“School counseling is amazing […] you have the power to completely change the trajectory of a child’s life.”

Lisa Andrews is a school counselor working in the Pomona Unified School District in California.

Throughout her career, Ms. Andrews has dedicated herself to service the most vulnerable of our society by empowering them to change for the better.

As a growing leader in the field of school counseling, Ms. Andrews has been invited to speak at conferences and multiple school counseling training programs. She is especially passionate about pushing boundaries and questioning current counseling norms. Ms. Andrews makes a point to go above and beyond her responsibilities to develop innovative college and career readiness programs for her students.

Ms. Andrews, please tell us about your career journey so far.

A: I come from a family of educators. My mother was an elementary school teacher- one of the first black teachers in her school district- and my father is a clinical psychologist who has a long history of providing mental health services within the inner city. So, it was inevitable that i would enter this profession.

I started off attending the University of Redlands for my undergraduate studies with the intention of becoming a speech pathologist. Following graduation, my two most significant positions were in social work. First in downtown Los Angeles, providing services to the homeless, and later on, I ended up working in Compton at a place called Shields for Families, which was a residential drugs and alcohol treatment center.

Based on these experiences, I decided that I actually wanted to pursue social work as a career, so I attended the University of South California to attain my Masters in Social Work with an emphasis on families and children. At this time, I also acquired a Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) credential, which allowed me to work with children in schools.


My first job in a school-setting was as a Designated Instructional Service (DIS) counselor and behavior intervention case manager for a public school in Pomona. While I enjoyed working there (one of the benefits was that I attained a lot of administrative and leadership skills), I really wanted to expand and work within a district setting. This led me to enter the Pomona Unified School District and manage projects which created intervention programs for students whose behaviors, family circumstances, or socio-economic circumstances got in the way of them being successful within the school setting. I did that for several different schools for about four years.

At the time, mental health was not a concern that was really supported within the school setting, so I had a hard time working with the administration to get programs off the ground. So, I ended up going back to school at Concordia University and got a Masters and credential in Educational Leadership. I figured it is not only important to know what I am doing, but also how to speak the language of administrators and other educators, so they could buy into my program and I could better understand their priorities.

I stuck with this job for a while but found myself getting frustrated because of how limiting it was. I could only address mental health within the school system, which is such a small part of the students’ life. It’s like you’re only helping them enough to get by temporarily. Then, after before or after school, they’re back in the environment that is damaging to their mental health and you have to start from scratch again.

I figured that the best way to help my students was to find a way for mental health and education practices to come together, so I could empower them to uplift themselves out of their circumstances. That’s how I found myself in the position of a school counselor, which led me to go to the University of LaVerne and get my third Masters in School Counseling, and another PPS credential specifically in school counseling. I have been a school counselor ever since.


What motivated you to pursue this career?

A: What really motivated me was my experience working in Pomona. At the time, and even today, it is one of the most economically depressed communities in Southern California, with a very high teen pregnancy rate, high amount of gang violence, and a low literacy rate. Politically, Pomona is alienated from economic and social services. However, 45 percent of its population are youth ages 14-25.  Given those statistics, I realized that the only way to change these demographics was by empowering its students to realize goals of higher education or work training so they could come back and elevate their community.

School counseling is amazing in that sense, because you have the power to completely change the trajectory of a child’s life. When you empower a first generation of students with education, you’re ensuring that the subsequent generations have at least one family member empowered by higher education. I think this is a really powerful place to be. You have the capacity to completely alter the landscape of the world and produce great minds for generations to come.

What is your proudest personal achievement?

A: Last year, I had the pleasure of graduating the highest performing senior class in the last 20 years of my school’s history. That was not really 100 percent my own doing; a lot of it was because of my students’ own individual determination and their ability to transform their experience into a motivating factor, leading them to unparalleled academic success. But within the last four years serving as a counselor, I am proud to say I have approached my job with a sense of innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit.  What this means is that I have learned how to create schoolwide programs that are scalable, franchisable, and aligned with the school, district and professional school counseling mission and vision. The programs include a series of school-wide conferences and events that teach college knowledge, skill and readiness, build leadership and increase students’ perspectives of societal trends. I have implemented schoolwide FAFSA Financial Aid Campaigns that ensure students have the economic support needed to pursue their college dreams. Efforts such as this have been critical in building a school culture that is predicated on a college attendance mentality.  My proudest achievement is being able to stand out as a school counseling leader who is unafraid to question the way things are done and propose better methods.

Is there something you wish you had known before becoming a school counselor?

A: I have learned that the education industry is very political. People coming into this profession need to master interpersonal skills and the art of negotiation and advocacy.  In short, you need to first understand the intricacies of the educational system, recognize the needs of your peers, and advocate for the desires of your students and colleagues, while simultaneously maintaining fidelity to the goals and mission of your school site. As a school counselor, you are an advocate for your students, parents, colleagues (teachers), school administration and yourself. You must exert an unprecedented amount of leadership and savvy in managing and resolving their complex needs. People skills and intuition are key for achieving this balance of interests.

One of the models I always follow is to be a part of the group (just enough so I can establish good relationships, develop allies, a sense of belongingness and camaraderie so everyone I’m involved with knows I have their best interest at heart in terms of the work we’re doing), but also separate from the group (I stand back and take my time to analyze situations, individuals and my role, so that I can come up with effective solutions).

As a school counselor, what is something you wish every high schooler would do?


A: I wish every high schooler would brush up on their media, cultural and world literacy and understanding of societal trends. That way, they’d know how to develop a sustainable educational and post-secondary plan that would enable them to thrive in today’s world. It is so important for them to understand the world we live in and their place in it by developing a ‘critical consciousness,’ which is basically the ability to critically analyze the world, its contradictions, and determine how that affects your place in the world.  A great way to do this is by reading a lot and paying attention to the news, in lieu of updating their facebook status.  

Also, I would ask every student to consider a certain philosophy I bring to my counseling practice: no matter what you think you want to do after high school, make sure your performance and schedule in high school supports entering a four-year college. So, when you graduate, you will be prepared to the highest level and can enjoy having a wider range of options to choose from (four-year college, two-year college, the military, trade school, etc.)

Any last words of advice for a student seeking to pursue your career?

A: I think it’s important to figure out what part of the counseling world they want to play. There are some people who are going to graduate and become school counselors and settle into that position. But some will continue from there to rise in the ranks and make a larger impact on the profession at large. Those paths include advocacy, influencing policy, or being an entrepreneurial school counselor who packages guidance programs that support students at large. To be effective in this field, you must be aware of the latest general education trends and news,  as well as those specific to the profession. By staying up-to-date, you will find inspiration for the impact you want to make.

Learn more about this career by checking out our profile on #GladeoX! 

Thank you so much, Ms. Andrews, for taking the time to share your inspiring experiences and advice with us.  To read the full career profile for a School Counselor, click here.

About the Writer


Nivaasya Ramachandran is an Economics-Political Science student at Columbia University in Manhattan, New York. She considers herself lucky to have had the opportunity to live and grow in 6 countries across 3 continents; her transnational experiences have led her to firmly identify as a global citizen with a duty to give back to the global community.

#CareerHighlights - Jen Rudin, Casting Director

Jen Rudin has grown up in the entertainment industry. She had aspirations as a child actor with a photographic memory starting as early as eight years old and eventually found a passion for casting. She interned with casting directors while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she graduated with a BA in History and Women’s Studies in 1994.

She began working full-time in casting in 2000, and over the next 17 years has had a storied career working as a casting associate for Susan Shopmaker Casting where she helped cast Verizon’s “Can You Hear Me Now” campaign, working as a casting director for The Walt Disney Company and running her own company: Jen Rudin Casting.

In 2014 she published a book called Confessions of a Casting Director, which talks about her experiences both as an actor and a casting director to help aspiring actors be better prepared for the auditioning process.

Q: How long did you spend at Disney?

I worked at Disney for seven years. I was moved from New York to Los Angeles in 2002 to take over the casting department for Disney Feature Animation, which was different because then I was an in-house casting director for a studio, so my job was exclusively at Disney. I could not take on other projects. I was there from 2002 to 2007, in charge of “The Incredibles,” “Chicken Little,” “Princess and the Frog,” “Brother Bear,” and I think we were doing “Meet the Robinsons” at the time.

In 2007 I was moved back to New York, and I was the head of casting and talent development for Disney Theatrical Productions, which is the Broadway division of the company. My job was to oversee and unify all the casting for all the Broadway shows we had, and the tours. Though nothing international, we had different casting directors for the international [shows].

Then in 2009 when the economy collapsed, I got laid off with some other folks. Literally the next day I opened up Jen Rudin Casting. My first job was doing casting for Disney Channel and for “Frankenweenie,” Tim Burton’s movie. It’s funny, my first freelance job after leaving Disney was for Disney, and I still do stuff for the Disney Channel now and again.

Q: Besides the exclusivity, what are some of the other differences between working for a company and freelancing as a casting director?

There are a lot of differences. They have staff casting positions at some of the big companies like Sony, ABC, Warner Bros., any big entertainment company is likely to have in-house casting directors who are exclusively in charge of casting those projects. When you’re a freelance casting director, you can work for any of those companies.

Since leaving Disney I’ve worked for Amazon, I’ve worked for Fox, I’ve worked for Universal. So as a freelance company you can work for different companies, but when you’re in-house exclusively for a company you have a contract and can’t work for anybody else because it’s a conflict.

There are pluses and minuses. I mean it’s really fun to be in-house because you have your own office and assistants, and if your computer breaks the computer guy comes. When you’re running your own company it’s completely different. I’m in charge of everything. If I want to work at home one morning I can, if I want to work at the office I can. It’s very different than having to show up for a nine-to-five job.

Q: Do companies like Disney that have in-house casting directors still go to independent or freelancing casting companies?

They do, but it really depends. For example, if you’re an in-house casting director for ABC, there’s no way that you and your five people that work with you can do the actual casting for all those TV shows. They hire other casting directors who are in charge of casting a TV show, but there’s somebody at ABC casting who’s overseeing their work and watching the tapes and all that.

That’s the corporate part of casting and it’s very different than sort of the hands-on “getting your hands dirty” in auditions, running auditions and whatever you do when you’re in the audition room doing the actual casting, not sitting in your office watching the tapes that come in every day.

Q: What skills would you say are needed to be a casting director?

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You have to really like people, because it’s so much about people. Your job is to fulfill the vision of the director and the writer of the project, so you’re trying to listen to them but you also have to listen to the producer. On a studio project you also have to listen to the studio casting director and the studio producers, so you’re answering to a lot of people.

