Stephen Sullivan ’09

JOB TITLE: Administrative assistant
ORGANIZATION: West Coast University
LOCATION: Los Angeles, California

What was your first position after college? I drove a taxi on Martha’s Vineyard the first summer after I graduated; it was awesome! My first “real” job was at a pharmaceutical manufacturer. I was in the environmental monitoring program, and I monitored production facilities to make sure they were clean enough to produce sterile injectable pharmaceuticals. The company was in a downward spiral. Fortunately, I left there in March 2011 to work as a lab technician with Sherwin-Williams. I moved again and am now in California pursuing a new career in entertainment.

Has a liberal arts education helped you in shaping your career? Yes, because a liberal arts degree has given me the tools I need to help link one experience to the next and move my career forward. The best part about a liberal arts education is that it offers you a wide variety of academic options and learning experiences. Those experiences allowed me to juggle my work as a biology major with course work in economics, anthropology, and creative writing, and it has helped me a great deal as I’ve had to juggle changes throughout my career. My ability to switch gears and incorporate new ideas was fostered and encouraged at Trinity.   

What aspects of your Trinity experience have been important to advancing your career or graduate school experience? It was all important, especially being put in charge of research projects with Dr. Smedley. A lot of weight was put on my shoulders for my senior project, and it was a great learning experience. I only wish I would have gotten used to that responsibility sooner.     

What advice would you give to Trinity students to prepare for a position in your field? Collaborate with your fellow students to make something unique. Campus activities, courses, and internships are all good learning experiences, but sooner or later the work is going to fall on you to create those experiences without the guidance you get from college. The sooner you start toying with ideas and trying to make something new that you care about (whether it’s in biology, chemistry, physics, or something else), the better off you will be once you start working. If anything, use the tools and experiences you gain from Trinity as a blueprint or starting point for your future ventures.    

What is the biggest misconception about your field? The real world can be a fun place. It can still be challenging, and you will encounter difficult situations and have to work with difficult people at times, but at the end of the day, people just want to unwind. If you can find the things that you and your co-workers relate to, then the work-life balance will feel a lot more balanced.