MFYO – Sammie Ibrahim ’16

Today, we have another edition of My First Year Out!

Our featured grad this week is Sammie Ibrahim– she is the recipient of a Fulbright research grant, and is currently abroad in Kazakhstan! Since she went abroad after graduation, you could call this more of a “MFYO – Abroad edition.”


How did you get to where you are, and how did you get involved in your area of academic focus?

I applied for a Fulbright research grant the fall of my senior year with the encouragement and support of the UVM Office of Fellowships Advising and my academic mentors. I found out the following April that I was awarded the grant. Since November, I’ve been conducting research on labor migrant communities in Almaty, Kazakhstan.


Did you study abroad as an undergrad? If so, how has this experience been different?

I studied abroad my junior year in neighboring Kyrgyzstan for 8 months. There are a lot of similarities between my study abroad experience and my current Fulbright experience in the sense that both countries have a lot in common culturally, historically, and linguistically. However, I didn’t have the same struggles with culture shock or communication like the first time I traveled to Central Asia.

The biggest difference has been the amount of independence and control I have over my schedule on a day-to-day basis. When you study abroad, you generally have a structured schedule and a built-in social network and support system through a host-family, classes, fellow study abroad students, and your host institution. Since coming to Kazakhstan, I’ve had to build that structure and network completely from scratch, which has been frustrating and gratifying in equal parts. The beauty of a Fulbright research grant is that you are your own boss and there’s no one looking over your shoulder…at least for 10 months, that is.


What about your UVM Experience inspired you to continue your studies?

I was involved with several research projects related to migration and refugee resettlement during my time at UVM with Prof. Pablo Bose in the Geography Department. I’ve had longstanding interests in studying both migration and the Central Asian region. I always thought of them as separate and distinct spheres of interests in my mind, and I wanted to find ways to combine both of them through a Fulbright research grant.


What was your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge continues to be managing the logistics of field research. Developing connections tends to occur through word-of-mouth or simply knowing the right person (not unlike in the U.S., I’ll add). Email isn’t a terribly viable form of communication here, so I have to arrange all of my interviews and meetings by cold-calling or simply showing up at someone’s office uninvited. This process has pushed me out of my comfort zone, because I’m not an extroverted person and I’m loath to talk on the phone in English, let alone in Russian.

More often than not, there are a lot of dead ends and meetings that don’t go anywhere, and I’ve felt like, at times, it was difficult to establish a steady momentum of progress. I try to deal with these frustrations with combination of patience, humor, and creativity when things seem stalled. I also think learning to be flexible and adjust my expectations was important. There’s nothing I love more than a 10-point plan and well-organized schedule, but those things are often incompatible with the realities of qualitative or ethnographic research.

On a more mundane level, another challenge is simply daily life in a non-English-speaking country like Kazakhstan that operates with its own set of logic and rhythms. Basic tasks like paying your utilities, going to the doctor, calling a plumber, dealing with an electrical outage, etc. can suddenly seem like insurmountable feats of language and negotiation. I like to think of myself as a competent and self-sufficient person, but I’ve definitely had to swallow my pride a few times and ask for help with the most basic things. Much like the challenges of field research, patience and a good attitude can go a long way as a foreigner living in Kazakhstan.


What’s Next for the Class of 2017?

With graduation coming up this weekend for the class of 2017, it’s an exciting time to check in with a few seniors to find out what their plans are for next year.

You all might remember where you were at this time a year ago; excited or nervous for the unknown of post graduate life, or just thrilled to finally be done with exams.

To add some perspective to your own experience, I thought it could be helpful to take a look at what these seniors are going to do during their first year out.

What are your plans for next year?

I will be moving to South Africa for the Peace Corps, where I will be living in a rural community and working in a primary school.

How did you arrive at this decision?

I’ve wanted to join the Peace Corps since high school. I knew that I wanted to travel or do something unconventional after graduating UVM so I decided to go into the Peace Corps!

What are you excited about regarding those plans?