I feel like you have to be very much a diplomacy type of person, balancing all these different personalities. Even at Disney Animation I had a producer and director on every movie, and all those teams were different. So if I was working on five movies at once, I had five different sets of people I was managing.

You have to love people, and it feels a little bit like retail because sometimes the casting session can have 55 actors a day coming in to audition. So you have to really be a people person, and you have to be super, super organized. I’m always maintaining a really tight schedule, so it’s not like every actor that comes in can just sit there and chat with me for a half an hour and then we do their scenes. You have to say hello, and then you have to do the audition.

You also have to have a good memory and constantly be trying to find new actors. That’s why casting directors send their young assistants out to scout talent and go to shows because you have to constantly be getting your rolodex of actors current. We have to be up on current trends and who’s big on YouTube and who are the big comedians and all that.

Q: What do you cast for in your independent work?

I don’t do much theater anymore. I primarily do animation and voiceover, and movies occasionally and TV stuff, but I’m much more interested in the voiceover stuff. It’s much more fun.

I don’t really work on indie films anymore unless they’re fully financed and have a start date. I’m just not interested in that, I’m too far into my career to work on indie films that need Natalie Portman to be their star. It’s not something I’m going to want to work on.

Q: What are the differences between casting for voiceover roles and live action roles?

They’re really different, which is why in my book I focus a chapter on all the different types of casting.

Obviously with voice casting you don’t have the hair and makeup, and you don’t have the camera on you. It’s not about how you look, it’s about do you believably sound like the voice to come out of the squirrel? Do you sound like the right voice to come out of the animated drawing? So that’s really specific, and also when you’re casting voices you have to make sure to play them next to each other to make sure that not everybody has the same timbre to their voice.

Then when you’re casting live actors you’re thinking about how people look together, do people believably look like a family and stuff like that. So a lot of live action casting is really like how you look next to the other actors in the project while voice acting is how do you sound next to somebody else.

Q: What is it like working with someone else’s vision (for characters) and trying to make their idea come to life?

I mean, that’s your job. You can bring your own taste and vision and bring in actors that may not fit the description of who they think they want (and often times that’s the case), but your job is to cast their project. If they say they want a funny Melissa McCarthy type of actor, then it’s my job to find the next Melissa McCarthy or Jack Black.

But often times they think they want something and it ends up being completely different. I think for Grey’s Anatomy, Kristin Chenoweth was originally who they wanted to play Shandra Wilson’s role of Dr. Miranda Bailey.

Things always change in casting. Genres change a lot of the time, ethnicities can change, age can change as the writers are trying to figure out who’s set for the role. Sometimes things are not set in stone, is what I’m trying to say. The vision can change and my job is to try and have their vision and dream come true, but also to get them to consider other options as well.

You have to do it in a very delicate way, you can’t shove your opinion down their throat because then they’re going to think you’re a very bossy casting director. You have to be collaborative. That’s the biggest, biggest advice I can give: You have to collaborate.

Q: How easy is it to collaborate with so many different voices at play?


It’s really hard to say. Sometimes it’s like a dream and everyone gets along famously, and sometimes you’re in a situation like one time when I was on this movie where the director stopped talking to the producer and the producer stopped talking to the director, and they would call me at the same time. That’s what I mean when I’m talking about diplomacy: how do I manage the expectations of what the director wants and what the producer wants when they both don’t like each other?

But that’s what it’s like for any job you’re on, not just for casting. That’s any environment you’re working in, you constantly have to work with people, unless you’re a writer writing a novel and you’re working from home. You have to work with people and you have to collaborate, which means you have to have good communication skills and be a good listener and lean in and see what they need.

There’s absolutely no one way it’s ever done, every single project I’ve worked on is very different.

Q: Do you have any favorite stories from your experiences casting over the years?

Every casting story is different. Sometimes if you’re casting an indie film, and I’ve done lots and lots of them, a lot of times that’s about financing the movie. Financing the movie only happens when you have stars, so that’s when you’re chasing down stars. But most casting processes are really just about trying to find the best actor for the role. A lot of that also depends on timing and depends on everybody weighing in and having a vote at the end of the day.

I have a lot of great casting stories where you’ve cared about somebody over the years and watched them grow and change and suddenly they’re ready, then they have the big part. Those are the nice casting stories, where you’ve been tracking an actor and keeping tabs on them for a few years and suddenly they’re grown up and ready to take on a role that’s exciting.

Then sometimes, and I think I talk about this a little in the intro to my book, casting that little five-year-old in the movie “Mama” because she happened to look like a younger version of the girl we were looking to cast. She gets this big movie right before Thanksgiving and gets to go to Toronto, isn’t that exciting? It’s nice when it happens to a five-year-old and it’s nice when it happens to someone who’s been in the business a long time and gets their big break.

Those success stories are certainly what makes the job worth it, but I don’t want to glamorize what casting is at all. A lot of people think it’s really glamorous, you know like ‘Oh Steven Spielberg is in your office and you’re auditioning actors.’ A lot of the work is making lists, checking actor availabilities to see if they’re available for the shoot days and auditioning hundreds and hundreds of people before you finally have five that you want to show to the director. It’s really rigorous work, watching tons and tons of tapes.

Q: Why did you want to write your book, Confessions of a Casting Director?


I was actually at Disney at the time, in the Broadway division, and I was on a ten-city trip looking for a new mermaid for “The Little Mermaid.” I saw so many little girls making mistakes at their auditions and I started taking notes. My notes were really simple things, like if they had worn a different dress or chosen a different song. I went to talk to Tom Schumacher [Editor’s note: Thomas Schumacher is the President of the Disney Theatrical Group], who was my boss, and I said I think I want to write a book because there’s no time actually during auditions to give people advice and people need advice.

He thought it was a great idea, so I started to write while I was at Disney and I worked on my proposal. Writing a book is a whole other conversation that we don’t have time to get into now, but I really wanted to write a book to help actors who were coming in and making big mistakes in the audition room. Simple things like coming in messy, talking about traffic or the subway, saying they haven’t finished the script yet or not being prepared for the audition.

So, my book is very friendly and really a how-to because I wrote it for the actors to just come in and be better prepared for their auditions. I share a lot of information there because they deserve it and nobody really explains these basic things they can do.

Q: What would you say are the most rewarding aspects of your career?

I think it’s definitely when you, like I did with Anika Noni Rose in “Princess and the Frog,” get to be on a conference call when the actor’s agent or manager told them that they got the part. That’s the fun part. When you truly get to feel like you’re making an actor’s dream come true, that’s amazing.

When you see your name at the end of a movie in the credits, that’s always exciting too I think. I worked on Peter Bogdanovich’s movie (“She’s Funny That Way”) and I remember going to the premiere in Los Angeles, seeing my name, single card at the end with all the other credits and it just says “casting by Jen Rudin.” It’s like ‘oh wow there’s my name,’ so that’s cool.

Seeing your name, knowing you worked hard and then being able to tell an actor that they got the part. Really, really, really good. Really fun.

Written by Jason Rochlin

Jason Rochlin (@jdrochlin) is a news editor of California State University, Fullerton’s newspaper, the Daily Titan, and beginning his work as the founding editor for California Connections, a student publication to be published through the school's Pollak Library. When he isn't busy working, he also has a self-proclaimed intense love for video games, Nintendo franchises in particular.

#CareerHighlights - Philip Kerns, Camera Operator, Broadcast, CBS


Philip Kerns has been a studio camera operator for 46 years, working for news broadcasts, sports, game shows, reality television and more. While he is on staff with CBS, he also works as a freelance camera operator during his free time. In fact, he says he has used every vacation day he has received over the last nine years to freelance and do more work because of how much he loves what he does.

Q: How would you describe what you do for a living?

Well, at my staff job I’m a bit of a dinosaur now because they don’t really use camera operators per say at local television stations, even though I work at two of them. I work for Channel 9 and Channel 2, which are called a duopoly since they’re both owned by CBS. Like today I just ran a hand held camera on the Channel 9 noon news. If they have a cooking segment or a guest segment that needs a good camera, I’ll go in and do that. This afternoon I’m going to go in and edit promos for “Entertainment Tonight” and a few other things, then later I’m going to help with audio on CBS’s 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. news, since I also have experience as an audio operator.

I’m the guy that built all the shots for Channel 2’s news set when they got the new set about a year ago. I was the one who came in and built the devices, I was the robotics operator. I ran the situations for the cameras, I was the cameraman. I built the shots and ran them through the show.

Now, it’s eliminated that position and everything is on a computer and it’s coded by the director. They may have me come out to build an extra shot if they need an extra shot or if they want to adjust one or if they have someone big coming in and they want to take a chance on it.

On the outside I freelance as a cameraman and always have. I work on different shows like “The Bachelor,” “Shark Tank,” “Family Feud,” those kinds of shows as strictly a cameraman. The last couple days I’ve been over at Sony studios working on “Shark Tank” as one of twelve studio camera operators. There’s a bunch of us. So that’s my job, I’m basically a cameraman.

Q: Is the disappearance of jobs in place of digital camera operation a common trend?

Yeah absolutely. You know it’s funny, when I started in the business in 1971, I was hired by a television station and they trained me on how to use a camera. I got out of college and I got the job as a cameraman and they said ‘forget what you know with your production degree, we’re going to teach you what we want you to know.’ I spent six months in a studio one-on-one with an old timer, training to be a cameraman. He would put a can on the desk and he would sit there and say ‘all right zoom in on this can and set it up in the middle of the frame,’ and we would be there eight hours a day for six months to train me.

To be a cameraman, it’s all about visual conceptualization and composition and framing, that kind of stuff. Some people have it and some people don’t. Just like some people can have a gift for basketball with great natural ability and some people struggle their whole lives to do it and nothing comes to them. They sort of weeded you out that way. But once they trained me, it was six months before they let me do a local noon news shoot, which was just a lock-off shot on the news anchor.

Nowadays they wouldn't do that. If you showed up here at Channel 2 and say you want to train to be a cameraman they would look at you like ‘oh we don’t need that, we need someone who can code a computer.’ They got rid of all their studio cameramen, they got rid of the audiomen, they got rid of pretty much everybody that they don’t need. Now it’s pretty much down to a director and a technical director. Everything is on a computer, and that’s how much has changed in the last ten years.

I’m still here to do those things that they need an old timer to do sometimes. On the outside, they’re never going to automate shows, you’re never going to see a show like “Dr. Phil” with automated cameras. That’s what we do for a living.

Q: What are good ways to learn more about and get into the industry?

