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Senior Spotlight: Tim Guiteras

Senior Tim Guiteras has tinkered with and fixed countless items in his pursuit of creating things to help people. At IYA, Guiteras designed a retail experience for adidas’ COPA ‘19 campaign, created a gaming app to combat quarantine boredom, and iterated on products large and small, problem solving his way to new solutions. But even as he prepares for graduation, Guiteras isn’t done reaching for blue-sky ideas. 

Tell me a little bit about your journey to the Academy?
As a kid, my curiosities pointed me in many different directions—photography and carpentry [led me] towards the arts; math and science towards engineering; and reading and writing towards the liberal arts. As you can imagine, this made my college search particularly frustrating—traditional majors seemed acutely narrow for my divergent passions. I first heard about the Academy from Clayton Barnes (Cohort 3), who was friends with my older brother. The rest is history.

What were you looking for in an undergraduate program?
In short, I was looking for a balance of creative and technical skills. It's likely the job I'll have in 20 years doesn't even exist yet, so instead of focusing on becoming an expert in one discipline, I care more about seeking general skills that can be applied to any career path.

How have you evolved over the past four years?
I hope this metaphor lands – college is like one big dressing room and the clothes represent lifestyle, personality, beliefs, and perspective. You come into college wearing one outfit—likely a symptom of your hometown, childhood, and upbringing—but you quickly realize that everyone else is wearing a unique outfit. Some outfits look similar to yours, but some are vastly different—clothes you've never seen before. For me, college has been about embracing this diversity of clothes—trying on different outfits and seeing what feels true to me. So to answer the question (while sticking with the metaphor), my wardrobe has grown substantially over the past four years. I'm equipped with new friends, experiences, and beliefs that will color my twenties and beyond.

Describe an Academy moment that you’ll never forget.
During my sophomore year, I participated in the Academy's Industry Lab with adidas. Over the course of the term, our team created a one-of-a-kind retail experience for the launch of adidas’ COPA '19 event in Los Angeles. As icing on the cake, our team ended up winning adidas' global retail competition, and we were invited to Germany to visit adidas' international headquarters and share our team's work with top adidas executives and employees.

What advice would you give to freshmen?
Don’t complain (or try not to, at least). Nothing is perfect, let alone a new program. Finding something to complain about is easy, but unfortunately, complaining rarely accomplishes much. Instead, use your frustrations with the world around you as opportunities to form unique opinions about what good and bad [insert here] looks like. In the same way that having a great boss can teach you a lot about great leadership, having a bad boss is an opportunity to learn what bad leadership looks like. Both are important lessons to learn, so don't close yourself off to them by getting mad and complaining.

If you find something interesting in one of your classes, don't stop there. You will never learn enough about anything in one class. Read things online, borrow books, and reach out to people in the industry to get the most out of the topics you care about.

Reach out to companies you’re interested in early on and develop good relationships. Almost all of my work experience has come from serendipitous conversations, connections, and passion projects.

Try your best in every project you submit. Your work is a reflection of who you are, what you care about, and what you stand for. People will remember. Don’t bend your interests to fit your assignment. Bend your assignment to fit your interests. You’ll care about it more, do a better job, and sometimes even get a better grade (depending on the teacher).

Get involved in student organizations. This is something I didn't do enough and I regret it! Especially in the Academy, where you don't meet a ton of students through your classes, being involved in clubs is a great way to meet new people with similar interests and get leadership experience.

Although it’s sometimes hard to do, try to share your honest feelings and experiences with your friends. No one can help you if they don’t know you need help. Who knows, maybe they're experiencing the same thing too.

Try new things that make you uncomfortable. Going off that old "ask for forgiveness, not permission" adage, it’s better to try something and regret doing it than to not try something and regret not doing it. Most opportunities only happen once in life.

If you like (like) someone, ask them out! Best case scenario, you get married. Worst case scenario, you never see them again. Likely scenario: somewhere in between.

Don’t invest in Tesla. Or do? Idk.

Describe one thing most people don’t know about you?
I'll plead the Fifth.

What’s one thing your parents taught you that you’d like to share?
If something doesn't work, before buying a new one, first try to fix it. Despite the obvious financial incentive of this philosophy, the greater impact it's had on me is to be a relentless problem-solver. To plagiarize something Steve Jobs said, “Everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made by people no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.”

Is there an inspirational quote you live by?
"You’re not an owner, you’re only a steward. So pass something on." - Stephen King

What goals do you have post-graduation?
Mainly, to stay inspired. I think it's easy to take for granted how uniquely great the Academy community is for nurturing creativity and imagination; it's contagious and impossible to ignore. The same environment won't be so easily found after college, so I think we're all going to have to look a bit harder to find it. Some career bucket list items of mine include: living in a foreign country, chasing a unicorn, and building a personal flying machine.

Describe a passion project you’re currently working on and how you came up with the idea for it?
It's safe to say that 2020 was an unideal social environment for college students. To help students like myself continue to socialize safely, my friend Aedan Joyce and I created "Almost Friday," a social gaming app centered around video chat. As with most projects, we've encountered several speed bumps along the way, but we're working hard to prep for launch on the App Store in the coming weeks.

What are the essential things you always keep in your backpack?
Headphones, two Bicycle dice, a notebook, a pen, and an extra mask.

Favorite app or website?
YouTube — the knowledge you can find on YouTube (for free!) is so underrated.

Favorite class at USC and why?
CE499: Special Topics Innovation in Engineering and Design for Global Challenges. It's rare that student projects have real impact on real-world problems. This class was an amazing exception. Focusing on the refugee crisis in Greece, we were challenged to design real solutions for refugees living in Moria, the largest refugee camp in Europe. After months of research and iteration, our class flew to Lesbos, Greece, and spent an entire week deploying our solutions in the camp and helping in any way that we could. The experience forced me, a privileged American student, to rethink my goals as a designer and impact on the world.

Favorite way to de-stress?
Surfing, camping, or any other activity where my phone is far, far away.

Guilty pleasure?
Beating Jay Goettman (fellow Academy student) in ping pong (daily).