Collegiate Seminar, Business, and a Desire for Social Justice Converge in Alum’s New Role as Tech Recruiter at Discord

When Gaby Rodkopf, '17 started at Saint Mary's College, she was searching for answers. She wanted to know what her next job was going to be, how she was going to move forward with her life once she walked during graduation. Rodkopf credits Saint Mary's College School of Economics and Business Administration, the College itself and Seminar as helping her to come to these conclusions.

Gabriella Rodkopf 17

"As I was going through my time at Saint Mary's and taking Collegiate Seminar, I realized that in Seminar, we're all trying to come to some shared agreement on a text, but this might not actually be the answer to what's happening in the text. I also learned that you may never really find that particular answer, but that you can go through the process of critical thinking to understand something in a way that is greater than what you already know,” said Rodkopf.

The granddaughter of Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, her grandparents escaped persecution in the Ukraine with help from the Jewish Federation, a non-profit organization that assists Jewish people in areas in which there is a lot of anti-semitism. They moved to the Bay Area before she was born, first by way of Italy for six months, then the United States. They didn't know English, took any job they could find to gain practical skills, and helped her parents immigrate to the United States, settling in Walnut Creek.

She got her new job right after graduating with her undergraduate degree in business administration. Rodkopf credits the College for its many areas of mentorship, from the business school to the Seminar program to the Mission and Ministry Center and the Admissions office.

Her day-to-day operations as a recruiter finding qualified engineers for a tech gaming company called Discord are jam-packed with activity.

"I work with a team where we find and schedule candidates in our hiring process," said Rodkopf.

Her job also involves a lot of communication. "Going back to the Seminar program, I think seeing in that environment and being forced in the classroom to say why you believe something and to back up your claim when you're trying to speak on a text or speak on someone's point, kind of translated into this work environment where I'm trying to speak on myself and almost sell myself to a company. And I was able to do that,” said Gaby.

A big inspiration for her desire to work in tech came from her father's background in mathematics. "In the Soviet Union, there was a big focus on STEM during his education, to learning math and science as well as liberal arts. My dad, when he came to the U.S., started taking programming classes, working in start-ups. He worked for Siebel, which got acquired by Oracle, where he became an engineering manager, managing the team of back end engineers," said Rodkopf.

Her parents, who suggested focusing on one skill or trade, at first didn't understand her desire to go to a liberal arts school. "In the Soviet Union, there was a concept that you have to find this one thing you're good at. At Saint Mary's College, you learn to be well-versed in many areas. It was a learning curve for my parents to accept there other things in the world aside from becoming a doctor or a lawyer."

Rodkopf utilized the career center on campus to learn basic job hunting skills, then, in working as a student ambassador during her time in the admissions office on campus, she found that she liked helping people figure out what they want to do. Working with high school students who were considering Saint Mary's made her consider entry-level recruiting.

When she found Discord was hiring on Glassdoor, she thought, "Wow, if I could work at a video game company, I would be the happiest person ever," though she was skeptical of the odds.

Gabriella Rodkopf alumniRodkopf said her experiences at the College set her up to succeed in getting hired. She was able to talk about her experience working for the Collegiate Seminar Department as a co-leader, as well as her experience working in the admissions office doing administration work with similar tasks, such as organizational administrative head-hunting type duties. After she got through the lengthy interview process, she learned the lingo of a tech company in the gaming space rapidly, such as learning the difference between a front and back-end engineer, what it means to be a development, tools or infrastructure site reliability engineer.

From a global perspective, Rodkopf feels like the business school and Seminar taught her to look at the big picture, not just in business, but in the human condition and where social justice comes into play in her daily life. She can see another layer to working in the business of technology, especially working in downtown San Francisco. "I get off on Civic Center station every day, waiting for a shuttle that takes me to my building. Just walking through the Civic Center, I see a lot of things that can mind-boggling to comprehend. You see human excrement, you see people sleeping in the station, you see people sleeping outside of the station asking for money. Homelessness is a rampant problem in the city. When I moved here I became hyperaware that this was an issue. I wanted to educate myself, so I read San Francisco Chronicle articles, since that's been the number one media outlet talking about homelessness in San Francisco. And then I compared what I see in Civic Center Station, the extreme poverty of this very wealthy city, with what I then walk into as being a member of the tech industry. Especially on the hiring side, the labor market for engineers is insane because there's too much demand for engineers with certain skills but not enough supply.

There is a lot of wealth currently in the tech industry. This is a reality that I'm highly aware of, and I participate in that reality because my job is to hire engineers at Discord. Here is this issue of disparity as I walk through a physical space, and into a very opposite lifestyle and environment to that where I work. I came to Saint Mary's searching for answers and I came out of Saint Mary's still searching for answers. I realize that as a single human being, I don't have the answer. What I can do is be a voice in my company, as an entry-level employee, and be willing to talk to the people here who do have the power to be involved in social activism, or to just be involved in talking about the issues that are two streets away from us. There is a tent encampment that is right by our building. It's unbelievable.

“Seminar and being a Saint Mary's student taking business classes, and simply being at a college that values concern for the poor and social justice as our Lasallian mission, gave me the horsepower to come into the environment that I'm in and start asking questions, to start really saying,  ‘Hey, there's a lot of privilege in the tech industry, and we need to check that privilege and realize that,’ ” said Rodkopf.