It’s funny, I was thinking about you the other day, and so when we were shooting “Shark Tank” I was asking a bunch of the different camera operators ‘how did you get into the business?’ Everybody had a different story.

One women told me she worked at an equipment rental company that a lot of shows rent their camera gear from. Got a job there part time, learned a lot about different equipment and its uses.

A lot of the camera guys start out as utility guys. You know, back before a lot of my friends would work on the Lakers, Dodgers, back in the days before they became union. Utility guys were guys who could get a job setting up cameras and pulling cables, they were essentially assistants to the camera operators.

A lot of camera operators, especially if they were doing baseball or something where it was a really long day, they would let the guys run the equipment. During a break they’d familiarize them with the equipment, show them techniques that you’d use with baseball and how to focus on what. It was real basic elements, and they’d let them fill in once in a while. They might hand them the headset and say don’t tell the director, but just follow the ball for a while. They’d watch them, and that’s how these guys got experience.

One guy, he’s a friend of mine, is now a camera operator on Jimmy Kimmel. I was asking him how did he get into the business and he said, ‘Well I was working on a non-union show and I was a teleprompter operator. They had to walk off camera, off stage and I asked if I could run the camera. And they said ‘sure, go ahead and try it.’ That’s how he got his experience.

It’s all about luck, timing and finding someone who’s going to give you a break. But you’re never going to walk right into a union situation.

If I were trying to start today, I would probably try to find some kind of non-union production company that does reality shows. There’s so many thousands of reality shows. I would try to find a production company, try to get on as production assistant or do whatever it takes to get onto the set so I could meet everybody and say hi. Say hi to the cameraman, have them show you what they do. You just have to get in.

You can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job. In the old days you could get a job at a TV station and work as a production assistant or a summer intern and if you wanted to be an editor or on photography, you’d just sort of gravitate toward that department and try to make friends, see if you can go out on a shoot with them or sit in with them on an editing session. That’s the trick, you have to get in there and see if you even like it. You may find you just don’t have an aptitude for it or you might decide to pursue that.

Q: You’ve mentioned needing an eye for composition and such as skills to be a good cameraman.

Yeah that’s everything. I see things symmetrically. I never noticed it, but when I was a kid my mother was asymmetrical. You see things symmetrically or you don’t. I could be looking out the window and see things symmetrically just from how the trees line up vertically against the horizon, I just see things like that. My mother would decorate our living room, and I had no education at that time but I would just sense like ‘why is that clock there.’ It just didn’t make sense to me.

But that’s the whole trick to being a cameraman. You’re working on a two dimensional format, looking at whatever shot you’re framing and putting it symmetrically. It’s all about composition, and that’s why studying design, architecture, art, any of that sort of stuff would really help.

You know, by the time you get to college you should know whether you look at stuff that way. I’m a big fan of a lot of original art, I have a lot of sculptures at home, and my brother who has a degree in industrial psych says he doesn’t understand sculpture. I just tell him I like the symmetry of it. I work in a two dimensional flat format in a viewfinder, seeing things all day long that are four-by-three and flat. So I like to come home and see things that have depth. That kind of symmetry it all makes sense to me, though I guess that’s all a matter of logistics.

For what I do for a living, you better understand symmetry, composition and framing. That is your job.

Q: What other skills would you say are needed to be a camera operator?

I think you have to have great visual conceptualization. I’ll give you an example, like yesterday when I was working on “Shark Tank.” We record stuff so quickly that we don’t have time to rehearse everything. I’m looking at a shot on my viewfinder while there are two other cameras next to me. I’m watching to see where those two cameras are so I’m not shooting that. The director doesn’t have time to go to twelve cameras and tell you what to do, he expects you to know what to do.

You have to look down the road, like by the time that shot gets on the air, you’re behind. Those three shots that I’m punching up, I’m way behind. I’m looking two shots down the road. When those models walk off I have to be there, I can’t wait to be told to go get the shot.

When you’re always looking into a camera they have what’s called a multiviewer. They put so many different cameras in a quad box or a six box and you’re constant hitting the button on the viewfinder so you can see where the other cameras are looking and not replicate shots.

Most shows are edited. On “Shark Tank” each pitch we do may be an hour but it’s cut down to eight minutes. You don’t know which eight minutes they’re going to use or what they’re going to get out of them, so you’re always shooting. You better know how to visually conceptualize what’s going on.

You have to know your equipment. You have to know what you’re working with and what are the limitations of that. You also have to have good confidence in yourself. You could get beaten up when someone like the director starts screaming at you, but you’ve gotta just compartmentalize that and do your job. You can’t let that rattle you or shake you, there’s a lot of screaming that goes on on the headsets, especially at sporting events. You’ve got to have confidence in yourself and really know how to do your job.

You just have to pursue your passion. I work on “Family Feud” with Steve Harvey and he’s a huge advocate for that, he pushes it on everybody day and night. Find your calling, you know it’s out there for you. Pursue your path. You want to find a job that you want to do for 25, 30 years.

My dad, when I was a kid, he was a newscaster who did the 6:00 p.m. news. When I got up in the morning to go to school he was asleep, and when I got home from school he was at work, and when he got home from work I was asleep. I didn’t see my dad very much until the weekend. I’d see him on TV.

We have some people here who don’t want to work those kinds of hours, they want to be home to see their families. My dad never once saw any of my track meets or my swim meets, he was at work providing for his family. But he did not have a normal nine-to-five job. It just depends on your situation and what works for you.

Q: Are there any shows you’ve worked on that have stood out as really fun projects?

I think some of the most fun I’ve had was when I first started and was doing sports. For my first 10, 20 years I did a lot of sports. We traveled around the country, doing Big Eight Football and basketball, that type of stuff. There’s a real camaraderie when you get there on a Thursday, you check in and you set up all day Friday and rehearse and you do the game on ABC on Saturday and then you fly out. You might be in a different city three weeks in a row. That was a lot of fun, being there and covering a sporting event.

Or music numbers, those kinds of shows where you have five, six camera guys who do all the sync and are doing a musical number, it’s really a joy.

A lot of it can be tedious and it’s long days, and in fact on “Shark Tank” there’s a lot of standing up and a lot of work, but I think if you walk out of there you feel like you did the best job you can do then that’s a very rewarding day.

I think the most fun I’ve ever had was when we were doing a live show for VH1 and it was the guys from “Spinal Tap.” They had Mick Fleetwood as their guest and the whole day of rehearsal they stayed in character. We never laughed so much, we just had a great time. It was a real loose atmosphere and there were music rehearsals, it was just a lot of fun.

Q: Do you still feel starstruck when you meet certain people?

You know it’s funny, especially on Channel 9 and Channel 2 we get a lot of people coming through. Yeah, I’ve met a lot of big stars. I’ve met James Cagney and Jimmy Stewart and Michael Douglas, those types of people.

Especially with musicians, I think most of my admiration comes for musicians rather than actors. Some actors can be really dumb but still hit a mark and be told what to read. But for some people… You know Lou Diamond Phillips? He had a movie coming out called “The Night Stalker,” but he’s also got a show called “Longmire” on A&E that’s a western. He came out to do an interview, promote some stuff, and he’s just the nicest guy. Super put together.

I think probably the nicest guy I’ve ever met in the business: Dick Van Dyke. Absolute total down-to-earth sweetheart of a guy. Just so nice, it’s amazing. And there are other ones that aren’t so nice, you know you’re told not to look at them, not to talk to them, to approach them.

On most shows, like I have friends who work on “Ellen,” and even on “Shark Tank,” it’s like a whole different hierarchy. You don’t walk up to [a big movie star] and start chit-chatting with them. They have no interest in you or anything you have to say. You learn really quickly that they’re not your friends, they’re a part of the job. As a cameraman, you’re in the background. I don’t go up and ask for autographs, I don’t ask for pictures or Instagrams or that kind of stuff. But it’s interesting, I do get to meet a lot of people.

We had Judy Collins out here one day, she was a big folk singer back in the 60s, and I’ve known her for a very long time. So we were just standing around, chit-chatting, and when I brought up a particular song I really liked she just started singing it to me. That was kind of weird, it was like I didn’t expect that to happen.

Q: What else about the job would you say is rewarding?

It’s kind of fun and it obviously has its perks. When I was doing sports we used to get to travel a lot. You get to meet a lot of people that you wouldn’t usually meet. The other day I was shooting “Shark Tank” and Chris Bosh, a NBA player for the Miami Heat was sitting right next to my camera. How many people at their jobs would get to meet a Chris Bosh, or Sir Richard Branson, or people like that? Or have a conversation with Michael Douglas. For most people, no way. I’ve had Tom Cruise come up to shake my hand, and it’s very weird.

I don’t get starstruck but I think I just find it more really amusing. Most people who work at their job would never get to meet Tom Cruise.

Written by Jason Rochlin

Jason Rochlin (@jdrochlin) is a news editor of California State University, Fullerton’s newspaper, the Daily Titan, and beginning his work as the founding editor for California Connections, a student publication to be published through the school's Pollak Library. When he isn't busy working, he also has a self-proclaimed intense love for video games, Nintendo franchises in particular.

#CareerHighlights - Katherine Hernandez Miller, Social Media Manager

  Katherine working on teaser photo social campaign for Hot Topic's Beauty and the Beast campaign.

Katherine working on teaser photo social campaign for Hot Topic's Beauty and the Beast campaign.

Growing up, Katherine Hernandez Miller stopped in Hot Topic stores to browse their CD selection and get music recommendations from the staff. Now, Katherine has gone from being a customer at the music and pop culture retail chain to working for them as the company’s social media manager. Overseeing the brand’s social media platforms, Katherine spends her time brainstorming creative and fun ways to engage with and grow Hot Topic and its sister stores’ online following. Using apps like Snapchat and Instagram, Katherine is the woman behind the posts Hot Topic fans like and share.

Q.Describe a typical “Day in the Life” at your job?

My tasks change every day but usually include checking emails and touching base with my boss, who is the VP of marketing. I look at what worked yesterday; what did we post, how did it do, then I look at what we are going to do today and see if that’s still going to work. I also could be working on campaigns. If we have a campaign coming up, I need to figure out what all those elements will be, if there will be sweepstakes, a video, what kind of content, etc. I work with our legal team to make sure everything is compliant. I check to see if there are any customer service issues - I read our Facebook wall comments to see what everyone is talking about. I also check what’s trending on Twitter or Facebook to see if there is anything  we can play into.

Q. What are the fun aspects of your job?

I think the fun part is creating and telling stories. For example, brainstorming what our Snapchat story is going to look like. I also like working on campaigns and sweepstakes. We did something for Wonder Woman where people could tell us who their Wonder Woman is and it would create an image that said, “My Wonder Woman is so and so” and then they could share it and enter a sweepstakes to win a trip to San Diego Comic-Con.

