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Grad's internship becomes full-time job at growing software company

| Judy Berthiaume

A week before he graduated from UW-Eau Claire, Christian Dooley got an unexpected but very welcome email — JAMF Software was offering him a full-time job in its Eau Claire office.

Dooley, who earned his degree in information systems with an emphasis in systems development in May 2014, had worked as an intern for the growing software company during his last year of college.

“I loved my internship and was really happy that JAMF wanted to roll it into a full-time position,” says Dooley. “I couldn’t ask for a better place to work. They treat their employees really well, I have great co-workers and I like the job a lot.”

So what was Dooley’s secret to landing first an internship and then a full-time job with the thriving software company?

Making the most of all that UW-Eau Claire had to offer.

While his UW-Eau Claire coursework gave him a strong foundation of knowledge, it was his problem-solving, communication and interpersonal skills that helped him stand out as an intern and gave him an edge when the company was considering hiring him as a full-time employee, he says.

“When I started my internship, my supervisor gave me a list of things I would do, and I knew how to do none of them,” Dooley says. “JAMF has molded me into the employee they want me to be, but UW-Eau Claire helped me develop the kinds of skills that made me someone they wanted to hire.

“I showed them as an intern that I can solve problems, ask and answer questions, and work as part of a team. UW-Eau Claire helped me develop a lot of those skills. The speech classes, technical writing classes and group projects all really do matter.”

As an intern, Dooley answered phones and served as the first line of service for JAMF customers. He was charged with gathering information and working independently or as part of a team to solve customers’ problems and ensure they were satisfied.

“When people called, you didn’t know what kind of issue they were going to be having so you had to be ready for whatever they threw at you,” Dooley says of his yearlong 20-hour per week paid internship with JAMF. “That’s where the critical thinking and problem-solving skills came in. You had to think on your feet and really be ready for anything.”

Dooley says he was surprised when he learned that his first supervisor at JAMF was a geology major and that many of his co-workers had majors from disciplines outside of the College of Business.

But once he got to know the company’s culture, it made a lot of sense, he says.

“At JAMF, and I think at a lot of other places, they hire people who can learn to do the job,” Dooley says. “It’s about being the right fit. It’s not so much about what you already know. They can teach you the job but they want to know you have the skills to do it well and the ability to learn quickly.”

The company’s interest in hiring people with a strong liberal arts education makes sense given that JAMF’s co-founder, Zach Halmstad, graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 2004 with a music degree.

As a student, Halmstad was hired to work in UW-Eau Claire’s Learning and Technology Services, where he learned the basics of supporting Macintosh computer operating systems. He quickly identified a need for software that would exclusively support Macs.

Halmstad co-founded JAMF in 2002, two years before he graduated from UW-Eau Claire.

Today, JAMF’s many clients include numerous educational institutions and commercial businesses, including Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies. Its primary offices are located in Eau Claire and Minneapolis, with other established offices in New York City, California, Amsterdam, Australia and Hong Kong.

Halmstad talks often about the important role his liberal arts education has played in his ability to grow his company from a small start-up into a business that employs nearly 500 people around the world, many of whom also are Blugolds.

The company’s workforce reflects its founder’s commitment to the liberal arts.

In addition to hiring UW-Eau Claire graduates from a variety of academic fields, JAMF also has established an internship program that provides current Blugolds — students like Dooley — with real-world experiences working in a growing software company.

The JAMF internships provide students with quality professional experiences, networking opportunities and a much-needed paycheck, Dooley says.

When Dooley first came to UW-Eau Claire, he already knew that he wanted to be a business major of some sort.

After trying on a couple of different majors that didn’t feel quite right, he did some research to determine what fields were predicted to have the greatest job growth in the next decade.

“My research showed that computers are taking over every industry so it seemed like a good time to jump in to IS,” Dooley says of his major. “The demand for IS majors is expected to keep growing in the next 10 years so my decision was very logical. It looks like it’s paying off.”

While he’s been at JAMF only about 18 months, he’s already been promoted once and now has 100 accounts to manage.

So what advice might the successful young alumnus have for his fellow Blugolds?

Network, network and network some more, Dooley says.

An Eau Claire native, Dooley had heard of JAMF but had only a vague understanding of what the company did until he started searching for an internship.

“My family is from Eau Claire so I talked to my dad’s friends, our neighbors and anyone else I could think of to let them know I was looking for an internship,” Dooley says. “Through that circle, I kept hearing about JAMF, and was lucky enough to get an interview and then the internship. It never would have happened if I hadn’t done the networking.”

His biggest regret, he says, is that he didn’t do more networking within JAMF during his yearlong internship. He’s meeting colleagues now that he wishes he’d reached out to when he still was a student.

Students should start building their networking skills early in their college career, taking advantage of Internship Mania, career fairs, alumni networks, and the many faculty and staff who can help students connect with the right people, says Dooley.

“I don’t know how anyone can get a job without having human connections,” Dooley says, noting that UW-Eau Claire offers students plenty of opportunities to hone their networking skills but it’s up to the students to make the most of them. “You need to make an impression on people, and the best way to do that is to reach out and talk to them. Don’t be afraid to let people know you’re looking for an internship or a job, and tell them what you have to offer.”

Networking early in their college careers can help students find the right academic fit or select the best career path within a particular field, as well as build the connections that will help them land those coveted internships or jobs, Dooley says.

“It’s kind of amazing when I think that I’ve not been out of college very long and I already have this great job with an amazing company that treats is employees really, really well,” Dooley says. “It blows my mind when I think about how fast it’s all happened. I feel so fortunate to have had the kinds of opportunities that helped get me here.”

Photo caption: UW-Eau Claire alumnus Christian Dooley working at JAMF Software in Eau Claire.