With a degree in information technology and a knack for design, Florida State University School of Information alumnus Skyler Vander Molen is making his mark in Silicon Valley as a member of the Communication Design team at Facebook.
The former Dean’s List student, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in information technology in 2008, recently spoke at the 2014 TechExpo, the annual conference and trade show of the Tallahassee Technology Alliance about the importance of global access to the Internet.
After he was invited to speak at the TechExpo, Vander Molen chose the topic of connectivity to talk about at the event. Through his work at Facebook, Vander Molen became more familiar with the subject. Facebook is a founding partner of Internet.org, which is a global partnership to bring connectivity to the two-thirds of the world that doesn’t have access to the Internet.
“I was really surprised by the research I did for that project after digging into a little bit more,” Vander Molen said. “The Internet is actually a more useful tool and more impactful in all sorts of ways than I would have ever thought possible.”
Vander Molen’s career path to Facebook’s Communication Design team was anything but direct, but it started as he built a technical skill set and acquired leadership skills through Florida State’s IT program.
To pay for college, Vander Molen worked as a web designer and developer at Homes.com. The position allowed him to obtain great hands-on experience, which eventually gave him a leg up in a then-declining job market.
“I was getting my design education at work and getting my technical, leadership and business education at Florida State,”Vander Molen said.
Following a post-graduation trip to Africa, Vander Molen returned to Tallahassee for an 18-month stint as a senior designer with the Zimmerman Agency.
“I grew a lot as a designer (at Zimmerman), but I eventually quit and decided to freelance,” Vander Molen said. “I wanted to concentrate on the kinds of projects I hadn’t done before and build out my skills where I thought I was a little bit weak. Specifically, I focused on print projects… a book, posters and illustration.”
After being self-employed for more than a year, Vander Molen joined Postmates, a San Francisco startup, as lead designer where he worked on Postmates’ marketing sites to branding and their three iPhone apps. During that time, Facebook reviewed his portfolio and approached him about joining their team.
At Facebook, Vander Molen collaborates on product and brand marketing projects and is currently working on finding ways to more tightly integrate film with web experiences.
“I think one of the things I got out of the IT program that has been really helpful was a programming foundation that allowed me to learn languages on my own and feel pretty comfortable teaching myself whatever was necessary for the projects I was on,” Vander Molen said.
“(At Florida State) I also learned how to function in an organization or business effectively, which is something I think most people don’t spend much time developing. If you can’t talk to people or convince other people your idea is a good one, you can’t really be effective.”