When the Faculty Innovation Center celebrated its Grand Opening in the December, UT alumna Christina Raggio shared her reflections on how her experiences at UT prepared her for what she’s doing now.
What is a Chemistry major doing at a Global Tech company? Trying to answer this question has made me wonder about the unique value proposition of my UT Chemistry degree. My lack of tech experience intimidated me at first, but it forced me to look internally: “What has my UT education and undergrad experiences provided me to prepare me for this opportunity? What am I uniquely qualified to do at this company?”
For starters, earning my Chemistry degree required courses where critical reasoning was a requirement. By having lectures on concepts, and exams on applying these concepts to new situations – I am more prepared to use logic, reasoning, and a bit of creativity in finding technical solutions at work.
Another large part of my undergraduate career was the two and a half years I spent as a Learning Assistant in the General Chemistry flipped classroom. This opportunity gave me near daily practice in influencing and communicating nuanced topics with people of all backgrounds – which has been instrumental to my career.
Being in over my head meant that there were new opportunities for me to explore. And the fact that I made a lot of mistakes meant that I was freeing myself from the fear of failure.
In addition to my courses and time spent as an LA, I have the faculty and staff of UT to thank for opening their doors and making room in their labs for curious undergrads like myself. During my tenure at UT, I stuck my hand in every opportunity that I found interesting. I learned that at such a large university no one was going to personally invite me to interesting guest lectures or to come work for them. I was going to have to raise my hand, hold my head up, and lean in.
As a result of this mentality, I did different kinds of research like organic synthesis, biochemical catalysis, and cognitive neuroscience using a functional MRI. I also spent many Friday afternoons in Organic Chemistry guest lectures. At the time, I had no idea how this experience would all fit together or how any of this would help me to find a job. All I knew is that I was the least educated of the research group, a lot of the vocabulary went over my head during guest lectures, and that I made a lot of mistakes in lab.
Reflecting on this now – I see very clearly that being the least educated meant that I could build my intellectual depth from those more knowledgeable than me. Being in over my head meant that there were new opportunities for me to explore. And the fact that I made a lot of mistakes meant that I was freeing myself from the fear of failure.
My time as a little fish in a big sea at UT played to my advantage when I joined the relationships-based company called Facebook – where everything I know I’ve learned from others. Our internal mantra, “Move Fast and Break Things” means that I need to take concepts that I’ve learned and apply them to new situations quickly – without the fear of being wrong. Now more than ever, I am grateful to all professors at this University who have ever taken a chance on bright-eyed, curious, and fickle undergrads like me. Thanks and Hook ‘em.
B.S., Chemistry, 2013
Christina is currently working at Facebook in Austin as a Program Manager over Infrastructure, Tools, and Reporting for the North American Sales Support Program.