Alumni Throwback: Fred Benitez

Fred Benitez, Applied Technology Training and Development Program major, 2006

Were you a shop assistant at Design Works?

I started off as a shop assistant. Within like 6 months they took in the fact that I had an associates degree in digital imaging, so I got hired on as a designer.

If you could sum up your experience at Design Works in one or two words what would they be?

One of them would definitely be fun. Probably the most fun I’ve had on a job. The other would be influential, setting the groundwork for my entire career I had no idea even existed.

What was your earliest memory of working with the Design Works staff?

The enormous scale of Union Fest I had never previously experienced. Just because of the size of a project that big and at the time our team was pretty small. It was just really awesome to experience something that big, where we had a bunch of access to really good people that we were trying to network with. To try and bring them in and go through that whole experience of designing everything, planning, and getting in on committees. Things that I never thought I would get as a designer.

How would you say Design Works impacted you and prepared you for the future?

I think that the dependency on teamwork and getting over any petty office politics or this person acting weird or whatever, was a true experience into being a professional while I was getting my undergraduate degree. Which was a really unique position to be in so I’m really grateful for that. I’ve had no problems with teamwork or getting things done within a group and that was huge. I think the responsibility that we were given as designers at Design Works were way bigger than just design, so that has really helped me. We were bringing in new designers and Carol asked me one day “Would you like to train them on how to use some of the stuff?” and I said, “Sure, yea.” That’s basically my job now, training teachers on the best and most efficient way to use technology that they have access to.

What was your favorite moment at Design Works?

I have this awesome memory of whenever it was Halloween and we were working, Carol required us to dress up. If you’re not gonna be in costume, you can’t come to work. He probably shouldn’t have done that, but the fact that he did and we all followed it, was awesome. It was really cool. That’s something that when I was teaching, with clearance from the principal, I would tell my students, “Hey it’s Halloween, let’s dress up.” It’s something that was so small that has really impacted our team and the morale. It was a really smart way to do that as a manager. We also did a pumpkin carving contest on Halloween and that was awesome. That was really cool. We all really got into that and it got really competitive.

What was a typical day like and what was the staffing makeup back then?

I was one of three graphic designers who were also in charge of walk in customers (to place print/design jobs, balloons, or faxes). For print or design jobs we would then be the direct contact for that customer to the completion of the project. When there weren’t any walk ins we worked on the actual design projects. We had two shop assistants who did the post production trimming and mounting. The shop also housed Mary Finley’s assistant, and she often times worked with the designers. One person would open and close the shop, which required counting the cash register and was deposited daily. I also remember having a big calendar where we would post due dates and that’s how we knew which project to focus on.

What did you originally envision yourself before working on campus?

I’m not sure I could have continued to go to school had I not gotten that job. I don’t think I could afford it. I needed a job to continue going to school and I had just enough money for like two months rent when I moved to Denton. I was coming into that second month, I met with Carol, and got the job. Then I remember going home that day after I got it and I was like, “Okay I can pay rent again, we’re good”. So it’s really hard to say. I probably would have just continued looking for another job and gone with that, but it probably would have been off campus somewhere. You know it’s easier to work on campus I would work and then go to class, it was just a transition. I was a transfer student so I got my associates degree first and then I transferred in. So going in and being new to the campus, and living off campus, it was really easy for me to go to work and school and not feel overwhelmed. Transferring was something I was worried about. Just coming in halfway and I didn’t go through those freshmen orientations and so I didn’t have a crew of friends. Luckily, I did also play ultimate frisbee and it was super competitive. We had travelled around the U.S and that was really cool. We did really well, we ended up actually going to nationals my senior year which was really cool. I don’t think they’ve done that since then.

What is something you wish other students who are reading this knew about working on campus?

I can’t really imagine having gone through UNT without having the experience of working at Design Works. It really helped me and some of my best friends are people I met from working there. I struggle to think of the things I would have missed had I not gotten that job. It would be so huge now. It would have completely shifted my direction of where I ended up. If they’re reading this and they’re looking for a job, I would highly recommend they look to working on campus, at the Union, or working for an organization on campus. It really has impacted me ever since.

What are you doing now?

So after Design Works, I taught for 8 years. I taught graphic design which worked out really well and then I made the move from classroom teacher to educational technology. I work for school districts, creating professional development for teachers. I also meet with teachers in their subject areas and we collaborate on how to integrate technology in an effective way in every one of their lessons. So it’s not like, “Here’s how to use a Smart Board” or “Here’s how these software applications work”. It’s “What are you teaching?” and “How can this be relevant and useful to you and not just something extra?” It’s truly embedded in the curriculum. Currently, I am the educational technologist for EISD in Austin.

What is something you miss about this time in your life or being on campus?

So when I was in school, I was really lucky to have an apartment right behind Fry Street, the Flying Tomato. I lived right behind there so it was really close to school and really close to nightlife, entertainment, and fun stuff. I often times, think about how cool that apartment was and how lucky I was and my friends were to have access to so many cool things in a small town. When I went back recently a few months ago and was like, “Wow everything is different!”

Any advice to any student currently reading this?

Get as involved as you can with any thing. Whether in class and when working with groups, work genuinely and with a work ethic you are going to be proud of looking back on and talking to someone about later. Also be involved outside of school, whether it’s intramural sports, club teams, or any kind of volunteer opportunities. Just be involved, network, and talk to people. Those to me are the things I remember and the things that I look back on and are proud of doing the things that I did. I think they, all in someway or another have led me to where I am now, which is really cool. At that time where I was at UNT, I had no idea what I would be doing with my applied technology training and development degree. I couldn’t even imagine having the job that I have now. I don’t even think this job existed then, but looking back, it’s so easy to see the little steps I said yes to to get here.