THE MEATBALL LESS TRAVELED
Wildcat alumni around the globe share unexpected career paths and the lessons that mattered most. Like you, they started at Arizona with curiosity. They dove into deep conversations and explored unique paths that led them to do what they love. Start your path here.
Lesson Learned: Creativity Takes Collaboration
If you've seen the movies Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, or watched Apple's Mac vs. PC commercials, you've heard just a tiny fraction of this Emmy-winning composer's work. Silas Hite, class of '03, grew up in an old mining town in Arizona and attended a one-room school. His parents were both musicians, and when he was 11 years old, he asked if them he could play the drums. "I just liked it,” shares Hite. "It was a common ground between me and my dad, who was always playing the guitar around the house."
When he came to the University of Arizona, Hite didn't know how he could thrive as a professional musician. He says, "I knew that to be a successful composer, I would need a combination of different skill sets. So, I took advantage of opportunities like KAMP radio and the School of Music’s recording studio to broaden my knowledge and meet like-minded people. With the help of my advisors, we crafted a custom degree encompassing the areas of Music, Art and Business."
Hite says knowing how to market himself has been critical to his success. "I am so thankful the University was able to facilitate my unique vision and help me achieve my goals."
Lesson Learned: Embrace Your Inner Entrepreneur
In the days before Basecamp, companies managed projects by cobbling together emails, spreadsheets and calendars, and hoping everyone on the team would figure out how to follow along. Then Jason Fried, '99, started getting feedback from clients of his company, 37Signals, who said the management system he’d developed was easy to use. Bingo! He put Basecamp on the market, and it quickly alleviated headaches for hundreds of thousands of organizations around the world.
Fried says his experience at Arizona and the Eller College of Management was instrumental in getting him to the place in the tech world he enjoys today. He put together a web-design business while still an undergraduate, and the University’s experiential classes "pushed me toward being an entrepreneur." They also helped him become comfortable following his own path. "I’m not built to work for other people. I’m an entrepreneur and that’s it."
Lesson Learned: Know Yourself. Trust Your Gut.
Take it from Susie Aminian, '03, now vice president of creative at beauty enterprise Bumble and bumble. "Do what you love. You're in control of reaching your goal."
These words were ingrained in Aminian's mind during her time at Arizona, where she loved her experience so much, she pursued two art degrees.
Aminian considers herself a visual storyteller, which started at a young age. She would make magazine collages and paint with her dad, who was also wild about art. At Arizona, she says, "It’s all about the professors." Some warned her not to get too sentimental about your work, while others emphasized emotion. "Having both sides was critical," she explains. "It kept your mind nimble and able to adapt, to see the big picture."
She also heard, "Fill your portfolio with the work that represents what you want to do," and "Show you’re a conceptual thinker — that was really great advice."
With her eye on fashion and luxury creative work, and despite having an unfinished portfolio, Aminian saved money, moved to New York and launched a career that spans work with icons like Diane Von Furstenberg, Philosophy and MAC Cosmetics. Today, she’s resurrected her childhood tradition and paints with two-year-old daughter, Mia. Aminian is inspired by "everything from the way she paints to how she views the world and reacts to life. Painting with her is one of my favorite moments of the day."
Lesson Learned: Your Future Career May Not Exist Yet
Today’s most important fashion trend isn’t animal prints or cowboy boots. It’s circular fashion, which encourages sustainability by working to eliminate the concept of waste. Claire Bates, a 2011 graduate from the Norton School of Family & Consumer Sciences, is part of the Sustainability Team at global fashion e-tailer, ASOS.com. Working at ASOS headquarters in London, Claire focuses on making circular fashion a successful facet of the company’s business.
Although it didn’t have a label at the time, Bates’ work in circular retail began back at the University of Arizona BookStore’s Student Exchange, a buying-and-selling business for used dorm furniture and supplies, which she developed in partnership with the bookstore’s director. “At the time we were creating it, the ‘circular economy’ wasn’t a buzz word, and I wasn’t aware that what I was doing would be a precursor to my current career.” Back then, retail studies rarely touched on sustainability, and Bates admits her awareness was a slow build. Through her supervisor, Bates was able to connect with and land an internship at Dillard’s. She also credits her classes for opening her eyes to the fundamentals of ethics in business and helping her define her own views on principled management.
But her most valued lesson? Her teachers’ belief that she and her fellow students “were smart, worthy and capable of accomplishing our dreams.”
Lesson Learned: Don’t Be Afraid of the Unknown
Since graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in East Asian studies and economics in 2013, Anthony Orlando has dedicated his life to helping others. It’s a journey that has taken him across three continents in just five years, with stints in China, Malawi and Sierra Leone.
"I always joke that I know what it’s like to be out of your comfort zone and be confused all the time,” Orlando says. “But you can’t be afraid of the unknown."
Most recently, Orlando lived in Freetown, Sierra Leone where he worked as a consultant for WARC Group, helping people move from subsistence farming to profitable commercial agriculture.
In a country where 96 percent of farmers are below subsistence level and cannot grow enough food to feed their families, Orlando’s work has begun to spark change.
"I've always wanted to contribute to the world by making it a better place to live," he says. "The work I do now is fast-paced and very often frustrating, but one that I’ve found to be incredibly fulfilling."