Career Q&A: Dennis Williams II ’14, American Studies

Every once in a while, we’ll chat with an alum about what they do and how they got there. Today, we’re talking with Dennis Williams II ’14, American studies, a writer, content marketer, and startup founder based in New York city. He’s also one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices of 2016, and with a story like his, it’s not hard to see why…

denniswilliamsName: Dennis Williams II
Grad Year: 2014
Major: American Studies
Job Title: Content Manager at Augment

You were named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices of 2016 for sharing your story of how you went from homelessness to, as you put it, working with Madison Square Garden in your backyard. What inspired you to tell your story, and what kind of reactions have you received since publishing it to LinkedIn? I definitely wanted to [tell] all the students who come from underprivileged circumstances, or those who don’t have the opportunity, that there’s information out there that they can go get and really build into their portfolio, into their resume, to make them better candidates and change their career path. It was a tough decision at first, but I realized that there were others who had been in similar situations…[who] could take some kind of direction from my story and implement it into their everyday lives, to hopefully get around the obstacles facing them and plaguing them. [The] reception I got was great. I believe it did [25,000 to 30,000] views on LinkedIn, but even outside of that, [I had so many conversations with people who told me] “You’re strong for sharing your story,” [and talked] about their own […] narratives. It definitely started a lot of conversations, both in Maryland and out here [in New York]. It’s introduced me […] to a lot of people I wouldn’t have met before. LinkedIn kind of pushed me to write that story. I [spoke] to them in private about my background and how I wanted to touch a certain audience, and they were like, “Yeah, you should really write that,” and I was like, “Yeah, okay, that’s an interesting idea, but I don’t really think I’m open to being that open,” you know? They explained all the positives that could come from it, and they said they’d help me craft it anyway. So yeah, [LinkedIn was] definitely a catalyst behind this story.

How did it feel to be recognized? It felt great! It was a lot of hard work. I started writing for Funny or Die in 2013, while I was interning [there], […] and I’ve been trying to break my way in for a little while. It feels good to be recognized for holding a different point of view. The thought leadership content that I’m putting out…really does depict me and my professional values, so it felt good to put good, organic, original content out there and get recognized for it. I definitely didn’t expect it by the end of the year, either.

You now work as a content marketing director for Augment. Could you tell us a bit more about what you do in that role, and what the company does? Augment…[helps] businesses use augmented reality to better sell their products. We have clients like Coca-Cola, L’Oreal, Boeing, a lot of different [companies] that use augmented reality to help their customers see the products before they want to buy them. So I manage the content marketing department, [and] what this entails is creating content […] both on the branding side, and then to drive business as well. [It’s for] inbound leads to bring in those prospects that eventually turn into clients. Augment’s based in Paris, but we have an Orlando office and a New York office, and I work out of the New York office. So I do this both domestically and internationally. [I also run a startup called Bando, which is] a mobile platform for urban news. [It’s] growing at a rate of 20 percent month-to-month, and we support all news that pertains to the urban culture. It’s everything from video to written copy, articles, things like that, and we really want to grow an audience. [It’s] positive news-sharing for those that want to digest this on a day-to-day basis. [It reflects] the culture that I come from, and I wanted to build something that my background and those that I know can resonate with.

What is your favorite thing about the work you do? I think it’s seeing all the new technology before anyone else knows about it! There’s so much that I see on a daily basis that people may not find out [about] for one to two years, and I’ve seen it happen, whether it be artificial intelligence, robots, augmented reality, [or] virtual reality. [… ]I’m also a [content] fellow at Oculus in San Francisco…so seeing all of these emerging technologies before anyone really knows about them is definitely the coolest thing about my job.

Is there any particular aspect of your UMBC experience – a class, a professor, an internship – that’s affected your career path? I would have to say Kimberly Moffitt…she [really helped] me stay on course and manage all of the different aspects I had to deal with, both as a student and as an individual at UMBC. [All] of her direction throughout that last year and a half was a huge help to me. And even on the personal side, [she helped] me stay focused on school and on my larger professional goals, and keeping the endgame in sight. […] Just overall, the different administrations at UMBC [offer] a high level of education, encouraging you to think at a higher level [and] to push forward in that aspect[.] I think they were all an aid to helping any student be successful, so it was a huge help.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give an incoming UMBC student? That’s a good question. I would say “don’t ever limit yourself.” It may sound cliche, but in today’s age there’s an abundance of information, and you have access [to it], whether it’s through your computer or through your networks, your friends, sitting down with your professors. I was in a theater class for two years, and I would [talk to my professor] about screenwriting and developing on the theater stage. Never limit yourself, both mentally and in action. Going to get that information through those different portals is important, because there’s so many more opportunities out here that aren’t directly in front of you and aren’t explicit. I just want people to know that thinking outside of the bubble, and thinking outside of the box, can really open some doors for you.

