Meet Zak and Brent: July 2013 Student & Alum of the Month

Hey Aztecs! Hope your summer is going well!  It’s  time to meet San Diego State University Career Services’ two career-driven individuals of the month!  In this hot month of July, SDSUCS had the pleasure of connecting with two individuals who really set the bar for current students and alumni to follow.  Let’s get take a look at what they had to say about personal experiences and interactions with the job market and plans for the future.

Meet Zakary Dillon


Zak is attending SDSU for his first semester this fall.  He is a transfer student from San Diego City College and is interested in studying engineering.  After being part of the work force. Zak realized it was important for him to finish his education which is what drove him here to SDSU.

SDSUCS: How has Career Services aided you?

ZD: Well I’ve attended several different workshops this summer at SDSUCS that have connected me with employers as well as taught me a great deal of new things.

SDSUCS: Can you give an example?

ZD: Yes, I attended a majority of the Career University workshops.  When I went to the Technical STEM workshop, I was able to speak to an employer about starting an internship in the coming year.

SDSUCS: How would you evaluate the impact of SDSUCS?

ZD: I would say SDSUCS does a great job in really reaching out to different students and helping them work toward their career goals.  I’m glad I was able to come to the Career University workshops this summer and I plan to come to many other events put on by SDSUCS.

SDSUCS: What advice would give to students about preparing to enter the job market and in dealing with employers?

ZD:  My advice is to just go ahead and put your best foot forward and don’t be shy!  Make sure you are friendly and don’t be afraid to start up a conversation with people you don’t know.  I’m glad I took the initiative to come to the workshops held over summer, because I’ve made great connections that I know will help me in the future.

Meet Brent Polite

Brent Polite

Brent Polite is a recent grad of SDSU who landed a job at Hewlett-Packard (HP) who attributes his success to not only his hard work and dedication, but also to SDSU Career Services for helping him find his way and making jobs available for students to see via Aztec Career Connection.

SDSUCS: What is your current job title/position?

BP: Project Manager at Hewlett-Packard (HP).

SDSUCS: Is your job in the same filed as your major/minor?

BP: Yes. I chose to major in Business (Information Systems) and minored in Communication.

SDSUCS: How did you land this job?

BP: I invested in myself (Ed: see the table below for more on this) I check the Career Services website at least 3 times a week. I noticed that HP was conducting interviews one day, and I chose to sign up and give it my all. The interviewer was extremely impressed with me during the interview process and learned that I had the two most important attributes (in his opinion) ingrained within me: initiative and accountability.

SDSUCS: Which do you believe is more important? GPA or experience?

BP: Honestly… experience hands down. Get hired or intern in your industry of choice. Nobody cares anymore about grades. I have interviewed and researched best practices for about 8 years now, and one commonality that I continually hear time and time again is that grades and certifications don’t impress as much as experience and growth potential. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that certs and high grades don’t matter at all, because they do help. I have had over 15 different interviews in the last 2 years, and can you guess how many times they asked me about my GPA? Only once.

SDSUCS: What is some advice you would give to current students?

BP: I’ll give you a checklist of some things that I did — I had multiple offers from different companies (such as Qualcomm, HP, and 3 others) and am still receiving calls from companies who are speaking in terms of compensation on the initial phone call — and some outcomes that occurred because of it.

A Few of My Investments



Networked as much as possible

Met many people

Applied for 18 scholarships

Received 6, totaling $26k in 2 years time

Attended multiple Speed Networking Events

Added professionals to LinkedIn and kept in contact with them periodically

Shadowed Professional (CIO) Event

Got first hand exposure to the industry I was pursuing

Took advantage of every opportunity as they were presented to me (if none were evident, I sought out after them)

I got hired by Apple, created and polished a very attractive resume, and enhanced my interviewing skills at Career Services

Became an officer of an organization (AITP – Association of Information Technology Professionals)

Garnered effective leadership skills, and expanded my network

Found a student assistant position in my field of working in the SDSU data center

Acquired a plethora of knowledge and exposure to many different technologies

Took courses (A+, N+ CCNA, UNIX, and more) outside of my curriculum (Every Saturday for 8 hours) to get certifications

Expanded my knowledge and made myself more marketable

I constantly looked up positions in my industry and looked at their requirements

I self taught myself certain things by using tools like Google and YouTube

Took my education very seriously, and did my personal best in every class

Received the award for outstanding graduate student (special recognition at graduation ceremony)

   What I would love to stress is that you absolutely must invest in yourself. I’m sure we’ve all heard from generations before us that if we get good grades, study hard, that we will get a good job. That was true in the past, but as we all know, the economy has changed and continues to change every single day. So don’t think that just getting a diploma from college might be enough anymore to guarantee you a job in your desired career. Don’t believe me? Check out this article at The Atlantic Monthly from April 2012.

I will not ruin it by telling you what it is about, but go ahead and click on it and see what reputable sources are saying that has to do with each and every student’s future whether or not you are reading my words. Just read the title, and I bet you’ll be compelled to continue reading.

SDSUCS: What is some advice you’d give to recent grads?

BP: Well, what can I say? It’s too late. You have failed. No, I’m only kidding. Listen… I started college back in 2002, but was so petrified of public speaking, that I completely dropped out of college. I dropped out on the day that I had to give a speech. I joined the military for four years and didn’t come back to it until I was 25. I am now 29 years of age. Don’t ever think that you have failed, because you only fail when you completely give up.

    1. Think of failure as an essential step on the path you must take in order to achieve success. Because I found my weakness was public speaking, I forced myself to completely knock that out of my system by making it my minor. I eventually overcame it, and have become quite effective at communicating.
    2. People can always make the excuse that nobody is hiring right now, but let me tell you, that is not the truth. There are thousands, and thousands, and thousands of positions out there, but individuals are not qualified. What you should be doing is looking at these positions, looking at their requirements, and learning as much as you can of what they are looking for, especially the most common aspects.
    3. What I had to do because I stopped going to school for a while is that I had to make up for it by doing twice or even three times as much work as everyone else who was younger than me. No need to cry over spilled milk; just clean it up and continue to make sure that you are doing everything in your power not to spill it again in the future. There is a hidden message in here: The damage has been done, so make up for it.
    4. I want to leave everyone with this: You get out of life what you put in to it. If you don’t take life seriously, or you don’t change with this continuously changing world, it will leave you behind (take Blockbuster for instance… how many do you see around thanks to Netflix?).

In conclusion to these wonderful interviews, we hope that you learned not to be afraid to try new things and really take initiative to get what you want in life.  Zak and Brent are two people who stepped out of their comfort zone and looked what happened! If you want to come and talk to a career counselor about creating a strategic plan to start working towards your career goals, make sure you stop by SDSU Career Services at SSE 1200.  We are open M-F 8-4:30PM.


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