Alumni Profiles in ACT

  • Deonarine Soogrim ’12, Graduate Student, Columbia School of International and Public Affairs

    What is your current role? 

    I am currently a graduate student at Columbia School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) where I am earning a Master in Public Administration (MPA). Before graduate school, I worked at the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs as a project manager.

    What was your major at Williams and how does it inform your career journey? 

    Studying Studio Art at Williams has informed my career journey through both where and how I work. I gravitated toward arts non-profit organizations after Williams because I wanted to stay connected with the cultural sector. I focused on organizations that created art in public spaces to connect studying Studio Art with my interest in service by providing opportunities to experience art that is accessible to all.

    In addition, the visual and creative problem-solving skills that I developed while studying Studio Art have been invaluable during my career journey. I found that the process for making a sculpture, for example, aligned closely with managing an initiative or producing an event. Studio Art majors know how to start with an idea, find and put together the parts needed, and finally make it real. I have applied this process in each role that I’ve held from small arts non-profits like the Wassaic Project to the City of New York.

    How does your liberal art education (including co-curricular activities) broadly inform your career?

    My liberal art education not only made me a well-rounded individual, but also gave me the skills to be an agile collaborator. I’ve often worked with people that have vastly different educational backgrounds, skills, and interests. My liberal art education taught me about how to ask the right questions, analyze complex information, and synthesize solutions when working with a complex array of stakeholders. It also helps me make connections between issues that are not clearly connected such as between the arts and government.

    Many of my co-curricular activities such as being a WOOLF Leader, JA, and captain of the ultimate frisbee team helped me develop invaluable leadership skills. Often times, particularly early in my career, I held informal leadership positions. Working with my classmates in these capacities prepared me well to help guide an organization toward making a decision or embarking on a new project.

    What skills, interests, and values show up in your work?

    Equity and inclusion and service often show up in my work. I joined the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs to create greater equity and inclusion in the arts sector. There I supported initiatives designed to increase partnerships between artists and municipal agencies, diversity within cultural organizations, and equity in funding for arts and culture. These lenses will continue to inform my work and career journey.

    Do you have any resources you recommend for students starting out in the field? Are there any experiences (courses, internships, research, etc.) that you advise students to explore?

    My recommendation would be to see where your interests and passions lead you! My career journey has been anything but straightforward or predictable. Each experience informed the next as I navigated my career after Williams. Look for informal mentors from those experiences to help guide and support your journey. These could be professors, colleagues, or managers that you have developed a relationship with.

    I would also recommend following organizations that you are interested in on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and wherever else you can find them! This is a great way to become more familiar with an organization’s work and to know when they have opportunities available. NYFA.org, Hireculture.org, and Americans for the Arts are also good resources for finding jobs in NYC, Boston, and across the US respectively.

    Connect with Deonarine on EphLink!

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    Shaheen Currimjee ’20, Associate Strategist, Sullivan

    What is your current role? 

    I am currently an Associate Strategist at a branding agency called Sullivan in NYC. I help brands in the financial and higher education industries tell their stories and make an impact.

    What was your major at Williams and how does it inform your career journey? 

    I majored in Psychology and French. I’ve always been drawn to understanding human behavior and what makes people tick. Both of my majors helped me explore those areas deeper. As a psychologist, I learned about how and why we make decisions through both classes and conducting original research in a psychology lab. As a French major, I was not only introduced to a new language but also a new group of people with different cultures, traditions, and ideas. Both these disciplines help me as a strategist every day because I am trying to understand how to connect brands with consumers, and at the heart of that is how to communicate with people.

    How does your liberal art education (including co-curricular activities) broadly inform your career?

    My liberal arts education at Williams allowed me to pursue passions outside of the classroom including being an editor for the Williams Record, a photographer for Humans of Williams, and a tour guide at WCMA. I’m so grateful for these opportunities as they taught me how to think creatively and connect with people outside of my academic circle.

    What skills, interests, and values show up in your work?

    My favorite part of my job is that I get to be a researcher of people and brands. I truly love digging into adverts and campaigns and figuring out what made them work and what made them didn’t. At Sullivan, there's dedication towards thoughtfulness and intellectual curiosity, both values which were instilled in me during my time at Williams. I’m also learning a lot about the financial industry and, as a recent grad, I appreciate the tips and tricks.

    Do you have any resources you recommend for students starting out in the field? Are there any experiences (courses, internships, research, etc.) that you advise students to explore?

    I definitely recommend taking advantage of Winter Study internship opportunities. Make sure you’re reaching out to folks on EphLink — Williams has an incredible network and we’re all willing to help and guide you! As an international working in advertising, I also recommend using We Are Next ]and Aliens in Advertising (shameless plug: a community I helped create)

    Connect with Shaheen on EphLink!

  • Garrett Welson headshotGarrett Welson ’15, Software Engineer, LinkedIn

    I'm a Software Engineer at LinkedIn, focusing on UI/frontend features on our Feed. I work on a small team and collaborate closely with designers, product managers, and other engineers. At Williams, I was a Political Science major and only ever did one semester of computer science right before I graduated. That one class sparked an interest in coding, which I carried into my first job after Williams. I wrote some small scripts that sped up some repetitive office tasks, and I recognized that I wanted to learn more. That led to some self-directed online learning, followed by a move across the country to enroll in Hack Reactor, which is a 3-month coding boot camp for people with non-computer science backgrounds. From there, I was extremely fortunate to get into LinkedIn's apprenticeship program, which led to my current role.