Send us your story in a class note by Wednesday, March 1, to have it featured in the next issue of UMBC Magazine!

Congratulations to our 2016 Alumni Award Winners!

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Each year, the UMBC Alumni Association celebrates alumni and faculty who have made outstanding contributions to their fields, their communities, and the University. This year, we honor the following individuals for their achievements:

Engineering and Information Technology:
Dr. Vince Calhoun, Ph.D. ’02, Electrical Engineering
Executive Science Officer and Director, Image Analysis and MR Research; Professor of Translational Neuroscience, The Mind Research Network

Distinguished Professor, Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Biology, Computer Science, Neurosciences, and Psychiatry, The University of New Mexico

Humanities:
Dr. Ian Ralby ’02, Modern Languages and Linguistics, and M.A. ’02, Intercultural Communication
Founder and CEO, I.R. Consilium

Natural and Mathematical Sciences:
Dr. Henry Baker ’78, Ph.D. ’84, Biological Sciences
Hazel Kitzman Professor of Genetics; Professor of Surgery; Chair, Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, University of Florida College of Medicine

Associate Director, University of Florida Genetics Institute

Social and Behavioral Sciences:
Ruby Lu ’94, Economics
Co-Founder, DCM China (2003-16); currently preparing a new startup venture

Social Work:
Joseph Jones, Jr. ’06, Social Work
Founder and CEO, Center for Urban Families

Visual and Performing Arts:
Dr. Tiffany Holmes, M.F.A. ’99, Imaging and Digital Arts
Dean of Undergraduate Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Distinguished Service:
Thomas Sadowski ’89, Political Science
Vice Chancellor for Economic Development, University System of Maryland

Rising Star:
Galina Madjaroff ’08, Psychology, and M.A. ’11, Aging Studies
Undergraduate Program Director and Clinical Assistant Professor, The Erickson School at UMBC

Outstanding Faculty:
Dr. Kimberly Moffitt
Associate Professor, Departments of American Studies and Language, Literacy, and Culture Ph.D. Program, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 6!

Learn more about our past award winners:

2015 Award Winners

2014 Award Winners

2013 Award Winners

2012 Award Winners

2011 Award Winners

2010 Award Winners

2009 Award Winners

2008 Award Winners

2007 Award Winners

2006 Award Winners

2005 Award Winners

Past UMBC Alumni Award Winners

UMBC Athletic Hall of Fame

Link Roundup: UMBC in the News

Here’s who (and how much snow) made the news this week:

For more campus community happenings, head to UMBC News.

Link Roundup: UMBC in the News

One of the things that makes UMBC great is how wonderful our alumni, students, faculty, and staff are. Because of these amazing people, UMBC often finds itself “in the news,” so each week, we’ll be sharing with you a round-up of the most newsworthy achievements from our community.

For more UMBC community updates, head to UMBC News.

Roundup: UMBC in the News

One of the things that makes UMBC great is how wonderful our alumni, students, faculty, and staff are. Because of these amazing people, UMBC often finds itself “in the news,” so each week, we’ll be sharing with you a round-up of the most newsworthy achievements from our community.

  • Kimberly Moffitt, American studies, appeared on WEAA-FM’s The Marc Steiner Show on Monday to discuss the Freddie Gray case, Maryland political happenings, and the recent shooting at a Planned Parenthood location in Colorado.
  • Ellen Hemmerly, bwtech@UMBC, penned an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun on the city’s future as a cybersecurity hub, citing its proximity to the federal government and to defense and intelligence contractors, its preponderance of cybersecurity firms, and its potential to attract even more startups in the coming years.
  • Christopher Shuman, Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology, confirmed findings from NASA’s Operation IceBridge that both the north and south polar ice caps have decreased dramatically in height, saying this is “not at all surprising given what we have observed with other sensors.”
  • Jason Loviglio, media & communication studies, called for more diversity in the podcasting world after attending the 2015 Podcast Movement in Texas earlier this year.

For more on these stories, and for even more UMBC updates, head to our brand-new news website!

Roundup: UMBC in the News

One of the things that makes UMBC great is how wonderful our alumni, students, faculty, and staff are. Because of these amazing people, UMBC often finds itself “in the news,” so each week, we’ll be sharing with you a round-up of the most newsworthy achievements from our community.

For more campus community news, visit UMBC Insights!

Round Up: UMBC in the News

One of the things that makes UMBC great is how wonderful our alumni, students, faculty, and staff are. Because of these amazing people, UMBC often finds itself “in the news,” so each week, we’ll be sharing with you a round-up of the most newsworthy achievements from our community.

Read more at UMBC Insights!