making her own PATH
How sociology major Priscilla Tenggara ’18 landed her dream job at Facebook
According to lore, UC Irvine’s Aldrich Park was created without paths. The story goes that founding chancellor, Daniel G. Aldrich, told campus planners that they should observe where the students walked and form the paths from there. “Chancellor Dan” wanted the students to make their own way.
Sociology major Priscilla Tenggara embodies this philosophy. The senior has already lined up a job at Facebook when she graduates in June. After interning at the company last summer, Tenggara was hired to join Facebook’s Global Marketing Team in Chicago where she will help small and medium businesses connect with customers.
“You don’t have to fit the mold,” Tenggara says, in reference to her atypical background in sociology in the male-dominated tech industry. “My sociology degree makes me stand out.” When hiring managers have asked about her major, she explains, “In order to market to people, you have to understand them. Well, sociology is all about understanding people.”
Like many students studying a discipline without a clear-cut professional path, Tenggara is often asked what she plans on doing with her degree. For her, the answer is easy. “Anything and everything,” she says.
A quick glimpse at her resume reveals that she has done “anything and everything” and there’s every indication she will continue to do so. She’s been the Social Media Director for TEDxUCI. She’s interned at Dell and Facebook. She’s studied abroad, not once, but three times through the University of California Education Abroad Program, visiting Berlin, Hong Kong, and is currently participating in the Madrid/ Rome European Immersion Program. She participated in Munch, an AT&T Mobile App Hackathon, where she helped create a mockup mobile app that connects people dining alone. And she somehow found time to be active in the UCI chapter of Delta Sigma Pi, the professional business fraternity, and a sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta.
For Tenggara, there are no limits. “Your social science degree prepares you for many careers in many fields…a social science degree will not only allow you to solve intricate problems of the world but will also empower you to do almost anything you want. The boundaries are endless and often intersect with other disciplines, even in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math].”
Tenggara didn’t start out as a sociology major. As an incoming freshman, she planned on becoming a business economics major. “Somewhere along the way,” she says, “I fell in love with my intro sociology courses as they taught me about social and cultural interaction, which intersected with my career interest in marketing in the technology field.” She also realized that employers were more fascinated in the experiences she had and in her as an interesting person. “Your degree does not define your path,” she says.
Tenggara speaks at a fast clip, as if her speech has trouble keeping up with her ideas. Listening to her, it’s hard not to share her enthusiasm for sociology, which, according to her, equates to an enthusiasm for people. Her energy, her genuine excitement for her major, which she loves because it’s “people oriented and data driven,” has led her to one opportunity after another.
The secret to her success
Tenggara has been able to excel in complicated systems of financial aid, internships, and employment. It’s easy to assume that she has parents who helped her navigate these systems. It’s easy to assume that she has a long list of connections that have opened doors for her along the way. This is not the case.
Tenggara immigrated to the United States with her family in grade school. They moved from Jakarta, where her father had a stable job at a pharmaceutical company, to a onebedroom apartment in San Diego, where her parents worked late shifts at fast food restaurants and enrolled in English classes. Her parents’ decision to immigrate to the United States was based on their wish to provide a better education for their daughters. A lot of what fuels Tenggara is her parents’ sacrifice. She wants to make sure that it was worth it.
“If you don’t think you have the right background, don’t let that stop you,” she says. She’s a first generation college student. She admits to not knowing what the SATs were until the year she had to take them. While her friends’ parents were filling out their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms, she was online researching it herself, figuring out what to do, and doing it. If there is a secret to her success, this is it. It appears to be her approach to everything.
For example, when her UCEAP experience in Berlin was coming to a close, she already knew she wanted to return. “Berlin challenged my way of thinking, how to approach work. You know how people say Americans live to work? Well, in Berlin, people worked to live.”
So, she made as many business contacts as possible by messaging people through LinkedIn. She sent short notes explaining that she was a student and that she would love to know more about what they did and how they got there. She then asked if they’d be willing to meet her for coffee for thirty minutes. (“It’s important to give an end time,” she says.) A lot of people didn’t respond. A lot of people said no. But some did. Someone from SoundCloud, the music and podcast streaming platform, not only agreed to speak with her, but invited her to lunch, gave her a tour of his office, and even invited her to see his band. “I wanted to plant as many seeds as I could,” she says.
You don’t have to fit the mold. My sociology degree makes me stand out.
Paying it forward
According to Tonya Williams Bradford, assistant professor of marketing at The Paul Merage School of Business, with whom Tenggara worked as a research assistant, Tenggara wants others to succeed, too. Not only did she have the drive and focus of someone beyond her years, she genuinely cared about helping others and the success of the project as a whole. “She will create something special that will contribute to how we’ll interact in the world,” Bradford says. “I already am excited about her successes - the majority of which are still to come!”
Tenggara wants to share what she’s learned, a lot of which she discovered by “testing the waters” with other students. In the winter, she spoke at career development workshops hosted by various organizations across campus. She was selected as the keynote speaker for the Merage School’s Internship 101 event and gave a talk titled, “Defining Your Future,” to freshmen at the Middle Earth and Mesa Court dorms. She advised students to ask themselves why they are choosing their major. “This will be your defining guide,” she says. “Start with the why and the what will come.”
For her, the why has always been people. It’s this genuine curiosity in people that guides her. It’s what drives her thoughtful approach to the decisions she makes and her willingness to seek out the next adventure. Like the original students at UCI who created their own paths through Aldrich Park, Priscilla Tenggara has not only made her own way, but wants to pave the way for others, too. ●