Meet Noel & Carrie Vallejo

image of Noel and Karie Vallejo

I first got involved with UVU through my interactions with Dean Norm Wright. I’ve spoken on campus before, and I’m familiar with some of the students, and there’s a lot of good happening at UVU. I felt like UVU was a place that was growing, and does a great job of serving students in the community. My wife and I saw it as a great way to be part of something good. What ought to get other donors interested in UVU are the student base and population UVU serves. Many students are able to travel the career path of their desire and get their start.

When difficulty comes along in a person’s life, many times we think that we haven’t been given a fair chance. As life goes on, you begin to see that the thing that happened to you really was the best thing, but we don’t have that perspective when we’re in the middle of a challenge. In my case, I had worked for Novell for a couple of years, and they were a high-tech company that had layoffs almost annually—usually in the fall.

I happened to be caught in one of those situations where I got laid off. We lived in a two-bedroom apartment (in a fourplex right by the University Mall), and I remember coming home early because I had gotten laid off. My wife asked when I walked through the door why I was home, and I told her the news. It’s a shocking thing because you’re trying to raise a family and get through life. She cried, and I held her, and she said, “You’ve been thinking about starting a business. Why don’t you?”

That was on Thursday, and when I tell this story to UVU students and others, I tell them about waking up on Monday morning and putting on a nice pair of pants, a shirt, and a tie. That was the day I started my business, Monday, November 11, 1991. My wife asked me what I was doing, and I told her I was starting my business. She asked me what business I was starting, and I said, “I don’t know.” And I didn’t. Why did I get up every day and put on a shirt, tie, and pants? The message I want to share is that I had to change my mind. I had to change my psyche; I had to believe that I was going to do something. By dressing up every day, even though nobody could see me except my two little girls and my wife, I had to believe that I could do something. You have to change your mind. If you can do that, you can make things happen. I’ve been in business for 28 years, and we have 100 employees, and I come dressed for work every day.

I founded TestOut in 1991, and we produce a product that provides individuals with skills to better provide for themselves and their family. We have over 100,000 students and 1,600 teachers using our product in a given year. We have an ultimate goal to improve lives and give hope. Our product does that. That goal drives us and motivates us every day, and best describes who we really are as a company.

A lot of times, students are concerned about grades. They think it’s their pathway to making a lot of money or getting the job, and the reality is most employers will never ask you what your GPA is. They just won’t. What they’re really concerned about is whether or not you can do the job. Whether your resume says UVU, BYU, the University of Utah, or any other school, I don’t know that it plays a strong sway of whether somebody gets interviewed or hired. We’ve been in business for 28 years, and that has never played a factor here. Some employers might ask for things like that, but we don’t. The majority of companies don’t ask; they just want to know if you can do the job.

Companies want to hire people who are well-rounded and good, and they know how to work. In my experience, the typical UVU student has already gotten some experience in life, and they’re not just fresh out of high school. They’ve been trying to provide, and they have an energy and a fire to succeed. I’m grateful to be associated with those types of students.

I graduated when I was 27 years old, so I wasn’t the typical student who got off my church mission, went to school, and graduated. It was difficult for me. I didn’t have a mom or dad who had money or who could help me, so I was on my own. Can it be done? Yes. Some of these students who go to UVU may not have the means or ability to have a parent or a rich uncle help pay for it, so being able to work and go to school for however long it takes is something I’m an example of. For those of you who can relate, just keep going until you’re able to finish. Your situation might be that it’s going to take you a while, but finish. Keep that drive to finish. When sitting in the Noel and Carrie Vallejo Auditorium, think about finishing and don’t give up. It may take a while, but don’t give up.

There are certain ingredients that make people successful, and if you don’t have these ingredients, get them. Without them, I don’t know how successful you’ll become. One is, without question, hard work. You have to know how to work. Many times you get a job that you may not like, but that’s part of life. You’re in it, and you’ve got to do a good job and provide value to the employer. If today I didn’t have a job and had to go find one, I could be a good employee to someone because I would treat the work like my own and have passion for it. I would identify problems that they’re facing and come up with solutions. Here’s something simple to practice: If you go to the restroom at work and you see that there are paper towels on the floor, pick them up. Nobody sees you, nobody knows, but make it your responsibility. Make caring and going the extra mile a part of you. If your employer doesn’t see the value that you provide after all you’ve done, someone else will. Wherever you’re at, whatever you do, work hard and provide value to your employer. Hopefully they’ll see the good you’re providing and want to promote you.

I was telling my wife that I wish our family had something special to our family that was fun, like how some families love ATVing or boating. She reminded me that we do something special — it’s working on the farm. That sounds funny, but all throughout my kids’ growing-up years, I owned a little farm. It’s not very big, but we grow tomatoes through the summertime. It’s hard work, but it’s doing something of value. We grow a lot of vegetables, like tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, and garlic. Every Wednesday is salsa day. I love to make a big batch and bring it to work. The most important thing is that I taught my kids how to work, and it became fun. I had two boys that served Latter-day Saint missions, and both of these missionaries sent me a letter telling me that they appreciated that I taught them how to work. It was a compliment because I felt that if they knew how to work, it would be one of the most valuable things they could have in their lives.

There will come days in life when you’re knocked down. If you can have the right perspective about life, you’ll begin to see that those things that happen to you will take you where you need to go. It’s difficult when you’re in the moment. For me, it was too difficult to think that getting laid off was the best thing for my life — and yet, 28 years later, I can say that’s exactly what it was. I would hope that you don’t give up. When you hit those times, persevere. Someday you’ll look back and realize it really was the best day for your life.