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Rhys Hoskins, who made his major-league entrance with a flurry of power hitting in 2017 and continues to rake this season with the Philadelphia Phillies, had great collegiate success at Sac State.
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Just Who Are These ‘Made At’ Folks, Anyway?

Jonathan Morales

They were educated and started to shake the world at Sacramento State. They now are out in many communities, having an impact on industry, business, and culture. They are innovators, colleagues, leaders, friends. And they are making us proud.

Tracy Young

For this innovator, the light bulb was an iPad

Tracy Young

Builders using PlanGrid (far left) can thank Tracy Young ’08, whose innovation took cumbersome paper blueprints and made them compatible with iPads. The company Young founded around PlanGrid is thriving.

Tracy Young ’08 (Construction Management) knew her industry had a paper problem.

It was 2010, four years into her construction engineering career, and she was growing frustrated with 3,000-page blueprints that would turn over multiple times during projects and often contained outdated information.  

But 2010 also was the year Apple released the first iPad. Even better, her best friend from Sacramento State, Ryan Sutton-Gee, had stood in line to be among the first to get the new device, and Young was meeting him for a drink later that night.

“He showed me his iPad, and I was telling him about this blueprint problem I was having and how it was impossible to get the latest changes, and he slammed the table – a little bit drunk – and said, ‘That’s ridiculous. It’s 2010. The Cloud exists. All of this should be on this iPad,’ ” Young says. “And that was the start of PlanGrid.”

PlanGrid is the company Young, Sutton-Gee, and several other partners, including Young’s now-husband Ralph Gootee, founded in 2011 to bring the construction industry into the mobile device era. Young serves as its chief executive officer. The company’s software platform hosts digital blueprints that can be accessed on tablets or smartphones and are updated in real time so that construction companies and contractors have access to the latest versions, reducing paper waste and errors.

“It was just so obvious that the iPad would be perfect for the construction industry,” Young says. “We were just lucky enough to be the first ones that wrote software for it.”

Autodesk, a Marin County-based company that makes software for the architecture, engineering, construction, manufacturing, media, and entertainment industries, purchased PlanGrid in November 2018 for $875 million.

The daughter of Vietnamese refugees, Young grew up in Milpitas, just north of San Jose. She had an interest in buildings and loved architecture, but knew her artistic skills were limited. But she was good at math and at solving problems, which led her to declare as a civil engineering major when she followed her older sister to Sacramento State in 2004. Once on campus, however, she discovered another potential career path: Sacramento State’s nationally renowned construction management program.

“I had to make a choice about whether I wanted to sit behind a desk and make the math work (on a project) or be part of the actual construction process and be on a job site, and I chose the latter,” she says.

The construction management cohort was small, allowing the group to become incredibly close-knit and lean on each other to make it through a difficult course of study. It’s an experience Young still draws on as a professional.

“What I learned most from my classmates was the power of working together,” she says. “We did things to help each other make it through.”

Mikael Anderson, chair of the Construction Management Department, remembers Young as a dedicated and driven student who took part in extracurricular activities and whose leadership qualities were evident.

“She was a good team leader within her own class,” he says. “She was always very energetic and enthusiastic about whatever she did, whether it was a class activity or a competition or her work. It didn’t surprise me that she was very successful right out of school.”

Young recalled spending hours in the teachers lounge, studying with her classmates, but her favorite courses were held outside, such as when they surveyed along the American River levee near the Guy West Bridge. She also interned with general engineering contractor Syblon Reid and worked as an assistant estimator for Turner Construction while a student.

Following graduation in 2008, she returned to the Bay Area and was a project engineer for Redwood City-based construction firm Rudolph and Sletten, leaving in 2011 to found PlanGrid.

Shifting from engineering to technology was a bit jarring – “I definitely miss the smell of drywall dust,” she says. 

Since 2011, PlanGrid has grown from four co-founders to more than 330 employees today. The company has tens of thousands of customers in more than 72 countries, and has stored more than 50 million sheets for more than a half million projects worldwide.

Sacramento State alumna and Swinerton Builders assistant project manager Alyssa Zayas ’14 (Construction Management) uses PlanGrid daily and says that, in an industry where projects are constantly evolving, communication and coordination are critical.

 “On large-scale projects, you have anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 sheets of information to depict what we’re building,” Zayas says. “Being able to put that into one platform on an iPad that can be thrown into someone’s safety vest allows for convenient access to the most current information at the touch of our fingerprints.”

In November, Young returned to Sacramento State with Gootee to speak about PlanGrid at the University’s second annual Global Entrepreneurship Week. She also spoke on campus in 2014 as part of the Women’s Forum on Construction.

“She’s just a wonderful alumna,” Anderson says. “She is grateful for what she has, and she continues to let us know that by giving back to Sac State. She’s just an incredible person.”

This story was updated in November 2018 to include information about Autodesk's acquisition of PlanGrid.

Rhys Hoskins

That's how to make an entrance


Among the national media outlets focusing attention on Rhys Hoskins was Sports Illustrated with its story: “Rhys Hoskins is the Phillies’ homer-happy, record-setting rookie outfielder.”

Rhys Hoskins knows how to hit a baseball out of the park. He did it at nearby Jesuit High School. He did it at Sac State. Now the former Hornet slugger is clearing the fences in the big leagues. 