I am really excited to gain a new perspective, and have a global experience right out of college. I think experiencing a new culture and way of life, while working with children, will be really powerful learning experience. I am excited to see how this new experience changes my perspective on education and the way I work with children. I’m excited to gain new understandings of how other cultures and children value education, and how I can bring in new motivation into my future classroom.

What are you nervous about?

Although I can’t wait to move abroad, I’m nervous for what I’m leaving behind. I love change, and moving around, however I’m sad to leave my friends and family for two years. I think a lot can happen in our lives as we enter the “real world”, and I wish I could be experiencing this transition with my friends.

What will you miss most about UVM?

I think I will miss the friendships that I’ve made at UVM the most. Because I am moving to a new country, I’m unsure of the next time I will see my friends, which is quite sad and a bit surreal. I also feel so privileged to have gone to school in a state as beautiful as Vermont. I will definitely miss hiking in the Green Mountains.

What are your plans for next year?

I am hoping to get a job working in a brewery in the Midwest, and I am thinking of going to brewing school in the spring.

How did you arrive at this decision?

I became interested in brewing through my minor in microbiology, particularly after working with yeast in the lab. I started brewing at home and took the brewing in food sciences class which helped me learn more about it.

What are you excited about regarding those plans?

I am hoping to one day open my own brewery in Chicago or Milwaukee and am looking forward to getting experience working in brewing the next few years.

What are you nervous about?

Getting a good job mainly, and deciding if brewing school is the right choice.

What will you miss most about UVM?

My friends, and the scenery. The mountains are a lot better than the flatness of the Midwest.

What are your plans for next year?

I am moving to San Francisco to work at Accenture as an analyst, job details are to be determined.

How did you arrive at this decision?

I interned at Accenture the summer after my junior year and really liked the work. At the end of the summer I was offered a full time job and requested to be located in the San Francisco office despite having interned in my hometown of Philadelphia (I was feeling adventurous that day)! Much to my surprise I was offered a spot in the San Francisco office and decided to take it! It is kind of a big leap but I have always wanted to know what life is like out west and there is no time like the present!

What are you excited about regarding those plans?

I am really excited to see what the West Coast is all about. I am specifically looking forward to the moderate climate, the chill vibes, and the access I will have to so many of the country’s national parks and natural attractions!

What are you nervous about?

I am nervous about being far from home and moving to a city where I don’t know anyone!

What will you miss most about UVM?

I know I will miss Burlington and the sense of community I feel here as well as the flexible life style of a college student! It is still TBD if I will miss experiencing all four seasons (specifically winter)!

What are your plans for next year?

I plan to attend Millersville University in central Pennsylvania to get my Masters degree in Social Work. My hope is to intern at the VA during that time.

How did you arrive at this decision?

I went back and forth for a long time trying to decide if I wanted to go into the field straight away, take a gap year before graduate school, attend seminary, or go straight back to school. Eventually I decided that going to graduate school right away made the most sense for me financially.

What are you excited about regarding those plans?

I’m most excited about the opportunity to work in the field of my home community. I think I’ve grown and changed a lot through my four years at UVM, so it’ll be interesting to take all that back to where I grew up.

What are you nervous about?

I’m most nervous to find real community again. UVM has provided me with so much structure and support, that it feels impossible that I’ll have that again.

What will you miss most about UVM?

I’ll miss the culture of UVM for sure. It’s an incredible place and the people really make it.

What are your plans for next year?

Home to Maine for the summer and then going to grad school – Master of Medical Science Degree Program at UVM

How did you arrive at this decision?

Lots and lots of thinking. Decided I want to stay in Vermont and continue learning new things.

What are you excited about regarding those plans?

I’m excited to meet new people and stay in Vermont another year.

What are you nervous about?

Taking rigorous courses and finding a good place to live next year.

What will you miss most about UVM?

The interesting people.

What are your plans for next year?

Stay in Burlington for the summer doing part time graphic design projects and working as a hostess.  Then save up money and apply to programs to either Wwoof in New Zealand or teach English abroad in Russia.

How did you arrive at this decision?