Q. What other campaigns or sweepstakes have you worked on?

We also did a campaign for Suicide Squad. At the beginning of the movie the characters are in prison, so I thought it would be fun to let people create their own prison badge ID to be part of the Suicide Squad. I created an app with a developer, where users could go in and upload their picture and create their nickname or alias. It would give the participant an image of a prison ID badge and it would have their picture, name and alias. We would then randomly assign them a crime  and length of prison time. I liked that one. I did a really fun one during the holidays two years ago. We made a webpage that had an advent calendar and there were different squares cropped out of it. Everyday there would be a new prize to win. Participants had to repost it on Instagram to enter.

Q. Were you on social media in high school?

It’s funny because I don’t think there really was social media at the time. I graduated high school in 2005 so there was MySpace, but it didn’t become a thing until my junior or senior year. Before that it was all about websites. I was building websites, learning HTML and graphic design. It wasn’t until the middle of my college time that social media started becoming a thing. However, for people in high school now, I would definitely say be on social media. Those interested  in working with social media in the future don’t have to have thousands of followers or be a YouTube celebrity, just be familiar with how it works. They should be active on their personal account as much as possible in order to understand the patterns of different users. By doing so, those interested in this career can figure out the tendencies of the average person who don’t care about social media marketing. From there, social media managers can figure out how to tap into their needs.

  Katherine and her husband at Mammoth Lakes, CA during their wedding in December 2015.

Katherine and her husband at Mammoth Lakes, CA during their wedding in December 2015.

Q. Can you tell me more about the websites you've built?

The summer before high school everyone was using LiveJournal and Friendster. I was actually making my own blog instead of using a site like LiveJournal. I built my own because I wanted to make it look pretty and customized. I also wanted to control more of the features. I made a lot of music sites, including Backstreet Boys fan websites, etc. I know that’s kind of embarrassing but I’m not going to lie, that was my passion.

Q. Can you tell me about a time when a post went wrong?

When Instagram wasn’t really as big as it is now, I didn’t have a company phone. I had one phone and I would log in as either Hot Topic or as myself depending on what I was doing. If it was the weekend I’d be logged in as myself. So I went to Target and I decided I wanted to buy sunglasses and I took a picture of myself in two pairs of sunglasses. I put it into a grid and I posted it on what I thought was my own Instagram. I said, ‘Which glasses look better?’ As soon as I hit post, I noticed it was Hot Topic’s Instagram. So, right away I went in and deleted it. Back then we had a small following so it didn’t matter. I don’t think anyone saw it and if they did they didn’t have a chance to screenshot it.

If I did that now, it would probably have a ton of comments and likes and it would be really bad, but that instance was pretty funny and it scared me and it definitely taught me a lesson.  I then asked for a company phone!

  After working on a campaign for Ant-Man, Katherine was invited to the movie’s premiere where she snapped this picture with actor Paul Rudd.

After working on a campaign for Ant-Man, Katherine was invited to the movie’s premiere where she snapped this picture with actor Paul Rudd.

Q. What do you like to do outside of work?

I like spending time with my family and hanging out with my dog. I’m actually starting my own blog just about social media so I’m kind of a nerd. I haven’t had a whole lot of time to dedicate to it. My first post I did and my only post so far was a social media calendar template. I’m trying to give tools to people who want a career in social media marketing,whether they’re beginners or advanced users.

A lot of my family members have small businesses, and when you have a small business you don’t have a whole lot of money to do marketing or advertising. I think one of the things people forget about is how easy it is to reach people on social media, whether it’s through Facebook advertising or organic posting, and it’s cost efficient. I want my blog to help teach small businesses how they can use social media to grow their business.

Written By Payge Woodard


Payge Woodard (@paygewoodardis a freelance journalist living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Passionate about learning to dig deeper into a story, she recently completed her master’s in investigative and data journalism at the University of King’s College. When she isn't working on a story, you can find her watching reruns on Netflix.

#CareerHighlights - Sofiya Kukharenko, Industrial and Systems Engineer

Sofiya Kukharenko is an Industrial and Systems Engineer at SKF USA, Inc., based in Georgia. She moved to the United States from Ukraine at the age of 2. From an early age, Sofiya seized every opportunity she could within the education system to become the second person in her family to graduate from an American college (after her older sister), and to achieve success in a male-dominated career.

Sofiya graduated from the prestigious Georgia Institute of Technology which she attended on a full-ride HOPE scholarship. Georgia Tech is ranked first in the world by US News & World Report for their industrial engineering program. During college, Sofiya spent a year interning at the World Trade Organization, and also took a semester off to complete mission work in the Middle East. Outside of her work as an engineer, Sofiya is also a professional cellist and enjoys running.

Q: What motivated you to pursue this career? What do you like doing in your free time?

A: My considerations for choosing industrial and systems engineering were honestly quite practical. Even though my first passion was always Law, I had to deal with the fact that I didn’t grow up with the privilege to afford law school. So, keeping these financial constraints in mind, and utilizing my natural strength in mathematics, I obtained  a HOPE scholarship, which gave me a full-ride to Georgia Tech, where I earned a degree in Industrial Engineering. To me, it just goes to show that honoring practical considerations can turn out to be a very good thing.  

In my free time I play the cello professionally, so I’m always playing at weddings or other events. I used to like sports a lot but now I prefer jogging in parks near my home to relax after work.

Q: Take us to your office… what does a typical day at work look like for you?

A: There IS no typical day for an engineer. There is always going to be something breaking, going wrong, ordered wrong, or refusing to fit. So, every day is a new problem. But that's exactly what engineering is. In all other careers, problems are obstacles to the job---but in engineering, problems ARE the job! Every morning starts off with personal time to respond to emails and do a little project management. Organization is critical in our field, and failure to communicate properly can be devastating. After we've all finished our second cup of coffee, the office is noticeably buzzing as we collaborate on various projects we've been assigned. Most of our work must be done on a computer (using Excel for data analysis, Autocad for drawings, Access for database updating, etc), but a third of the work day is spent out on the factory floor. We wear our jeans, steel-toed boots, and safety goggles, and blend in with the machines as we study them and try to find solutions to either fix them or improve them. Everyone has their own style of how they prefer to work, but at the end of the day, you have to keep in mind you're working with hundreds of other employees, both domestically and internationally, and being flexible to their work dynamics is important.

Q: Can you give us an example of the type of projects you typically work on?

A: Industrial and systems engineers are concerned with solving logistical problems in order to reduce wastage and increase the efficiency of production processes.

For example, one part of the 7-month long project I am currently working on at SKF is positioning machines of a particular batch operation in a maximally efficient and ergonomic order. First, I used graph theory to blindly position the machines (without knowing their purpose, only process times and utilization rates) so that the operational flow is uninterrupted in case of a deadlock scenario (eg. if a machine is down, or the channel is undermanned). This is important to help cut down cycle times and increase production (and therefore, profit...a six sigma approach to any manufacturing environment). I took the original factory channel layout, and arranged it in the software programme Autocad into the best layout, given my surface area constraints.

The final stages included gathering together the team of everyone involved and having them review it from their relevant perspective: shipping, supply, health/safety, engineering, operative, maintenance, quality control, etc.

Then I made any critical adjustments, and had the machines transported and rearranged according to my layout.

Q: What do you love most about your job? What would you say is your proudest personal achievement?

A: A big part of it has to do with the fact that I went to Georgia Tech… and over there, the simplest way to put it, is that it was Hell. It was 4 years of struggling, and we lost so much sleep. But then finally being able to overcome that, you definitely come out stronger. And you see that all those skills they instilled in you…. the mathematics, but also those life skills, soft skills, and people skills,  actually work in real life. You get to design something and it happens! You see it actually cut out, or transported on machines and put in place, and it works! That’s the best part, to see it put into use finally. It’s very rewarding!

Personally, I’m proud that I took the time to learn programming; mainly that I invested time in re-taking my programming class in college. I didn’t have to, since I passed the first time around, but I felt that I really wanted to learn the subject since it is so useful, and I had more to get out of the course. Don’t be afraid to retake a class… in engineering, everyone does it, even if you didn’t fail; especially do it if it’s relevant for your future! You may not get everything the first time around. The second time around you will have different professors who can offer different explanation. There is absolutely no shame in it.

In terms of working life, I like the culture of teamwork, and the “wolf-pack” mentality. A micro-managerial atmosphere is rough for an engineer, because engineering is creativity at work; it is feeling free to put your ideas on paper and then translate them into reality. The freedom to create is very important to me.

Q: What does it really take to make it and succeed in this career?

A: You will not succeed if you hate what you’re doing. You don’t necessarily have to love all of your tasks, but you must enjoy some aspects. For me, I really like building databases and programming. I may not get to do that every day/week/month, but every company needs databases, and I’m good at it, so when I do get to do it, for me it’s fun; it’s not work at all. These little things keep you coming back; a genuine desire and passion to learn will also keep you up-to-date on the latest aspects of industrial engineering and keep your skills sharp so you’re always on top of your game.

Q: How do you find a mentor in this industry?

A: In school, it is absolutely important to establish relationships with two teachers at least. If you can’t do that, you won’t develop the skills necessary to speak with management and to work your way up in your subsequent career. You don’t have to sit there with no purpose, but talking to your teacher may be as simple as just going to office hours and asking for some help with homework. For example, at a low point in college I asked one of my algebra teacher if I really needed to learn a certain part of the curriculum for my future career… and he said “no worries, just try to pass the class, no one uses this in real life.” Just having that advice really took a load off my shoulders. So professors really help you figure out what you should put your effort and focus into. Plus regular interaction with teachers will help a lot with recommendation letters you will need for further studies or your first job.

Mentors on the job are also very important for integrating and assimilating into a company. Someone has to explain ‘this is how we do it, this is our culture.’ In my experience at anywhere I’ve worked or any team I’ve been on, there are always people willing to help you. They may tell you ‘you may think this way because you were taught like this, but we don’t do it that way here.’ It helps you jump the learning curve and get ahead of the game a bit… you grow into a family.

Q: Have you faced any setbacks in your career and how did you overcome them?

Well, one issue which I dealt with more in college, because I’m with a good company now, is being a rare female in the STEM field. Today, I’ve heard that Georgia Tech has more programs to increase the percentage of women in their engineering courses, but when I was there I felt that perhaps more than my male peers, I had to earn respect.

