Whenever we can, we like to highlight the successes of our alumni. Eric Don ’13 is one of those alumni who has gone on to accomplish some pretty great things and, as evidenced by the Facebook post below, has not only accomplished a lot but has had some amazing experiences as well. I had the chance to ask him some questions and he was gracious enough to answer them. Here they are!
Can you tell us a little about your time at Cal State Fullerton?
I’m still nostalgic, it’s hard not to love Cal State Fullerton. I started as a freshman in 2009 excited to get as involved as possible, which ended up benefiting me immensely. I developed relationships that still exist today, I learned to break down complex problems with ease, and I built a strong sense of Titan pride. Without being too preachy, I believe your experience at Cal State Fullerton is what you make of it – you can be involved as little or as much as you want. I chose the latter and I still feel the positive impacts today.
How did your entrepreneurial education and time in the Entrepreneur Society (ES) help you out after you graduated?
I joined ES at an exciting time. I had just started my first year of college and ES was the first club that I joined, giving me friends and a sense of purpose. Even today, I still remember stories of guest speakers from the club and it impacts the way I think. For example, Tchicaya Missamou. He was robbed after arriving to Los Angeles airport, literally had no money, and ended up advertising his fitness program on a street corner, eventually gaining enough clients to make more than $1M in revenue. I see, and still do, my colleagues in ES as part of a family. There’s something about entrepreneurs that is usually consistent, and it’s that we all want to help and support each other. And when we want to do something, we have the drive to make it happen.
I’ve heard that you became a management consultant after you graduated. How was that experience and what kinds of lessons did you learn?
In fact, I am still a management consultant. I started my career working for Booz Allen Hamilton in Los Angeles for three years supporting commercial, government, and military clients. I was then approached to support a client in Germany, which I have been doing since January 2017 (over two-and-a-half years now).
Management consulting is a phenomenal opportunity to work directly with and advise senior organizational leaders from the outset, which is something you typically don’t get exposure to unless you have years of work experience. As a result, the knowledge I gained is invaluable to my personal development. I then apply techniques and strategies from what I learned to support clients in the future. Without consulting, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to routinely interact with top military and political officials, such as the past couple years when I interviewed more than 10 U.S. Ambassadors in Europe.
What is it like living in Europe?
Incredible. It’s hard not to love freshly baked German pretzels in the morning, doing my morning run past centuries-old churches, or being able to drive to France in less time than it used to take me to drive to Los Angeles from Orange County. My lifestyle is completely different here – I ride my bike and walk more than I ever have. I also became way too spoiled by flights that cost less than 10 euros (yeah, I’m not joking).
There are certainly some creature-comforts from the U.S. that I miss, but that makes trips home even more rewarding. Plus, I even accomplished a few goals. Bathing in beer? Done it. Dog sledding in the Arctic at -30 degrees Celsius? Sure, why not. International news coverage of me drenched in sangria and thrown into the air at one of the largest festivals in Europe? Well, you know, it’s Europe.
Now that you have some time and space in between your education at Cal State Fullerton and where you are now you must have learned some great lessons. Can you share a lesson that you think would be important for current students to know?
One thing I’ve learned to understand is luck. I consider myself lucky to be working in Germany, routinely delivering products for high-visibility clients. But what is luck? In my opinion, it’s when opportunity meets preparation. For example, the knowledge I developed in college paired with real-world experience prepared me to be eligible for a job in management consulting. Furthermore, when I learned about the role in Germany, I happened to have the skill set the team was looking for. So, yes, I was lucky that a position was available, but I would have never been selected for the role in Germany had I not prepared myself to be eligible. That’s when I realized the benefits of extracurricular activities and getting involved – i.e., joining clubs like ES, where I honed my business acumen. And you can do the same. By positioning yourself so you can take advantage of opportunities when they arise, you can achieve goals that may currently feel out of reach. But you need to take the initiative.
About Eric Don ’13: Don graduated Magna Cum Laude (GPA 3.88) with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration, Marketing concentration, from Mihaylo College’s first Business Honors cohort. His achievements include graduating with top honors, Dean’s list every semester, and receiving the International Understanding Award at commencement – only given to one individual each year. While at Cal State Fullerton, he was also President of Business Honors Society, Founder/President of Hillel, and a contributing member of Entrepreneurship Society and Phi Beta Lambda.
We are dedicated to helping the next generation of entrepreneurs develop the skills that they need to compete locally and globally. The CSUF Entrepreneurship program does many things,