Life After University of Nevada, Reno – Jaime LeQuin’s Four Year Journey to a Silicon Valley Start-up
DUBLIN, CA–We continue our Life After College series of articles by following up with Dublin High School Class of 2012 alum and University of Nevada, Reno Class of 2016 graduate Jaime LeQuin. Jaime contributed an article to our Life in College series after her junior year. Since that article Jaime has successfully graduated in four years, earning a B.S. in Business Information Systems, and secured a full-time project management job with a Bay Area start-up. We met up with Jaime to learn more about her college experience and transitioning to the real world.
OneDublin.org: As a recently graduated University of Nevada, Reno alum, what are the top three reasons you’d recommend UNR to other students?
Jaime LeQuin: “First, I love being outside so being close to Lake Tahoe and being surrounded by mountains was terrific. The UNR campus is beautiful – I loved just walking around campus.
“Second, the people at UNR are really good, genuine people. I found UNR students not only cared about their education but also have balance between school and activities outside the classroom.
“Third, I was able to get into every class I needed and wanted. I never felt limited or restricted. Being on top of my plan helped and I was never in a scramble for securing a class I needed.”
OneDublin.org: How did your academic experience at the University of Nevada, Reno change as you transitioned to upper year classes?
LeQuin: “The upper division classes are more dense and complex, and require a lot more effort. There are also more group projects that require working collaboratively with other students.
At the beginning of upper division classes, or when a new component was added to a project, it was often very daunting and I wondered how I was ever going to be able to understand how it worked. But by putting in the extra effort to visit professors during their office hours, and spending extra time in the computer lab working through the difficult topics, I eventually got to the point of really understanding the content.
“I found this to be a good lesson as I’ve entered the real world because challenging things come up on a daily basis. Being able to look back at all of the challenges I was able to get through during college gives me the assurance that I’ll be able to get through any task that comes my way. It is very rewarding to look back at things I once thought were extremely difficult and feel confident in my ability to work through new tasks/content.”
OneDublin.org: What advice do you have for students who want to stay on track and graduate in four years?
LeQuin: “I found it very beneficial to periodically review the checklist of classes I needed to take to satisfy the requirements for my major, and know when those classes were offered. In my case there were several classes that had pre-reqs (fall to spring sequences for example), and if you didn’t take classes with that in mind you could find yourself unable to enroll in a class you needed.”
OneDublin.org: What resources did the University of Nevada, Reno offer to help you with schedule planning?
LeQuin: “The UNR College of Business has class checklists for every major and minor, and they are really good at ensuring students pay attention to those checklists. UNR requires use of the My Planner feature in the LMS [learning management system], and periodically a hold is placed on your planner until you’ve met in person with your counselor.
“I also took online classes every summer to balance out my workload, and was able to fit in those credits while working at internships.”
OneDublin.org: You’ve decided to pursue project management for your career. What is project management, for someone who is unfamiliar with the profession?
LeQuin: “Project Management is being the person who knows what is going on with every component of a project. You have to know what your team is working on, the deadlines, what’s required from the stakeholders, the critical path and what’s required from the client. You are responsible for helping the team stay on track to make the client happy. A good project manager knows what is going on and what’s important so that nothing falls through the cracks. If a project manager forgets one little thing it can blow up in your face.”
OneDublin.org: That sounds potentially very stressful. Is that the case and if so how do you manage the stress?
LeQuin: “It is stressful, but it comes in waves. As with working towards any deadline you have to be aggressive about getting the highest priority tasks done first, and to tackle the biggest and most complex issues early. You want to leave bandwidth for the inevitable surprises at the end by getting the known complex challenges out of the way early.”
OneDublin.org: What gets you excited about project management?
LeQuin: “I love project management because I feel very productive in my role. It’s really rewarding to see how your work adds value towards an end product. I also enjoy working with many different people; I’m constantly interacting with the engineers who are building the product, my boss and even the CEO. I’ve had an opportunity not just to work with many people but to get to know them personally, which helps me anticipate their wants and needs.”
