“In the real world, you will have to take risks and you’re going to make a lot mistakes. Those who truly succeed can handle mistakes with a good attitude and quickly learn and adapt to try again”
Austin Graham (’16)
Digital Entertainment Technology
Hometown: Flour Bluff, Texas
How did ACU prepare you for your work at USAA?
While at ACU, I learned to adapt to changing circumstances and teaching myself new things in order to complete work. With my position, no one teaches exactly what I do. I have to be creative, take risks, and teach myself a majority of the systems and come up with ways to make it easier for future teams to adopt. I also was able to build leadership and mentoring skills which I still use today in various aspects of my work.
What is your current role?
I am a software developer and integrator III on the Emerging Tech team at USAA. It’s my job to seek out new technologies and new platforms, to create experiences for USAA where none have existed before. Usually this means working with systems with very little or unclear documentation, and being one of the few to work out and decide how the experience takes shape.
How did you discover your interest in this work?
As a DET major, I was always interested in working on new technologies and constantly learning. My focus was on game development and virtual worlds, which has been instrumental since virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are becoming more and more popular. With these skill sets I am in a unique position to both continue developing as a programmer and also act as a bit of a designer of virtual content.
What experiences helped shape you?
I definitely had a great advantage working in the department of computing services my entire time at ACU. As a programmer I became more independent and learned to take risks early on as well as make decisions regarding design and functionality. I learned much of what some later classes had to teach just within my first year working there developing systems for the school. My sophomore year I was tasked with rewriting and updated the online directory search in an entirely new language. To be fair it is a rather simple system, but as a sophomore I was already being introduced to systems my classes hadn’t even covered yet, and had a project in production.
In addition to work, building up and leading the DET Club was one of my favorite experiences. DET Club allowed me to build my leadership skills and mentor students in technologies that are my passion. As a result, I now lead Unity and 3D Modeling classes at USAA to teach employees who want to learn those skills.
Advice for current students?
In the words of Ms. Frizzle: “Take chances. Make mistakes. Get Messy!” The odds of getting a job doing exactly what you did in college are very slim. You will have to adapt and learn new things. Get in the habit now of trying to keep learning new things. In the real world, you will have to take risks and you’re going to make a lot mistakes. Those who truly succeed can handle mistakes with a good attitude and quickly learn and adapt to try again.
Also, take advantage of the opportunities you have right now. You have professors willing to help and encourage you and access to technology, activities, and a community you probably won’t have again right after college. Now is the time to make some incredible work and show off what you can do.