“I just try to find companies I can work with and get real-life experience. But this is probably one of the more fun and interactive jobs I have had.” While Levi Ventura has a lot on his plate, being open to new opportunities has always been important to the senior graphic design major. Those opportunities have led to a string of successful internships, freelancing gigs and most recently, a job at real estate marketing service VRLY.
VRLY creates 3D maps of homes and other properties. Levi started there using his videography skills to make the scans for 3D tours. However, his role soon went in a more exciting direction. After talking with the CEO, Tyler Irons, about the company’s movement into marketing and branding, Levi mentioned that those were the areas he wanted to pursue in his career. The CEO asked if he would like to transition to doing graphic design and marketing full time instead of scanning homes. Being open to one opportunity invariably leads to another.
Levi enjoys the creativity and flexibility of his job. It has given him real-life experience in his area on a professional level while pushing him to develop new skills and pursue other avenues in the field. “I have really felt a part of the decision-making process,” he said. “ I’m helping to move the company forward brand-wise and design-wise. It’s not just designing a post or something random. It’s a real job!”
“Class has definitely transitioned into work,” said Levi. “In class, you learn stuff. We do tutorials; we read books; we do projects; we get graded. But the grade is just a letter. It isn’t really doing something. Seeing my designs get posted or having my ideas move forward in a meeting is empowering. They don’t just sit in a textbook.”
More importantly, the responsibility and trust given by his CEO have boosted his confidence and pushed him to go further. While at VRLY, he has been a part of several major projects, including the complete redesign and assembly of a magazine, content design for social media and the company website, and several major photo and video shoots. “Tyler trusts me to be in charge of things for him. I know I trust him, and he trusts me. It has been a cool experience to be handed the keys to something like this,” he said. Knowing that he is a part of the team and that his ideas and work are valued has also had a huge impact on him. “It has given me confidence that this is something I can do moving forward. I feel less timid about my future as a graphic designer,” said Levi.
While juggling work and school can be a hassle, Levi has not regretted taking this position. In addition to practicing his skills in graphic design, it has also helped him grow as a communicator and collaborator. “It has been a lot of working on my people skills,” he laughed. Additionally, it has given him the opportunity to make connections with people and organizations in his field. “It doesn’t matter how much Photoshop magic I know, I need to know the people who can get me a job!” he said.
At Union College, students in all majors are strongly encouraged, and most are required, to get involved in their field early through internships, practicums and other real-world experience. It takes learning to the next level and prepares students for a career in the real world, providing mentorship and building confidence in one’s skills and knowledge. And perhaps even more importantly, it can connect students to future possibilities and opportunities, setting them up for success beyond the classroom. Levi believes that students should always be open to and seek new opportunities whenever possible. “You’ve got to make connections. Make connections and listen,” he said. “Just knowing people is really big.”
— by Hannah Olin, a junior history education major from Illinois