Features March 2018 On The Cover

2018 Young Professionals Spotlights


Written By: Alyssa Ramos

Photography by John Sloan

Young professionals in our community who have become effective next generation leaders.

The words young professionals are a double-edged sword. This demographic has received an equal share of both acclaim and criticism. It’s a generation that has yet to be fully understood, but there are those who showcase the best aspects of what it means to be a young professional. In this issue, Business has highlighted young professionals in the Gainesville community who transcend any label. These individuals exemplify this generation’s propensity for activism and learning. Through their endeavors, they seize opportunities with the creativity, ingenuity and drive needed to enrich our community.

 

Alex Ganz

Alex Ganz is the owner of SCAD Media, an advertising and marketing company in Gainesville. Breaking computers since he was six, working briefly at an IT in high school and founding his own a company, Ganz has always been a self-starter.

“I’ve never been the type to follow a single person or single cause and then define myself through it,” Ganz said. “That’s not the kind of person I am. Just do your own thing.”

His company, while primarily based in Tucson, Arizona, has offices in Gainesville, Dallas and Germany. His company specializes in video and web content. However, they’re always innovating as they experiment with 360-degree videos and remote cars.

“I see a ton of potential in Gainesville. It’s gonna take the right people to make this city big and great,” Ganz said. “[There’s] lots of good initiatives that have potential.”

Please briefly describe your title, what you do and other affiliations you have with organizations.
Alexander Ganz is the sole proprietor and owner of SCAD Media, with offices in Gainesville, Arizona, Texas and Germany. SCAD Media has also worked with the Lantern and Ronald McDonald House.

How do you feel about the label “millennial”? Does it describe you? If so, how? If not, why not? What do you like/not like about it?
That depends on the definition of millennial. I think I’m right on the edge, so I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a millennial. Not at all. I’m somewhere in between, but it’s always how do you define that and why do you even want to define it. If you’re talking about millennials, you’re also talking about people who are born in the 90s, which is nothing at all like me. These associations don’t mean much to me in terms of marketing. We target people by age or by interest. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is a descriptor that is very helpful for nowadays. With everything going on and the internet, I could describe my parents as millennials because they’re using Snapchat. That’s one of the defining factors in terms of short stories and instant stuff, but again, not a fan of it.

Who inspires you and why?
I never had a role model or somebody I look up to. I don’t follow any famous people because they’re successful; I don’t listen to Gary Vaynerchuk just because everyone else does. I’ve never been the type to follow a single person or single cause, and then define myself through it. That’s not the kind of person I am. Just do your own thing.

What is the best and worst decision you have ever made?
I dropped out of school of twice. I dropped out of high school and I dropped out of grad school. So, I did my master’s and my Ph.D., and I went all the way to be A.B.D. (all but dissertation). I did all my coursework, passed all my exams and stuff like that, but I was focused more on my business. The degrees and the connections and [all that I] learned are still essential to what I do. The worst decision is all the time I spent there and not getting something in the end. Like I always tell people, there’s no endpoint to studying education or degrees – you can always do something and come back to it – there’s no termination point.

Name the most exciting part(s) of your field and your job?
Constant innovation, constant challenges and creating stuff that hasn’t been created before. We’re looking at 360 tours, and we’ve already done videos in that regard. We ended up looking at how we can build our own remote cars and stuff like that, sticking cameras on them and driving them around. That kind of stuff – we can tinker around but also be creative with it. That’s the kind of stuff that keeps me up until midnight.

How do you want to innovate to your field or industry?
Our industry is fairly collaborative when it comes to creating new ideas and technology; I think the cool thing here is that the sky’s the limit, and you can do a lot of things without breaking the bank of going insane on the budget.

Where do you see yourselves 5 years from now?
To have a stronger presence and a full staff here in Gainesville, because right now it’s only two and half of us right here. I like what I do. I keep doing what I’m doing. There’s really no set [maximum employee count]; I always said I’ll never go over 20 employers. I don’t want to be one of those gigantic, big agencies of hundreds and hundreds of people. I like to do those cool kinds of niche stuff, but that’s just me. I mean, I like to be involved in the day-to-day stuff.

Pick one word to describe yourself.
Self-starter

What advice would you give to young professionals?
Try as many things as you can get your hands on, because I can guarantee you the first five things are not what you’re gonna end up with and going to do. Really. That’s my advice.