    It may sound cliche, but "learning how to learn" was one of my biggest takeaways from Williams and the liberal arts in general. As a software engineer, I often have to dive into new codebases I've never worked on before and try to understand how that whole complex system works and direct that understanding towards fixing a bug or building a new feature. For anyone looking to break into tech/software engineering, I would say that a liberal arts background is more useful than you might think. A lot of the job is about communication, documentation, and presenting ideas on how to build things — not just writing code. I would recommend taking at least a semester or two of Computer Science at Williams and then trying to build a small app or contribute to an open-source project on your own. The best way to learn to code is by doing it!

    Connect with Garrett on EphLink!

     

    Meg Nidever Neumann ’10, User Experience Director, Indeed

    What is your current role?

    I'm currently leading Indeed.com's Job Seeker Accelerator. We're a UX design team focused on design innovation and solving job seeker problems end-to-end across all Indeed job seeker products.

    What was your major at Williams and how does it inform your career journey?

    I was a Studio Art major! I spent most of my time at Williams in the Spencer Art building working on projects, which prepared me for time as a digital UX designer. I spend a lot of time bringing concepts to life–I'm just doing that in a slightly different way now than I was at Williams. I also spend a lot of time in critique, looking at what designers on my team are creating and giving feedback. Giving and receiving feedback about creative work is something that I really perfected in my major at Williams, and it's essential to my work now.

    How does your liberal art education (including co-curricular activities) broadly inform your career?

    I didn't know when I started Williams that I'd graduate as an Art major, or that I'd fall in love with Computer Science. Williams helped me discover these loves. Williams taught me how to explore, how to create, how to think. Professors like Amy Podmore & Barbara Takenaga (Studio Art), Duane Bailey & Morgan McGuire (Computer Science), Bernie Bucky (Theatre)–they are the reason I'm where I am today because they taught me to create, to question, and to understand how to work with people. At Williams, I learned how my love of creating things could intersect with my tech brain, and that's why I am where I am today.

    What skills, interests, and values show up in your work?

    Empathy is a major one. You have to be able to understand people and get in their heads to design interfaces that work for them. I think my theatre and teaching background are what I can thank for that. Also, a willingness to try things and fail often. So much of what I do as a creative is realizing when something isn't working and throwing it out, skills I got from Art and Theatre at Williams. And maybe most importantly, endless curiosity, which is something that was definitely nurtured in a liberal arts environment.

    Do you have any resources you recommend for students starting out in the field? Are there any experiences (courses, internships, research, etc.) that you advise students to explore?

    Try to engage both the analytical and creative portions of your brain. The best designers come from all kinds of backgrounds, so start by putting yourself in positions where you are able to create and observe and most importantly, fail. Fail publicly. Show work you feel proud of, and practice letting it go when it isn't quite working. Have others critique your creative work, and work through the feelings that arise. These are some of the most important skills you can learn as a person in a UX field.

    Practice drilling down to the root of what is causing a problem so you can solve it in elegant ways. Good designers don't take problems at face value–they explore and dig in as deep as possible to uncover the root cause of an issue.

    In terms of core skills, every designer should read The Design of Everyday Things at some point, so consider starting there. Then, there are some really great programs online. I've heard good things about Google's new UX certificate with Coursera, but haven't explored it too much. Figma, which is a design tool that my (and many other) tech companies are using now, also has some great resources. Once you get beyond basics, I love Brad Frost's Atomic Design to think through how pieces of an interface work together. For pure design practice, I like the Daily UI challenge.

    If you are interested in more formal learning, I can't recommend my graduate program (Carnegie Mellon's MHCI Program) enough.

     

    Sam Arons ’04 Director of Sustainability, Lyft

    What is your current role?

    I'm the Director of Sustainability at Lyft focusing on electric vehicle deployment and corporate sustainability, and previously was a Senior Strategic Negotiator for Energy and Infrastructure (a mouthful!) at Google focusing on renewable energy procurement.

    What was your major at Williams and how does it inform your career journey?

    At Williams I majored in Physics and did my senior honors thesis as a joint project between the Physics and Geosciences department on wind energy – namely, should Williams build its own wind farm, and what would the economics and visual impact be (find it in Schow if curious!). Having a grounding in STEM subjects from Williams has been very helpful in my career for understanding these novel technologies and setting me on my career trajectory focusing on the climate transition.

    How does your liberal art education (including co-curricular activities) broadly inform your career?

    Having exposure to a wide range of topics, and the flexibility to design my own senior research project, were super helpful in setting me on my path. The climate transition touches on so many disciplines – from science & math to economics, policy, and social equity – that having a broadly grounded education set me up to be ready to learn about all these areas and to continue learning beyond Williams as well. At Williams, and even more so in grad school, I got really involved in campus sustainability efforts and this led to direct hands-on experience that I could point to when interviewing for my first sustainability job.

    What skills, interests, and values show up in your work?

    I use many of the skills learned at Williams on a day-to-day basis, including quantitative analysis, writing and presentations, and teamwork. I get to live my interests and values every day working on the climate transition.

    Do you have any resources you recommend for students starting out in the field? Are there any experiences (courses, internships, research, etc.) that you advise students to explore?

    There's no one single way into the climate/sustainability world, and folks from all backgrounds and disciplines are needed. I think my biggest lessons are just simply, "follow your passion" and also importantly, "show up!" 🙂  I've found many connections and opportunities by simply getting involved in environmental organizations and efforts, not only on campus while a student, but also in employee interest groups at work, and in environmentally focused political groups in my "extracurricular" time after graduating. Some of these experiences and connections have led to collaborations, friendships, and even jobs!