Tyler Henderson shows visitors around the Warner Brothers Burbank office where he works as director of photography for the Ellen DeGeneres Digital platform.

It’s his birthday. Every second or third step he thanks another well-wisher, answers questions about his plans for celebrating, or fields queries about his baby.

It’s hard to imagine him as a newcomer to Los Angeles, but when Henderson ’09 landed in California a decade ago, he was an East Coast transplant without much of a community. “I fell in love with the whole idea of L.A.,” Henderson said of his decision to head to the West Coast to work in the entertainment business. “I didn’t know anyone. I winged it.”

But the communication graduate from Roanoke County quickly learned he had a Hokie advantage.

Henderson reached out to a Virginia Tech alumnus he had heard about as a student, Ross Breitenbach. At the time, Breitenbach ’92 was an executive producer at MTV. Henderson found a role working for Breitenbach as a production assistant.

Breitenbach, who now owns his own production company, said his best advice for students is to network.

“The great thing about Virginia Tech is we have such a great alumni association, and our alumni always want to help each other,” he said. “There’s Hokies out there that can help you out.”

That was certainly true for Henderson, who has worked on numerous television shows, including MTV’s “Catfish,” HGTV’s “House Hunters,” and even “The Carpool Karaoke” for James Corden. He credits Breitenbach for jumpstarting his career.

“[Breitenbach] got me on a project he was working on and then I moved up and on from there,” Henderson said.

Now, at the “Ellen Degeneres Show,” Henderson is involved with digital production and field shoots. He’s in charge of the “look and feel” of the shows helping direct all cameras and lighting used for production.

Henderson hopes his story will encourage other Hokies to take every chance to pursue their goals and to rely on the alumni network for help along the way. He credits the sense of community that started when he was a student in Blacksburg as central to his successes.

“Don’t be scared to just reach out,” he said. “You can’t be afraid to try.”

Written by Annie McCallum