Julie Fine

Litigation and hypothetical situations are typical conversation at the Fine dinner table. As a litigation associate attorney for Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano, Julie Fine is just one in a line of lawyers.

“It’s real people, real lives. It’s a fairly powerful position and you need to take it seriously,” Fine said.

Fine who worked for the state attorney’s office as a prosecutor for the 8th judicial circuit for four years says that the law has been a career that has helped her connect with the community on a different level.

“I think people my age need to get more involved with the community and figure out ways to improve our region. I would love for us to have an innovative society here because we’re all open to it, but we haven’t tried,” Fine said. “I want to try to do that; I want to get more involved.”

Please briefly describe your title, what you do and other affiliations you have with organizations.
Julie Fine is a litigation associate attorney for Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano. After college, she worked for the state attorney office as an assistant state attorney, and she was a prosecutor for 8th judicial circuit for four years.

How do you feel about the label “millennial”? Does it describe you? If so, how? If not, why not? What do you like/not like about it?
I think I’m technically a millennial, but I also grew up with technology, and that is definitely a benefit because it’s easier for us to not only use technology, but also change with technology. I think because of our generation, the early-technology generation millennials, everything was changing all the time, and that’s what I’m used to. So I have to keep changing, and I think that’s good because if you’re not changing with the technology, you’re going to have to keep up. You have to constantly realize that that’s the way it is and not be stubborn about it.

I’ve heard people say negative things about millennials. I feel like myself and all my friends are extremely hardworking. I know I work a lot, and I think unfortunately we focus more on work than life in general. It seems they’ve kind of merged. They’ve made life and work the same thing. But it’s good to have separation, rest your mind, get away from it and have a life outside of work. But I feel like millennials and kids coming up behind us are kind of in a position where we always have to be working, and that’s our life now.

Who inspires you and why?
My mom. Both my parents are excellent, but my mom is an inspiration not just for me – to lots of people. She’s amazing. She can do everything, and she does it with a smile on her face, and she’s a happy person. She’s also a Renaissance woman. She’s an amazing chef, she has an amazing garden, she has bees and she’s on all kinds of different boards. She’s a loving person and extremely smart. She’s really just amazing – I’ll cry.

What is the best and worst decision that you’ve made?
I think the best decision was going to law school, and I love it so much. I loved law school, I love being a lawyer, I love my job and being a state attorney now. I can’t say what would be the worst decision; I can’t think of the worst decision; it’s hard to say that – I’m not all the way through my life – and every decision you make has an impact on your life and you have to adjust to it and try to make it better even when you make mistakes. If you make mistakes, you become a better person. Making mistakes is a good thing. I can’t think of something that would be a negative.

How would you define success?
Success is different for every person, but for me it’s just being able to be happy and love what you’re doing. It’s pretty simple.

What’s one piece of advice you would tell your younger self?
Try not to care so much about what other people say; being different is good. It’s hard to feel that, but it would be good advice.

Name the most exciting part(s) of your field and your job?
I like being able to learn new things all the time, but I think a lot of my job is trying to problem solve, to help people and figure things out and help people. It sounds generic, but I really like being able to actually come to a conclusion, figure something out or help someone resolve an issue. It’s also when you know someone is right, or if they’re telling something and you believe that, and being able to prove it, that’s nice. It makes me feel good, because it’s not for me.

How do you want to innovate to your field or industry?
I think my job is about communicating with people and being able to convey something and convince them of a position, so there’s a lot of innovation that can be there. The legal field is innovative and there’s a lot of technology going on. To me, what’s more important is my community, so I think there can be a lot of innovation in our community. People my age need to get more involved with the community and figure out ways to improve our local community. I would love for us to have an innovative society here, because we’re all open to it, but we haven’t tried. I want to try to do that; I want to get more involved.

Where do you see yourselves 5 years from now?
Honestly, I don’t think about it, which is probably bad; you should probably think about where you’ll be in the next five and 10 years. I’m open for anything. Two years ago, I lived in Las Vegas – it was random, exciting and fun. I have too much right in front of me right now. I just try to focus on the here and now and make it better.

Pick one word to describe yourself.

Passionate.

What is your favorite quote?
“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is a little extra.”

