Today’s Defectors contributor post comes from Wimer Alberto, Director of Campus Partnerships at GradGuard. Not sure what we’re doing here yet? All is revealed here.
It has been six months since I decided to leave my job in higher education and step into a student-affairs aligned role as the Director of Campus Partnerships at GradGuard. I’ve learned a great deal about myself and the field of higher education over the past six months. Although I have always been curious about what my career could look like as a Defector, I would have never envisioned that the transition would happen at this point in my career. Looking back on it, I am very glad that I decided to take a leap of faith and follow what my heart was encouraging me to do.
Prior to my job at GradGuard, I worked in various functional areas within residential life and housing for eight years. Enjoyed my time working in housing, largely because I had opportunities to work with talented student affairs professionals and make a difference in the lives of young people. Student affairs is the place where I developed my identity as an educator; an identity which I will continue to hold onto today. However, as time went on, I began to struggle with one important question:
What do you do when something that was once a professional aspiration, is no longer something you desire?
That is the question I asked myself when I came to terms with the fact that I no longer aspired to serve as Dean of Students or Vice President of Student Affairs. While I did not have any concerns about my capacity to eventually grow into those types of roles, I did have some concerns about the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual toll that a role like that would have on myself and that people I love.
It’s not that student affairs became any less important to me. It’s that I started to prioritize the alignment of career and my personal life with the things that are most important to me.
At the same time, I knew that I enjoyed impacting the student experience, even when orchestrating the “behind-the-scenes” aspects that students never get to see. My identity as an educator was never tied to my position or title. It was — and still is —tied to my purpose, which is to serve others. In turn, in order for me to be truly prepared to make the transition from a working on campus to working at a company, I needed to come to terms with the fact that not only can student affairs professionals make a difference outside of the classroom, they can also make a difference working outside of campus altogether.
Amma Marfo captured this perfectly when she stated” I’d argue that a many people aren’t leaving the field, so much as they’re leaving campuses. This distinction matters”.
After I made this important mental shift, I was able to wholeheartedly look at my transition as something that was not only feasible, but also something that also aligned with my aspirations. My transition to GradGuard specifically was somewhat serendipitous. Part of our team is based in Phoenix, where I currently live. This prompted me to reach out to the team to see if they had any needs within the organization that I could fill, which evolved into a series of conversation and an eventual offer. The experience taught me a number of things:
- If you are thinking about making the switch to a company specifically, make sure you find one that has a value set that speaks to you.
- Make sure that the mission of the organization is something that you are excited to contribute to.
- Spend time with the people in the organization. Get to know what the organization’s needs. Ask yourself, “do I see myself contributing to the direction the organization is going in?”
Part of my current role consists of oversight over the day-to-day operations of the renter’s insurance side of the business, where I oversee software implementations, assist with business process development, strategic planning, marketing and operations. The other part of my role consists of university relations—ensuring that we are meeting the needs of our current housing partners, making sure the company is active in the higher education space, mentoring, presenting, consulting, and living out the values of the company through my interactions with higher education professionals who interact with students on the ground.
I can honestly say that I have never felt as fulfilled in my career as I do now. I get to work with brilliant people who genuinely want to make a positive impact in the lives of the thousands of students we serve across the country. I get to experience the higher education landscape from a lens that I would have never thought possible. Most of all, I am contributing to something larger to myself, in a role that challenges me to use my degrees and the competencies that I learned in higher education every single day.
Over the past six months, I have had many conversations with colleagues and friends that have asked me if I would ever consider going back to working in a university setting. To be honest, I would not rule it out. However, if I have learned anything in my most recent transition, it’s that you need to find an organization whose missions and values you align with, regardless of whether the organization is a non-profit, company, or unviersity department. Remember, your work matters but you matter more. And if you ever find that your aspirations are no longer things that excite you, that’s perfectly fine, as long as you are willing to look for something that does.
Wimer Alberto serves as the Director of Campus Partnerships for GradGuard. Prior to working at GradGuard, he served as the Assistant Director for Guest and Conference Housing at Arizona State University. He enjoys stand up comedy and he secretly dreams of coming up with a higher education version of “Impractical Jokers”. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to continue the conversation with him.
The Defectors (series 2) is sponsored by Presence. At Presence, we’re working to solve all of the higher ed problems you’ve always heard couldn’t be fixed. If you love asking questions, finding solutions to intricate problems, and learning about new people and places, we want you to join our team. Check out our open positions and apply today!