Not long ago, Sergio Carrallo was living in his native Spain, playing soccer at the highest level for the iconic Real Madrid club — but he was also making plans for the future. Carrallo knew his soccer career wouldn't last forever, so when the time was right he planned to move to California and study digital marketing. His father had been living in California, working in the tech industry, and Carrallo had spent plenty of time in the U.S. in the past, studying English and enjoying the lifestyle. Culture shock wasn't a problem. So Carrallo asked his father for advice on which university to attend, and his answer was emphatic: University of California, Irvine (UCI).
After a brief stint playing for the New York Cosmos, Carrallo arrived in Southern California and enrolled in two accelerated certificate programs — Digital Marketing and Media & Global Communications. He's also currently has an internship with California Coast Yachts in Newport Beach. “I really wanted to have this personal experience,” Carrallo said. “It has always been my desire to come to California to finalize my education and build a life here. I've been coming to California since I was a very small child, because my father has always worked for companies in Silicon Valley. I've spent several summers in Los Angeles learning English in my spare time.”
Carrallo has been studying hard while jump-starting his dream career, getting hands-on experience through UCI and networking with individuals at several global corporations. He's also considering eventually going for a master's in marketing, as well. “My background has been in professional soccer but I've also had great experiences working with Nike, Instagram, and some other companies, trying to prepare for my new career in digital marketing and global communications,” he said. After returning from trips to Madrid and Miami, Carrallo found time to elaborate on his life, career goals, and experience at UCI.
Let's start at the beginning, with your soccer career. Playing for Real Madrid is quite an accomplishment. They've won prestigious international tournaments and even sold out the Rose Bowl here for exhibition matches.
Well, I started playing for a junior team when I was 13, then after some tryouts, tournaments, and hard work, I made the jump to Real Madrid and played with them for six years. They are definitely one of the greatest teams in the world. After that, I joined the Cosmos and got to play in New York, one of the best cities in the world. Overall, it has been an amazing experience! When I came to L.A. I trained for a short time with the Galaxy, but my focus has been on studying at UCI and preparing for my future career.
You had your choice of a number of schools in the U.S. and abroad. What prompted you to choose UCI?
The main reason is that UCI is one of the top universities in the U.S. It's among the world's most respected research institutions, and it has a beautiful, big campus — big enough for everyone to find where they fit in. Academically it's one of the best in the UC system. My father had a big impact on my decision, as well. After speaking with friends at his company in Sunnyvale, he clearly advised me to choose this university. I wanted to live and study in Southern California, so overall it's a great fit.
Tell me about your experience taking the DCE certificate programs. What did you think about the faculty and curriculum?
It has been an extremely positive experience, a very high-quality curriculum with outstanding guest speakers who give lessons based on their own professional experience. Every professor I have had has been understanding and helpful; they push students to think for themselves instead of merely memorize. Although the classes are difficult, they're also fun, engaging, and interesting. UCI is just a great school where students can find a balance in their academic and social lives.
How have the certificate courses prepared you for a digital marketing career?
Well, I learned all the key points and aspects to designing a successful digital marketing plan — how to create a strategy to obtain a company's business goals, how to choose the right tools to deliver the right digital solutions and provide true value. What do I need in order to start, grow, and develop my digital marketing strategy? How will I know what the right strategic elements are for my brand? The programs provided all the answers. The classes touched on such a wide range of topics: search engine optimization, content marketing, data analytics, advertising, and much more. I also had the opportunity to get in contact with people working in Facebook, Google, and other high-profile companies.
So tell me about your internship. Do you feel like you're getting a lot of valuable hands-on experience?
Yes, interning with California Coast Yachts has been an amazing experience. The company is part of the Ferretti group, one of the most prestigious boat companies in the world. The first time I met them was at an event in Newport Beach, and after building a relationship for more than a year they offered me a position as executive sales manager assistant. They are an amazing group of people, everyone focused on the same goal. I love what I'm doing, and I get to network with some of the most influential people in the industry.
You're still in your 20s and you've already had such a wide range of experiences. Where would you like to end up working at the end of the day?
I'd like to start out at a major company and eventually start my own marketing firm. So far I've had experience with Nike and Abercrombie & Fitch, and I have an Instagram partnership collaboration with Walden Farms and a few other companies. Digital marketing applies to most any business in today's world. It's essential for creating a strategy for future growth.
I assume you're planning to build your new life here in California.
Yes. Even when I was playing for Real Madrid and in New York with the Cosmos, it has always been my desire to come to California to study, finish my education, and set up my life here. I have to say that there's still a big gap between the U.S. — California in particular — and Europe when it comes to digital marketing. There are many more opportunities here, and UCI offers a fantastic opportunity for any person to come here and learn to become an expert in digital marketing.
For a list of UCI programs for international students, visit ip.ce.uci.edu.