I knew I wanted to hang out in Burlington for at least a bit post-grad, so when this graphic design position was offered to me as a summer gig, I jumped at the opportunity.  I am half Russian and have a deep desire to travel around before settling down so that’s where the Wwoofing and English teaching ideas came from.

What are you excited about regarding those plans?

Very excited to spend another summer in Burlington and see more of the world!

What are you nervous about?

Actually being financially stable enough to pull off my plans (..ha)

What will you miss most about UVM?

I will really miss the sense of community and security from all the connections I’ve forged here over the years.  I will also miss the reckless abandon that being a college student enables me to have.

What are your plans for next year? 

I chose very early on in the year I wanted to stay in Burlington, before I had a job lined up. There’s just something special about this town and I don’t feel ready to part with it quite yet. And I will be working at a local shop part time but I’m still keeping my options open!

How did you arrive at this decision? 

I think the great thing about Burlington is that even though it is a small town, there’s always something going on and something to do, particularly in the live music scene. I also think it’s a great stepping stone, for me at least, to ease into the real world. I already know my way around and a lot of my friends are sticking around for the next year too.

What are you excited about regarding those plans?

I’m excited to start my new job and learn more about local Vermont artists and just meeting new people too. I’m also looking forward to staying here over the summer, living with my current roommate Niky.

What are you nervous about?

I’m nervous about a lot of things, but right now I’m worried about tripping on stage when I go to collect my diploma.

What will you miss most about UVM? 

From the day I came to UVM for admitted students day, I immediately felt so welcomed into this community, and that’s exactly how I felt with so many of the professors here. I am so grateful to have had professors that have truly inspired me academically and in general and those who I have formed good relationships with. They have been a huge part of my happiness during my time here. That and also just constantly being surrounded by so many positive and genuine people.

Get Off the Pile: Itchin’ for a New Position Edition

This week on Get off the Pile, we checked in with two recent grads who have taken steps to begin work in a new position after one year at their respective jobs.One person has successfully moved up in the company, while the other is searching for a new location to work.

You may have had some of these same thoughts in the last few months and we are here to let you know that it is pretty common to feel like it is time to spread your wings and try something new. We hope this week’s post will give you some helpful perspectives on how to approach what’s next.

Graduate #1 – Moving up in the company

Share a little bit of background on what you have been up to/ what the job is like etc.

I have been working in tech sales for a large company called Salesforce for the last 9 months! I started out as a Business Development Apprentice, outbound prospecting for 13 Business Development Reps (BDRs) and managing contact lists for over 100 accounts within the Financial Industry. My job was to work on projects with the BDRs to find high level decision makers to reach out to within the companies they worked with, to position Salesforce products.

After 6 months of collaborating with BDRs and various managers, I interviewed to start a brand new Sales Development team in our New York office. I am one of six founding member of the first SDR team in NYC and it’s an honor. We make about 50-80 calls a day and find out how Salesforce can help various businesses grow and connect with their customers in a whole new way. It’s been an outstanding experience for me to gain business acumen and some of the best coaching in the sales world.

When did you start feeling like it was time to make a change?

My contract as an intern lasted for 6 months and then I was planning on relocating to one of the various Hubs Salesforce has to offer, but early in my tenure there were whispers of a new SDR team forming in New York, so I held on as long as possible to interview for one of the first spots. I think, ultimately, communicating what I wanted to my managers, and setting clear goals and expectations set me on a path to success for this once in a life time role. I studied community development at UVM and I love investing in the growth of people around me, which set my heart on staying, and I made sure to communicate that to my interviewers.

My current manager has an 11% hiring rate and I am so thankful to have him as a mentor and for this opportunity. Make sure you are inspired by the people who are mentoring you.

What steps did you take to get the ball rolling?

I think the most important thing is that no one knows what you want until you tell them. Being transparent about your goals is paramount, especially when you are interviewing. It is important to set the stage and expectations with your mentors and coaches early. I chose to work for Salesforce not only because it’s a great company with an awesome culture, but also because the training is second to none. I wanted my path to success to be very transparent and I wanted clear-cut goals and outcomes that would allow me to achieve and grow in my career. I would encourage any young person to think about that.