I realized that sometimes even I made the same mistake! If I was sitting in lecture with a guy to one side and a girl to my other side, I found myself naturally turning to the guy when I had a question. It goes to show how ingrained these things can be for us, but being aware of it and openly addressing these preconceptions is important. I’ve learned that getting angry doesn’t really solve anything. For many people who may seem a bit biased this way, it is usually just a result of how they were raised and conditioned to think. I’m really proud of our generation for bringing more of a light to this issue and calling it out.

Even in my working life, sometimes I’ve felt like certain co-workers treat me like a secretary rather than an engineer… for example, asking me “Can you type this up for me?” Like I said, anger doesn’t help at all but I give them a firm yet polite “No.” You have to help people change. Respect in the workplace cannot be compromised and if any kind of unwarranted harassment persists after you have verbally warned an offender, you should report your case to management. I think the biggest mistake is to go in there with a bold attitude though, especially if you have less experience. That’s not going to earn you any friends. Come in with a humble attitude but never compromise your self-dignity… you will claim their respect and everything else will fall into place.

Q: Have you faced significant competition in the industrial engineering field? How did you set yourself apart?

A: Most of the competition I faced was really in college. I will never forget when I got the results of my first exam back and I saw that I had gotten a 68. And I was the type of kid who had gotten nothing less than an A all through high school. It was a shock! I started asking around if anyone else in the class was struggling, and the girl next to me just kind of vaguely told me she had gotten an A or something.

Later that day, I went to my professor's office to ask him something, and I happened to see that same student’s paper on the top of a pile on his desk… she had actually scored somewhere in the 30s. That’s when I learnt that college wasn’t the same environment as high school was, it was more competitive and people tend to hold their cards closer to their chest. That’s fine as long as you can keep things in perspective and don’t feel like you’re stupid or something. It’s important to ask for help from professors when you need it, but remember your position is not unique. My mantra now is: there is always someone smarter than you! Don’t try to always be at the top, even if you were in high school, at one point in university maybe the whole class will seem smarter than you. Focus on self improvement: earn discipline, how to study better, how not to study.  Cram sessions only save you about 10 percent of the time, at best.

Q: Engineering programs are notoriously challenging. Do you have any tips on navigating a degree in engineering?

A: Don’t underestimate the workload of an engineering degree. If you can handle extracurricular clubs in addition to the workload, then that’s great, but don’t stress about clubs and making your resume bigger. If you don’t feel exposed enough in class, professors will give you extra projects or assignments if you ask. I did that a lot, for example my Calculus II professor asked me to do a month-long statistics report with her. Keep in mind, if all you’re doing in college is going to class and then studying on your own, you’re not doing it right.

Being organized and picking your activities carefully is key. At one point in college, I was working three jobs to help support my family and myself. But for example, one of my jobs was as a care provider for an elderly lady who lived alone, which allowed me the flexibility of studying at her house when I didn’t have any particular duties to perform.

Summer school is also a very good option. Especially if you attend a very challenging college, go to a different college in the summer and take the hardest classes of your curriculum there.  I learned the most in my community college classes, because the teachers there have an education in teaching, as in they are specifically trained to teach.  A professor in college may never have taken a course in teaching a class, because in many cases they are at the institution to do research. Another option if you have financial constraints when it comes to paying for your degree, is to attend a community college for the first two years of the program and then transfer into a 4-year university or college. You have to do what makes sense for you and at the end of the day you will have the same degree as your peers… it shouldn’t be a matter of pride.

Q: Any last words of advice for our readers?

Do not do the bare minimum. Engineering may not be for you if you just want to get by with an easy job. It’s always going to be difficult, especially in the beginning, but you have to appreciate the hard work, because with hard work comes big results and so much more satisfaction.

A more practical point of advice, is to to go ahead and YouTube industrial engineers. See what it is they do and see if it’s what you want.  Also, think ahead. In five years after your degree, is this career going to be in demand? For example, I have nothing against civil or architectural engineering but think about it, in five years our computers are going to be doing all our math for us... basically if you can be replaced by a computer, don’t go into that field. It used to be really big in my generation to be able to do math quickly in your head. It doesn’t matter anymore. No one’s doing calculus in their head now, everybody would rather have it checked on the computer anyway.

What matters now is if you can present results, communicate well with others and explain what you’re planning or trying to design. If you can’t communicate what’s in your mind, then you’re not going to be a very useful asset to any company. So try to develop soft skills. You’ll really get an important chance to do this in your Senior Design Project, during the final year of your undergraduate degree. A lot of people go for the big companies- the Fortune 500s- for this program, but I would say it doesn’t really matter, and in fact, you may not get as much experience there as you would with a smaller company.

FInally, start looking for a job early… it will greatly increase your chances of getting a job right after college. So, start going to interviews in your last semester, even if it is just for the experience.

Thank you so much, Sofiya, for taking the time to share such sincere advice and for motivating the aspiring engineers of the Gladeo network. To read the full career profile for Industrial and Systems Engineers, click here.

     By Nivaasya Ramachandran

#CareerHighlights - Ramachandran Balakrishnan

“Keep a clear vision of what you want to achieve in your career, be self-motivated in achieving this goal, and don’t get distracted but adapt to whatever unexpected challenges may be thrown your way.”

Ramachandran Balakrishnan is a Malaysian national currently residing in Georgia, where he works as a Business Controller with SKF USA, Inc.

Raised in an estate (a remnant of the colonial era) in rural Malaysia, at a young age Ramachandran could not benefit from the presence of positive influences and opportunities, but always enjoyed and thrived in mathematics at school. This cultivated his early aspirations of a career in finance.

Despite experiencing personal tragedy and hardship as a teenager, through his hard work and perseverance, Ramachandran not only achieved but surpassed this childhood goal by attaining the necessary qualifications and experience before launching his career as a Business Controller. This career would allow him to live and work in various countries through expat positions. All the while, Ramachandran never stopped developing his skills through company trainings and global leadership programs. Outside of his work, Ramachandran enjoys listening to music, reading, hiking, and playing tennis.

Q: What exactly does a business controller do? What are your job responsibilities?

A; Currently I work at SKF, USA Inc, which is a Swedish company operating within the services and manufacturing industries. As business controller, I’m generally charged with advising the management team on financial matters, primarily cost-saving and profit-enhancing methods. Typically this involves providing consult to heads of other departments (such as approving the budget for a project), overseeing closing books at the end of the month and year, preparing material for management review meetings. Business controllers in particular have very unpredictable days in the office, because you never know the nature of the issues for the day, or who will come to your door needing your consulting, opinion, and/or approval.

Q: Accountants don’t have a reputation for having an exciting career- what do you love about your job?

A: The donuts and coffee provided in meetings. Just kidding, what I look forward to everyday when I head into the office is the camaraderie amongst my colleagues and the satisfaction I get in knowing that I play a core role in ensuring the success of our organization. I am also motivated by the intellectual challenge posed by the many different problems I have to solve on a daily basis, in my profession.

Q: What motivated you to pursue this career?

A: I was born, bred, and educated in a small estate in Malaysia, surrounded by people with little to no education. Until the age of 12 I would say I had no real direction in life, and even started getting involved with the wrong crowd. But when I was 13 my father moved us out of the estate to a small town nearby, where I was exposed to more people who were better influences.

At that time, in the mid-70s, accounting was kind of a trendy career path in Malaysia, much like IT is today in the United States. I also had the impression that accounting dealt with a lot of numbers, and I had always loved math, so that’s how I got sold on the career and started working hard in school toward that goal.

Although I initially thought a career in finance would allow me to pursue my passion for math and numbers, I realized a Business Controller also deals with accounting principles and consulting and advising tasks. This was a pleasant discovery because I enjoy the added challenge. On a more practical note, I was motivated by the flexibility and security of a career in finance… at the end of the day, almost every industry could use a business controller and it is not the kind of job that is likely to be replaced by a computer in a few years.

Q; Have you faced any major challenges in your journey to become a Business Controller?

A; When I was 17, my father passed away.  At the time, it really felt like my dream was shattered, because all my life my father had been the sole breadwinner for our huge family of nine. Suddenly all my efforts and focus had to shift toward providing for the family. So, I moved to the city and lived in a squatter area while working whatever job I could get… male nurse, waiter, etc. After a while I earned enough to move into a garage-turned-bedroom, which I shared with four other boys, and I started taking night classes to attain my degree in Accounting.

With this degree, I managed to find an entry-level job position as an accounting clerk, but it was only a temporary position and I was paid hourly, so I spent a lot of evenings in the office working overtime so I could earn some extra pay. After one year of this experience, my boss took me aside during a company Christmas party and told me not to come back to work after New Years’, because I was being laid off. I spent the next year living with my married older sister, and taking any job that would pay.

Then I got my big break when, one day, an ex-boss came into the restaurant where I was working as a waiter. He had noticed I was a hard worker when I worked for him, and was absolutely astounded that I was waiting tables. He offered me a job on the spot. I will never forget that day, 1st April 1981 (thankfully his offer was not a prank!), when I got my first permanent accounting job. Most of all, I will never forget getting that first paycheck and feeling like I didn’t have to struggle anymore, maybe for the first time in my life. I continued to work hard at the job, for an average of 10-12 hours per day, and although I began as a junior accountant, I was receiving promotions roughly every six months. That was really when my career started to take flight.

Anyone who is lucky enough to be able to follow a more straightforward career path should take full advantage of the opportunity, but if there are uncontrollable circumstances in your life that derail you from your path, remember that there is no “one path,” and that staying positive, not giving up, and working hard will pay off.

Q: What would you say are your proudest professional achievements?

A: When I first joined SKF, it was a Swedish start-up just starting to establish itself. Today, SKF is a global world leader in ball-bearing manufacturing. I’m proud to have played a role- however small- in its development.

On a more personal note, when I first started working in SKF Malaysia, I met a lot of expats (most of whom were professionals from abroad who were brought in to share their expert knowledge with the local team), and aspired to one day have a position like them.

At that point, I made a promise to myself that one day I too would have an expat position. Although I had no idea how to approach this goal, my conviction was unfaltering and one day not long after, someone who noticed my good work mentioned there was a position open in South Korea. I applied, interviewed, and got selected! Since then, I have had the opportunity to work as an expat in China, Belgium, and now in the United States.

As an 8 year old living in the estates of Malaysia, the opportunity to live the American Dream in the U.S. was absolutely an alien concept; totally out of the picture. Today I’m so glad I have had these opportunities to provide a better life for my family. I only wish my father could have seen it all.

Q: What are the main qualities or skills needed to be a Business Controller?

