On Belonging

My recent move to Silicon Valley was like jumping out of an airplane for the first time—something I remember well from my service days as an airborne paratrooper. My wife and I decided to follow her job offer, which kicked off my career search in a new city where we knew no one. About a week into our move, I started paying attention to the emails I’d get from UCSD, which led me to the Alumni website and, ultimately, my local alumni club.

Mark Payumo, MAS '18
Mark Payumo, MAS ’18, (center) relied on connections made through his local alumni club upon a recent move to a new city.

I soon met up with the club’s outgoing president, Brian Baumgartner ’09, at a coffee shop in Sunnyvale. It turns out he had met another alumnus from my graduate program at the School of Global Policy and Strategy just a few months prior. In the same gracious and helpful way that Brian pointed this alumnus to the right resources and advice on where to lease a home, he provided valuable insights on how I could best position myself and my qualifications in the high-energy technology industry of Silicon Valley.

In the days after, Brian sent introductory emails and messages on LinkedIn to his professional connections and other alumni in the local area. Because of this, I soon met a seasoned 30-year veteran of the Valley who looked into my résumé and gave me career advice that allowed me to land interviews with a hiring manager at Facebook and other technology companies. Add to that the alumni friends I’ve made at the happy hour events, including the new club president, Sonam Mehta ’10—just one of the many awesome people I’ve met in my short time here.

Ultimately, I’ve been so inspired by the incredible talent I’ve met here that I am now pushing through with the startup I’ve been working on since 2017. This decision is equally due to the fresh sense of optimism and energy that’s come from connecting with my fellow alumni. A good learning point in this experience is that being a UC San Diego alumnus is about belonging—and belonging can mean a lot for people, just as it did for me, a somewhat reserved, deep-thinking intellectual, second-language English speaker and first-generation American. Belonging means a lot; in fact, it means everything.