You may not think of a political science student as a viable candidate at the engineering career fair, but Anthony Bushong made it happen. Originally from the Bay Area, Anthony Bushong started out at UCLA his freshman year as an environmental science student and considered himself pre-law, but within his first quarter, he had changed majors (twice!), finally settling on political science with two minors – in digital humanities and film. After taking a position in IT at the UCLA School of Law, Anthony eventually decided against a J.D., focusing his efforts on securing a future in the tech industry. After graduating in June, Anthony accepted a position at Oracle in Boston, a large multinational company known for enterprise hardware geared toward businesses that are currently making a shift to online software. Now, he works now as a sales engineer, thousands of miles away from the hills of Westwood and warm weather of Southern California. I asked Anthony about his UCLA experience and how it led him to where he is now.
Describe what you do. What’s your day-to-day like?
I’m a sales engineer, so I support sales reps who reach out to customers. When customers want a technical demo or more information beyond a sales rep’s technical knowledge, I come in and interact with the customer through online contact and webinars to get those potential buyers to close. It’s a mix of sales and engineering.
What specific experiences at UCLA, either academically or otherwise, have helped you in your career path?
The biggest influence on me was working at the IT department for UCLA’s law school. There, I was guided away from law school, seeing the competitive nature of law school and recruitment at law firms, and found myself more drawn to the team-oriented culture of tech. The hugest part of why I wanted to get into tech was the culture of the industry. There’s a lot of room for self-driven learning. I came from a non-technical background, and currently teach myself as much as I can through online resources. You can never teach yourself to become a surgeon by studying online, but you can definitely teach yourself how to build a website in HTML or CSS, or how to set up a test database. It’s up to you go out and take the self-initiative to do those things. I had no technical experience to get into tech as a poli sci major.
Would you recommend either the digital humanities or the film minor, or just doing a minor in general?
Although I’m not trying to say that my minors didn’t teach me any real-life skills, I thought the most important thing (in my experience) is that each minor exposed me to a lot of possibilities in each subject. Digital humanities won’t teach you how to build technical projects from the ground up, but it’ll expose you to the types of projects out there. If you do find yourself interested in something, you’re somewhat familiar with the subject. I would say the the same thing for the film minor. (By minoring in film) you’re not gonna walk away knowing how to produce a big budget Hollywood film, but you will learn the different aspects of every skill set that does come with film-making, from editing and cinematography to screenplay-writing and cinematography. I definitely would recommend a minor, just because they expose you to so many possibilities.
What opportunities or resources at UCLA did you feel helped with navigating the real world?
I never had any formal mentoring, but I always developed good relationships with my bosses and older friends, and looked to them for advice. My biggest mentor came from when I worked at a start-up, and I really developed a mentorship not only in terms of learning programming from my mentor, but also learning from them in terms of professional and life values. Finding a mentor, someone you admire, and learn from them and their experiences. Find someone you want to be like. See what they hold important, and try to emulate that.
What was your job search like? What would you change about it, if anything?
My job hunt was very short. I went to the engineering career fair, and I knew I was applying to sales engineering jobs based on former students who worked in IT at the law school with me. I got three interviews, and went through these processes. Of those interview leads, Oracle was the first to reach out, with a two-week deadline to accept. They gave me two options: San Francisco or Boston. I wanted to explore a different part of the country, so I decided to go with Boston, and ultimately, moving 3,000 miles away to Boston has just been as much of a learning experience as the job itself.
What advice, based on your experiences, would you give to graduating seniors this year on the job hunt?
I would definitely recommend going to the (engineering) career fair. Get there early! From other people, I know what the job-hunting experience is like without it being spoon-fed to you, like how it is at the career fair. Take advantage of the UCLA name. Firms at career fairs come to UCLA for a specific reason. When hunting for jobs cold turkey, they’re not necessarily looking for UCLA students. Why not take advantage of reputable employers specifically looking for someone like you? On a more general level, I have one specific piece of advice. Someone can build up as their resume as much as they want, but if you can’t speak to that, and market yourself in terms of how your experience fits within a company’s bottom line, then that’s the number one thing you should work on.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about the real world since leaving college?
The biggest change for me was the fact that a lot of what I learned in college classes wasn’t necessarily applicable in real life. I did learn how to critically think and problem solve, but compared to my co-workers who majored in (computer science), very little of it is. Another thing is lifestyle change. Getting into the 8-to-5, forty-hour workweek lag is quite difficult. In theory, you can imagine what it’s like, but I think (the lifestyle change) has been like jumping into a cold pool, most likely because I moved so far away from UCLA. The shift could just be me being out of my comfort zone in a much more extreme way than people who stayed in the L.A. area.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself coming home (to the Bay Area) after living in other great cities like New York and Chicago. Within five years, I want to come back to San Francisco with all that experience and work for a company like Google, or maybe Netflix or Venmo. It’s such an exciting time in tech, and the industry is an incubator for great ideas. As corny as it sounds, that’s ultimately why I want to stay in tech, because it has the potential to make people’s lives better. If I can make at least one person’s life better, I know I’ll have had an impact in the world, or at least, someone’s life. I don’t know! (laughs)