Alumni in Print—Where Are They Now?

The Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation is publishing profiles featuring some of their more than 6000 former scholarship recipients. This series gives you an up close and personal insight into the thoughts and motivations of the former students who are a part of our industry today. As our current employees reach retirement and leave, replacing them becomes an increasingly important factor for many companies. Here is one story…

A Profile

Julia Willsie attended Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California and received a degree in Graphic Communications (GrC) in 2005.

How did you first get interested in the graphic arts, or decide to focus on graphic communications in school?

While walking onto the Cal Poly campus as a high-school student, I found myself in the Graphic Communications (GrC) building. A kind professor told me all about the major, and I was hooked!

Did you take any courses in high school that were related to graphic communications, or that prepared you for your planned career?

I took a Graphic Arts regional occupation program course. It was two hours every day. I realized that I wanted to be part of the industry, but just not a designer.

How do you think going through your education process prepared you for the workforce?

GrC gave me real world experience and in depth knowledge of printing.  I was recruited right from college to be with RR Donnelley, and am now on my 12th year here. I absolutely got the job as a result of being in the GrC major.

In the Workforce Today

What company are you working for now and what types of products and services do they provide to their customers?

I am with the RR Donnelley office location in Sacramento, California. RR Donnelley is the largest domestic printer with capabilities including commercial print, forms, labels, packaging and communication services.

What job did you first have with the company when you started, what position do you have now, and/or what else have you done since joining the company?

I started as a sales rep, and have stayed in the same position for twelve years. I continue to grow and change what I sell every year, so it’s always new and I’m always learning more.

What do you think employers are looking for in today’s workforce and the current industry environment?

The industry needs employees who are willing to do whatever it takes to complete a project and help their client. The employee needs to be creative, tenacious and willing to go “outside the box.”

Is there anything that you have found to be particularly different from what you initially expected, now that you’ve progressed through your work career for a period of time?

I’m surprised that I’ve stayed in the same position for so long. I am really happy with my career and its progression, so it’s hard to imagine doing anything else.

Have you changed your plans or ideas about what area or type of job you might like to have since you first considered the graphic communications field and began studying for a career in it?

When studying and then graduating from GrC, I thought I’d go into management or HR. However, as I grew in my sales career, I realized that I can make my position whatever I want it to be. I enjoy the challenge and the flexibility that it gives me.

What do you see yourself doing a few years from now?

I don’t foresee any changes. I hope to still be with RRD in sales.

Was being a recipient of a PGSF scholarship important, or did it have an impact on your future or ability to succeed in the industry?

Being a recipient encouraged me to stay in, and embrace, this industry. I felt that even though this is a big industry, it’s also very supportive of new people coming in.

Anything else that you would like to add?

The graphic arts industry is constantly changing, so anyone coming into the industry needs to be adaptable to change.