Career Profile: Criminal Justice to User Relations

Portrait of Cole


College: San Diego State University

Major: Criminal Justice and Public Administration

Graduated: 2010

First Job Out of College: Specialist at Apple

Current Position: Creator and User Relations Manager at Patreon



Though it may feel otherwise, your field of study doesn’t limit the career paths you can take. Cole reveals that passion is the secret to pivoting careers straight out of college.


Did you plan to do something with criminal justice during college?


About my sophomore year, I realized that that wasn’t the path that I was really going to go down. I thought about changing my major because I was really interested in astronomy at the time, and I was taking a lot of astronomy courses, but I thought the best course of action for me would be to just get my degree. I realized that a lot of people didn’t land in the area that they got their degree in. So, I completed my degree, and then looked for companies that I would be passionate about working for where I’d feel like I was doing some good.


What sorts of answers did you give to interview questions, since your degree was in criminal justice and not really applicable to the jobs you applied to?


I just think companies are looking for passionate people that are consumers and users of their product, or fans of their company, or whatever it is that they do, because they know that they’re going to work the hardest to make that company successful. So every interview I went to, I made sure that they knew that I had all the Apple products, that I’ve been using them for a long time, that I’m the go-to guy in my family. I told everybody, “Hey! You should be on a Mac, not on this!” I’m naturally a fit for what [Apple is] doing because I’m already doing it outside of the work space.


Make sure that the passion comes through for whatever you’re applying for, because I think that’s what people are looking for, rather than specific skills. Because in a role and in a job, you can teach the skills to somebody, but you can’t necessarily infuse them with passion for what they’re doing.


Was there anything specific to your degree that helped you?


Just having a degree actually allowed me to get into this [intensive two-year management program at Apple]. The Apple program required that you have a degree, and that you had a 3.6 GPA or above, and I had both of those. I’m not sure that any of the direct skills of law enforcement really translated into a management-type field, but I would say that the intangible skills that you do learn getting the degree in the first place definitely helped with skills like time management and organizational planning.


It seems like you moved through the ranks at Apple a lot—how were you able to do that? What things did you do on the job to get those promotions?


People saw the leadership characteristics that I had early on—being able to motivate and build a team and gather people around a certain cause. Or whatever initiative Apple tried to roll out, I was an early adopter. It didn’t really matter if I agreed with it or I didn’t agree with it. If that’s what the company wanted to do, that’s what I focused on. I had a certain skill of interacting with people, whether that be internally, with other employees at the company, or externally. Just being charismatic and willing to help anybody goes a long way.


How did your role at Apple prepare you for your current role at Patreon?


Going through that management training program really opened the door for me to a whole world of new skills and training and everything that you need to be a leader, regardless of what company you’re in.


So when you’re at the Patreon office, what do you do all day?


A large part of my role is dealing with the creators and dealing with the users. I have to focus on growing our business, bringing on more creators, making sure that everybody feels like they’re getting a white glove treatment. But I also have to focus on what Patreon’s goals are, and how am I constructing and making an environment in our little Creator Relations world where everybody can thrive? …


A lot of my day is mostly just splitting my time between internally setting up structures and processes for things where we can be working the most efficient, and externally reaching out and trying to get influential creators to see the value in what Patreon can bring them, and helping them get up and running on that side.


For any graduates who are still looking for jobs, do you have any last advice?


Find something that you’re passionate about, and don’t settle on something because it’s a job, or because it’s a paycheck. Some people don’t have this ability, I understand, but if you have the ability to transition from college life into the “real world” and have the time to look for the right fit for you, you’re going to be a lot happier.


And just be patient. Everything will work out. There will be ups and there will be downs, and you might be disappointed, but if you have the luxury to search and wait for the right opportunity, it will pay dividends in the long run.


Written by Ashley McDonnell

Posted by Team Fundamentum