The only way you are going to get to the promotion is if you are delivering on your promises and accomplishing what you are tasked to do and more. Work hard every day, start thinking outside the box, and ask yourself “What can I do better?” “What is hindering my success?” “What is the bigger picture?” And, “How can I get my team to its goal?” In sales, you cannot be successful without asking yourself those questions every 10 minutes.

How did it all ultimately happen?

I worked to develop solid relationships with my managers. In addition, they were big advocates for me as I created value for my team. I spent a great deal of time networking with peers and making sure that important players in the business knew who I was. Most importantly, I made sure that I was delivering the best results I could and everyone knew where I stood on my projects. I always communicated when I could do more and set expectations for when I was busy. I delivered every time and that’s what got me to where I am today.

What are your future plans?

My current plans are to stay with Salesforce for a handful of years and then to reassess where I am and how I am feeling. I really enjoy developing people and talent, so one day I plan on going into management or enablement. An MBA is probably somewhere on the horizon, but I’m an opportunist. If a good enough offer comes my way maybe I will find myself down another path. Who knows? I recommend keeping an open mind and staying tough through the hard times at work. Pick a career or job that meets your needs and be transparent with your managers as well as the others around you.

Graduate #2 – Looking to live in a new location

Share a little bit of background on what you have been up to/ what the job is like etc.

I am a photojournalist at a local newspaper where I shoot events like football games, parades and local news. The one downside to this job is the crazy schedule but that comes with the territory, so I knew ahead of time that it would not be a typical Monday through Friday 9-5 job. This has made it hard to travel or vacation because I work every weekend.

When did you start feeling like it was time to make a change in your job?

I have actually loved working here and being a photojournalist. It is something that I want to continue with, the one thing I don’t like is the location. Moving to a small, rural town has given me a new perspective of the country I live in and I will always be grateful for that experience. However, I miss living in a more metropolitan area with more diversity of people, thought, and and opportunities.

What steps did/are you take/taking to make a change in where you work? How did it all ultimately happen? (interviewing, research, travel, etc.)

I knew that I wouldn’t be truly happy until I move but after some long discussions with my boyfriend, whom lives with me, I have decided to stay a little while longer to make some connections and leave on a good note. I think that it is important especially for millennials and young professionals to hear that you probably won’t get hired for a position if you don’t intend on staying long; one it shows poor work ethic and two in the long run it costs the company money to hire more frequently, which they won’t want to do. Keep that in mind before you leave your position, do a self evaluation. Will I get a good recommendation if I quit now or will sticking it out for a couple months lead to a different opportunity?

Even though right now I it might not be the most ideal situation, I have something to look forward to and I think that is most important, to be optimistic especially in my field. Many young professionals are in my situation and I think the best advice that I could give someone like me is that you are in charge of your own life. If you aren’t happy then it is up to you to make a change, you shouldn’t stay in a position that you hate because it wears you down. I’ve seen some of my friends lose sight of what they enjoy because they just took a job without doing much research and now they’re stuck. When it comes down to it, it is just about you and your happiness. I found it helpful to make a plan, it doesn’t have to be a solid plan but an idea of what would make you happy then do some research on jobs that included those things. Job searching can be very frustrating, I have been going through this process and looking online at some positions but until then I’ve decided to make the most of it. 

What are your future plans?

As for what is next, I know that I will be moving to a city. I found the rural, quiet life is not my speed. I am thinking about going to Grad school for photojournalism but I’m going to wait to see if I can find another photojournalist position before I do that.

Like this post? Check out all the other ones here.

My First Year Out (So Far) – Octavio Araujo

On this edition of My First Year Out (So Far) we check in with Octavio Araujo, who shares some helpful tips on adapting to an exciting (and challenging) new work environment, learning about airplane structures, and moving to the west coast.

Describe your first year out of UVM:

It’s only been 11 months, or so, but it sure feels like year. I left Burlington shortly after graduation to spend two weeks in Florida with my family before the big move. I had accepted a job offer in Seattle from Boeing without having ever visited the west coast.

