When Tony Young refers to Go Utah, he may or may not be referring to the University of Utah. That’s because Tony’s job as the Director of Communications for the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity is also known as Go Utah.
Tony has a unique view of Utah’s economy. Every day he sees and communicates the impact Utah’s economic policies have on its citizens. And that impact has been mostly positive, even through a challenging pandemic and the current economic slowdown.
We asked Tony to tell us about his ties to Ensign College and the road that lead to his current, high-profile role in government.
Talk about your education path growing up and what drew you to Ensign College. After leaving Ensign College, you continued your education, earning both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree. Did you always have a passion for education? What was your motivation to keep going?
Growing up in Idaho, we always came to Utah as a family. I loved Salt Lake and always told myself I wanted to go to college there. My older sister had attended what was then LDS Business College, and she enjoyed her experience. When considering where I would go to college after graduating from high school, I remembered my sister’s experience, so I thought I would apply. I was accepted and also offered a leadership scholarship.
One great thing about attending Ensign College was that I did not have to pay out-of-state tuition. This allowed me to live in Salt Lake and attend school at an affordable price. I enjoyed education, but it was something I had to work at. Things didn’t always come naturally to me. My mom motivated me to continue getting my education, and I’m glad I listened.
After attending Ensign College, I served a mission in Argentina. I then returned to finish my general education. I went on to get my Bachelor's at Utah Valley University and my Master's at Westminster College.
What made your experience at Ensign College memorable? Were there certain activities, class projects, or professors that made an impression on you?
I will never forget my first year at Ensign College. At the time, I lived with my sister in a basement apartment in the Avenues. It was convenient because I was attending Ensign College at the old campus in the lower Avenues, close to my apartment. I made many friends I still keep in touch with to this day. Many of them were getting ready to serve church missions like I was. I will never forget Scott Newman, one of my favorite professors. I was fortunate enough to have him a few times and always loved his life lessons.
When I returned home from my mission, I attended college at the new campus on 300 West. I loved that the college was culturally diverse. Since I had served my mission in Argentina, I was able to become friends with people from Argentina and other Latin American countries. I loved this, and I was able to meet so many great people and make many memories, including lots of country and Latin dancing.
You have been working in the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity for almost six years. What have been the highlights of your time working in government? Do you see yourself working in government as a long-term career or would you like to transition to private business at some point?
I have had many highlights working for the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity. One of my favorite things about my job is the people I have been able to meet and the experiences I have been able to have. After attending many different conferences and events, I feel like I have been able to connect with a lot of great people.
One example of this was when I did a press conference with the Governor in Mantua at a little restaurant called Sydney’s Place. I was able to connect with one of the owners. My family recently went there to eat and the owner of the restaurant was our server. We remembered one another from the press conference. It was great seeing her again and catching up.
I have also been fortunate to work with many great people in my office. As these people move on in their careers, it is great to see them at events and catch up with them to see their progress. I’m not sure where my career path will take me, but I have enjoyed working in government and don’t have any plans to leave. Eventually, I would love to work in a field that I am passionate about, like hunting or fishing. I would love to be able to take my communications experience and work in something that I love to do.
Your current position is Director of Communications. Can the skills you need for your current job be taught, or are you just a natural? How have you had to adapt your personality and public persona to thrive in your current role?
The skills I have gained through my schooling and career came through effort and study. With communications, I am learning things every day. One thing I have had to understand is that mistakes will happen. On my team and in my office, several people review things before they are published. This helps ensure that very few errors are made. It is always a team effort with communications.
Another thing I’ve learned is that good ideas can start with one person, and then those ideas can be built upon as a team to improve the original concept. I have had to adapt my unique personality to my current role. For the most part, I have always been an outgoing person, and you have to be in this role.
Ensign College now offers a Bachelor of Applied Science Degree in Communication. What career advice do you have for Ensign College students, generally, and for communication students specifically?
I didn’t always know what I wanted to do for my career. At first, I wanted to be an administrator at an assisted living facility or a marketing director.
I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Community Health in 2012, when the economy was still sluggish. I got stuck in a job where I couldn’t progress. My mom kept suggesting that I should get a Master’s degree. I finally listened and thought about the things I liked to do. Communications fit those things, so I decided to get my Master’s in Professional Communications.
My advice to those who are not sure what they want in a career, is to try to look at things you are good at and enjoy doing, and then try to make a career out of it.
Learn more about Tony here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tonythomasyoung/