Before you know everything, teach someone else.Sam M.

Recap: Alumni Forum

posted by admin at 8:45 pm on January 7, 2013

We’d like to give another great big thank-you to all of the SAI students and alums who braved the rainy weather last night and filled the studio to the brim! It’s always awesome to see so much interest in preparation and learning from the trials and successes of those who’ve come before us! We hope you all enjoyed the program and found the speakers’ advice useful for making your own future plans.

For those of you who weren’t able to make it to SAI’s Alumni Forum last night, here’s a bit of a recap:

David Brudnicki opened the forum with an overview of his experience working both inside and outside of the corporate world of technologies, noting that important assets for growing your career are flexibility and a diverse skill set. He highlighted the major importance of networking, describing how the connections he has made throughout his life have been pivotal in his successes inside the corporate world and as a self-employed consultant. He advised students not only to make connections but to “feed and water them” as well. Equally important to networking, David said, was becoming at expert in your field. If you put in the time and effort it takes to really learn something and be the best at it, he said, other people will trust and rely on your expertise, making you valuable within your industry. His presentation concluded by advising us all to never stop learning new things, to stay current and to never stagnate. For students still considering college and those of us who are already trying to make our way in the workforce, David’s speech was incredibly relevant and interesting.

David Giordano was up next, describing his transition from a two-year college to Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Now a junior, David has landed a few wonderful internship opportunities and worked hard to excel within his program. A wealth of useful tips, he advised prospective college applicants to work hard at finding a college that fits their style. Echoing David Brudnicki’s advice, he emphasized how important networking is and what a good idea it is to keep business cards on you at all times. Create a Linkedin account, he said, because you never know who will see it and want to give you a job. Other advice included making positive connections with your professors (who are often industry professionals looking to recruit) and maintaining an enthusiastic, professional image in front of your peers, because you never know who might be on your hiring committee later down the road. With as much charisma, focus and skill as David obviously has, it’s easy to see that he will go far with his prospective career.

Joann Sun, who also attends Otis in Los Angeles, described how close she had come to never attending that school at all. In fact, she hadn’t even considered Otis until talking to their reps at NPD, at which point, she said, “something just clicked, and I knew it was the right fit.” Joann talked about how pivotal it is to work hard in class and surround yourself with other students who are motivated and dedicated to their craft. She spoke highly of Otis and her experiences there so far, recommending it as a great choice for anyone interested in going to art school.

Emma Redman (okay, that’s me) discussed how useful a backup plan and at least one “safety school” can be when it comes time to choose your final destination. I explained that though I’d spent my entire life planning on art school and a career as an illustrator, it was invaluable to have the option of attending a liberal arts school when I threw everything out the window and changed my plans at the very last minute. Now, after attending Western Washington University and graduating with an English-Creative writing emphasis degree, I can look back at my college application process and see where I went wrong: I limited myself. Even though I was lucky enough to end up loving Western, I wish very much that I had broadened my horizons and looked for more specific programs that suited my exact needs and desires. I suggested that prospective college applicants take every possible opportunity to find out more about any college that might be right for them, rather than restricting their choices to big-name schools. Though I do see myself ending up somewhere in the publishing industry, it is also incredibly useful to have a degree that has strengthened a versatile skill that applies in almost any kind of carreer or secondary degree. This led me to the point that is emphasized over and over again here at SAI: learn to see the big picture. Make choices that not only satisfy you now, but also assist you later down the line.

Brianna O’Brien impressed us all with examples of her A+ work from her first semester at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She reiterated much of the same advice that David Giordano and Joann had brought up earlier concerning maintaining a professional image and dedicating yourself to industry quality work in the classroom. Professionalism brings opportunity, she said, explaining that her attention to detail and enthusiasm had prompted one of her professors to recommend her for an internship with Ralph Lauren. She discussed how attending such a specialized and industry-oriented type of school requires students to always be bringing their best work to class, because it’s easy to see who has put the work in and who hasn’t. “If a professor isn’t challenging you, challenge yourself,” she explained, emphasizing how important it is to always be improving and learning new things. In her experience so far, she said, if you take initiative and are always actively engaged, people will recognize that and more opportunities will come your way. Though she really misses her home among the mountains here in Washington, Brianna stressed what a difference living in the heart of New York (and the heart of her intended industry) will make for her networking and career possibilities.

James Harrang, an engineering grad from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, described what his experiences had been like at a prestigious, private liberal arts college. He advised students looking to go into biomedical, premed or engineering programs to prepare themselves by job shadowing and taking as many AP courses and extracurricular programs as possible before arriving at college. Many top-tier schools like Washington University take academics much, much more seriously than your high school or two-year college, opting to “turn the volume up to 11” from day one, James said, recommending students to prepare themselves for a work level like nothing they’ve ever really experienced before. “Your GPA at a school like WashU might not be as good as it would be at a state school, but the work you’re doing there is much more challenging and requires a different level of thought,” said James, who is now negotiating a job at a lab in downtown Seattle. He also noted how great it was to attend a university that focused so much on providing an interdisciplinary education, and encouraged students to stretch themselves by taking arts courses as well as math and science classes.

Ben Brudnicki concluded the forum with a discussion of his time at Embry Riddle University, an aeronautics school in Prescott, AZ. He explained how imperative it is for college applicants to look for specific programs or specialties that suit their interests, and how helpful it has been for him to attend a university that focuses so intently on the concepts and careers that he is interested in pursuing. Now a junior who is applying to internships all the time, he recommended participating in as many extracurriculars at college as possible to boost your resume and connect you with many people who you may not have encountered otherwise. Another benefit of attending a specialized school such as Embry Riddle, he said, was the direct connections you are able to make with industry employers (in his case, companies like Boeing or government agencies).

As you can tell, there were some prominent themes found in all of our alumni presentations regardless of their field, so mark these things on your to-do list right now!

  • Network! Start making connections right now! With anyone who might possibly benefit you anytime in your life. Do it.
  • Present yourself professionally because first impressions matter and you never know when you might meet someone important to your network. As early as your first days of college, people will judge your character and work ethic by the way you behave and the work you put forth, so act the part of someone who deserves a great career!
  • Practice your craft so that you can become an expert. Work as hard as you can and always bring your highest quality work to the table.
  • See the big picture and use that mentality in everything that you do. Always try to conceptualize and tell your audience a story.
  • Know what you want. Look for the specific things that will make you happy, in a school or in a career.

If you can do all of those things, then you can’t possibly go wrong!

Have a great week everybody!

-Emma

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