Q+A: New CDC director Farouk Dey

May 20, 2013, 11:03 p.m.

Farouk Dey is the new director of the Career Development Center (CDC), having joined the University from Carnegie Mellon last month. The Daily sat down with Dey to discuss his career, time at Stanford to date and plans for the future.


The Stanford Daily (TSD): When and what made you want to go into career services?

Farouk Dey (FD): I tried a…internship in career services — career counseling to college students to help them with their passions — and I found that very energizing. I liked the idea of working with college students about their potential and what they could become. I fell in love with the work and the idea that you could work with people on optimistic issues on what they could become in their lives.


TSD: Six weeks into this job, what have you learned so far?

FD: What I have learned is that there is tremendous potential here — tremendous talent. I’ve been impressed with the talent of the staff at the CDC. I’ve been impressed with how eager the campus community is for our growing vision of career services at Stanford. I think even the CDC staff are proud of their accomplishments for the many years but they’re also eager for a new direction, for a future direction.

[The] staff has done great work but there is [an] opportunity for us to grow and to bring more opportunities to students and alumni. There are other offices that intersect with the world of career development that we could collaborate more with, opportunities to collaborate more with alumni and the alumni office. I think there are opportunities for us to enhance services for graduate students particularly and for students who are in fields that may seem underrepresented in the world of work.


TSD: What specific changes would you like to make to the CDC’s current functions or programming?

FD: I’ll have to be honest with you that it’s too early for that. I’ve been here for exactly six weeks so I am in the process of engaging with the campus-wide listening tour. If you talk to any leader who tells you within their first few weeks that they already have a plan for changes and vision for the future that’s already established and that they’re ready to go, I would be concerned, personally, for that type of leadership. I truly believe that leadership is inspired by listening to people, giving people the opportunity to voice their thoughts and their concerns and allowing the opinions to inspire the changes and the vision for the future.

For the first two weeks on the job, I did nothing but meet with the CDC staff. I met with each of them for an hour and I have 26 full-time people plus all of our graduate students and our undergraduate students. For the three to four weeks that followed, I have been trekking on campus meetings with faculty, university administrators, deans, department heads, students [and] alumni.

I’m in the process of establishing a steering committee that’s going to steer this vision process. I’m calling it “Vision 2020.” The idea is what should career services look like in 2020? And I’m going to use this steering committee to flush out the ideas that I have and to establish a strong vision for our future and to begin working on the strategic plan. We have a big challenge here and lots of ideas that are floating around but I’m very intent on using input from our campus community as I develop this vision in a very thoughtful process. So it would be irresponsible for me at Week Six to tell you what type of changes I plan to make. That’s not the type of leader I am.


TSD: How does your role at Stanford differ from your previous jobs at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Florida? What differences have you found?

FD: I think what makes this place unique is that there is interest from the Stanford community in creating a new vision for career services at Stanford, and there are lots of people in this community — campus partners, faculty students [and] CDC staff — who are eager to see what that would be like and are eager to contribute to it.

The other thing that makes it unique is the type of institution that we’re in. This is a wonderful institution that is based on innovation. Our location in terms of career services gives us very unique opportunities being in the heart of Silicon Valley. Our connections with the industry can be leveraged not only for opportunities for students in technical fields but also for students in other types of fields.

We have an opportunity here in the area of career services at Stanford to present that model, to be the beacon for all these career communities, and my hope is that by working with all of the campus community members and the CDC staff [we can] find a way to tap into that, to become that beacon for all of them, to help establish this new model.


TSD: In 2010, you and your colleague Matt Real received the NACE 2010 Excellence in Research Innovation award for your paper “Emerging Trends in University Career Services: Adaptations of Casella’s Career Centers Paradigm.” What is this paper about and how does research play in your job?

FD: My co-researcher and I were curious about how career centers have evolved over the years, career services on college campuses. When was the first time career centers started being established and how did they evolve? Not only the historical perspective but we also presented our projections, our predictions for what career centers would look like in the future.

