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A Positive Feedback Loop: A Conversation With Sam Friedman

I recently told my neighbor, who is about to start college this fall, that the first year of school is always the worst. Fortunately, each consecutive year gets better. Maybe wisdom comes with age or experience, but I wish I had known this at eighteen.

In my second semester of college, I was both overstimulated and overwhelmed. Objectively, I knew I was only in college for about three months, but I did not accomplish what I wanted. I was not in a sorority, did not meet my forever friends, and did not like my major. John Hughes, ABC Family's GREEK, and Warner Brother's Felicity gave me false expectations and hopes of what young adulthood could be. Retrospectively, I was really hard on myself. I wanted to show Florida's largest public university that I could make an impact. I needed someone to take a chance on me. Sam Friedman was that person.

(Image courtesy of me. The image is from my freshman year)

My first meeting with Sam was in the Einstein Bagels in the UCF Engineering Building. It was right after my World Religions class, and the small restaurant mixed stereotypical-looking STEM students with hoards of first-year students proudly wearing their lanyards. We sat at a high top and discussed why I wanted to work at Hillel as a photographer. I told him my elevator pitch. Due to numerous college applications, I told him how photography gave me a springboard for future opportunities.

(Image courtesy of me)

Below is a summarized version of what I told Sam.

During my junior year of high school, I was a part of a team that went to the first White House Student Film Festival for a short film called A Day In The Life of Kyle. The film told the story of how a student at my small private school used the VGO robot to attend school in Florida while receiving life-saving cancer treatment in Philadelphia. I storyboarded and filmed some of the project. At sixteen, this experience changed my life. President Obama talked about my film, Neil Degrasse Tyson and I discussed creationism vs. evolution, and Bill Nye The Science Guy, left a voicemail for my little sister. The person with the biggest impact was Bob Gazzale, the president of the American Film Institute (AFI). He told me how the camera could be a tool for change. With this inspiration, I founded a non-profit that provided the relicensing fee for the robot for another student at my school. These experiences culminated in me winning the Miami Herald Silver Knight for Digital and Interactive Media. I am now here at UCF and want to continue my academic, professional, and personal growth.

(Image courtesy of Nick Leyva. Copyright: University of Central Florida)

After this little diatribe, Sam told me I was hired. For the past almost seven years, Sam has been my advocate, mentor, and friend. We catch up around once a month. I hear all about his adventures, and he hears all about mine. I told him I wanted to begin a series where I ask former bosses for insights into the job market and feedback on my work. Although I had not worked for him in years, I knew Sam would be the first person I would talk to. After all, Sam was the first person to take a chance on me.

(Image courtesy of me)

1. So, why did you hire me?

The main reason that I wanted to interview you was simple. Somebody I worked with at the time once said, "You should talk to this girl, Rachel Huss; she does not give a fuck... she will tell people to pose and make sure you get all the picture you need." She was right.

(Image courtesy of me)

2. What are some attributes you look for in early career employees?

I think the best trait, regardless of where you are in life, is curiosity. This curiosity manifests in acknowledging you don't know everything but want to learn as much as possible. If you maintain curiosity, you can develop new skills, meet new people, and have dynamic conversations.

(Image courtesy of

3. What are some pitfalls for people looking for entry and associate-level work?

I see some pitfalls in the potential employers. I'm glad to see salaries continuously rising as entry-level salaries are no longer in the $20-30,000 salary range as it is no longer livable. In the job search, if you find something that you're drawn to for whatever reason, even if it's not where you thought it would be, I think you can take the chance to grow your skill set. In a person's early career, don't look at the job you are taking. Instead, envision the job as a tool to set a person up for future success. Taking the path you might not have thought of can amplify and accelerate your career.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock. Image depicts the Bifurcation of a path in forest)

4. How can a person be a team player, but a self-advocate?

A person needs to establish what they will and not put up with. A person should not minimize their impact to make others feel better.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock. The image depicts a single-solitaire diamond in amongst some pieces of coal. )

5. What are some soft skills every student and young professional should know?

In today's world, networking is more important than ever before.

(Image courtesy of Media from Wix)


Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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