I’d say that was intimidating given I didn’t know anybody living there.

Boeing is a big company and I was constantly asking myself if I was going to be up for the challenge ahead, learning how to design plane structures, especially in a place renowned for designing the best commercial airliners.

I had only a vague idea of the team I would be working with, so I didn’t know what engineering topics I would need to brush up on specifically before starting.

It turned out that the team was quite amazing, mostly senior engineers, with the exception of three new hires including myself. The amount of knowledge I’ve gained in these last 9 months is incredible. I’m surrounded by experts in all airplane components, from wings to empennage and fuselage.

I must give credit to all the amazing professors in the school of engineering, who provided me with the tools, knowledge, and experiences I needed to succeed.

The work is challenging, but also rewarding. The designers I collaborate with have a lot of passion for their work. I would say that out of sheer luck I have the best job in the world, but must also admit that I’m really devoting myself.

Sometimes it can be stressful and difficult, days can be long, and due dates too close. I’m back in school for a Boeing/University of Washington certificate in Modern Aircraft Structures, which takes place after work. I regularly take optional training for 8hrs on Saturdays, and during free time I’m trying to teach myself advanced CAD workbenches in CATIA.

I also sometimes volunteer with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers doing high school STEM night.

What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

I’m most proud of two things. First, I was presented to Boeing’s chief design engineer and given a task by my manager very hastily. I had to read up on some specific material to bring out specific differences between industry standards and in-house standards. I was unfamiliar with both, but brought myself up to speed and was able to deliver as expected.

Second, I’m being mentored by a wing expert at the moment who assigns me work and coaches me through. As a mechanical engineer I’d expect to be doing only strict mechanical engineering. In this particular case, I’ve had to learn A LOT about fire.

As new airplane models undergo FAA certification, different engineering organizations are delegated responsible to comply with all regulations affecting your component. In this case, the wing, is impacted by FAR25.867 which defines certain wing surfaces must be fire resistant.

So I went along and learned [almost] everything about it, from fleet accidents to current regulation interpretations. I (with orientation from my mentor) came up with intelligence over how to achieve compliance and had to present to a committee of technical fellows (high regarding engineering ‘rank’ at Boeing, engineering decision makers).

In both occurrences I was nervous and unsure of myself, as coming into the presentations you’re told “it’s only another meeting in their schedule” but going upon leaving you realizing “this is where careers are made”.

I guess preparing and being able to think on your feet was necessary to overcome these challenges.

What did you learn from this experience?

At the end of the day, you need to be yourself. Bring who you are to the table and let people criticize your work. Take pride in your mistakes, they end up being lessons.

I learned that the only way to get better is by practice and preparation. Burrow like a worm.

Any advice for your classmates?

Convince yourself you can always do better. Everyone is on their own clock, but don’t procrastinate. Do something! Strive to find that which drives you.

What’s it like being on the west coast?

I’m focusing on getting a good start in my career, but whenever I can I try to head downtown and explore Seattle. I’m not the most outdoorsy person, but I’m exited for spring and hiking. I’m making plans for summer, I want to explore the west coast a bit more!

I’m also taking advantage of the Pacific North West and I’ve been able to go on some pretty cool hikes around the area, currently waiting for friendlier weather to enjoy more of the outdoors.


If you liked this post, check out our previous check-ins with your classmates Kristen Smith and Lyndi Wieand.

Introducing the Afterword Podcast

Yep, you read that right — Afterword jumped on the ol’ podcast bandwagon.

I’m not sure how often I’ll do these, but it’s a fun new series and I’m excited to share it with you.

Today’s episode is a continuation of our Get Off The Pile series on careers and jobs. The topic is how to talk about your career experiences in job interviews, even when you don’t have much experience (or when that experience isn’t relevant at all).

I interviewed my boss, Kevin Morgenstein Fuerst, the Director of Annual Giving here at the UVM Foundation. Check out the quick 10 minute interview to hear how he landed his first few jobs (without much experience) and his creative tips for talking up your experience and making yourself more qualified than you might actually think you are.

Get off the Pile: How to talk about experience (or lack there of).