What advice would you give to young professionals?
Don’t stress too much try to find what you love to do and what makes you feel passionate and happy, and don’t listen to everyone else.

 

Brittany H. Lee

Brittany H. Lee is the vice president and farm manager of her family’s 110-acre Southern Highbush Blueberry farm east of Gainesville and president of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association. She is also a sales representative at Florida Woodland Group, a real estate firm.

It’s powerful for Lee to see the years of her family’s hard work and dedication impact the community and Lee wants to continue their legacy. With technology and adapting their growing and production practice they are on the forefront of innovation and contribute to a strong and viable industry.

“From the very beginning my parents instilled in my siblings and me the importance of being active volunteers and advocates for our community and community organizations. They’ve been a tremendous example for me and I’m proud to work for them and with them in our family businesses. ”

Please briefly describe your title, what you do and other affiliations you have with organizations. Please say what you’d like to be called in the article.
I’m the vice president and farm manager of Florida Blue Farms, Inc., a 110-acre southern highbush blueberry plantation located east of Gainesville.
I’m also a sales representative at Florida Woodland Group, a real estate firm based in Gainesville that specializes in the sale of rural/agricultural properties.

How do you feel about the label “millennial”? Does it describe you? If so, how? If not, why not? What do you like/not like about it?
I’m on the early fringe of being considered a Millennial. I suppose it describes me in that I was born within the range, and am an early adapter of technologies, but I feel strongly that children of the 80s had a very different introduction to technology than those of the 90s and later. I played “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” on a black bubble screen computer with bright green text before dial-up was even a thing in most households! I remember being in high school when this awesome thing called Juno allowed you to create an email address and receive mail electronically!

Who inspires you and why?
My parents. From the very beginning my parents instilled in my siblings and me the importance of being active volunteers and advocates for our community and community organizations. They’ve been a tremendous example for me, and I’m proud to work for them and with them in our family businesses.

What is the best and worst decision you have ever made?
The best decision I’ve ever made was to work for my family in our family businesses. I truly enjoy working for our farm and real estate companies. As our family continues to grow and add more children to the next generation, I am excited and proud of the legacy we are building for their future. I don’t believe there are ever any bad decisions, just decisions that can be learned from.

How would you define success?
Success is setting and achieving goals in a manner that you can be proud of.

What’s one piece of advice you would tell your younger self?
Like my father has always said: If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, how will you find time to do it over? Believe me, my younger self heard this time and time again.

Name the most exciting part(s) of your field and your job?
The most exciting thing about my job is that every day there is a new and different challenge. Using critical thinking and problem solving to assess the environment or analyze a situation to reach a meaningful solution keeps things interesting and fresh.

How do you want to innovate to your field or industry?
The Florida blueberry industry has experienced explosive growth in the recent years, and with that has also come a wave of innovation. With technology and adapting our growing and production practices we hope to be on the forefront of innovation and be a contributor to a strong and viable industry.

Where do you see yourselves 5 years from now?
In five years I hope to be doing the same thing, but better. Each year we have gotten better, more efficient, increased our conservation efforts and become more mechanized. I’d like to continue to be involved in the industry on a state and national level and continue to contribute in a positive way.

Pick one word to describe yourself.
Caffeinated.

What is your favorite quote?
“The world is run by those who show up.”

What advice would you give to young professionals?
To expand the previous question, my advice is to be the person who shows up.
In five years I hope to be doing the same thing, but better. Each year we have gotten better, more efficient, increased our conservation efforts and become more mechanized. I’d like to continue to be involved in the industry on a state and national level and continue to contribute in a positive way

Helena Cowley

Helena Cowley is the CEO of Captozyme, a biotechnology company that creates products to reduce oxalate, the common component of kidney stones. Through the company’s research and technology, it can better understand the microbiome space.

“The field of microbiome is incredibly interesting and full of opportunities,” Cowley said. “We are only scraping the surface with what we know now.”

Growing up as a “latchkey” kid, Cowley identifies more with Generation X. Her mother was an immigrant who put herself through nursing school in order to care for her and her two younger siblings, Cowley said.

“At the end of my life, I want to be able to look back and be proud of how I lived, how I made my decisions, how I raised my children and what I accomplished for myself and my family.”

Please briefly describe your title, what you do and other affiliations you have with organizations.
My name is Helena Cowley. I am the CEO of Captozyme.