OneDublin.org: What did you learn from internships and how did that set you up for a full-time job?
LeQuin: “The most important thing with internships is to absorb everything you can from each opportunity. As a project coordinator during my internships I had a chance to work on many different tasks – from helping with projects to planning corporate meetings and events. I was exposed to many different elements of planning through small and larger tasks.
“My opportunity to wear a lot of hats as an intern has really helped me now that I’m at a startup where wearing a lot of hats is the norm. I’ve learned that people respect you more when you are more willing to take on a variety of tasks rather than saying ‘that’s not my job’. You don’t want to get taken advantage of, but especially early in your career you want to be flexible and help out in any way that you can.”
OneDublin.org: You’ve spoken about how internships helped you prepare for a full-time job, how did academics help you?
LeQuin: “The academic side at UNR helped me tremendously. I took multiple coding classes as well as a project management class while completing my degree. I was exposed to the basic guidelines for PMP (Project Management Professional) certification, which I hope to get in the next couple of years. PMP certification is a combination of practical work experience and an exam.
“The coding classes have been tremendously beneficial for communicating with engineers. It’s really important at a technology company to have an appreciation for what is involved in building the product, and what is feasible. Taking coding classes has really helped me communicate effectively and articulate better questions when working with engineers. I also think being exposed to coding has helped me bridge the gap between technical and non-technical stakeholders, because both perspectives are really important.”
OneDublin.org: What was the trigger for taking coding classes, even though you weren’t planning to be an engineer?
LeQuin: “I decided to taking coding classes because I saw how technology is becoming a core element of just about every product, and how important it is to understand how technology works. I decided it’s important for me to acquire technical awareness; it was challenging but has been very beneficial. I highly recommend taking a programming class, it’s beneficial for just about every position.”
OneDublin.org: Now you are in the ‘real world’. What advice do you have for students who are nervous about finishing college and entering the real world?
LeQuin: “I started applying for jobs in January of my senior year. I knew I wanted to be in project management, and I also really liked the ed tech field, but I wanted to keep my options open. I applied for jobs all around the country and received a lot of rejection letters! I went through this process with a friend who studied finance and we joked about how many rejections we received. We saw how hard it is to get your resume noticed.
“It is really important to build and maintain connections because you never know if they’ll need your skills some day or know someone who does. Maintaining connections means you’ll be top of mind if they have a job to fill.
“In my case, I stayed in touch with my boss from my first year internship. She’s a tremendous mentor in my life. Earlier this year we caught up and I asked if she had advice or knew of any opportunities, and sure enough she had a project management position and was hoping I’d be interested.
“My advise is to not be shy! Reach out to your contacts and see if they know anyone who is hiring. I’ve learned that people really do want to help other people.”
OneDublin.org: What are the scariest and most exciting thing about the ‘real world’?
LeQuin: “The scariest and most exciting thing go hand in hand: you don’t know what to expect. The world is wide open to you after you graduate. All the way through elementary to high school, and even in to college, you are working to finish a semester or a year.College is a great introduction to the real world – you are out on your own, but still have a safety net. After you graduate there really aren’t any limits or finish lines.
“After college you have to figure out what is best for you. I think it’s important for people my age not to worry too much about comparing themselves with other people, especially on social networks. You should be proud of yourself and not get down on yourself by comparing what you’ve done with your peers.”
OneDublin.org: One last question, if you could go back in time to Dublin High School, what advice would you give yourself?
LeQuin: “First I’d say enjoy the time with your friends you grew up with in Dublin, because Dublin and Dublin High School are terrific communities. Second I’d say go after anything that interests you – take the time in college to explore different courses, majors and hobbies. I think it’s great to go to college out of state, or at least leave this local area, if you are comfortable doing so. Most important is to pursue what is best for you.”