A: You must complete your tasks in a timely manner, and with accuracy. It’s also important to ‘go by the books,’ meaning having strict adherence to accounting principles, as well as your moral principles. Balancing good leadership with being a team player is key, as is being a self-starter and having good organization skills.  Finally, participation is also very important for Business Controllers. Express your views and give your best consult in meetings, because your input can and should drive the profitability of the company.

Q: Any last words of advice?

A: Have an open mind to learning, because in this field you will constantly have to adapt to new systems within your organization, or different organizations altogether, as well as the global economy. Furthermore, this is a career that requires a significant dedication to your training in the beginning, but will reap a lot of rewards later on, such as good pay and stable employment. Also, throughout your career you should never compromise on the responsibility that comes with the job. You may be dealing with large amounts of money and giving financial consult which can render big consequences, all of which as a business controller you will be held accountable for.

Lastly, try to keep a clear vision of what you want to achieve in your career, be self-motivated in achieving this goal, and don’t get distracted, but adapt to whatever unexpected challenges may be thrown your way.

Thank you very much, Ramachandran, for sharing your inspiring career story with us. To read the full career profile for Business Controllers, click here.

By Nivaasya Ramachandran

#CareerHighlights - Yoona Kim Head of Clinical Modeling and Analytics at Proteus Digital Health

Yoona Kim envisions a world where innovative technology meets medicine. Working towards universally available digital healthcare, Kim heads the Clinical Modeling and Analytics Department at an influential startup called Proteus Digital Health, a leader in the innovative digital healthcare field. A graduate of Stanford University, Kim started her professional career as a consultant at a healthcare and medicine company. Since then she has worked at pharmaceutical companies and earned a Pharm.D. from the University of California, San Francisco and a Ph.D. in Health Economics Research from the University of Texas, Austin while concurrently being employed full-time.

At Proteus, Kim spearheads the health economic and clinical analytic activities of the company’s pioneering program in Digital Medicine that includes ingestible sensor pills that are paired with a small wearable patch and an app on a mobile device that captures the data. The FDA-cleared ingestible sensor pills, co-encapsulated with medications, provide patients and physicians with the valuable data on patients’ personal medication-taking patterns captured by the ingestible sensors. These granular-sized sensors are designed to better engage patients in their personal healthcare. Through her work at Proteus, Kim aspires to improve the outcomes of patient healthcare by integrating their medicines with digital technology.

Q: How did you start your career story?

A: In college, I identified my interest in healthcare. I’ve always been interested in the world of health, even in high school. Maybe that’s because my mom was a public health nurse. I think the interest was furthered in college because I enjoyed the science type of courses and I did developmental biology research which I thought was really interesting. I didn’t know what I wanted to do within the field of healthcare which is why I took the route of healthcare consulting post-college because that’s generally what people do when they don’t quite know.

Q: What motivates you in your career and life?

A: I think it’s helping patients, and finding better ways to deliver healthcare that’s more effective and more efficient.

Q: What do you do at Proteus?

A: My job is to articulate the value of our technology to external audiences and work with our customers. We get the data and see whether we are able to improve clinical and economic outcomes in patients. And then the other part of my job is to draw meaningful insights from the data itself.  I’m in the very early stages of just developing algorithms that can automatically detect insights about our data and new predictive models that will guide the optimal use of our product.

Q: In your time at Stanford you received a Firestone Medal for Excellence in Undergraduate Research, were you always interested in research and where did the interest take you in terms of your current career?

A: What the research project did for me, just in general, is that it really taught me how to ask questions and how to go about answering them. It also helped me develop the discipline of completing a project from start to finish, from the early research question to hypothesis development, and all the way through to an actual publication. So I think that entire process taught me what it’s like to complete a project end-to-end in a way that it passes scientific muster by an external audience.

Q: Looking back, were there things you did in your childhood that indicated you would thrive in this career? Is there a constant character trait that has informed your education and work experience?

A: I think it was discipline. I was trained to be a musician, specifically violin from an early age. I had to learn how to carve out time to practice and be involved in orchestra, violin lessons and chamber music. This taught me how to set a schedule each day so I would have time to do my schoolwork, other extracurricular activities and violin.

Q: How do you see your current work at Proteus, with innovations like ingestible sensor pills, in terms of global healthcare practices and your own projected career path? Could you tell me about how you see Proteus and your current work in terms of global healthcare practices and your own projected career path?

A: So the vision of Proteus is healthcare for everyone everywhere, with Digital Medicine as one of the ways that vision will be realized. I do believe this is definitely coming. I think it will take many years for the world to get there, but the ability to give patients feedback on the medications they’re taking and how they’re doing at home is a very important one. Digital health tools will, like I said, continue to rise in use and continue to advance. What I like about Proteus is that it’s addressing the lowest friction interaction that you have: taking your medications every day, and creating a digital experience that reminds and tracks that activity. We’re not telling them to do something that they don’t already do. Simply the medication now has a sensor inside and that allows patients to see: Okay - for today I took my med, or I forgot to take it this morning so I’d better take it now. Proteus has the lowest friction interaction that’s such an important, what I call a “digital biomarker”, that indicates whether or not a patient takes their medications and when.  Medications can be very effective, but only if a patient takes them.

The WHO (World Health Organization) reported that only 50% of patients take their medications as prescribed. At Proteus we believe that if we can just get patients to take their medications correctly, and then give physicians the ability to see what’s going on with the patient at home so they can make very targeted treatment decisions, then patient outcomes can be improved. In my work, I have been able to help prove out that this theory is true. I’m really excited and passionate about Proteus, which is why I’m here. In terms of my own career, I’m not sure what my next step will be, but I know that I enjoy being on the innovation side. I used to work at pharmaceutical companies, but there’s a very set path for FDA approval and commercialization. In contrast, Proteus is the first company to make ingestible sensors in the world, so the regulatory and commercialization paths are different and require a lot of innovative, out-of-the-box thinking. What I know is that whatever I do next, I want to remain on the edge of innovation and stay within the startup world.  

Q: What are some of the vital lessons you have learned throughout your career and work in general, both life and professional lessons?

A: One of the lessons that has served me well is being proactive, actually asking for what I want to learn and what I want to do and doing as much as I can on my own. I’ve learned that it works to determine my interest in something, to do background research on it and then go to talk to somebody. Not asking for permission but asking for forgiveness is a motto I’ve had for myself because that means I go ahead and I do things. And if I stumble along the way then I’ll ask for forgiveness later but it’s better to do that than to wait for somebody to tell me what to do, how to do it and for me to be paralyzed until I’m given permission. That’s probably the biggest lesson that I follow now, and yes you will certainly make mistakes along the way, but you just can’t be afraid of that.

Q: Any last words of advice?

Always keep in mind the big picture of why you’re doing what you’re doing. While you will face daily challenges, remember why you enjoy what you’re doing and your personal vision -- this will certainly help you through the snags and onto see the fruition of your hard work.  

By Daniel Nguyen

#CareerHighlights - Alicia Cho, Food and Product Photographer

“Keep on being curious, keep on wanting to learn and to hone your craft, because the learning never ends.”

Alicia Cho is a self-taught freelance food and product photographer based in Los Angeles and operating through her very own, Alicia Cho Photography. Coming from an educational background in Finance studies, through her own initiative and industriousness Alicia has successfully shaped a career which marries her natural talent for storytelling with an extremely relatable passion for food! Five years of experience working in Film and TV production as a 2nd Assistant Director on hit shows such as The Office and 90210, later led to building a professional photographer’s portfolio as Alicia ventured into specialization as a food photographer. To date Alicia has shared her artistic portrayals of culinary masterpieces produced by various restaurants in LA and NY, developed the story of an e-commerce food company: Thrive Market, and contributed to several prominent food and lifestyle magazines.

Q: Tell us about your career story. How did it begin and how has it evolved? What industries and companies have you worked with so far?

A: I have a very, I think, atypical photographer story. In college I actually studied finance, and did a concentration in digital arts and media. However, while in college I got the chance to work as a set intern on a movie by Mike Judge called Idiocracy, and that’s how I first got into Film and TV production. What drew me to that was storytelling, and that has been an underlying theme in everything that I’ve done since.

After finishing my time in Film and TV production, my lifelong passion for food led me into the specialty coffee industry, and I worked for Blue Bottle Coffee as I was building my portfolio and really honing in on what kind of photography I wanted to focus on. Over my career I’ve tried everything that I was even slightly interested in, from shooting weddings, to red carpet photography, to assisting in fashion photography, to event photography. But through my experience working in the food industry and meeting other food professionals, chefs, baristas, mixologists, I was really drawn to telling their story and sharing with the world my viewpoint of the food that I experienced and the people that I shared it with.

Throughout the three and a half years that I have worked as a freelance photographer, I have mainly focused on food editorials and also commercial food photography. Some of my past clients include Thrive Market, Wolfgang Puck, various local restaurants such as Zinc Cafe and Bar, Tom Colicchio’s Craft Los Angeles, and also different commercial food products, like Jackson’s Honest chips. I have also contributed to different publications like Time Out Los Angeles, and Life and Thyme, and The Everygirl magazine.

Q: What about the lady behind the camera? What influenced you to become a professional photographer? What do you enjoy doing during your free time?

A: I think a big part of it was that I grew up in a pretty big family… I’m the youngest of 4 daughters. So I learned how to listen to and observe my very interesting and inspiring sisters, as well as having parents who always supported me in my creative and other interests. A big part of our childhood centered around cooking together in our large household, and I think this ties into a major part of being a food photographer, which is constantly being inspired and finding a story. Also, just having such a strong support group gives you confidence in what you’re shooting and in your style, allowing you to keep on shooting despite bumps in the road or people who may criticize your style. Some things that I like to do for fun are hiking, cooking, hanging out with my family and my friends, and also just checking out new coffee shops (I’m a bit of a coffee fiend!)

Q: Which photographers or artists influence your craft as a photographer?

A: Growing up, I really had an interest in French food and culture. So while in high school I went to France for a summer, and in college I spent a whole year in Paris studying abroad. Photography had always been a hobby for me, but at that point it really became a meaningful way for me to remember the time I spent in France. One photographer I really began to admire during that time was Robert Doisneau who was pretty big in the 1930s and had a great style of capturing human street photography in Paris in a very romantic way, which has influenced my own approach to shooting people. More current artists I look to for inspiration are Gentl and Hyers, a husband-wife team based in NY who do amazing things with light and have great style. Also Ditte Isager, who has a beautiful aesthetic in her still-life and tablescapes.

Q: Take us to a typical photoshoot. What does a typical day as a photographer look like?

