Stephen “Tony” Bertolino Jr. graduated from Brigham Young University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Management with an emphasis in Marketing and a Minor in Graphic Design. Tony’s father, Army Staff Sergeant Stephen Bertolino Sr. was killed while traveling in a convoy when his vehicle was hit by enemy fire in Iraq 2003. Tony was 13 at the time. He knows that getting a college education was important to his Dad, not only because of the hardships his Dad had experienced but because in the military he was able to observe the difference a degree could make in someone’s career trajectory. Tony was close with his Dad, as were all his siblings, and shared that it was a great feeling to know he had support from organizations like No Greater Sacrifice (NGS) to support his college career.
“My degree in marketing gives me valuable insight when creating concepts for a campaign, allowing me to understand the marketing team’s perspective.” He also says, “I feel really fortunate to be in full creative mode most of the time. Without my degree, I couldn’t have gained access to do what I’m doing now.”
Currently, Tony works in the Creative Department at Vans, which functions as an in-house ad agency. At Vans he helps bring brand stories and ad campaigns to life including work on Vans Checkerboard Day, House of Vans, Vans Duct Tape Invitational and Festivals, The Vans US Open of Surfing, and Sidestripe Sessions. Tony serves in two roles at Vans. His primary role is to work as a studio artist, taking different visuals for campaigns and perpetuating them across different types of media. This may look like fully wrapping a building, scaling artwork for a billboard, or creating graphics for in-store use. He is working towards owning his own campaigns as an art director, which would include full creative control, including concepts and photo shoots for various Vans product campaigns.
Tony finds his work fulfilling and exciting, and as a true creative thrives on the fact that his work and personal creative interests overlap. Outside of work he enjoys thoughtful music, camping, street photography, surfing, skateboarding. He can be found singing and writing for a hardcore punk band call Bent Blue and helping run the Southern California chapter of a non-profit called Boards for Bros. As a professional, he feels excited to participate in and give back to the community that gave him so much growing up, a community that was there for him in a lot of ways. A community that now has helped him find meaning.
How does one make it to their dream job working at such a well-known brand, one might ask. After graduation, Tony realized his school wasn’t very connected to the apparel industry, and he took a leap of faith by taking an unpaid, post-grad internship at Billabong doing e-commerce marketing. During his time at Billabong, an insider-only industry trade show took place, and when the company took a chance and invited the young intern to go, he jumped at it. Tony had done his homework, and while he was there he recognized a co-founder of the popular skate sock company Stance. Tony approached him and basically said he wanted to work for him, and he interviewed a week later. A week after that he was working there, and he had found his entry into a creative role. He later returned to work at Billabong for some time before making his way to the Vans company.
During college, as a scholarship student, Tony began to realize that the marketing degree so many had advised him to receive would not be creative enough for him, which is what prompted him to take on a minor in graphic design. And as he completed his degree, he began to supplement it with more creative roles in order to prepare himself for his dream job. He approached the on-campus ad agency and let them know he wanted to work for them. He joined the on-campus marketing association and approached them about anything he saw around campus that looked bizarre or weird and offered to redo it. He became the Vice President of Creative for the Executive team for the 600-member association and says that the role as a student leader helped him learn more effective communication, and how to cut through red tape and bureaucracy.
Striving to supplement the areas that he knew he was weak in and build credentials for his dream career, he actively sought out peer mentoring and became very close with his department’s advisor. He got comfortable being vulnerable enough to ask for feedback and was willing to implement it when it came.
After college graduation, he made a list of 30 companies where he could see himself happily working and used LinkedIn to find potential hiring managers at those companies. He wrote cover letters and tailored his resume, and hand-delivered each set to the respective companies. The deliveries alone took three days, but Tony was determined, and sure enough, every company where he has worked since was surprised to find Tony’s original letters and resumes on file once he started working there.
One thing Tony notes about receiving his scholarship is that by not having to work to support himself while in school, he was able to strategically use his time to seek out those activities that helped him build his portfolio and land him his dream job. He notes that his scholarships allowed him to take full advantage of the college experience and he made his extracurriculars his job.
Tony notes that without scholarship organizations he would have debt. He says, “I feel so fortunate and grateful. Because of NGS, I have no debt, and that’s one obstacle in our lives that’s been removed. I am so appreciative of your help. It was important to my dad that I got an education, and you guys are a huge blessing and help in making that happen. I know he would be so happy. Thank you!”
NGS would like to thank our amazing partner, the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund, for their support in making Tony’s dreams come true.
Tony lives in Southern California with his wife and two children.
If you would like to check out more of Tony’s work -