January 13, 2014

ENVS Blog: Alum’s Transition after Graduation

Dick Fink (‘12) describes his experiences post-graduation and his transition into a new field of music and advertising.

Dick Fink (‘12)


As I traded the maze of stacks in Watzek for the maze of life outside of school, I had very little idea of where I was going or what I was doing. The summer following graduation, I successfully delayed real life decisions by securing a job as a camp counselor at a summer snowboarding camp on Mt. Hood. Let me assure you, there is nothing to take your mind off of the real world like snowboarding all day, and playing dodge ball against 15 year olds at night. My knowledge of Oregon’s geography and environmental history led to some interesting conversations on chairlifts, but I was mostly glad to have some respite from the thesis grind (to all of the seniors, it DOES end!).

Once the summer ended, I packed my life into my car and drove down the coast to my home of Los Angeles. After watching a lot of Mad Men my senior year, I got the idea that the advertising industry looked like a fun thing to try out because – well why not? By asking around I found a family friend’s wife who was a storyboard artist, and landed an internship at a company that produces TV commercials. I learned a lot about production and even got to help out on some sets; it was a fun taste of Hollywood, but it also showed me that I didn’t really want to be in that world.

After a few months of interning at the production company, friend told me about an internship position at a tech startup in the music industry. Music and technology were two large passions of mine so I sent in an application, and with his recommendation landed a position where I mailed concert tickets, communicated with venues and irate fans, and just did whatever needed to be done. After six months of grinding and hustling, they offered me a job leading up a new online advertising initiative, which is what I’m currently doing.

It would be fair to claim that my post-college experience had very little to do with rural food deserts, carbon trading schemes, solid waste in India, or any of the topics I studied at school. What I’m using from my experience as an Environmental Studies student is all of the things I found tedious at the time. For example: I used Google Sites to make a collaborative help-wiki for future interns, I understand my boss when he talks about independent variables and p-values, and while presenting my concentration to the steering committee was tough, I now consider it as training for the presentation to the board of directors.

Looking forward, I’m applying to an interdisciplinary design program. The ENVS program’s view of the world as fully interconnected has really influenced my decision in post-graduate programs (as opposed to a business or law degree). I don’t know that standing in a near freezing river for geology lab or debating the morality of NIMBY will be directly useful to me anytime soon, but I know that being exposed to so many different ways of thinking has left me with the confidence to jump in and figure out complex problems with both quantitative skills and qualitative grace.