She said the experience was “life-changing.”
On paper, a statement like that would seem like hyperbole. But when Jocelyn Gonzalez, a senior psychology major at California State University, Northridge, went on the CSUN Alumni Association’s Corporate Job Shadow Program on Oct. 27, that’s exactly how she described it. As part of the pilot Job Shadow program, CSUN alumni in high-ranking jobs from various, unique industries hosted students and took them on a tour of their workplaces.
Gonzalez, whose aspiration is to use her psychology degree in the marketing field, went with other students and recent CSUN alumni to the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles where they were hosted by CSUN alumnus Marc Beaart ’89 (Political Science), the assistant head deputy district attorney for the DA office’s Cyber Crime Division. The Cyber Crime Division investigates and prosecutes crimes such as identity theft, account takeover, business email compromise and child exploitation among others.
Though law enforcement and cyber crime are considerably distant from her desired career path, Beaart’s enthusiastic presentation and the knowledge that a fellow Matador has risen to such a height inspired her to say the tour was life-changing.
“It made me want to pursue more education,” Gonzalez said. “I feel encouraged and empowered that we can go out there and not be judged in comparison to other [high-profile] schools. People underestimate us. I feel like we as a school are very open to ideas. We come from diversity and are also open to new environments.”
And it was a diverse group of alumni and professionals that Matadors visited on this pilot program. Between Oct. 25 and 27, students were bused around the Los Angeles area to Marvin Engineering, La Kretz Innovation Center, R6S digital marketing, CNN, Wells Fargo corporate, Innovate MR market research and the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office Cyber Crime Division. Each company had at least one CSUN alum on its leadership team — including two CEOs, two vice presidents and a CFO. They welcomed their fellow Matadors and gave them a tour, speaking to them about their career paths.
Beaart, for example, greeted his group at the steps of the Hall of Justice and then took them into Cyber Crime Unit Command Center and its Forensic Computer Lab. At each stop, he had experts from those areas speak to students — an added bonus that happened at other tours as well.
After treating his group to lunch, Beaart showed them a presentation of the extent of crime the district attorney’s office encounters and had another guest speaker talk to the Matadors about credit card fraud. He then explained how he rose to his current job.
After CSUN, Beaart continued his studies at Whittier Law School. He interned for the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office in Inglewood, which nurtured his passion for the courtroom. He became a criminal defense attorney and later transferred to the district attorney’s office as a prosecutor. Beaart credited CSUN for his ability to become a successful prosecutor, saying that because the university was so diverse he was able to identify with people with different backgrounds and challenges.
“Besides a great education at a good price, I was able to meet all kinds of people,” Beaart said. “And then I became a prosecutor, and I had to talk to people in a jury box, and they’re from all walks of life.”
Beaart reached out to the Alumni Association after hearing about the Corporate Job Shadow Program in the CSUN Weekly e-newsletter and volunteered to host students.
“When you’re in college, there are a lot of opportunities out there, and you don’t know they exist,” Beaart said. “So you kind of go in one direction when maybe you think [later], ‘If I would have known about this I would have done it.’ I thought this [opportunity to host] is something really unique. The Cyber Crime Division is so cool, and it touches so many aspects of the private sector. So I thought, ‘Hey, it would be cool if I could show some young people what’s out there.’”
And it resonated. Political Science student Spencer Frankel works in IT off campus. He eagerly asked questions during the tour. He also came into it with a strong knowledge of the work the cyber crime investigators do.
“I definitely got a lot out of this,” Frankel said. “Even if nothing comes out of it job opportunity-wise, it’s a great connection to have. As the assistant head deputy district attorney for all of LA County, even if you don’t work with him, he knows thousands of other people.”
CSUN alumni who led other tours gave out their cell phone numbers and discussed internship opportunities with students; on one tour a CEO unwound with Matadors at the end of his event by playing video games with them.
Thanks to the program’s initial success, the plan is to continue it in the spring, said Mimi Edwards, the Corporate Job Shadow organizer and career and professional programs associate for CSUN Alumni Relations. “If I had to sum it up,” she added, “I think it was flawless in content and the overall experience. In terms of student and young alumni, the feedback was that they were thrilled. It was a huge motivator that drove more questions about their career path and opportunities available to them.”
If you are a CSUN alumni interested hosting a Corporate Job Shadow Program event in the fall, contact Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (818) 677-CSUN.