Student Spotlight Series

Dominic Giardini, Winner of Carbonite’s “Windows, Mac, or Linux?” Competition

This week, we had an inspiring conversation with Dominic Giardini, the winner of our “Windows, Mac, or Linux?” competition. The competition was created by and sponsored by Carbonite, the company that offers automated computer backup solutions to protect data.

This competition challenged applicants to record a video explaining Windows/Mac/Linux and suggest a laptop for a 12 year-old. For Dominic’s $3,000 winning submission, he created a cleanly edited video that explains everything you need to know about the top operating systems. Watch his submission here: 

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”? (Please tell us your name, your school, where you are from, what college you attend/graduated from and what career you are pursuing. Feel free to add anything else you might want to share.)

I’m Dominic Giardini, a senior at Colby College, and a Government and Religious Studies double major. I run Cross Country and Track for Colby as well. I hail from Franklin, Massachusetts but recently made the move to Saint Augustine, Florida, which has been an interesting transition! It’s weird to have such brutal winters for so long and then all of a sudden spend the holidays on the beach. I’m still happily enjoying the sub-zero temps up in Maine for school, though.

I’ve been all over the place with my career path. I started out thinking I’d be working in Government or with a lobbying firm, and then I thought I was going to be a journalist. I knew that I needed some higher level of creativity in my job, having had so many side projects tinkering with YouTube and artsy things throughout my childhood. Recently, I discovered the User Interface / User Experience field, and so far it seems like the perfect kind of work for me. It’s a big shift from where I thought I’d be 4 years ago, but I think I’m finally going in the right direction. I’m really glad it’s not too late for me to make that move.

What feeling(s) did you have when you found out you were the winner of the Carbonite Competition?

I was shocked! I was mid-sentence when I saw the notice pop up from my phone, and could only get out “sorry, important email.” to my friend as I frantically clicked on the results. I’ve never really won anything so impactful before, so I was pretty overwhelmed by the news; I had to put my phone down when showing my roommate the page since I was a little shaky. I made sure to notify my inner circle immediately after I could think straight again, since I’d been talking their ears off about this too-good-to-be-true website I stumbled upon for months now. Most importantly for me, it felt so validating to finally have my work with video editing and production to be recognized with critical approval, since it has been such an important hobby for me for so long. 

What inspired you for your submission?

COO Joseph Alim actually notified me about the Carbonite competition when I was asking him about another project, and it seemed like a perfect fit! The challenge was for contestants from Maine schools, with an applicant pool that’s not too overwhelming, and a topic I know a whole lot about just from messing around with computers for so long. I thought to myself, hey, you could actually win this thing. At that point, spending a week of my time here and there to really refine a project (for 3,000 whole dollars!) seemed like a no-brainer.

What do you think makes your submission stand out? Can you share what went through your mind as you worked on your submission?

My submission is pretty reminiscent of my favorite explanatory videos on YouTube: simple animations, clear language, and a consistent art style. The old CGP Grey videos that my high school history teachers used to show me were a big inspiration for the design. I wanted the video to look like I could have cut out photos from a magazine and placed them on a table to describe to this hypothetical 12 year-old what was what, which I think provided the video a solid foundation. I’m a very visual and oftentimes tactile learner, so I knew that if I wanted to know which laptop I should get, I would look for a video like this one. 

What did you learn throughout the submission process – about yourself, your inspiration, the community or the industry?

I learned that I didn’t really know that much! As much as I purport to “know computers,” I actually had to do a lot of research about the operating systems that I wasn’t as familiar with, that being Mac and Linux. I certainly went into the process thinking I had more knowledge under my belt than what was actually there. It took a good amount of discussion with friends on other devices to finally get a good feel for how various operating systems and hardware function. At first glance, a simple final product seems very effortless, but only because so much care has been taken to ensure its functionality; I was thinking a lot about that as I tried to turn my complex points into simple, digestible ones.

What do you think about ScholarJet’s approach to using online skills-based competitions as a way to get hired and win money to pay off your student loans?

Because of my situation, where I’ve hopped around a lot with internships before finding where I’m convinced I belong, my resume is all over the place. I’m proud of my accomplishments as a whole, but I wouldn’t say I’m proud of my resume. Also, I have the impression that employers look at experience with a YouTube channel and may not see that as very relevant to their expectations. I say that because I’ve HAD “YouTube Creator” on a resume for years now and it hasn’t really worked out for me. ScholarJet’s competitions were a beacon in the void where my job applications were going, and it felt so nice to just show my capabilities in this raw format, unattached from a resume that feels somewhat forced and disingenuous. Not everyone thrives in the established system! I found it so ironic that people were telling me that this competition would be a great addition to my resume, but I totally understood why that was happening.

With your hard work, talents, and skills, how are you looking to create a better future? 

A lot of my interest in creating things has come from enjoying products that I love and thinking, I could do much, much better. It mainly stems from my years of playing video games and hypothesizing all the ways I could fix how menus work, tweak hardware designs, or improve narratives. I recently made a game for the App Store with a friend called “Skimboard Hero,” which is our take on the endless arcade runner. The work I’ve done there is a drop in the ocean compared to what I’m trying to do in the future. I want the freedom to design unprecedented stories and mechanics for video games to completely disrupt the industry. Even before I might achieve those lofty goals, I’m interested to work on projects where I optimize how people interact with technology, because my experiences have been defined by frustrating interfaces that I wish I had the power to alter. The world can be so much more efficient if companies make design thinking a major focus, and I’d like to do my part to help.

Dominic’s runner game, Skimboard hero

What are two pieces of advice you have for future applicants who are looking to participate in a ScholarJet competition?

  • If you’re wondering whether or not you should do a ScholarJet competition, do that competition. I have $3,000 dollars that I did not have before. It’s that simple. At the very least, it’s an exercise to hone your skills and improve your craft. 
  • I made sure not to take any shortcuts as I created my project, and I think that was to my benefit! So put out your best work would be my second bit of advice.

If you could have lunch with any person in this world, who would it be and why? 

Shigeru Miyamoto. He’s a lead designer at Nintendo and responsible for many of the major decisions in the Legend of Zelda games, which make up my favorite series. I’ve got a couple posters in my room right now! I’d love to ask him how he came to realize he was a creator, and how he dealt with the risks involved with pursuing a creative passion.

Thank you so much for participating in our competition and congratulations once again! We feel fortunate that you are a part of our mission and a member of our growing community.