What's Next?

How Alums Found Their First Career Job

By Julia Siemens and Liviu Bird ’12 | Photos By Luke Rutan

You may hear us boast about our alumni who are the presidents of major corporations such as AT&T Mobility or who write international bestsellers, such as The Message. And, we can’t bite into a freshly cut fry from In-N-Out without thinking of its co-founder, Esther Snyder ’43. (Oh, Esther, you really did make this world a better place.)

But we know that level of achievement takes time. What about our young alums who still look the same as the day they donned their commencement gowns?

We caught up with three young graduates to discover what steps they took to get where they are now.

From Concessions to Career

At only 5 feet tall, Liza Gonzalez-Ramos never thought she’d work security. “I’m not particularly menacing,” she admits. But as a concessions assistant at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, Liza was asked one night to guard Carrie Fisher (best known as Princess Leia in “Star Wars”) from “crazy stalkers.”

“In theatre, you have to be flexible. You learn to improvise,” says Liza, who was a sophomore at Seattle Pacific University at the time. She originally thought of attending college in a small town, but is thankful she chose SPU, where she found her concessions gig at a job fair on campus. At Seattle Pacific, she also acted in several shows, and worked as box office manager and house manager. Those experiences prepared Liza for her current role as the front-of-house manager at Seattle Rep, one of the city’s largest playhouses.

Jerry McCollum, assistant professor of theatre, says that the ability to get drama experience both in the city and on campus is a unique part of Seattle Pacific’s program. “I came from the University of Washington, and it was hard for students to get actual work there. Here, we rely on our students,” he says. The Theatre Department hires 15 to 17 student employees each year, and is well-connected to other venues in Seattle where students find jobs and internships.

Liza enjoys being part of Seattle’s theatre scene, and occasionally does work for other venues. “Seattle’s theatre community is so tightknit,” she says. “It’s tough to imagine my life outside of that.”

From College Basketball to Professional Basketball

When a contract offer came from Ukrainian professional basketball team MBC Mykolaiv in late summer, David Downs moved half the world away to follow his dream.

“I had great experiences at home,” David says, “but I wanted to do something different.”

His professional pedigree became evident in college, where he twice led Seattle Pacific University in overall scoring, averaging 14.4 points per game over four years.

It took him a while to settle into Mykolaiv, a major shipbuilding center on the Black Sea coast, and a blue-collar town that supported its basketball team in droves.

“We had probably the best fan base in the league,” David says.

The Ukrainian Superleague — now, unfortunately, out of operation — was about as competitive as a first year player can get. While playing with the team, the former SPU point guard led the team with 14 points per game despite an ongoing adjustment period.

“It’s such a different style of basketball,” David says. “For a first-year player in Ukraine, I was doing pretty well.”

The most difficult adjustment? A brutal travel schedule. Ukrainian highways are in disrepair, and trains run slowly.

He recounted one two-game, 1,250-mile trip from earlier this season: It took 17 hours on the train to get to Hoverla, near the Romanian border, followed by a five-hour bus ride to Galichina, near the Polish border. Another 15 hours capped the journey, in which Mykolaiv won both games.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine didn’t make David worry about his personal safety, because Mykolaiv sits over 300 miles from much of the instability. But as the conflict wore down the economy, the Ukrainian Superleague was forced into a hiatus at the end of 2014. David returned home to Seattle for two weeks, and then another offer came from the Rhine Stars in Cologne, Germany. David chose to accept and flew to Germany on Monday, January 10, ready for a new adventure.

“It’s been really cool to go outside of my shell and experience something so different.”

From Startup to Big Business

In the past two years, Fabricio Turcios has had three full-time jobs (two simultaneously), and lived at six addresses — by choice.

Right after his graduation from Seattle Pacific University, he was hired as the community and media manager at a tech startup where he interned, called Zealyst.

“He was a dream first employee,” says Zealyst founder Martina Welke. “He came in with the dedication of a founder.” He also did AmeriCorps in Seattle at an organization called El Centro De La Raza, where he helped undocumented students get funding for college.

Fabricio says that SPU taught him how to think critically about gender and equality issues. During and after his time at Seattle Pacific, Fabricio has sought mentors who are women and people of color, because he wants to learn from those who have “had to be the firsts in their fields, families, etc.”

One of his mentors mentioned Fabricio to a friend who worked at Google, who then asked for an interview. “My entire interview turned to conversations on the intersection of social causes like feminism and technology,” Fabricio says. “I truly believe it was the multifaceted interests I maintained that led to a job offer.”

Fabricio was a marketing strategist at Google in Seattle where one of his first projects was to help find people for a Google Hangout with President Obama. “I love that I work for a company that allows anyone to have a voice, and in that way, it reminds me a lot of SPU.”

He now works in New York City, where he is an account manager for one of Google’s top 20 clients. “It’s pretty wild to be working with brands I grew up with to keep them relevant and innovative,” Fabricio says. “I try not to think of the hugeness of it all too often, as it totally wigs me out.”