Director of career services Dona Gaynor ’92 M.S. has been with the university for 35 years, making an impact on the campus community along the way. We spoke with Dona about her time at Florida Tech, her evolving role and more.
You’ve worked at Florida Tech for 35 years—what’s the secret to that kind of longevity?
I think the secret is that I love what I do, which is helping students find great careers and become successful professionals and business owners. I love helping students find their dream jobs or careers and making the connections with employers that make it happen. I enjoy the fact that I not only work with students and faculty on campus but also with companies and agencies in the community.
What positions have you had here, and what do you do in your current position?
I started working in Evans Library for about a year and then transferred to the career services department. My first position in career services was as job location and development coordinator, then I became the assistant director in charge of the co-op program and the director in 1994.
Working in career services, how have you seen the types of skills employers seek in their new hires—or even the types of jobs themselves—evolve throughout the years?
Obviously, technology has drastically changed the types of skills that are sought by employers and has also changed the types of jobs. Things like cloud computing, computer-aided modeling, automation and 3D printing were not as prevalent or even in existence in the beginning of my career but are considered required in many of our STEM degrees today. One thing that hasn’t changed is that employers still want new hires to have strong soft skills, such as communication, teamwork and problem-solving, but the tools used to demonstrate these skills have become more automated and computer-based. Even just the last two years, during the pandemic, drastically changed how individuals work, with so many more people working virtually from home.
What role does interacting with the campus community play in keeping your job fresh and exciting?
Interacting with the campus community is an important part of our job in career services. Our role is to help students find jobs, internships and other types of experiences, and we work with students at all year levels from freshman to doctoral levels. Working with young people is always fresh and exciting because they are excited about their education and the transition to their professional lives. We also work a lot with faculty to promote our opportunities to students but also to help develop employer relationships, as well as many other campus departments. I’ve always been active in campus committees and enjoyed good working relationships with many faculty and staff over the years.
How would you describe your relationship with the students?
We become close to the students who spend a lot of time in our office with appointments or attending events, especially students who enroll in the co-op program. I have had many students who I’ve worked with in the past stay connected as alumni, and they are now recruiting students for their companies. Some tell me how much my advice and assistance helped them start their careers. It’s a great feeling to know that I have made a difference in so many lives and to see them as successful professionals.
How have you seen the university and/or your department grow and change over the years?
There have been many major physical changes at the university, with several new buildings, especially over the last 10 or 15 years, and there have been changes in the types of majors that are offered to keep up with the changing economy and technology. Our department has not grown that much in terms of staffing but has become more efficient, as we use technology and software tools to provide more services to students and employers.
What makes Florida Tech a unique/great place to work?
Florida Tech is unique in part because of our history with the space program, as well as our wonderful location on the Space Coast. I think our awesome students, faculty, staff and alumni make it a great place to work.
What do you see in the future for Florida Tech?
I see a very bright future for Florida Tech because we are offering the types of majors that are in demand, and we are attracting some of the best and brightest students in the world.
This piece was featured in the fall 2022 edition of Florida Tech Magazine.