Monday, August 10, 2015

Cate McCraw (History, International Studies '11) Manages Portfolio of Potential Fulbright Scholars for The Institute of International Education in Washington, DC

What are you doing now professionally? Can you tell us about your job and long-term career plans?

I currently work in Washington, D.C. as a Program Officer for the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. My organization, the Institute of International Education, is a nonprofit that administers the Fulbright Scholar Program on behalf of the Department of State. 

Fulbright is an academic exchange and cultural diplomacy program, and it provides teaching and research grants to American faculty and professionals. I manage a portfolio of ten countries in the Europe/Eurasia region, and my responsibilities include recruiting, advising applicants, facilitating the peer review process, and collaborating with overseas colleagues to manage Scholar grants. 

What are your thoughts on the value of a liberal arts background, particularly history? How has your history major helped you personally and professionally? 

History courses challenge students to ask how the current world order came to be, and professors cultivate the writing, research, and critical thinking skills needed to develop thoughtful hypotheses. I have found these skills to be as valuable in the office as they were in the classroom. 

My current portfolio is focused on Europe/Eurasia, but in a previous position I also worked on countries in the Middle East/North Africa region. I’m extremely grateful to my History professors for shaping my understanding of political, economic, and social forces in those regions.

"Full disclosure: I am insanely biased in favor of the liberal arts as opposed to business degrees." Alex Tucker (History, '15) Discusses Her Recent Move to Chicago to Work for Volkswagen as a Regional Operations Analyst

LW: Tell us about yourself. What are you doing professionally now?

AT: My name is Alex Tucker and I recently graduated with a history degree from the University of Wisconsin. I recently moved to Chicago to pursue a career in the automotive industry with Volkswagen of America as a Regional Operations Analyst.

LW: How do you feel your history major/liberal arts degree has prepared you? (Professionally, personally...feel free to elaborate and get specific).

AT: My history major is the reason I'm employed in the first place! My junior year, I was lucky enough to take a Globalization seminar with Professor Colleen Dunlavy and spent the whole semester digging up as much about the history of Volkswagen's marketing strategy from 1949 to 1955 as I could find. By the end of the class, I was an expert in the subject and was able to translate that into my new career.

LW: What advice would you give younger history majors just getting started with the major and on the UW-Madison campus?

Riley Beggin (History, International Studies, '13), From Associate Editor at to Graduate School for Journalism

LW: What are you doing now professionally and what did you do in college to help prepare you for this professional path?

RB: I am working in writing and editing, and planning to pursue a Master’s Degree in Journalism at the University of Missouri. In college, I worked at The Daily Cardinal and WSUM as much as possible. After graduating, I worked odd jobs in Madison for several months and then finally made the transition to an editorial internship at MSP Communications, a content marketing firm in Minneapolis. Afterwards, I got a job in the same company working as an Associate Editor on Eventually, I decided journalism was the career path I want to pursue and applied to graduate school. 

LW: Can you tell us about your job, grad program, and/or long-term career plans?

RB: My job at Pillsbury was to create their weekly email newsletters, and help create recipes and collections for the website. It was a great opportunity to learn more about how web-first content creation works, and I liked being involved with the food industry. My grad program at Mizzou will focus on Investigative Reporting, and long-term I hope to report on politics and the economy. 

"History humbled me": David Meyerson (History, Computer Science '15), Software Engineer, Microsoft

LW: Tell us about yourself. What are your career plans now that you are a graduate?

DM: I'm 2015 grad and "Jeopardy!" enthusiast working as a Software Engineer at Microsoft and plotting for grad school.

LW: How do you feel your history major has prepared you? 

DM: History humbled me. I was a nineteen-year-old freshman who thought he had the world figured out (or at least mostly). The history major began to show me how complex the world really is, how inequality pervades in our society, and how we need infinite attention to understand it all.

LW: What advice would you give younger history majors just getting started with their majors and on the UW-Madison campus? 

DM: Take the hard classes - in the History Department and outside of it. The most fulfilling interesting experiences I had in undergrad came from courses RateMyProfessor said would be tough.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bryant Plano (History, History of Science, '13), Support Engineer at Zendesk

Tell us about yourself. What are your career plans now that you are a graduate?

Born and raised in Wisconsin, I'm a pretty simple guy. I enjoy reading, working out, playing video games and hanging out with friends. I had several majors while at UW-Madison, but my background in British naval history in high school really pushed me toward adopting my History major. I also have a passion for technology, and so my History of Science degree fits me too! As far as the career plan goes... that's a pretty big question. For myself - and many others - it isn't so much a "plan" as it is a path that you find and carve out for yourself. It's about finding the right opportunity to get you started and rolling with it.

Tell us about your current job.
I am currently working as a Support Engineer for Zendesk. Zendesk is a company which sells customer service software, and my main job duty is to ensure the product works well for our customers. To do this, I work to ensure that customer needs are met and bug fixes are completed by our developers. Most of this communication is done through our ticketing software (also called Zendesk) and email. 

In terms of my movement here at Zendesk, I started out as a Tier 2 Support Advocate just after I graduated from UW. The team grew pretty quickly, and management had been impressed with my work, so I was offered a Team Lead position about six months after I started. I was a Team Lead for roughly one year, and then I decided to interview for the Support Engineering position. I actually just got another promotion, to Mobile Engineer, which I will officially start on August 10th - a little more than two years after I started here!

Monday, July 27, 2015

History Alumnus Luca Brilli (May '15) Dishes About His New Job at Google

Tell us about your job. What are you doing now? What are your responsibilities at Google?
I am working at Google as a Support Specialist working on Google Analytics. I perform technical troubleshooting on behalf of our Analytics customers.

How do you feel your history major has prepared you? (Professionally, personally...feel free to elaborate and get specific).
I feel that my history degree fostered my curiosity and prepared me to be analytical. Historians are curious. They are constantly challenging explanations of the past by reanalyzing sources with a fresh perspective and incorporating new discoveries. Professionally, this means channeling my curiosity to create a deep understanding for my role. It also means analyzing how I do it and whether or not there is a better way. Personally, this means constantly learning new things through research about the most random of thoughts and connecting with people just by being genuinely curious about them.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Katy Berggruen (Art History), Summer 2015 Intern, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA)

Tell us about you and your story:  Coming from a family of engineers, choosing art history as a major came with a lot of questions about what kind of career it could lead to, but while completing my studies, I found that I am most interested in going into arts administration and working as a director at an art museum or gallery. The Art History major has not only prepared me by providing a foundational knowledge of art movements and styles, but it has also developed a range of useful skills for this field. After writing paper after paper, Art History really helps to develop your research and composition skills. It strengthens your visual analysis abilities and also helped my public speaking as I learned to develop and effectively present arguments for my papers. Personally, the major also pairs perfectly with my passion for travel; exploring museums and seeing the pieces you’ve only seen via PowerPoint presentation in person really brings your studies to life.

What advice do you have for current UW-Madison students in terms of taking advantage of all the resources available to them?: Don’t be afraid to talk to your professors. Go to their office hours, ask questions in class, or just introduce yourself after lecture. Office hours give you extra time to discuss topics that you are passionate about and can also add meaning to the classes that you might have less interest in. If I regret anything, it would be not going to office hours within the first couple weeks of classes starting. I also think it’s important to get involved early and be active in art-based student orgs or ones that have nothing to do with art – you never know what might pique your interest. Make sure you explore the larger Madison arts community, too. We are really lucky to have such a lively art scene right in our city, make sure you embrace it by attending art events around the city.