A: It really varies according to the project, but if I were to work with a restaurant, I work closely with either their public relations agency or their communications/marketing team to get a sense of the type of photos they need, whether it be for their website or social media. This usually leads to coming up with a shot list tailored to the different dishes they want to shoot, and if they want interiors or portraits. I usually work with an assistant and a food stylist on bigger shoots, sometimes we try the food, which is great, and constantly keep communication with the chef to make sure we are on the same page. A lot of the work is then done at home when I’m editing. On days when I’m not shooting, it is a lot of business development and maintaining relationships with previous clients.

Q: What skills do you believe are important for someone to pursue a career like yours?

A: I think having the eye and the technical skills are very important, as they are the foundations of understanding photography. Just as important, though, is what you bring to your style in terms of  how you interpret and observe food, how you eat it, portraying the most appetizing aspects. That’s what it comes down to, because clients want to attract customers to come to their restaurant or coffee shop, and get business. So doing research, being curious, knowing the competition posed by other restaurants out there. Just being disciplined, shooting consistently and honing your craft is very important.

Q: What do you love most about your job?

A: A perk of the job is definitely to see beautiful food, photograph it, sometimes eat it. What I like most about my job is that, even though I’m shooting an object, I get to interact and connect with so many different types of people. The exciting part is to meet different chefs and staff, travel to different locations, and meet people who are passionate about their craft.

Q: Has there ever been a moment in your career when you felt like you have found your calling?

A: I want to share the story of my very first food photography editorial. I found this guy named Zack Hall, under Clark Street Bread on Instagram. He was a very young baker who worked out of his West Hollywood apartment… literally just a simple stovetop oven that everyone has in an LA apartment, but he was creating these beautiful breads, in very much the old fermentation style.

I was inspired to tell his story, so I actually pitched the story to Life and Thyme magazine when they were pretty early in publishing stories. I get to his apartment, and I knew it would be small but literally his entire area of operation was just his kitchen and it was so tight.

He could only bake one big piece of bread at a time so we took a lot of breaks and while we would talk about his story, I tasted his bread. Photographing him working in his space was a big challenge, but in the end the photos turned out to be some of my favorites to this day. So I think the best moments are when you go to a shoot and you’re like “oh shoot, this is not that pretty,” working your way around it and find the right angle so you can avoid some ugly shelf or something like that and finding beautiful shots even in a place that isn’t very “instagram-able”… just being able to overcome that challenge is a great moment.

Q. What fuels your passion to continue taking pictures?

A: I want to bring up this recent docu-series I’ve been watching. It’s called Chef’s Table and it’s on Netflix. Anyone who likes cooking or hearing chef’s stories and watching beautiful cinematography should definitely watch it. In literally the first 5 minutes of the first episode I got really emotional. It’s crazy to think that a docu-series like that can move somebody, but I hope in some ways that through my photography, whether it be of food or a person, I’m sharing a story and I can move people. My reach is kind of limited, but I do have a website through which I am able to share with people all around the world. I just want to share my experiences and food stories that may inspire people to pursue their career as a photographer, a food stylist, a chef, or in any part of the food industry.

Q: We have a few young photographers in the Gladeo network looking for advice from a professional on how to hone their craft, who have come up with a series of lightning round questions...

Q: What are the similarities and differences between shooting inanimate objects and people?

A: One similarity is that lighting is important for both food and people. Secondly and surprisingly, food has a hero angle just like people. Meaning, there may be a specific item in the dish that the chef wants to focus on, so you may have to adjust to find this angle. Same with people, they may have a particular side that is bad/good, because not everyone’s face is proportional, so it’s about knowing that someone’s eyes may be bigger or smaller on one side, and knowing how to compensate for that.

One of the differences, is that food doesn’t talk back to you. So with food, a lot of the time it’s up to you to find the right angle, tweak the lighting. So it’s a lot of figuring out on your own and also talking to the chef to find the right shot. Sometimes that may be good, sometimes it may be bad, depending on your personality and how you work best as a photographer. And with people, whether they are professionals or not, they may have their insecurities. So being able to overcome that and work with people… just finding their comfort zone and being able to relate with them is important to get a good portrait.

Q: What is your process in representing the client in a picture (for example, the chef)? What is the easiest way to direct someone who is not experienced in posing for pictures?

A: I do a lot of research, either with the chef or their public relations person, to know how they want to be represented to the public. I also try to find other photos that have already been taken of the restaurant if there are any.

Then, before I even begin shooting with the camera, I always try to have a short conversation with the chef, get to know them a little bit and get them to feel comfortable with me. I find that most chefs, unless they are celebrity chefs, are not used to being in front of the camera so getting them comfortable in their element is really important. I give them tips on how to pose, etc. since they may not necessarily know how to do this themselves.

Q: What is your creative process in terms of scouting locations or deciding on an overall theme/aesthetic for a shoot?

A: When a client hires me, they not only hire me for the service of providing photos, but they also hire me because of my artistic vision. So in our initial conversations we really talk about our respective creative visions. Sometimes we even come up with a mutual pinterest board to share inspiration and shots for my reference that they would like for their own project. So we both do our own research then come together to talk.

Q: Do you have any secret tips when it comes to photo editing that you can share with us?

A: As somebody who didn’t go to photography school and is self-taught, I’ve utilized a lot of online tutorials. One of the biggest sources I’ve relied on is the Creative Live, which are free live classes ranging from tutorials on the basics of photography to more complex photoshop skills. I also search YouTube for certain techniques I’m not too familiar with. I don’t do a lot of heavy editing though, I try to get a lot of it in camera while shooting.

Q: To end our lightning round with what may be the most important question of the interview… we want to know, how can you apply your photography skills to take the perfect instagram-worthy selfie?

A: (Chuckles) So, currently I am in a nicely filtered window lighting, so it's kind of diffused and very soft. Anything in direct sunlight makes you squinty or shows wrinkles you may have. So finding a nice window light if you can, which is not under direct sunlight, makes a good selfie.

Q: Finally, do you have any last words of advice for our readers who want to follow a career like yours?

A: As an artist and photographer, it’s very common to get rejected. But don’t let that bring you down… It’s not a personal rejection, it may be that you are not the right fit for a specific client.

So my last three points of advice to you guys are don’t be afraid to ask questions and reach out to people that are more established than you are. You never know, it may turn into a job, or assisting another established photographer on a shoot, or just learning something from them and their years of experience. Another thing is to keep on being curious, keep on wanting to learn and to hone your craft, because the learning never ends. New technology comes out, new cameras come out, styles are always evolving, and you just have to change with the times. Lastly, the most important thing is to keep on shooting.

We had so much fun doing this interview with you, Alicia, and we thank you so much for your time. You have undoubtedly provided encouragement for the amateur and aspiring photographers of the Gladeo network!

Check out Alicia’s portfolio and website http://www.aliciacho.com/ and follow her on Instagram for some mouth-watering inspiration!

By Joseph Fortuno and Nivaasya Ramachandran

#CareerHighlights - RG Conlee, Chief Innovation Officer

RG Conlee’s dad was a teacher and his mom was a cook. He describes his lifestyle growing up just north of blue-collar. Conlee grew up in Illinois and went to the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire to study to become a musician studying under famed jazz artist Dominique Spera. After graduation, Conlee started a career in music education, following in his father’s footsteps. He continued his career in education for 20 years during which he had successful music programs in Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa. In addition, he was a pioneer in computers and music. In the mid 80s when the Apple IIe came out, he used his high school and college math and science skills to learn to program computers.  He created a music lab for a junior high students while teaching in Iowa and published curriculum for several music companies. Also, he founded and headed a non-profit private school with 215 students and opened a small computer business.

Conlee’s formal education was in music, but his self-learning in computers and computer science led to his career in corporate IT.  He gained motivation from his childhood activities. He said being a musician for the past 55 years taught him to constantly challenge himself  and push his work to the next level. Conlee also enjoyed sports, but he found his true passion in both music and technology. He sees himself as a front end person who looks toward the future and searches for what can be done better. He is an advocate for automation and seeing where it will take business. He said passion comes from having a personality that is motivated by always wanting to be better.

Q: What steps did you take to get your foot in the door as an IT Project Manager and then later climbed the ranks to CIO?

A: The first step was learning the trade. My formal training was in music and education. The other skills came from leveraging my HS education and building on it with self-instruction. My first break was winning a contract for developing a state level scheduling program for the Iowa High School Music Association. I had domain knowledge about music contests and at the time was the only one around that knew something about programming computers. After that, I started a small computer business that focused on business accounting. There were no accounting packages in those days for small businesses so I saw an opportunity to get in on the ground level so I worked with a friend who was an accountant and created some custom packages for several small businesses. In talking about this, it may seem like it was a short time, but the learning and building of the programming skills and becoming successful at delivering product took 10-12 years.  In 1998 I started looking at a job change away from the education market. After a lot of applications, I was able to get a job as a Y2k project manager with a contract firm called Mastech. The job was based in Lexington, KY. Y2K project managers were in short supply and high demand; even with my lack of credential in IT, the short supply allowed me to get a job and prove myself in the IT world.  I learned a lot in the 18 months that I was Y2K project manager…and was successful. It was Dec 1999 that I got the job at ACS as the development manager for the new BPO business.. From that point on, I continued to work hard, learn and consistently provide high performance. The overall keys from each of these steps were:

  1. To leverage either the formally trained skills or acquired soft skills to move to the next level
  2. Never stop learning
  3. Be willing to take risks and figure out ways to be successful
  4. Work hard and produce results

The early years from 1985-1999 were all about learning and doing. From 1999-present its been about continuing to learn and producing results in whatever position I have. My experience as a development manager for four years, as an operations manager for five years, and in innovation and IT upper management for nine years forced me to learn more, polish more, and produce more.

Overall the success has come from continually learning, as well as personal and professional discipline, along with a willingness to work as hard as it took to produce those results.

Q: Can you explain your day-to-day operations as a CIO?

A: The job of a Chief Innovation officer focuses on creating and delivering new products and services. That includes working with research labs to explore, create and develop new products all the way to hardening the product for use in commercial business. During part of my tenure I was also CTO (chief technology officer) for Xerox Services where I managed the operations of all the IT assets as well as had the day to day responsibilities of managing the new product development.

Business process outsourcing (BPO) is where Fortune 500 companies and other companies hire someone to do “back office” work; for example, data entry, mailroom work, etc. One task we have done at [Company] is take on 50 percent of claims processing for insurance companies. Although we are not the insurance company, we do the behind the scenes work, like data entry aforementioned.

