When I first considered doing a Shadow, I was studying abroad in Buenos Aires. A great many things happened to me during that semester, and just about as many questions, too, about where I’m going to be and what I want to do after Reed. Wondering how I was supposed to utilize and mold my Reed experience into something conducive to my future. Even the answer to what sort of field I wanted to go into was up in the air. These questions have only become more dire as I have been embarking on the last half of my undergraduate phase. So upon hearing about the opportunity Reed was offering students to shadow Reed alumni, I thought, what better way to help me examine this dilemma.
I didn’t know what kind of shadow I was looking for, besides looking for one where the person I would be shadowing could advise me on how to navigate the murky and amorphous decisions that I would soon have to make.
I had always thought of a career in teaching as an option; sometimes as my one an only option, and at other times as a backup should I never find anything better. As it were, at this point the playing field was level for all possible careers. I just wanted to know what careers were available and how one gets there. How do careers happen? For surely they are not always dependent on the linear development of one’s schooling, from grade school and higher education. Clearly, my problem was a simple lack of exposure to the realties of a career beyond the fanciful notions of stability and mundane complacency.
This winter, I spent a week working with Arun, Ranjan, two other Reed externs, and one Lafayette extern. Working from 3 continents, 4 time zones, and 5 cities, we met each morning (PT) by video call to try to build a web application through our collected efforts.
Arun and Ranjan are about 6 months into their startup, Gloopen Inc., which is an extremely versatile communication platform. Their guidance helped us simulate a startup experience.
Ziyuan Zhong shadowed at Tableau, a software company that helps people visualize, analyze, and share their data.
I went to Seattle on January 10 for my winter shadow, which spanned from Monday to Thursday. This shadow was probably one of the best experiences of my life. I learned how to use Tableau, how to give a presentation using Tableau and data analysis skills, and how to solve real-world problems using what I had learned at Reed.
This shadow consisted of three main parts. First, we shadowed customer technical sales calls. By listening to the conversation between the workers and the customers, I realized the importance of good communication between people, in addition to having mastery of the technical details. This motivates me to grasp every opportunity in the rest of my academic life at Reed, and to practice my oral skills and communication skills.
A Reed winter externship program participant, Pedro Henriques Da Silva, first year physics major, spent a week in Washington D.C. working with Paul Levy ’72 at Public Citizen Litigation Group
Paul Levy’s had a death in the family. He’d warned me this might happen, and now it has. I. Am. So. Sorry. And, in what will be a preview of his personality, he seems far more concerned with getting me all set up while he’s away, than I would ever expect given the circumstances. This is the beginning of an interesting and unexpected externship.
On the fifth of January I found my way to the office. I don’t know if it was the D.C. cold or the nervousness of the first day, but somehow I stepped out of the metro station and failed to see the large brick building with the “Public Citizen” banner at the top directly across the street from me. So for several unnecessary minutes, I followed my smart-phone guidance back the way I’d come until I realized my mistake. Inside I’m met with history, determination, and originality. I speak to the nice lady at the front desk who calls Peter Maybarduk and informs him that an intern named Pedro was here. She then directed me to the elevator around the corner and to go to the Attic.
Nathan Martin '16, Assistant Editor at Works & Days, interviewed Jessica L. Benjamin '93, Senior Account Manager at Monster Worldwide.
How would you describe your career path? Do you feel it's been fairly straightforward, or more winding?
It's been fairly straightforward in that when I was entering college, I wanted to be a journalist, or a writer, then I found out how much journalists made, and that there was another career path for me. I was a Quest editor, which is how I got almost all the experience I used to get my first couple of jobs, and then I've worked in media, one type or another pretty much the entire time. Even when I was in law school, it was part-time, and I was working in media part-time to make money, and so it seems fairly straightforward. What's happened along the way is that newsprint is not a way for someone like me to make money anymore and so I made the switch over to doing digital media. Then I discovered recruitment advertising online, which is one of the areas where there is money to be made. So I was doing it before in the sciences, and then when the NIH cuts came, and there was much less funding in the sciences, then I went to go work for Monster.
Madeline Wagar ’16, Assistant Editor with Works & Days, interviewed William Vickery '10, Classics major and Senior Investigator at Mintz Group.
Tell me a bit about Mintz Group.
