University is a time when students are planning for and worrying about their future success. One of the keys to success is finding guiding mentors and taking advice from those who have already joined the workforce. This article features exclusive insights and advice from accomplished DECA alums, sharing their DECA experiences and more. Gain valuable perspectives on how their DECA journey shaped their growth as leaders.
Below, you can find more about the Collegiate DECA Alums who were interviewed for this article.
Nicholas Huynh began his DECA journey in 2010 in high school. He was one of the founding officers of UNLV Collegiate DECA in 2012. He is still involved with the organization, serving as a student advisor, “assisting the officer team on the processes established by past teams, building support in the community and providing support for the advisors.” In total, he has been a part of DECA for 15 years! Nicholas is an Advanced Software Quality Assurance Engineer at a global gaming company called Light and Wonder, designing test plans and strategies for gaming software, providing logistical support, leading initiatives on multiple committees, and training.
Hunter Weber joined DECA during his junior year of high school, then continued Collegiate DECA for his five years of university, where he was a member, competitor, and officer. He works as a Business Diversity Specialist at United Airlines in Chicago. His role includes helping plan programs, scheduling conferences and “acting as a problem solver to break down barriers that diverse business owners have experienced in the past when trying to enter business deals.” His current involvement with DECA includes being a guest speaker for Colorado State University’s DECA chapter.
Tallan Traylor is currently a Project Coordinator at ECI Site Construction Management. With his degree in ecosystem sciences and sustainability and his sustainable energy minor, Tallan uses his studies to advocate for developing sustainable systems, communities, and ecosystems. Tallan was a Collegiate DECA member, officer, and competitor for two and a half years. He maintains his leadership and community within DECA by being a guest speaker at Colorado State University’s DECA chapter.
Jonathan Ryan Boulanger
Jonathan Boulanger started his DECA journey in his freshman year at Charles W. Flanagan High School in 2015. Jonathan continued to Collegiate DECA in 2019, joining Nova Southeastern University’s DECA chapter. Throughout his DECA experience, Jonathan has continuously been a competitor, member, and officer. In May 2023, Jonathan graduated with his Masters in Business Administration and is currently a Program Coordinator at the Alan B. Levan | NSU Broward Center of Innovation (Levan Center). The Levan Center is “an economic development engine in South Florida located on NSU’s campus, and it assists startups and other community stakeholders to develop their businesses and talents, especially in emerging technologies and the Founder’s Journey.”
How has DECA impacted your collegiate experience?
Nicholas: Collegiate DECA gave me a sense of stability. No matter if it was a rough day, Collegiate DECA meetings and projects were the highlights of my college education. Some of the projects I enjoyed as a student were working with local community organizations such as AARP to help provide tax aid to seniors and low-income households and volunteering for the high school DECA SCDC. Collegiate DECA helped me collaborate with peers of different disciplines and build long-lasting relationships locally and across state lines. Collegiate DECA was a pathway for my collegiate experience to explore my passions and helped guide me to where I am today.
Hunter: Collegiate DECA helped me be ahead of the curve in my business courses regarding project preparations, presentation skills, business knowledge and so much more!
Tallan: In my collegiate experience, DECA allowed me to develop further social, personal and professional relationships. Not only did I uncover new passions and values through my experiences through DECA, but I also got to meet some amazing and dedicated people.
Jonathan: Being part of NSU’s Collegiate DECA chapter has led me to achieve noteworthy successes and gain valuable experiences and friendships. Some of those successes include holding various leadership positions, such as Career Development/Competition Chair for NSU (2020-2021), President of NSU Collegiate DECA Chapter (2021-2023) and Florida State Vice President (2022-2023). My relationships, experiences and accomplishments at NSU would not have been possible without the resources DECA offers.
How has DECA impacted your career?
Nicholas: The Collegiate DECA Leadership Passport was a key program that helped my interview to demonstrate how well-rounded I was for the position at my current company. Collegiate DECA's competitions and culture of pushing boundaries helped me excel in my career, where I somehow ended up being nominated to most committees in my department. To this day, I have Collegiate DECA to thank for building me into a high-output team player.
Tallan: DECA taught me the importance of evolving and maintaining versatility in my work while promoting my problem-solving skills. I feel prepared to take on any situation and am always eager to bring new ideas and perspectives.
Jonathan: I improved my public speaking skills by participating in competitions while enhancing my entrepreneurial knowledge. Thus, I can confidently pursue a career in economic development, especially in helping startup businesses succeed with operations, revenue generation, and marketing.
What advice would you give a current DECA member?
Nicholas: My advice for Collegiate DECA members is to take the opportunities to complete the Leadership Passport Program, compete at ICDC, and attend the amazing conferences your state or chapter plans. Additionally, I highly encourage Collegiate DECA members to take leadership roles in your chapter or association. Everything you do in Collegiate DECA can be put on your resume or used in your job interviews to help secure your desired job. Collegiate DECA is a platform where all members can feel empowered to reach for the stars.
Hunter: I would encourage members to step outside their comfort zone and think outside the box. The skills you learn from this organization will easily transition into your career and set you above others. For thinking outside of the box, an idea may seem crazy, but it will make you stand out in a competition and show your skills as a competitor. No matter how crazy it looks!
Tallan: I would tell a current DECA member to take full advantage of the opportunity it provides to build one’s professionalism, but more importantly, I would tell them to immerse themselves in the sense of community that can come from it.
Jonathan: My advice to a current DECA member would be to keep pursuing your dreams with resilience and persistence. As a proud DECA Alumni, DECA is one of the few organizations that genuinely cares about helping students develop themselves, no matter what study area they decide to pursue. Also, only you know what is best for you, so don’t compare your life with others and practice self-care. Always reach out to others for mentorship and support when you need it, and make sure to practice self-care. Finally, help others through giving back with DECA and in other ways to leave a positive legacy behind you.
Having a mentor throughout your collegiate experience is an invaluable asset to have. Take all the knowledge that DECA Alumni have provided and apply it to your experience. Attend networking events, reach out on LinkedIn, and more. Connect with Alumni, Professional Members, and others who can provide insight into your experience beyond university to help you truly Experience the Difference in a complete and well-rounded man