How do you feel about the label “millennial”? Does it describe you? If so, how? If not, why not? What do you like/not like about it?
I have never viewed myself as a millennial, and the traits that are commonly described for this generation do not fit me very well. I identify more with the prior generation, generation X. This may be because I was raised under similar circumstances as the ones described to shape this generation, the “latchkey” kids. My mother was a hard-working single parent, on top of being an immigrant and putting herself through nursing school while caring for myself and my two younger siblings. Descriptions of generation X, such as independent, resourceful and self-sufficient, are traits I identify with.

Who inspires you and why?
I am inspired by strong female leaders, such as Ursula Burns and Sheryl Sandberg. There are fewer women than men in top positions in corporate America, so these women are doing something different. It is inspirational to learn their stories and hear their thoughts and ideas.

What is the best and worst decision you have ever made?
The best professional decision I ever made was to join Captozyme in its early years. It was risky, but I never looked back. Some entrepreneurs don’t know they are one; some need to be exposed to the startup in order to find it. I was one of those who needed to get immersed before I got it. When I got exposed, I realized that this was something I needed to do. The worst professional decision I ever made is a lot harder to identify. Don’t get me wrong; I have made a lot of bad decisions, but I always make them with the best intentions, the best effort put forth and a high level of integrity. So, it’s tough to blame yourself later when you have information you did not have at the time. If I have to pick one, it would be that I regret underperforming in my 20s.

How would you define success?
I always tend to start at the end with things, and I do the same with success. At the end of my life I want to be able to look back and be proud of how I lived, how I made my decisions, how I raised my children and what I accomplished for myself and my family. If I can say that at the end of my life, then that would be success for me.

What’s one piece of advice you would tell your younger self?
Keep challenging yourself. You don’t realize it now, but you have a lot of time on your hands. Also, after every bad day there is a tomorrow, and things look smaller in the rearview mirror. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s true that time heals all wounds.

Name the most exciting part(s) of your field and your job?
The most exciting part of my job is that I am constantly learning, and I get to work with great people that I learn from every day. The most exciting part of the field we are in is that there is so much being discovered at a rapid pace. Captozyme is a biotechnology company, and we apply our skills and experience to the food and microbiome space. The field of microbiome is incredibly interesting and full of opportunities; we are only scraping the surface with what we know now. A decade from now we’ll know so much more about how our foods interact with our guts, our microbiome and how that shapes and impacts us mentally and physically.

How do you want to innovate to your field or industry?
Captozyme’s subsidiary, Entring, is launching a first-to-market oxalate-reducing enzyme under the brand name, Nephure. I believe there is a lot to learn about oxalate and how it impacts our health. That we currently have the only commercially available oxalate-reducing enzyme is a significant opportunity. People who are avoiding oxalates finally have something that can help them reduce oxalates in foods. For these people, I would love to see low-oxalate foods (nade) available, just like your gluten-free or lactose-free foods, there should be low-oxalate foods among other things to help maintain kidney health.

Where do you see yourselves 5 years from now?
Five years from now, I will still be working with Captozyme, but my focus will have shifted toward international expansion. I am either traveling to expand our business or living abroad to grow our international presence and partnerships.

Pick one word to describe yourself.
Resilient.

What is your favorite quote?
This one is a bit long, but I have had it in front of me at my desk for years, and it really resonates with me:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

What advice would you give to young professionals?
Advice to young professionals: Respect your elders; they know more than you. Work hard, everyone has to, don’t ever be fooled to think otherwise. Challenge yourself; you probably have more time now then you will have later. You can’t do everything, and you don’t need to either – ask for help. Always take time for family.

 

Tiffany Small

Tiffany Small is a Gainesville Regional Utilities Communication Senior Specialist, engagement committee chair for the Reading Pal Volunteer Committee and the youth council co-adviser for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Growing up as the oldest child with latchkey parents, she was the first in her family to attend college. She now uses her natural communication skills to help the community.

“We have so many different programs and services and we have so many different focuses on the environmental aspects that do so much for our community and being able to communicate that to the customer, and how it’s connected to bettering our lives just makes me feel good.”

