With supply chains disrupted, the global pandemic still deeply affecting our lives, and the job market at an interesting juncture, Lily Ploski joins Cal Maritime as the new Director of Career Services. Her own career expertise is wide and varied, as she’s delved into workforce development, focused on attracting students to higher education, elevated diversity and inclusion practices, supported and strategic planning at a number of California institutions. Though immersed in organizing Cal Maritime's in-person career fair on October 14,  she sat down with us for a conversation on her aspirations for her new role at Cal Maritime.

Why Cal Maritime?

After working in higher education for more than 20 years, I was looking for a new challenge. Coming to Cal Maritime means I can use my talent, experience, and knowledge in a new and different way.

Your own work is experience is quite varied. What do you see as the through line?

My work experience has always been about making a positive difference, whether by bringing a new perspective or by giving back to the community where I came from. Working at Cal Maritime represents a chance to do both! I get to learn about the maritime industry and about all our amazing academic programs. Plus, I get to give back to the community by helping cadets begin their careers while working in the beautiful East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area which I have called home since 1992.

What excites you about working with our cadets and helping them to move them toward careers?

Career pathways have never been more dynamic and fluid as they are in this very moment. There is tremendous transformation both in the types of values, jobs, skills, and competencies that were hardly imagined even five years ago. The traditional tried and true methods, tips, and tricks are no longer the currency in today’s job market. Cadets must bring savviness to their career journeyv-- something that I am very excited to help cultivate here at Cal Maritime.

Do you look forward to connecting with alumni in industry?

I love hearing a good story. I find that working with alumni in the industry, you can be sure to hear a good story or two. I look forward to meeting the amazing alumni across global industries that are connected to Cal Maritime so we can build partnerships and programs for our cadets based on real world experience.

The job market is very interesting right now! The pandemic has made both employers and employees open to new ways of working and there seems to be a lot of movement.

Not to sound corny, but there is literally a “sea change” happening in the job market for recent college graduates in terms of how you find, prepare, and compete for job openings. The future of work is now! As well, the pandemic underscored the impact of remote work, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and mental well-being in the workplace. Employers and employees are navigating these treacherous waters and trying to stay afloat. Fortunately, at Cal Maritime our story is hopeful. Our mighty corps of cadets and unique experiential learning model ensure that each cadet graduates career ready. As well, Career Services serves as the lifeline between industry and cadets entering the workforce, so our cadets have the support and opportunity they need to discover their true north!

Who do you think has the upper hand in hiring right now? Prospective employees or employers?

It is an employee’s market. Many people are jumping ship and seeking out new careers. Many industries are even transforming as we speak. But the prospective employee who has the willingness to learn and ability to ask for help will surely find career opportunity. As long as a cadet hones their ability to grab every opportunity that comes their way, they will always have the upper hand.

This is a busy job – what do you do when you need to wind down?

Nature walking and music are my go-to activities that I use to help wind down after a hectic day. I live in Benicia, the city next door to Vallejo, so you will find me walking at the Benicia State Recreation Area on the weekends or you might find me watching at a live band playing at a local winery like Vino Godfather Winery on Mare Island. With solid tunes and nature, you cannot go wrong!

Best career advice you’ve even received?

Make the most of every opportunity. You never know where it may lead!


Career Services

Established in 1929, California State University Maritime Academy is the only degree-granting maritime academy on the West Coast. Located in Vallejo, California, the campus serves nearly 1,000 students and offers undergraduate degrees preparing students for careers in engineering, transportation, international relations, business, and global logistics. The new oceanography degree program launched in the fall of 2020. Cal Maritime also offers a master’s degree in Transportation and Engineering Management, as well as a number of extended learning programs and courses.