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Meet Aidan Sova.
As a transfer student to UM, Aidan drew on his unique life experiences to set himself up for success in the working world.
His tenacity, confidence, and preparedness earned him a full-time position at Google, after months of pointed career exploration, careful research, and interviews. Aidan believes the qualities that helped get him to his current position stem from his experience not only as a transfer student, but a liberal arts undergraduate:
“The transfer process was a hugely transformative one because I learned to be my own advocate. At a school as prestigious as U-M, you really have to be able to speak to what you bring to the table, whether that be in an academic or business setting. You need to identify what makes you unique and what makes you a contributor, and then articulate it. I firmly believe that I would not have arrived at this job if it were not for my time as a liberal arts student at the University of Michigan.”
Keep reading to learn more from Aidan as he shares his unique experiences and future goals with the Hub’s Employer Engagement Coordinator, Ashley Parker.
Ashley: Hi Aidan, thanks so much for meeting with me today, I’m looking forward to learning more about you! Start by telling me a bit about yourself.
Aidan: I'm thrilled that you all extended the invite. I have so much love for LSA and the Hub. In terms of my story, I’m an LSA alum who majored in Communications and Media. I graduated in ‘21, which feels crazy to even say. I spent my freshman year at another university. It was a brilliant institution, but I just found that I found the college community I was looking for in U-M.
I’ve been involved in student government and advocacy pretty much all of my life, as a result of growing up in a low income, single parent household. The community support that I received from a very young age really propelled my desire to give back tenfold, and that's what really drove my student government and advocacy work. So when I got to the University of Michigan, I really focused my time on being an advocate for students, and that has transferred over to my current position at Google. In addition to my role at Google, I'm a Human Rights Commissioner for the City of Ann Arbor, which is a very cool opportunity for me, and hopefully for our surrounding area as well.
Ashley: Give me a brief synopsis of your current role and the work you do with Google. Were there any courses you took in undergrad, at U-M specifically, that impacted your career decisions?
Aidan: At Google, I currently work as a Solutions Consultant, which means I consult other Googlers as a specialist in Google Ads. I train to establish an in-depth bank of product knowledge, work to creatively solve complex technical issues, and pull insights for optimizing client performance. My experiences as a liberal arts student were integral to my transition to full-time work because it nurtured a curiosity that guided my learning. I am now equipped to ask detailed, thought-provoking questions and provide out-of-the-box answers. A Hub class I took in undergrad, ALA 215: Preparing for Internship Success, aided me in identifying what career path could best lend itself to my skill-sets and interests. Additionally, my time in COMM 290: Public Speaking with Professor Jamie Moshin, pushed me to realize that I not only love external facing roles, but also interpersonal communication—and nurturing these passions have been hugely helpful in my role thus far. I firmly believe that I would not have arrived at this job if it were not for my time as a liberal arts student at the University of Michigan.
Ashley: You mentioned the Opportunity Hub was one of the reasons that solidified you wanting to transfer. Can you talk more about the research you did before transferring to U-M?
Aidan: I actually discovered the Hub prior to coming to campus while reviewing all my admission offers. During my first year of undergrad, I felt something was lacking in my professional development and I was really looking for schools that had more to offer in that realm, and immediately the Opportunity Hub came up and I was sort of able to use that to my advantage.
One of the questions you sent over was, “why Michigan?” Specifically as a transfer student, one of the top reasons why I chose to transfer to U-M was actually the Opportunity Hub. I felt U-M was truly a land of opportunity, and I knew I would be uniquely supported in a way that I couldn't at another institution in terms of internship opportunities and professional development. I was very focused on landing a job at Google, and getting into the tech industry within an organization where I could be creative and exercise many of my professional muscles. So I knew that I needed internships to adequately prepare myself for such a full-time opportunity. The Hub gave me a much welcomed push and was very helpful in identifying gaps and opportunities.
Ashley: Thinking about the skills you gained through your transfer process, which would you pick out as being assets to your current position?
Aidan: The transfer process was a hugely transformative one because I learned to be my own advocate. The difference between an undergraduate application and a transfer application is identifying these key areas in your application: I would like to apply, here are my stats, here's what I've been up to the past year or two, and here's why I'm looking for a transfer. I found it's not good enough to just say this university is a good one and I'd like to be a part of it: there has to be specific ways to contribute to the campus community. At a school as prestigious as U-M you really have to be able to speak to what you bring to the table, whether that be in an academic or business setting. You need to identify what makes you unique and what makes you a contributor, and then articulate it.
I think that I've always done an extremely good job at being my own advocate, but this was a level I was unused to; I had to learn how to craft my own narrative. Even emotionally, it's a big deal to transfer schools; you've already spent 18 years of your life in your hometown and then you suddenly move for a year or two to somewhere that's unfamiliar. And then you decide to do that again, so it's a huge transition. So even the emotional aspect of that transition was educational for me, pushing me to recognize that change is ever-present, and something that I will continue to face in my foray into adulthood.
Ashley: Absolutely. What advice would you offer other transfer students as they explore and define their professional identity?
Aidan: As a transfer student, you're able to leverage community power. I found that when I was applying to Google, all of my previous undergrad connections and U-M connections were utilized. I was proactively outreaching before applying to Google by setting up informational interviews, résumé feedback and just general conversations about how to stand out as an applicant. I would encourage people who are transfer students not to just immediately drop the first institution and all that you learn there and all the people that you met because they can be helpful to you. Moreover, continue to contribute to that community as realistically as you can and keep cultivating those relationships in order to leverage both of them.
Ashley: Is there anything you’ve learned that companies especially value about the transfer student experience?