Please briefly describe your title, what you do and other affiliations you have with organizations.
I am the Gainesville Regional Utilities Communication Specialist, Senior engagement committee chair for the Reading Pal Volunteer Committee and the youth council co-adviser for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

How do you feel about the label “millennial”? Does it describe you? If so, how? If not, why not? What do you like/not like about it?
When it comes to that term, I’ve always been right in the middle. Sometimes I feel like I relate, sometimes I don’t. I was raised by latchkey parents, and they had me pretty young. By default, I was a latchkey kid as well, so I had a lot of responsibilities early on. Like I actually remember a time with no technology, so it’s crazy to see nowadays how technology is everywhere. Sometimes I don’t really connect because of those differences from the other millennials, but when it comes to embracing technology and staying on top of the trends, I definitely embrace it, and I’m all over it. It’s just so great to see all the generations, and how they’ve evolved over the generations.

Who inspires you and why?
I would have to say family and youth. I’m the oldest and, unfortunately, already a role model without really wanting to be one. So, I always want to put my best foot forward and just be a role model for them. At the Boys and Girls club, sometimes I might have a hard week – fortunately I see them on Thursday, so if I need a pick-me-up – they [the youth] give me that inspiration. I have so many people looking up to me, and they’re so impressionable, so spending time with them just really makes me value things and look at things differently. The kids, man, it’s all about the kids.

What is the best and worst decision you have ever made?
I think my best decision had to be coming to Gainesville, taking a chance leaving Miami and stepping out of my comfort zone. I was the first to go to college in my family, so just coming to Gainesville – just a different place and pursuing something that was a new journey for the whole family, and that connected to me to GRU. I interned there for a few years, and that ended up with a career.

Sometimes I’m a little too hard on myself. That has allowed me to miss opportunities that I thought I wasn’t ready for or that I felt wasn’t qualified enough for. Doubting myself was definitely my worst decision. You can’t be afraid of a challenge and afraid of change. Sometimes that’s the best way to grow and elevate to a higher level, even if you don’t succeed in that actual avenue, just the fact that you want to take the chance to do it is just a success in itself.

And how would you define success?
Success is doing what makes you happy while accomplishing the goals you set for yourself. It’s not an overnight or one-time accomplishment, but something you work at continuously. I like to remind myself that I can be successful by achieving small wins every day!

What’s one piece of advice you would tell your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to be more fearless. Don’t be afraid to take risks and make mistakes. You will beautifully grow by not only facing challenges but embracing them head on! I’m the only person in my way.

Name the most exciting part(s) of your field and your job?
I think the most exciting part is being able to communicate with our customers and helping our different departments communicate with those customers. We have so many different programs and services, and we have so many different focuses on the environmental aspects that do so much for our community. Being able to communicate that to customers, and how it’s connected to bettering our lives, just makes me feel good.

How do you want to innovate to your field or industry?
When it comes to our field, I really would like to find a way to connect the different generations. For instance, you have the millennials, you have the baby-boomers and you have all these other generations in between. Just trying to find a way for us in the workplace to not have these silos where you actually bring these differences and similarities together and really see how the company could benefit from it. So just a way to bridge those gaps in between those different generations. For instance, with the youth, I volunteer and help them out in different areas – that’s bridging that gap and finding ways to connect with the senior executives and higher people in the company, so we’re just having that trickle-down effect where everybody is connected on building the community and finding ways to have that innovation on all levels. Sometimes it’s the same generation or the same group working on innovation but it’s one of those things where you look at the bigger picture, and if you take all these different mindsets and different approaches, we could have something that we didn’t really expect.

Where do you see yourselves 5 years from now?
Since I like to continuously improve, who knows where I’m at five years from now? If I had to say right now, I’ll have my master’s by then, hopefully in global marketing, and something with the youth or church program and trying to connect those two. The church is my passion, and the kids are too.

Pick one word to describe yourself.
Caring.

What is your favorite quote?
“A strong woman knows she has strength enough for the journey, but a woman of strength knows that it is in the journey where she will become strong.” ― Luke Easter

What advice would you give to young professionals?
My advice to young professionals is to continuously improve! Always strive to push yourself above and beyond your limit. You’re never too old to learn or try something new. Don’t ever stop growing, learning and developing yourself both professionally and personally.

 

David Arreola

David Arreola is a city commissioner for District III and a digital strategist for Feathr, a business that provides audience growth and monetization tools. Dedicated to improving the quality of life in Gainesville, he is the youngest city commissioner to be elected to office.

