From Student to Staff: Finley Golightly

April 11, 2024

“Student-to-Staff” is a series featuring stories from Cal alumni who are now career employees in One IT. This series was created to show the importance of investing in our student staff, and how vital their work is to the university and its mission.

Finley worked on campus throughout their time as an undergrad student. After graduating with a degree in Applied Mathematics, they now work full-time at Berkeley D-Lab! Learn how Finley’s hard work and dedication led to a full-time position at UC Berkeley.

What led you to apply for your first student position at UC Berkeley? What was the title of the position, and what was the application process like?

My first position was as an Administrative Assistant during my first year on campus, for the Unit 3 Resident Directors (RDs). The RDs manage the Resident Assistants (RAs), and the RAs help students in the dorms. As an Administrative Assistant, I was primarily helping RDs with anything they needed, providing program/event support to RAs, and I even ran the Unit 3 newsletter for a while. I applied for that position because I had work-study funding, which was part of my financial aid. I worked a few different jobs through most of high school. I knew I needed to work through college, and everything was covered by a combination of financial aid and my savings. 

The [application] process was interesting because it wasn’t my first pick, and didn’t align with my career goals. But I was a freshman and needed to do something for work. I tried to get a few different positions through the school that didn’t work out, but I came across the Administrative Assistant position and sent in my resume. I interviewed pretty quickly, and I ended up doing the interview on the emergency stairs of my dorm floor - which was pretty funny.

Did you stay in that position for a while, or did you move to other positions on campus during your time as a student?

I came to Cal in the Fall of 2019, and COVID started in Spring of 2020. This was an in-person position when I applied, but later everything went online. So I stayed there for my first year, then looked for a new position to find one that allowed me to work more hours and was something I was interested in. 

FInley Golightly graduates from UC BerkeleyJust before my sophomore year, I saw a posting for an Undergraduate Technician (UTech) position at Berkeley D-Lab. I was an orientation leader for Golden Bear Orientation online and also had my interview online, so I ended up doing both at the same time from my kitchen back home. I interviewed and got hired! I stayed in that position from August 2020 until I began working full-time at D-Lab after I graduated in Spring 2023 (about 3 years). I was becoming more interested in data science, so it was a good opportunity to explore statistics and work with other data scientists. 

Do you have any tips for how students can balance the time and energy demands of balancing school and a job?

When I was planning out my class schedule, I made sure classes were close together so I had separate times dedicated to classes and work. The biggest tip is to plan out your [class] schedule with work in mind. I tried to keep a pretty consistent schedule so I could still feel like a person and find time for clubs and friends. 

An energy-balancing tip is to take care of yourself and not let yourself run rampant. My supervisor knew and understood that work was not our top priority; we are students first. Make sure you have good communication with your supervisor and team, and make sure that you’re prioritizing your health. Working at D-Lab helped me a lot because it wasn’t an extra stressor or burden and wasn’t taking over my life. 

Do you feel your time as a student worker prepared you for full-time employment? If so, how?

I would say so. If you are a full-time college student and have a job, you are one of the busiest people, period. You need to manage your time and energy well. When you’re in college, you should find time to be with your friends and have fun, but you have to be more mindful of your time and energy when you have a job. If you can manage being a college student with a job, all while keeping up with friends, clubs, or whatever else, you’ll develop great time management skills for the future. 

While working through college in a field relevant to my major, I learned a lot of good on-the-job skills. While in college, you’re learning some skills, but you’re not always learning the day-to-day time management and communication skills that you would from a full-time position. When people leave college without having worked a job, they kinda get “hit by a train” later and realize there’s a lot they don’t know. 

How did you come to work at Berkeley full-time? 

Finley photographed with students on the UC Berkeley campusMy first student position was at D-Lab as an Undergraduate Technician (UTechs). After my first year, I was promoted to UTech Manager, and I did that for two years. My supervisor at the time was Aaron Culich, Deputy Director of D-Lab, and he connected me with Claudia von Vacano, Executive Director of D-Lab. In May 2023, Claudia asked what I had planned after graduation, then offered me a position to stay on - which I accepted. Now, as a staff member, I handle communications, website upkeep, and continue to manage the UTech team of 18 undergraduate students. I’m glad I got to stay on the team because I’m already familiar with the position, and it’s a great jumping-off point to learn professional development, grow my skills, and build up experience while I figure out what to do next.

What do you enjoy the most about working at UC Berkeley?

I really like the community within D-Lab and have appreciated it ever since joining. We treat people like people, which seems like the bare minimum, but it is hard to find companies nowadays that do. I’m working at the same place with the same people, making the transition from college to full-time a lot easier. 

There are a lot of good things about working here, like opportunities to grow your network and work on personal and professional development. I’ve connected with other UC Berkeley staff members; I went to a workshop directed for UC Berkeley staff called Search Inside Yourself: Emotional Intelligence. That was in August and I continue to meet with people from that workshop to this day. You meet a lot of different people while working at UC Berkeley, and I think that’s one of the coolest parts. 

What advice do you have for students who are considering a career with UC Berkeley? 

If you are a Berkeley student and you have a job on campus, work hard at it. It’s always good to give your best effort in whatever you do, and that’s going to leave an impression on people. If you stand out to your supervisors, they can write you letters of recommendation and be good resources and networking connections.

Find a community at UC Berkeley that you are interested in. Yes, I work in data science, however, my day-to-day is often administrative duties, communications, and HR stuff – things that you wouldn’t necessarily expect in a data science role. A lot of jobs are comprised of tasks you wouldn’t expect, but that’s just being part of being a working person. There’s so much variability when it comes to being UC Berkeley Staff, so it’s important to find communities you’re interested in and make connections in them outside of work.