What we published upon is that our field started with the GI bills after World War II when college campuses needed to figure out how to place all these military servicemen who came back to college campuses.  Essentially our career centers during that time were mainly placement offices with the sole responsibility of placing graduates in jobs and that was it. And then they have evolved into career development centers that were more engaged in the idea of counseling people and helping them explore options and having more staff and what was driving all of that was the idea of counseling and helping the person get those jobs. In the 2000s, the introduction of new technology brought that networking into the social world and we called it the social networking paradigm.

We learned that technology has changed the way career services are provided on college campuses. We’ve learned that the partnership and collaboration with academic departments is critical and crucial. Faculty and academic administrators are key partners and also what we learned is that the field changed as students change and as the economy changes around us.

Many campuses started researching out and asking for our opinions and thoughts and consultation and that was a really positive thing. With the economic downturn, there were [fewer] jobs available for college graduates so universities in general paid more attention to this area of career development and career services for college students and wanted to know how it’s been offered and what are the current and future trends. As a result of that there’s now an opportunity on campuses like here at Stanford to rethink what we’re doing and thinking and envision a new future and a new model based on all of the changes.
TSD: Do you have any career tips to Stanford students still looking for summer jobs?

FD: The first one is that internships are critical for their future success and absolutely try to find internships that would relate to their interests and what they want to do. Our research shows that eight out of 10 internships usually lead to a full time position that’s secured by graduation. Companies tend to turn 61 percent of their internships into full-time [jobs]. It’s a very effective way for companies to recruit their future talent by hiring interns.

The second piece of advice is that it doesn’t have to be an internship. The idea here is to network. There’s this theory called Happenstance theory, which was developed by [Professor of Education] John Krumboltz. Krumboltz talked about in his theory that most of us will find our careers by this idea of chance, but chance doesn’t have to happen randomly and it doesn’t have to happen by accident. What you could do is engage in certain activities and take action in order to lure chance out of hiding.

I want students to engage in opportunities that will help lure chance out of hiding for them and that is all based on a theory that was developed right here at Stanford. The bottom line is move [and] act because that will decrease the likelihood that train of opportunity will pass you by.


TSD: The popularity of undergraduate majors often seems to map closely to current job market. If you were to look 10 years into the future, what do you think would be the biggest difference in how Stanford students prepare for their careers?

FD: My prediction, I would hope, would be that students will base their career decisions based on who they are as people and based on what they are passionate about, what they’re interested in and all of the skills that they develop in and outside the classroom. In fact, what I would hope is that they would use their entire experience here at Stanford to try to learn in addition to the academic and theory skills they are gaining. They would learn leadership, communication, problem solving, teamwork skills, all of these types of abilities that they learn from their involvement in student organizations, residential programs, fraternities and sororities, internships, part-time jobs and volunteering opportunities, friendships, etc.

They need to think about their life and career development with the same level of complexity that they use to think about their academics or other things they’re engaged in. I don’t want these economic trends that we’re seeing…to change the spirit of our college students. Because if it’s not something they are truly passionate about, they can still choose it but will they be great at it?

The last thing I would say is that a lot of recruiters that I speak with…tell us that they don’t discriminate based on academic discipline. When they are here to recruit, they’re usually looking for strong communication, verbal and written, leadership, problem-solving skills. They want those types of students regardless the type of major and that’s for the most part. There are obviously those technical fields that require certain skill levels that students need to get them but in general students have much more opportunities in front of them than they realize.
TSD: Career fairs at Stanford are known for attracting many more companies interested in hiring engineering students — computer science students in particular — and fewer interested in hiring students who study other subjects. What can or should the CDC do to address this disparity?

FD: We offer 16 career fairs a year — not all of them are for engineering. I would actually argue that we are among the schools that offer the highest number of career fairs with the widest variety. I think what I’m learning from my listening tour over the last six weeks is that the campus community doesn’t know of everything that is offered in the career center. So therefore these perceptions get built up that we only offer career fairs for technical majors, which is not true. We offer a wide variety of career fairs and we need to do a better job at telling the story of these career fairs.


This interview has been condensed and edited.

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