“I want to live past the limitations of political foundations,” Arreola said. “All politics are regressive, but ideas progress past whatever political foundations or groundwork were laid – not in terms of petty recognition but in terms of real impact.”

As a digital strategist and local official, he is excited to grapple with the challenges of his time.

“I don’t like the label, millennial, because it is flippantly used to describe a diverse generation,” Arreola said. “We’re rewiring American culture for better or worse, and I’d like us to think more about the type of impact that has on the world.”

Please briefly describe your title, what you do and other affiliations you have with organizations.
I serve on the Gainesville City Commission, making policy for the city we call home. I’m a digital strategist for Feathr, working to grow the events and associations industry. I also serve on the board of directors for Family Promise of Gainesville.

How do you feel about the label “millennial”? Does it describe you? If so, how? If not, why not? What do you like/not like about it?
There are a lot of stereotypes about millennials, so naturally I fit some, like texting too much, but others I don’t, like I prefer to read actual books. I don’t like the label “millennial” because it is flippantly used to describe a diverse generation. We’re rewiring American culture for better or worse, and I’d like us to think more about the type of impact that has on the world.

Who inspires you and why?
Bobby Kennedy is one. His faith in Jesus Christ, our country and belief in the inexorable call for justice in our society have all served me throughout my life. What’s more is that he was born rich, but chose to fight the dark parts of our society in the name of God and the country he loved. There’s many people just like him, and they inspire me too.

What is the best and worst decision you have ever made?
I called my dad after my first week of classes at Flagler College to tell him it was the best decision I’ve ever made, and I still believe that. My education is priceless, and Flagler College deserves all the thanks. The worst decision I’ve ever made is anytime I’ve chosen to be selfish. Often times being selfish isn’t a direct decision, rather it’s passive and unrealized until it’s too late. Don’t do that.

How would you define success?
I don’t define success anymore.

What’s one piece of advice you would tell your younger self?
What other people think about you is none of your business, but what you think of other people is important.

Name the most exciting part(s) of your field and your job?
I get to work for my neighbors, friends and family on community issues that all boil down to improving our quality of life in Gainesville. Feathr is growing the associations and events industry with an innovative and specifically designed online platform, and I love that I get to be part of our international effort. It’s exciting to grapple with the challenges of our time, and I love my jobs.

How do you want to innovate to your field or industry?
I want to live past the limitations of political foundations. All politics are regressive, but ideas progress past whatever political foundations or groundwork were laid – not in terms of petty recognition, but in terms of real impact. Ideas are worth fighting for.

Where do you see yourselves 5 years from now?
Ambassador Andrew Young gave a brilliant speech at my college graduation, telling us all that you’ll never know where life will take you when you’re in your 20s, but the thoughts that keep you up at night will shape your character in preparation for the rest of your life. These days, there’s a lot to think about, so who knows where I’ll be five years from now. I certainly don’t.

Pick one word to describe yourself.
Loving.

What is your favorite quote?
I have several, not a single favorite. I’ll choose to share one of my favorite bible verses: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

What advice would you give to young professionals?
When you imagine your goals, and ultimately when you pick them, stop to ask, ‘who do I want to surround me when I achieve these goals?’ Reaching your goals is all the sweeter when you share them with people who are genuinely excited about them as you are. You’ll also find when you achieve goals with people in mind, you are enriching life all around you, and setting yourself up for the best kind of goals – squad goals.

 

Joshua Javaheri

Joshua Javaheri is one of the three founders and acting technical art director of Trendy Entertainment, a video game studio. As TAD, Javaheri bridges the gap between engineers and artists. He is also a board member of the Gainesville Area Innovation Network and an active member of ACEL.

“My appreciation for all types of craft arise from those ‘imperfect perfections’ delivered by those who spend their energy pursuing the strange and nuanced. I enjoy watching people do what they enjoy, regardless of the subject or content. It keeps life weird and worthwhile.”

In game design, there are no boundaries to the realities that they create, and it’s a career that keeps Javaheri on his toes.

Please briefly describe your title, what you do and other affiliations you have with organizations.

