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Alumni Spotlight: Marc LaFountain

Posted November 28, 2016


Talk a little bit about your work at Uber. How did you get there, and what is your role? What are the most challenging and enjoyable parts of the job?

I applied at Uber because I was fascinated, and am still fascinated, by the way the company is changing the world. Being able to get a ride anywhere at the push of a button still feels magical to me.

I do tools & systems work for the Europe Middle East and Africa region of Uber’s community operations team. Basically, I’m one of the folks who make the systems we use to provide support to people work.

I love working with intelligent, passionate, driven people on interesting, challenging stuff. I’m also really loving Amsterdam as a place.

As for challenges, there are definitely days when I feel a bit overwhelmed, a bit too stretched. But, you have that in any job that helps you grow.

You’ve held a variety of positions in the last ten years, including vice president of support for Tumblr and social media coordinator for the International Olympic Committee. How have your interests and aspirations grown as the fields of journalism and technology have changed?

I’m grateful that I’ve gotten to live and work at this time in history. The lines between journalism, social media and technology have never been more blurred. I feel like I can try anything.

My wife says I’m a restless soul. And that’s very true. But I’ve really enjoyed hopping from job to job and getting to experience a lot of different things.

I love roles that have both communication and technology aspects. So, if my interests and aspirations have evolved to anything, that would be it.

How did you get involved with SCSPA? How did the program shape your interest in journalism and prepare you for your future career?

I was lucky to have a string of passionate, talented teachers there that got me involved in scholastic journalism.

Judy Mulkey (newspaper) and Beth Underwood (yearbook) were my advisers at Irmo Middle School in the late ‘80s. And Karen Flowers was my newspaper adviser on The Stinger at Irmo High School in the early ‘90s. (Yes, I know many of the people reading this weren’t yet born during those years. So weird!)

It’s because of them and the amazing journalism programs they ran that I got involved in SCSPA and was later a journalism major at the University of South Carolina.

Karen Flowers in particular has been a mentor for me. She is an amazing teacher, scholastic journalism advocate and friend. Because of her, countless students from Irmo High School and around the nation became involved in journalism. I count myself lucky to be one of them.

By another stroke of luck, I got to work as a scholastic journalism student assistant at USC. I helped primarily with SCSPA and a bit with SIPA and CJI. I got to work with amazing people like Bruce Konkle, Beth Dickey and Andy Bosman.

When I look back at my life so far, I think being a journalism major is one of the wisest choices I’ve made. It teaches you to ask questions, to organize thoughts and information and, above all, to communicate effectively. Those are all vital skills to have in life.

What are some of your favorite memories from SCSPA events? What did you learn or experience from those conferences that still sticks with you today?

Watching David Knight speak to any group of people on any topic was always mesmerizing. He’s such a witty, funny and kind person.

It was also fascinating to be a middle school student at the start of the desktop publishing revolution.

For the early editions of the Campus I Witness that year, we printed stories on a word processor. We literally rubbed headlines onto layout paper character-by-character with coins! Then, one day Judy Mulkey wheeled in a Mac Plus with PageMaker and MacWrite along with a LaserWriter printer. I still remember how awed I was by it all.

Then, I would go to SCSPA conferences. I was even more awed when the teachers there showed me everything we could do with those magical machines.

What advice do you have for scholastic journalists coming up through SCSPA?

SCSPA is an incredible organization and students in South Carolina are lucky to have it. My advice is for them to soak up everything from it they can.

To be exposed to so many wonderful teachers, so many excellent publications and so many talented fellow students is a gift.

Go to every SCSPA conference that you can. Go to every SIPA and CJI conference that you can. Learn all that you can. They are special times. And the skills you acquire from them will benefit you for the rest of your life.