I’ve been working with Mintz since January of 2012. Mintz is a traditional private investigation firm specializing in corporate intelligence gathering. Clients contact us when they are interested in figuring out what their competitors are doing. Clients are often interested in looking into how other people in their field are using similar trademarks, or in figuring out who is the best to do business with in their field of interest. It’s a very diverse company. Our operations fall into three categories. The first is foreign relationships, so we are investigating corporations around the world and making sure they are reputable. The second category is disputes and litigations. This category contains a lot of white-collar work. It’s often employment related, or dealing with the Internet, tasks like website preservation. We try to discover what has worked successfully in the past. We also investigate employee misconduct, so we might come in after an employee makes off with $100,000 to figure out how they did it. We will put together a profile of how it was accomplished, and the client can work out a plan for prevention in the future.
Madeline Wagar ’16, Assistant Editor with Works & Days, interviewed Van Havig '92, Master Brewer and Founder at Gigantic Brewing in Portland, OR.
Why beer? Why brewing? How did you get into it?
I am a class of ‘92 graduate. At the time at Reed, there was the general feeling that what you do when you get out of Reed was go to grad school. So right out of Reed I went to a Ph.D. program in Minnesota, studying economics. I did that for two and half years and as I went through I lost faith in economics. I was interested in it as a social science, not as business. Then I realized economics wasn’t great as a social science. I dropped out of grad school, and I wanted to do something that allowed me to work more with my hands. I am a very mechanical person. I was still in Minnesota and I decided to try to get a job at a brewery.
Madeline Wagar ’16, Assistant Editor with Works & Days, interviewed Simon Max Hill '01, a self-employed Casting Director working in Portland, OR.
Tell me a bit about what you do.
I have a small casting company that does casting of all kinds. We don’t cast theater, but we do commercial, film, T.V., print, any kind of advertising or entertainment. Say you are a producer and you have a project that requires an actor or model. You come to us and say, “I need a guy who looks like a college basketball player. He'll have some lines, but not a lot, but he must be able to play basketball. What can you get?” And then we have a conversation about payment. In a way, we are a human resource company. For a very specific kind of human resource.
In the electronics lab, five guys huddle around an oscilloscope, a breadboard, and a computer. Writing code down to the metal, our circuit on the breadboard submitted to all of our orders, as servants to a benevolent king or to a ruthless dictator.
For a week I was an extern at Sigenics, a company that designs and supplies application specific integrated circuits (ASICs). Sigenics has two facilities. The main headquarters is located in Chicago and an additional branch is in Irwindale, California. I worked at the California branch with Douglas Kerns* (parent of Lydia Kerns, '16) one of the founders of Sigenics, Marcus, the senior technician, and fellow externs like me.
ASIC chips have many uses. For example, there are special ASIC chips in bitcoin miners, cellular phones, electronic sensors and timers. Companies and researchers contact Sigenics to make ASICs, or custom electronic parts for them.
Lydia Kerns, class of 2016
Reedies: Intellectuals in a purified form, dedicated to study and learning for its own internal value, blissfully segregating education from career, and proud to scoff when asked to justify their investment in learning with some claim to its practical application. For four years, Reedies live in a sanctuary where the transcendent value from the sharing of ideas is reward enough, and any mundane outcome of education beyond the pleasure of pursuing knowledge is of secondary importance. That’s the stereotype, at least.
The question, often posed by parents, “But what are you going to DO with that major?” may be met with a shrug or a sigh, but the undertones of the question carry the notes of a larger question, one that lives in the minds of Reedies and uncertain friends and family alike: How are you going to be successful?
The question is complex and subjective but also universal, held by a majority of Reedies and associated parties. What does it mean to be a successful Reedie? How can we make the most of our scholarship at Reed, staying true to our love of “learning for the sake of learning,” while also growing into individuals who can consider ourselves successful in the world beyond Reed?
BH: Erik, you’ve been in the trenches as an alumnus for a long time, trying to come up with great ways to facilitate alumni engagement with students. How do you think we’re doing today?
EAS: It has been about a decade since my own engagement with the alumni association moved beyond organizing chapter social events and my class reunion. That shift was motivated by a personal interest in helping students and alumni with what we’ve come to call “Life Beyond Reed.” Even then, I wasn’t alone in my interest, there were other people, on and off the alumni board, who had their own take on the topic.
Derek, can you give a bit of background about your Reed experience?
I got interested in physics in high school, and the decision to major in it at Reed was a bit arbitrary. At Reed, I was drawn to music, and spent a lot of energy there. After graduation, I spent a lot of time doing music, played in bands, worked hard to establish a career and finally decided that music wasn’t a life that I imagined being able to sustain. During the time doing music, I was in NYC, working a job I hated, playing music. The joints in my fingers swelled and I couldn't move them. I had a two-week period where I couldn't play. I decided to leave New York and headed to Los Angeles.