to D.C. for their Career Trek on March 22-25 entered the capitol city during a heightened time. Congress was considering the American Health Care Act, and the Senate Judiciary Committee was conducting hearings on Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch. They visited Senator Patty Murray’s office as part of her weekly “Constituent Coffee” and later toured the Capitol building on the day the American Health Care Act vote was to take place, getting a peek inside the hectic pace of politics in action.

UW students with Senator Patty Murray

Students meet Senator Patty Murray at her weekly “Constituent Coffee”

Later they visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Library of Congress, Department of Justice and Mundo Verde, a bilingual charter school — all destinations well-suited for the students who shared interests and majors in government, justice and public service.

Johnathan Luster, UWAA’s associate director of alumni and student engagement, shared, “We’ve worked hard to create itineraries that match what students want to do, while challenging what their careers can be. Students may have come in thinking, ‘If I want to do X, I have to do Y.’ Now they can see different paths to their destination. We had some students who told us they were rethinking next steps; they have a more holistic view of what they can do.”

The alumni hosts enjoyed the opportunity to mentor students and connect in such a real way with their alma mater. “It was a true honor to host the UW undergrads during their Career Trek,” said Mike Quigley, ’89, chief marketing officer of Niantic. “I was very impressed with the caliber and diversity of the students I met — a smart, highly driven bunch that asked some great questions and had some good ideas, too. They were great ambassadors for the university. It reminded me of how much I appreciate the UW and my time there.”

UW Students at the Capitol

Students tour the Capitol as part of the D.C. Career Trek

A relatively new UWAA program, Career Treks are already proving to have an impact on the students taking part. As a result of the 2016 Career Trek to the Bay Area, one student’s connection with an alum led to a job. When Collins visited the City and County of San Francisco office, she saw the type of place she might want to work one day. She learned about a fellowship that she wants to apply for, and she plans on staying in touch with the alum she met there.

“I never realized how much connections mattered until I got to UW. They matter a lot in school, and they matter when looking for a job too,” Collins added. Unexpected paths, unexpected connections — that’s what happens when an impassioned alumni community reaches out to help the next generation of Huskies.