I’m one of the three founders and acting technical art director of Trendy Entertainment, a video game studio located in downtown Gainesville since 2009. As the TAD, I manage a small team of multidisciplinary artists whose primary focus is bridging the gap between engineers and artists at our studio. I’m a board member of the Gainesville Area Innovation Network, an organization whose primary purpose is to help form, fund and grow the startup community in Gainesville, as well as an active member of ACEL, the emerging leaders organization with several initiatives aimed at helping young professionals grow. I’m a creative consultant, and I participate in mentorship programs locally. I am also a husband to my wife, which is dope.

How do you feel about the label “millennial”? Does it describe you? If so, how? If not, why not? What do you like/not like about it?
Labels like “millennial” are a function of generational tribalism, typically used as a means to create more separation between groups of people by time. As a society, we need to evolve past this and realize that as we generationally evolve, so do our social constructs. Abstractly, these labels prevent empathic social responses, and are, in essence, at the root of humans creating borders and wars. These constructs are a net negative to our evolution as a species.
Who inspires you and why?

The most inspiration for me stems from those who relentlessly pursue their passions. My appreciation for all types of craft arise from those ‘imperfect perfections’ delivered by those who spend their energy pursuing the strange and nuanced. I enjoy watching people do what they enjoy, regardless of the subject or content. It keeps life weird and worthwhile.

What is the best and worst decision you have ever made?

The best decisions I’ve generally made revolve around spending my time with those who enjoy and value my company. Life is too short to spend time or energy on the people who aren’t genuine in that way. The worst decisions I’ve generally made revolve around betraying the trust of friends or loved ones in the past. As I’ve grown, I’ve slowly learned the impact I can have on those around me, for better or worse.
How would you define success?

Success for me is simply about solving the problems that are worth solving and forgetting about the ones that aren’t. I believe that if I can address the right problems for myself and those around me most of the time, I set myself and those around me up well for leading healthy and happy lifestyles.

What’s one piece of advice you would tell your younger self?
Ironically, it would be something to the extent of “don’t dwell on the past.” Which I suppose makes this question somewhat paradoxical! But let’s just say for a moment that I wanted to go a different way, it would probably be “Hey! Stop worrying about what others think of you! They’re probably too busy worrying about what you think of them to notice!”

Name the most exciting part(s) of your field and your job?
The game industry moves quickly. It’s one of the few industries where you can come up with an idea and see it come to life before your eyes within a matter of days/weeks. There’s some serious “instant gratification” that happens, and I’ve always liked that. Additionally, game developers aren’t typically gated by parameters involving “reality,” (unless you consider production/time costs), which makes designing ‘far out’ characters and spaces really enjoyable. Also, in what other industry can you name a flaming longsword after your wife or pet?… That’s what I thought.

How do you want to innovate to your field or industry?
Innovation in the game industry usually comes in one of two flavors.

The first, we’ll call it “vanilla” – It’s yummy because it’s what game developers love doing – creating new game concepts that are refreshing and innovative, concepts that are addicting, challenging and rewarding – concepts that resonate well with the masses. It is awesome, fun and delicious; especially with a waffle cone.

The second, we’ll call it “chocolate” – It’s not as yummy, because for some reason they decided to make it into ice cream. Why would they do that? This is when we have to improve the tech and make things ‘look prettier.’ I get it, beauty sells. Some people like chocolate ice cream, but not me. I hate chocolate ice cream. I’d rather make fun games. Seriously, go to hell, chocolate ice cream.

Overall, vanilla is innovative design and fun gameplay – tried and true; it will always be great. Chocolate is fancy graphics, nothing substantially new, not as good.

Where do you see yourselves 5 years from now?

Hopefully I’ll be zipping up my space suit and preparing for my second mission to Mars. Realistically, I’ll probably be in a VR Star Wars simulator, dogfighting with some TIE fighters. I’m fine with this either way.

Pick one word to describe yourself.
​Thankful.

What is your favorite quote?
I’ll go with my favorite quote this month: “The ticket to emotional health, like that to physical health, comes from eating your veggies – that is, accepting the bland and mundane truths of life: truths such as ‘Your actions actually don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things’ and ‘The vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s okay.’ This vegetable course will taste bad at first. Very bad. You will avoid accepting it.” – Mark Manson

What advice would you give to young professionals?

If you constantly surround yourself with smart, interesting and passionate people, you’ll soon realize that you are just that. Surprise!

 

 

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