“Yelp”ing Alumni

Aggie alumnae Julia Nguyen and Sarah Ng at Yelp

by Bobbi Maiers

Julia Nguyen ’10 and Sarah Ng ’15 followed many of the same paths as UC Davis undergrads, by coincidence: both pursued degrees in psychology and sociology, both worked for the Cal Aggie Alumni Association and both served as president of the Student Alumni Association. With so much shared history, it may come as no surprise that the two alumna now share the same workplace at the popular San Francisco-based crowdsource review website and app, Yelp — Nguyen is a senior event specialist and Ng is a recruiting coordinator.

Letting Yourself Grow

As a freshman, Nguyen began working at the CAAA front desk and soon grew her involvement in the organization by joining SAA, eventually serving as president. She worked for the two groups as an undergrad — first as an office assistant, next as a student supervisor, and then as a membership assistant and intern coordinator. Through CAAA connections, she also earned valuable internships at the Capitol and the District Attorney’s office.

After graduation, Nguyen joined the CAAA staff full-time as a programs support and data administrator assistant, where she discovered a professional strength in organizing regional alumni events. In 2012, she used these skills to join Yelp as a recruiting coordinator, and in 2014 she was promoted to senior events specialist.

“When I started, Yelp didn’t have anyone focused on events or trying to grow events,” Nguyen said. “I’ve worked with my team to build out my own position and say ‘this is how I want to grow, and this is how Yelp can grow because of my position.’ If there is advice I can give to anyone, it’s let yourself grow. Don’t be afraid of trying a new position, even if there’s not a specific path.”

As Nguyen continued to grow her department at Yelp, it became clear she needed a new team member.

When her manager asked if she knew any suitable candidates, Nguyen immediately thought of fellow alumna Sarah Ng. They’d met a few months before at SAA’s Aggie Diner — an event that Nguyen likened to “career advice speed dating,” during which students connect with a number of different alumni in their field of professional interest.

Despite having similar backgrounds, Aggie Diner was the first time Nguyen and Ng’s paths crossed. They found they had plenty in common because, like Nguyen, Ng had event management, leadership and public speaking experience through her involvement in the SAA and CAAA.

The Power of the Aggie Connection

As part of her recruitment, Nguyen used her contacts at CAAA to reconnect with Ng. Shortly after, the hiring process began. In July 2015, just one month after Ng walked across the stage at commencement, she joined the Yelp staff as a technical recruiting coordinator.

Now a few weeks into her new job, Ng is finding her post-college life exciting and challenging.

“They really threw me right in, and I much prefer that,” she said. “It’s very fast-paced and everyone is on top of their game. I’m really excited about working here.”

Nguyen felt confident moving Ng quickly into her role because, “I understood exactly what her training was and what her commitment to her job was,” Nguyen said.

Both young professionals say they are committed to remaining connected to CAAA and supporting their alma mater, because the alumni culture is part of what they value about UC Davis.