The day to day work centers around managing teams of researchers, developers and business unit contacts to create, develop and deliver the new products and services. Much of the time is spent in meetings, calls and correspondence. There is a lot of travel involved and a lot of public speaking as well.

Q: What direction is the industry headed?

A: The BPO industry as a whole has largly exhausted all the offshoring locations they can utilize like India, Guatemala, and the Far East. Now companies are moving from outsourcing to automation and digital services. For example, call centers were insourced and then became outsourced. Now companies are moving to automated chat boxes and interactive voice response (IVR) systems. I am currently launching my own company that does this.

In the next five years, expect an influx of automation into the market. For those that are interested in these careers, prepare to have higher level skills for these higher level jobs.

Q: What skills are required to be where you are now?

A: First step, get a computer science degree and if possible an MBA. My job is highly technical but also very business centric. You need both. Besides the formal training, make sure you develop your communication and sales skills. Most important, be resilient. Don’t give up. Learn, learn, learn and be the best employee you can be every day. Also, you need to be willing to take some risks. Top positions often don’t come to those who are too conservative or fearful of failure.

Along the way, you need to keep making connections. What you know is only the start. Who you know is equally if not more important. Make sure that you support the people you work for and work with. Develop a great reputation.

Q: You held multiple positions in “innovation”. What would you say that word means to you and how does it influence you in your career?

A: In the course of innovation and creativity, the basis of innovation is asking questions like “how else can we do it?” or “what can be done differently?” If you are doing the same thing, the same way you did five years ago, you’re going out of business. Innovation means constantly pushing the envelope and looking at the world and the work in a new and fresh way.

I would say that creativity and innovation have been the core to my success. Helping our business become competitively differentiated was what created my success as CIO.  

Q: Is there a particular project/idea that was executed that you are especially proud of and why?

A: Tough question. In my education career, I completed numerous projects that I’m proud of and feel were a tremendous success. My education career overall was very successful and I’ve been able to see the impact on students throughout their lives. To put that in perspective, my first 7th graders turned 50 three years ago. Facebook allows me to watch their lives and see the impact firsthand. I was a successful band director, professional musician, and founder of a private school starting from the ground up. All were great highlights in my career.

In the IT/Innovation career, I’m very proud of being a significant contributor to the development of a Fortune 500 company and driving that significant growth with innovation. In particular, the transition to Xerox from ACS was a time when I was charged with connecting our businesses to research and building new technologies. That process took three years until it began to mature, but later became the example in the market to copy. In 2016, we received the PDMA Corporate Innovator of the Year award for our innovation practice.

By Noah Burton

#CareerHighlights - Neil Thompson, Patent Agent & Writer

Neil Thompson has worn many different hats. In the past he’s worked as a research associate at a start-up company and as a product development engineer. Now Thompson works as a patent agent and writer, helping those with innovative ideas bring their ideas to fruition while regularly posting on his website. With his experience at start-up companies and as a product development engineer, Thompson also occasionally contributes to business journals like the San Diego Business Journal (SDBJ) on the topic of start-up companies. As a student, Thompson excelled in the maths and sciences, eventually deciding to major in Materials Engineering at the University of Toronto. He later went on to gain Masters in Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering from Clemson University and Columbia University respectively. With his wealth of experience and knowledge, Thompson offers invaluable advice to those unsure about their future while representing an inspiring addition to Gladeo’s Career Highlights.

Q: What does a patent agent do?

A: A patent agent is someone who helps people with their invention ideas. For instance, if you have an invention idea and it’s novel and it’s not obvious from other inventions that have already been done then you can enlist a patent agent to help you draft the patent application and file it with the U.S. Patent Office. Typically, your patent agent is your go-between between you and the patent office. They’re the person who will be communicating with the patent office and hopefully get your application to turn into a patent.

Q: How have your past occupations helped you excel in your current jobs as a patent agent and author?

A: I probably wouldn’t even be a patent agent if I wasn’t a product development engineer beforehand. It was at one of my jobs where I was working as a product development engineer in the medical device industry. My boss had wanted all the engineers to become patent agents. I think the reason for that was he didn’t want to have to employ outside patent attorneys or patent agents to file the inventions within the company anymore, he wanted people within the company to do it for him, I’m guessing to save money. I’m the only person who ended up becoming a patent agent, none of the other engineers even bothered. To be a patent agent you have to have a STEM background. You have to have a degree in science or engineering to even become a patent agent. So being a product development engineer was instrumental to me becoming a patent engineer. It likely wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Q: Could you elaborate on what you love most about our career, and what is the coolest patent you’ve worked on?

A: What I like most about it is the ability to see different people’s inventions. I work on all kinds of different types of inventions, it’s never really the same thing twice. So, the variety of being a patent agent is something I really enjoy. The coolest patent I’ve ever worked on would be, I’m not sure if anyone would consider this cool but I would, a fabric for the gi. The person who developed this particular invention made it so that the gi was difficult to latch on to so that when you’re grappling it’s actually hard to get the person down because the material that the gi is made out of makes it hard to latch onto.

Q: Before you started your professional career, what were the influences that indicated that you might thrive as an engineer or later as a patent agent or as a writer?

A: Well, to be very honest, the idea of becoming an engineer didn’t happen until I was further along in school, probably not till the end of high school. I’ve always been pretty good at math and science but I didn’t know what that could translate into as far as a career goes. It was really my father who suggested, probably around my senior year of high school, it’s time to apply to college, that maybe engineering is something you want to get into considering you’re strong in math and science. He thought that with an engineering degree you could do a lot of things. You could work in engineering, sure, but there are engineers who go to medical school, there are engineers who go to law school, there are engineers who stay engineers obviously. It’s very versatile in that regard. People who have engineering degrees can go pretty much anywhere they want. It was appealing to me, and that’s basically why I followed that field and took my father’s suggestions just so I could be versatile and flexible later on.

Q: What advice do you have for students?

A: I think the number one thing if you’re unsure of what you want to do is to, if at all possible, try to shadow different types of people with various professions to see if that’s something you would even be interested in doing. It’s easier when you have LinkedIn. With LinkedIn, you can find any old-fashioned profession. There are basically thousands of people on LinkedIn with different jobs, so you can basically reach out to them, say that you’re a student and you’re considering going into their field and if they would be willing to talk to you. Typically, a lot of people are. I find that people like to talk about themselves, so if you’re somebody that is interested in what they do they’re likely to sit down and talk with you or Skype. With technology, the sky’s the limit really. You don’t have to even be in front of a person face to face. Basically, you talk with various people, figure out what their jobs are and if that sounds interesting to you. Then do these kinds of research until whatever you want to continue doing in college. Or whatever that particular path requires.

Q: Could you explain how you first started your career?

A: I knew that I didn’t want to go get a job right away. I wasn’t too keen on going out there and going on interviews and getting my resume together and all of that, so I went to graduate school for a couple years and then when I finished a Master’s degree I still wasn’t too keen on going out and finding a job, so I actually enrolled in a PhD program. After the first year of that PhD program I realized I was in the wrong place. PhDs can take years to get and there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually use that PhD in your job. A PhD is very unlike an MD or a JD, because when you get an MD you’re a doctor you typically work as a doctor, if you’re a JD you’re a lawyer and you can work as a lawyer. When you get a PhD, especially in a STEM field, there’s not really a job that’s waiting for you with a PhD. There are academic jobs you could do, becoming a professor, but those jobs are difficult to come by and difficult to get. And there are other jobs, non-academic jobs in the industry that require a PhD, but a lot of them don’t. So, the idea of continuing on in a PhD program just seemed unappealing to me so after a year in that PhD program I dropped out and then I had to figure out what I was going to do next. So, for the next, I think seven months, I lived in my father’s condo, and now I had no choice but to go look for another job, or look for a job and get a resume together and go on interviews. I basically couldn’t stall anymore, it’s probably time to enter the real world and get a real job. It took me about seven months to get my first job and it was really by applying to various jobs online. And then I got a job at this company, a small start-up company in the Boston area and I was a research associate. I worked there for, I think about two years or so, a little longer than two years. That’s basically my first job, and I got it just by applying.

Q: You have a very large online presence with a website, blog, YouTube channel, podcast and social media accounts- do you have any advice for building and maintaining an audience?

A: For me, it comes down to being consistent. I have a blog and I make sure I write a post on my blog every Sunday. I mark it on my calendar. Sunday can’t end until I’ve written a blogpost on my website. I just try to be disciplined and consistent that way. All the other things I have, the social media channels, the YouTube channel for instance, I recently became more disciplined with that. So, I decided I’m going to do a vlog every Sunday as well. Usually I do the vlog first and do the blogpost afterwards. I’ve been keeping that schedule for the past month or so, I believe. So basically, it comes to buckling down and getting it done and getting it on a schedule so that it’s actually concrete. You actually see it on a page or on a screen or however you keep your schedule. You see that this that needs to be done and you just make sure that you do it.

Q: What motivates you to work hard in your career and life?

A: Well, I kind of like having a roof over my head and roof to eat so that’s a big motivator for me- not being homeless. More than that, it’s basically being able to do the work that I want to do. So, for a number of years I worked for companies. I know I said earlier that my first job was working for a start-up in the Boston area as a research associate, and after that I went onto other jobs as a product development engineer, but they were always jobs working for others.  When you work for others you are beholden to what they want you to do, and eventually I grew tired of working on things others wanted me to do, and I really wanted to work on things that I wanted to do. So maybe a year ago I decided that I was going to go into business for myself as a patent agent, taking the types of cases that I wanted to take. The inventions that I found interesting I’d work on. When it comes to writing, blog posts are one avenue. I write sometimes for the San Diego Business Journal on various topics that are applicable to start-up companies since I worked for a couple start-up companies. Basically, carving my own language and my own niche. So, what motivates me is working on the types of projects that I want to work on and being able to be sustainable doing so.

Q: Any last words of advice?

A: I think I already mentioned this, but I think it bears repeating especially for those who aren’t really sure what they want to do. I mean I mentioned I wasn’t even sure about engineering until I was close to ending high school. So, I was in the same boat as a lot of the people affiliated with Gladeo. And as I said in this day and age it’s so much easier to seek out people who are doing different types of jobs and basically picking their brains about these types of jobs to see if that’s something you’d be interested in doing. It doesn’t cost all that much to do, all you need now is typically nowadays is just a laptop and an internet connection and there you go. And you’re off and running. I wouldn’t be afraid of doing that. As I said before, people are typically keen on talking about their jobs especially if they like their jobs. I wouldn’t want to spend too much time talking to people who don’t like their jobs. You want to talk to people who enjoy what they do, and it will help you clarify what you want to do later on in life.

By Daniel Nguyen


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