Engineering His Way from Admin to Fundraiser

Javon Harris

Javon Harris

Assistant Director of Advancement
USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Javon Harris started at USC Advancement two years ago, as an administrative assistant, working with the Strategic Initiatives team. Today, he’s assistant director of development at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, where he meets with alumni, parents and friends of the university to see if they are interested in philanthropy.

How did he level up so fast? “I became a sponge!” he says.

That was his short answer. The long answer? Advancement was a new world to him, so he took the time to get the lay of things, while learning to appreciate the importance of the work taking place around him. He connected with co-workers near (in his department) and far (across campus), and he took advantage of all-staff meetings and the department picnic to introduce himself to as many people as he could. He arranged one-on-one meetings with gift officers to solicit their advice and insights, and attended Fundraising Institute programs to learn as much as he could about what makes Advancement tick. He accepted any and every assignment, leaving no opportunity unturned. And as for his colleagues, including those in leadership positions, he says he “never came across a closed door. They assisted me in every way possible to help elevate my Advancement career, and I owe it to them that I found a home at Viterbi.”

When asked how others might emulate his success, Javon is equally effusive. “Be open to learning any and everything you can from the people you work with, because once you see how exciting and impactful an Advancement career can be, you’ll find the drive and ambition to succeed at it. Go out of your way to connect with others, sit in a different row at all-staff meetings, introduce yourself on LinkedIn or invite a colleague for coffee—yes, that’s an open invitation! And I can’t stress enough the importance of enjoying what you do—even when it seems tedious, you’re probably learning something.By keeping in mind that no job was too small for me, I gained the experience to make the leap to fundraiser.”

Naturally, Javon wants to be the best fundraiser possible, but when he’s not working, he’s most likely thinking sports. Plus, he and his identical twin brother Juwan (who also lives in L.A.) are from Denver, so they love getting out as much as possible to soak up the local scene. “My goal is to feel 100% Californian,” says Javon, and as long as he roots for Trojans over Buffaloes, we’ll take him at his word!

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