Aidan: What’s so unique about transfer students is that they develop community in two places by the time their degree is finished, which allows for a more diverse perspective going into the workforce. Furthermore, transferring takes a lot of guts. I think that being a transfer student speaks to the fact that you can be successful in two different areas. So, if as an employer I put a transfer student employee on a project in addition to their usual responsibilities, and I switch them quickly, I know that they’d be somebody who could handle it, because they've handled the bigger transitions before.
Ashley: I love that. So we talked a lot about your transfer student experience, but I'd love to hear more about your exploration of working at Google and in the tech industry as a whole. How did you explore career opportunities in undergrad?
Aidan: I knew that I had a very specific desire to showcase my skills and what I was best at. So I began by looking at a macro level and asked myself: “what are some industries that could help me do things I’m looking to do?” I love public speaking, fast-paced environments, and places that can challenge me intellectually and where I can give real feedback and see it implemented in real time. So those were things that I knew I was good at, and knew I wanted to continue developing my skill set in the future. So based on my interests, I identified three potential fields: law, public policy, or tech. I quickly found that for my day-to-day and for a 40 hour work week, tech seemed great in that it would offer me the avenues to develop those skill sets and have the flexibility to develop those other buckets that I mentioned.
I started to break the exploration process down further by identifying specific companies that I was interested in working at. I identified Google’s company values and became enamored with their mission, quickly realizing it was an organization I'd love to be part of. Then, I started networking like crazy by sending messages to employees. For every 100 messages I'd send, I’d get 5 responses, and that was on a good day. To clarify, when I say networking, I don't mean just cold calling Google strictly; I mean that I had pre-existing connections and all I had to do was further cultivate the relationship, as opposed to trying to forge something new.
Getting into Google was very hard; it took a lot of preparation and it was a very rigorous process. I interviewed two to three times over the course of many months. I spent many, many hours independently researching and demystifying the recruiting process, identifying the type of candidates they're looking for, and what type of skill-sets one would need to be successful on the job. So, if I could offer any advice it would be to do the research. Work independently to demystify the process in which you're applying.
Ashley: What do you think ultimately helped you decide that Google is the company you wanted to work for?
Aidan: I had a close friend prior to transferring who had worked for Google. He talked all the time about the people and culture of Google that made it very appealing to me. He would always say that everybody is so interesting, exciting, sincere, and genuine. During my many many calls, emails and conversations with Googlers on LinkedIn, I felt that in every single interaction. They were so sincere and so kind hearted, that I knew that I just wanted to try and be a part of that, whether it was for a short-term internship or a long-term full time role.
Ashley: And lastly, what's next for you?
Aidan: So right now I'm at Google, it's going extremely well. I love my role, the team, the opportunity, the company. I'm having a great time there. In January of 2022, I'll start my master’s at the University of Pennsylvania. It's a Master of Liberal Arts in American Studies, at least for the moment. The motivativation for American Studies specifically is because I do have political aspirations. I currently sit as a Human Rights Commissioner in Washtenaw county, and I find that with American Studies, having that historical context to make informed accurate decisions on the behalf of many is hugely powerful. I had the ability to write legislation on behalf of the Human Rights Commission on a statement against the anti-Asian hate that happened. As I was writing it and researching what was necessary for that legislation, I was reading a lot of things for the first time. For me that felt unsatisfactory, like I was doing many people a disservice through my ignorance, and so I really feel like American Studies will help offer me the historical context I need to be an effective legislator in the future. I am so drawn to public service, because of all the community support that I received when I was a low income disenfranchised youth. So in my future, I'm really looking for avenues and routes to give back in a similar fashion. And I hope very much that I can continue to have these opportunities outside of Google.
Aidan’s Guide for Transfer students:
Be your own advocate. You already have the skills needed to succeed, focus on ways to showcase what you bring to the table and how you can contribute to the overall campus community.
Leverage your connections. Continue to cultivate new connections at your transfer institution but don’t forget about the ones you have already built. Aidan was able to leverage his connections from both institutions to land his opportunity with Google.
Do your research. Identify what specifically about the organization you are interested in attracts you most. Informational interviews ultimately helped Aidan realize the importance of organizational culture and how much Google emphasized it internally.
All good things come with time. Understand that application processes for majorly competitive companies take up to months to complete. Aidan spent his time in between interviews to continue to prepare focused on making himself a strong applicant.
Use your resources. Identify what resources at your new institution will aid in your success and use them. Aidan continuously worked with the Opportunity Hub to help identify opportunities, résumé work shopping, and coaching.
The Hub’s Approach to Career Exploration:
Student Groups - Identify one to two student groups that relate to your identity and explore the possibility of holding a leadership position. Use Maize Pages to browse U-M 1,400+ Student led organizations.
Campus Jobs - Campus jobs allow students to gain their first professional experience and can often be used as leverage during your hiring process. Check out the Student Employment site to browse on campus offerings
Most Impactful Courses - Choose classes, like ALA125 (first-years) and ALA325 (seniors), that allow you to actively explore the connection between your LSA degree, identity, and career aspirations. Click here to explore the Hub’s Applied Liberal Arts (ALA) offerings.
Coaching - Coaching is an opportunity to receive direct feedback and support from one of the amazing Hub coaches on career development, internship searches, graduate applications etc. Click here to learn how to schedule an appointment or find out more about drop-in hours.
Internships - An internship can help you explore career interests, build up your experience, expand your professional network, and increase your probability of finding meaningful opportunities after graduation. Explore summer internship opportunities still active on the LSA Opportunity Network.