After taking Major League Baseball by storm last year – he hit his first 10 home runs faster than any player in MLB history and hit long balls in five straight games, a Philadelphia Phillies record – the left fielder is hoping to build on that success in his first full season in the majors.

 RELATED VIDEO: Rhys Hoskins - Made at Sac State

“What I learned the most here at Sac State through the coaching staff is that you have to trust the process, you have to embrace it. The results aren’t always going to be there right away,” Hoskins says. “You have to not be afraid to fail, and you really have to learn how to turn your failures into something positive.

“Learn from it and get better, and that’s something that was really instilled in me here at Sac State.”

Hoskins played left field and first base for the Phillies last year, finishing with 18 home runs and 48 RBIs in just 50 games. His hot start earned him National League Rookie of the Month honors for August and fourth place in the Rookie of the Year voting.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Sacramento native also started the Phillies’ first triple play since 1953 with a highlight-reel sliding catch.

Hoskins was drafted after his junior year at Sac State, where he played for three seasons with great success. He was a Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Player of the Year and three-time Academic All-WAC athlete, and Philadelphia picked him in the fifth round (142nd overall pick) in 2014. He spent parts of four seasons in the minor leagues before being called up by the Phillies in August.

Hoskins is the first Hornet to play in the big leagues since Roland de la Maza, who pitched for the 1997 Kansas City Royals.

—Sam Churich

Shahera Hyatt

Doing serious work doesn’t mean you can’t be funny

Shahera Hyatt near Capitol

If life is about balance, then Shahera Hyatt ’08, MSW ’10 seems to have found it, making people laugh with her stand-up routine while pursuing the serious day job of working on behalf of homeless youth.

Few people would be comfortable either testifying in front of the state Legislature or performing stand-up comedy.

But doing both? Hey, that’s an average day for Shahera Hyatt ’08 (Social Work), MSW ’10.

Hyatt is director of the California Homeless Youth Project, a nonpartisan state organization that educates policymakers about youth homelessness and provides research-backed solutions to the crisis. She’s also a fixture on the Sacramento comedy scene, drawing inspiration from her work and using her stand-up to shed light on social justice issues.

“My day job is pretty heady, and comedy is, too, because the threshold for getting people to laugh out loud is pretty high,” she says. “But I do it in part to have more laughter and levity in my life, because I’m constantly mired in awareness of social injustice and human suffering.

“It doesn’t take that away. It’s still a huge weight on my head and my heart. But I get to explore a creative community and laugh every night.”

For Hyatt, the issue she spends every day trying to solve is personal. She experienced homelessness while growing up, dropping out of high school at 16 to earn her equivalency because she needed a job and community college offered flexibility. She began working for the Homeless Youth Project while a graduate student at Sacramento State.

As for stand-up comedy, that pastime began two years ago when Hyatt decided to perform at an open-mic night and became hooked. Today, she performs four times a week, is taking an improv class, and hosts a weekly open-mic night and two monthly shows.

“I talk about relationships and politics through a social justice lens,” she says. “It’s not like a TED talk. It’s funny jokes, and they just happen to be about the things that I grapple with in my life.

“Taking it to the stage and making light of it, or even making some points while I’m just processing the world around me in funny ways, is a lot of fun for me.”

– Jonathan Morales

Courtney Dempsey

She likes to talk, so why not TV?

Courtney Dempsey on set

A morning television staple in the Sacramento area, Courtney Dempsey ’97 did not plan to pursue a TV career. But it has worked out, and she takes seriously the responsibility she feels comes with it.

Courtney Dempsey ’97 (Communication Studies) was a shy child, something that would surprise people who tune in every morning to watch her anchor Good Day Sacramento on Channel 31. She always envisioned a career in print journalism, not broadcast. An internship at a local radio station while at Sacramento State changed her mind.

“Their chemistry and the way that they worked with each other, they were having fun at work to the point where I was thinking, ‘Really? We get paid to do this?’ ” Dempsey says. “I poked my head into broadcasting a little bit more and realized that I actually do like to talk, I actually do like to tell stories, and I think I’d be OK with this.”

Things have turned out more than OK. Two decades after she walked off the Sacramento State campus and onto the set of Good Day as a production assistant, she has become a morning staple in the region, leading a broadcast watched by nearly 30,000 people daily.

“The connection that we have with the community, especially when people come up to us and see us in the store, especially if they like the show, it gives you a sense of purpose, that what we do is bigger than the title,” she says. “We’re actually providing a service, and we take it seriously.”

Her connection to the community goes beyond Good Day. She’s active in her sorority and her church, and volunteers with Jack and Jill, an organization that works to empower African American children. She’s also mindful of the role she plays in the lives of young African American women and girls, for whom she may be one of the people they see regularly on television who looks like them.

“It’s terrifying because it’s a lot of pressure, but I learned at Sac State (that) to whom much is given, much is required,” Dempsey says. “Even though it’s a huge responsibility, I don’t consider it a weight. I consider it an anchor to ground me in this experience.”

– Jonathan Morales


Jonathan Morales


Jonathan Morales became a permanent member of the Sac State communications team in 2017 as a writer and content editor. He previously worked at San Francisco State University and as a newspaper reporter and editor. What appeals to Jonathan? Local beer and Bay Area sports teams.