Life After Graduation: The Corporate World

It’s about three months since I started working at a consulting company near home. I signed my work contract in December of 2015, before graduating in May of 2016. At this point, I was able to concentrate in finishing my last semester strong with a job safely under my belt. I was excited and nervous at the same time, being told that my job would be 50% technical and 50% paper work. I thought, “Okay, this isn’t so bad. Every engineering company is about 50/50 with technical and paper work. This is no biggie! Besides, my job is near home!” I honestly thought it was a sweet deal. This meant I didn’t have to think about relocating and the anxiety of figuring things out with my loving dogs. They mean everything to me.

As September came, I was late to my first day on the job. It was orientation. It was here that I finally learned what my job entailed, since I had no idea what consulting was previously. Trust me, until this day I still ask myself how this company hired me and how I passed all four interviews. I guess problem solving for five years in school had paid off somehow. So let me give you a small breakdown of how the company runs. I was hired by the company as a standby. The company itself has many clients to which it provides one of its many services. My job, was to identify a role/position within a project that pertained to any of our clients. In simpler terms, I had to find a job inside my company. At first I thought this was a pretty neat idea, because it gives you the flexibility to choose your role/position, project, and client. However, this work flow comes with its cons. I would only get the role/position I want for whatever client or project I am interested in, if I know the manager running the project or have been working in the company for a while. So like finding any other job in the corporate world, it’s all about who you know.

Therefore, as long as I was new within the company, I had to take whatever role/position the company offered me even if it meant I would be creating power points for a year. Looking at my situation in a bigger picture, I studied 5 years to get my engineering degree so I can be a secretary to a manager. That’s great! I love this idea. I mean, I didn’t spend sleepless nights studying the different electronic configurations that I would expect to see in my electronics exam. I didn’t spent all my weekends in lab Fall semester of Junior year trying to ace my Assembly Language programming assignments, instead of trying to enjoy my college years. I can give you countless examples, but what’s the point. This was and is my job.

Looking at my situation in a bigger picture, I studied 5 years to get my engineering degree so I can be a secretary to a manager.”

So here I was, working as a Business Analyst when I worked really hard to get my engineering degree… doing nothing technical. I felt like I was lied to by HR. I felt like they just wanted me to get hired so they could get compensated for it. I still remember one of the recruiters introducing me to another recruiter at an event and telling her how she had saved me from working in a lab. No you didn’t save me! I would have loved to work in a lab. I spent all my fours year in college working in a lab! That’s where I found my passion, my devotion to science, my happiness…. so no, you didn’t save me. She had misguided me. I thought she understood what I wanted in life. Who I wanted to be. I thought we had connected on a deeper level, because I had shared with her my dreams, my aspirations, and my struggles as a first-generation Latina trying to get her engineering degree. We almost cried together as I talked to her about my life and where I wanted to go. Yet, she told me I would be a great fit for the company, which is now a lie. I feel so out-of-place in this company. What made it hard was that my parents didn’t understand the position I was in. The highest level of education they had received was probably 6th grade before working the fields to provide for their family. They didn’t know what consulting was, I didn’t know what consulting was, and I didn’t have anyone else to ask or to guide me through this process. The only way of understanding this company was through Google searches, and believing every word the recruiter told me.

After three months in the company and rolling off a project early, which I should not have done, wrong move on my end, I decided enough was enough. I needed to pull myself together. I started to reach out to almost every technical manager I could find inside the company for advice in pursuing a software engineering role. Socializing skills come through! In my search, I found out that there were a couple of software engineering opportunities within the company, but I didn’t qualify for them. Mainly because most of the programming skills required for the role I wasn’t taught at school, or these roles were for employees with years of experience under their belt…so I had no chance. Back to square one. I was so frustrated, constantly asking myself how I could grow and be happy with the position I was in? So I reached out to the worker who is responsible of finding suitable roles/positions for me to ask her for advice and how I could go about my situation. From the response I received, she didn’t really care about helping me and was proposing me to any roles/positions she believed I qualified for despite if I was interested in it or not, ignoring my technical skills. She told me,  “Well, I’m sorry but you can’t change the staffing group you were assigned to. You can apply to technical roles, but you’re assigned to our group,” which was Salesforce…not necessarily technical by the way. In the end, here I was, stuck with my dumb work…as a Business and Technology Analyst.

“I was so frustrated, constantly asking myself how I could grow and be happy with the position I was in?”

“It’s time for a change. Time to move out,” I thought. So I started applying to other companies.. if I stayed I would have risked forgetting everything that I worked so hard to learn in school. A month or so into my job search, I received two jobs interviews. One with Intel and the other with the Aerospace Corporation. After some technical interviews, I didn’t get any offers, for two completely different ironic reasons. Intel said my programming skills were good, but I was rusty on my logic design. Aerospace Corp. said I needed to practice more on my programming skills, but was really good at problem solving through hardware…. really?!? really?!? Ugh! So I thought to myself, “Okay, I just need to find a position in between.” The issue is that there aren’t as many engineering jobs available near my home anymore, since most of the demand was met in 2016. So, I don’t have many jobs to apply to and I’m stuck as a Business Analyst.

Yes, I was frustrated. I wanted to leave my job. I was doing nothing but presentations and driving four hours a day to and from work. I was exhausted and not happy. Yet, there was still one thought in my mind, even if I were to change jobs, to an engineering one, would I be happy? Was I applying to engineering jobs just because they were engineering positions, or because I was truly interested in the work? I had seen plenty of my classmates working in engineering companies, because it was a technical role and they didn’t care about the company, or because they just wanted to say they worked for that company even though their job was boring. The real question was, what did I want for myself? What makes me happy?

“The real question was, what did I want for myself?”

The truth was I wanted to go back to school, get my Masters in Bioengineering, and then my pursue a Ph.D./DVM dual degree program. I wanted to work with animals, but suddenly I was doubting that too. I had lost my passion for research and animals. It made me sad. I felt lost, I felt depressed. Is this what life is? I work until I die? Do I get to enjoy any part of it? Maybe I was asking myself these questions because I had not found a goal, a passion to follow anymore. I had lost it.

However, it was until recently that I rediscovered my passion. It took me about two months of just visiting websites/getting informed and volunteering at animal hospitals to realize this. Yes, I want to work with animals. Yes, I want to continue to conduct research. Yes, I want to go back to school. This is me. So what I am doing working at this consulting company? Money. Like many students in the US, I was not born into a privileged position to afford my entire education. I need the money to pay off loans. Ugh, I wish I didn’t, but I do… sometimes, life requires sacrifices.

So here I am, waiting for this year to end so I can leave the company and not pay back my signing bonus. In the meantime I’ll keep on applying to engineering jobs that interests me, jobs to where I like both the company and work! I want to expand my technical skills, because I know they will be useful in a Master’s degree. The point is I’m getting my life back on track, getting my shit together and getting ready to apply to graduate school this Fall. If I leave the job before then, I’ll take a non-engineering job working with animals so I can get more vet experience. We’ll see how things play out, but I won’t give up. This is my life. I get to make my choices. I deserve to be happy. One thing is for sure, the corporate world is not for me, but for now I’ll put up with it, because that’s life.

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