On Wednesday the Student Alumni Connections (SAC), a student organization at San Jose State University, hosted the second installment of their Fall 2018 Student Success Series.
The series, which has been put on by the SAC since the 2015 spring semester, invites alumni to speak directly to students about tips and tools they have used to succeed.
This event took place in the Student Union Meeting Room 1A and featured SJSU alumnus and entrepreneur Michael Truong.
Truong graduated from the university in 1998 with a degree in finance.
“I hated working in finance,” Truong said. “Since I graduated during the ‘.com’ boom, I knew that everyone wanted an information technology (IT) person.”
After realizing his true passion, Truong came back to SJSU to get a degree in management information system (MIS).
MIS is a program for business students that want to venture into technology.
Truong has heavily invested his talents into cloud technology, which are online services that are administered through the internet without the need to download any new software.
He delved into building a personal online network when he joined LinkedIn in 2007.
“Once I started to see how easy it was to connect with people online, I wanted to reach out with the people I was talking to in person,” Truong said.
Associate Director of Student and Alumni Engagement April Cole first came in contact with Truong when he filled out an “Alumni Mentor Interest Form.”
“Michael told me that he was interested in sharing his experiences with current SJSU students because he wanted to give back to the school that helped him through so much,” Cole said.
Truong also wanted to lend his voice to students, literally.
He told Cole that he wanted to be a motivational speaker and share his experiences with failure throughout his career.
“When the economy tanked in 2008, my business was losing revenue fast.” Truong continued, “I knew for my family that I had to swallow my pride to pick up the phone and call my dad for financial assistance. It was the hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make.”
He started off as a panelist for SAC, then Cole gave him the opportunity to speak about his life and how he used LinkedIn to build his career. Truong currently has 8,377 connections on LinkedIn.
Truong spoke to a room filled with 75 students, many of whom were from the SJSU Educational Opportunity Program (EOP).
According to its site, the EOP is “designed to improve student academic support of first-generation, low-income and educationally disadvantaged students.”
Cristy Yang, a civil engineering freshman and Annie Williams, a sociology junior attended the success series through the EOP.
“I like how he was honest and said that we all fail at some point, but that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed if you keep trying,” Yang said.
One of the points Truong hit on in his speech was that students shouldn’t be defined by their major.
“I’m majoring in sociology but I might not want to work in that field forever, so it was cool to hear [Truong] say that he ended up working outside of finance,” Williams said.
The main message Truong wanted tell students was that it’s OK to fail. He related this to a personal story from his earlier struggles.
“The phone felt like it weighed a thousand pounds when I picked it up to call my dad,” he said. “After that, I knew I never wanted to get into that situation again.”
In addition to public speaking and online networking, Truong continued to
work in technology.
He founded a company called “Bot Digital” which sells chatbots to businesses that wish to create automated messages to engage and notify customers about new products.
Truong explained that it’s important to always learn and maintain a technical skill.
“It will always allow you to make money, and it’s a skill that will never lose its value,” he said.