Where Your Talents, Desires, and Personality Meet: Interview With Scholarship Winner Derek Zak

Below is our interview with Derek Zak, winner of a $1,000 scholarship from Find Your Calling.

Derek Zak dreams of flying UAVs—unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, as you and I would call them. But navigating the path to get there hasn’t been easy.

Derek Zak, studying to be a UAV operator at Liberty University

A senior at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, Derek has had a college career harassed by uncertainty. “The biggest challenge was finding the most exciting and enjoyable major that fits my personality,” he said. “I eventually settled on aviation—and I love it!”

But even then, the questions were far from answered. What kind of aviation? Could he come up with the funds to finish his degree? Even if he could afford to graduate, would his dream career pan out?

Derek has stuck to a strategy that every student should adopt: a potent combination of good sense, calculated risk (with a finger on the pulse of the UAV industry), and the conviction that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.

As you see how the pieces are coming together for Derek, get inspired by his stick-to-itiveness. Like Derek, when you find the career you love, give it everything you’ve got because only then can you know that whatever happens—whether you succeed or fail—that is how it was meant to be.  

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I never knew what I wanted to do with my life! I always hoped I’d just find it along the way. Even now, my dream career is a bit of a mystery because the UAV industry is so new.

My desire for an exciting and interesting major led me to aviation. I discovered that I liked many different areas of aviation, but I didn’t have money to pursue them (taking out a lot of loans isn’t practical) and I also didn’t want to go the commercial or military routes. So I decided to pursue becoming a UAV operator. It’s the future for aviation and something I want to be a part of.

Tell us more about the budding UAV industry.

UAVs started out being used in military operations in the Middle East, but people in the US quickly recognized their effectiveness and there has recently been a high demand for aircrafts and operators. The job market is predicted to explode in five to 10 years and all the training and experience I’ve built up will make me a qualified operator for any company in the US. In the meantime, I’ll probably be flying overseas for military operations on a one-year contract.

What is the biggest obstacle to pursuing your career?

Money! You have to love what you do before you are willing to go thousands of dollars in debt. Understanding the reward that will come with my hard work is my motivation.

What were your three biggest fears or challenges during college?

1) Debt, 2) picking the right major, and 3) wondering if I’d be able to make it back to finish my education. God was good to me; there is no possible way, semester after semester, that I could have found the money without Him.

How would you encourage other students facing similar challenges as you?

Don’t let money become the deciding factor! Chase your dreams. It’s not about what you’re good at, it’s a matter of what you love to do. When you love what you do, you will eventually become amazing in that field.

Find Your Calling is about finding exactly this. We are each given talents, desires, and personalities to guide us on the right path, and understanding these will help clarify what you want to do with your life.

Win scholarships on Find Your Calling through June 26 as we celebrate Graduation Month! Details here. Get career tips and education advice by following Find Your Calling on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Contact us at fyc@economicmodeling.com

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