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A Career Journey: Michael Nizich, ETIC Director
If one is inexperienced in something, it can seem like the scariest thing in the world. That sense of not belonging, feeling like a fish out of water. This is what it felt like to take the first real steps in my career journey.
Before I was a CSEE ambassador, I worked at a restaurant for a couple of weeks. Needless to say, my performance there was quite…subpar. On my first day I broke a bag in front of my supervisor and throughout the whole time I worked there I never clocked in. I didn’t even know what “clocking in” was. One day they called me and said that they didn’t need me to come in anymore since their restaurant had enough staff. In the end I was only paid in free food. I left the job feeling like a clown. Heck, not even a clown, I felt like the whole circus.
As you can see, my career journey had a pretty rocky start. I’m lucky I met with a professor who was able to help me find a job here in the Career Success and Experiential Education department, which leads me to the purpose of this piece.
I was given the opportunity to interview one of New York Tech’s notable staff members: Dr. Michael Nizich, the director of the Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation Center (ETIC). He has several years of experience in various industries, so someone like him is bound to have some interesting answers to all my career questions.
I began the interview by asking Director Nizich to introduce himself, to which he obliged and gave his title as the director of NYIT’s ETIC. I then proceeded to ask him how many jobs he has had, just so I could gauge how far he has gone in his career journey. Dr. Nizich gave me a summary of his past careers: “Out of college, I had a company called ‘National Helicopter’ and I was a manager for National Helicopter. I then worked at Executive Airlines, where I created software. I also worked at a start-up called Interjet. Then I worked for West Babylon School District as a network administrator. Then I worked at a company called C.E.C Technologies INC., a software company. Then I was a vice president for a software company called Impact. Then I was an executive for a public biotech company called applied DNA sciences. And then I came to New York tech. I finished my PhD in 2018. I came into New York Tech as the Director of the Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation Center (ETIC).”
When I asked him to name his favorite job out of all the ones he had he answered: “Impact, I was there for 14 years and did everything I wanted to do.”
Next I inquired about which job paid him the most. Dr. Nizich responded: “My job as an executive in applied DNA sciences.”
Moving on, I decided to ask him which of his many past jobs was his least favorite. He replied: “The startup, Interjet. It was unbelievably high pressure.” Having to make sure that he met certain deadlines appeared to be quite the nerve-wracking endeavor for Dr. Nizich. A job that induces high amounts of stress is bound to be one’s least favorite in their career journey.
I was curious just how Dr. Nizich managed to get so many jobs throughout his life. When I questioned him on the subject, he had this to say: “I always look for wood to knock on. From 14, I never had a break in employment, if you can believe that. The more you can demonstrate who you are and what you can do and what you know, the more opportunities you have. So you just have to put yourself out there.”
I then asked him if there was anyone in his career journey that he is glad to have met. His response was most interesting: “Every mentor, not just like bosses, but even just people in the department who were like ‘what are you doing it that way for? Do it this way, it’s better.’ Even the people who are in your way. Everyone, because meeting them teaches you more about you.”
A question that lingered in my mind is what, above all else, should you look for in a job? Dr. Nizich responded: “It depends on what job and when you’re looking for it. The most important thing you should look for is that the job exists and you can actually do it. It should be in your field and at a company that, at a minimum, will see some expansion within the next 3 years. So, look for the company that’s going to give you the most amount of return and reward over the next 10 years.”
I then proceeded to ask him what he would add to his current job if he ever had the chance. He answered: “More exposure of what we’re doing. The more people that know about what we’re doing, the more people that see us, the better we’re gonna do because of the way we’re designed. The more we are seen, the more funding we get.”
I figured it would be prudent to ask him about any career horror stories he experienced. By which I mean, some kind of really bad job-related experience. Dr. Nizich stated: “Every job has its good and bad days. Just like life or anything else. For me, the large implementations I did in my jobs. The days when you had to stop old systems from working and get new systems online within a certain amount of time was the most stressful. Days like these were the worst days, but were also beneficial when you pulled through them.”
Afterwards, I asked him what the best thing to happen to him was, career-wise. “The life that your career has provided you with. My homes, my family, everything I can do today. The best thing about my career is that it provides me with the life I have.”
In our career journeys, we all come to learn skills of some kind that will better assist us along the way. So I decided to ask him what was the most valuable skill he learned from his own career journey. “The ability to take complex topics and relate them to people in a way they can understand easily,” Dr. Nizich says.
Finally, I asked Dr. Nizich if he had any advice for NYIT students who are beginning their career journey, to which he replied: “From the time you get your degree and start working, just enjoy it. Don’t make it too stressful. You are going to be okay, you are going to make it happen.” He then went on to say: “Secondly, I wouldn’t concern myself with money. Don’t compare your pay to others. Just get a job that’s in your field and will give you some experience. Don’t concern yourself with this option over that option and just focus on getting the first job. Everytime you don’t take an opportunity that is available to you, you are missing out on every other opportunity that that single opportunity will be giving you. Maybe you’ll try to wait for the next opportunity, but you might wait for too long.”
As I said earlier, if one is inexperienced, it can seem like the scariest thing in the world. My career journey had a rough start, and sometimes I find myself wishing I could do it all over again with the wisdom I currently have so that I could fix my past mistakes. But time travel isn’t a thing, as far as we know. There’s no point in looking back, as we can only keep moving forward. And as you move forward in your career journey, I hope that this interview has provided you with some advice that will help you along the way.
As Dr. Nizich previously said: “You are going to be okay, you are going to make it happen.” Given his vast years of experience and long career journey, I think we should take his word for it.
This Article was contributed by Joe Tapia, CSEE Ambassador in the office of Career Success and Experiential Education.
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