My simple answer to “How did you choose your college degree?”

LANGUAGE: ENGLISH/ESPAÑOL

Recently, I was asked how I choose my college degree, hence my professional career field. The question caught me off guard and got me thinking. I laughed with the person who asked and replied with, “Well, it is really simple. I just took advantage of the opportunities as they came”. Yes, as simple as that. However, sometimes opportunities are hard to see. Others, come packed with different levels of challenges, including feeling like failing over and over again. Today, I can look back and be confident of all my failures that led me to many accomplishments. The challenges along the way were hard, so hard I almost gave up. Instead, I learned to keep pushing through and take on the opportunities, regardless of what that might encompass. Don’t get me wrong; the simplicity of taking on and choosing the right opportunities is something I learned the hard way. Each professional career story, which ever it is, has a beginning and here is mine.

Every time I tell my story, people are like, “are you for real?” and I answer, “ehh…Yes, I am.”. I have several college degrees: two associates, one bachelor, one master, and some certifications relevant to my current work role. Also, already planning on my next degree. I KNOW! Believe me, I know! However, one degree led me to the other and eventually to the career field I chose.

Many years ago, I graduated from high school without knowing what career field I wanted to pursue. Just knew something artistic must be. So I took one of those tests that help with identifying your interests. Based on that, I chose my first college degree. This next part of my story is not one of my proudest decision making moments, but an important part of my journey.

The school’s counselor gave me a brochure with options based on my test results. I chose my degree because the name sounded like something related to art, which was architectural drafting. Yeah…I chose my degree based on how much I liked its name and without a clear idea of what it was. In case you wonder what is architectural drafting. Have you seen your house blueprints? I learned how to draw those. Back then, the blueprints were drawn by hand. No fancy software. Best time EVER! Loved it! And to college, I went.

Like many others, I thought college would be easy, especially math, which I was good at in high school. It turned out I failed math during my first semester in college and had to wait six months to re-enroll in it. Failing math class put a year delay on my associate degree completion. What do you do? Sit and wait? Not me! I found out there was another associate degree with a similar curriculum to the one I was doing. The only difference was this one-year-long class. Yes, you guessed it. During the extra year in college, I enrolled in this other class and graduated with two associate degrees. Two things happened after: I started searching for my first professional job and also decided to enroll in my third college degree.

Why in the world did I want to go back to college? Well, I haven’t say it yet, but my two associates degrees were equivalent to the first two years of a civil engineering degree. If I enrolled in college again, I would have only needed to take two more years of college to graduate with a civil engineering degree. Sounded like a great opportunity to me. Once again, I got enrolled in college. Long story short took me seven-year to finishing my engineering degree. The reason? Remember, I was looking for my first professional job and as I mentioned earlier, opportunities come packed with challenges. I did find and get a job; which without me even knowing it will define my professional career.

Thanks to my dear uncle, I interviewed at this small company looking for a drafter. The only issue, the drawings were nothing like the ones I learned to draw in college. They were nothing about civil engineering but all about something else entirely new to me. They were still engineering drawings. I always remember when the interviewer told me, “The job is yours if you dare to take it.” my answer was “Yes, I do”. The next part I will never forget, he said, “Good, because nothing has been written about cowards”. A great opportunity came through that would change my life forever, and I dared to take it.

I worked with this company for eight years, by year 3 or 4, I had learned so much. I loved everything about it. However, although engineering, it was a different field than the one I was pursuing in college. Many times co-workers asked me why not to change and I never listened. Never paid attention to the opportunity they were pointing me at. Until one day I was working with a co-worker when he mentioned how cool it was what he was doing and how I could do it too. Back then, I was already into my third year of the civil engineering degree. I didn’t care or wait but just stood up from where I was, drove to college, and enrolled in the classes I needed to pursue an electrical engineering degree with a major in control systems. I didn’t even ask at college for permission or approval to change my current degree, but just did it. At the moment, at college, it was the enrollment period and the perfect opportunity for making the change. That change in college degrees put me back to the beginning, which resulted in a total of seven long years of college to finishing with my engineering degree. I did finish. I had many challenges along the way, but overcame them all. In the end, my co-workers, many of them still really good friend to me, were right. I cannot express how grateful and blessed I am for listening to them and finally see what they were pointing me at. Since then, lot of doors to awesome opportunities have been opened for me.

My next jobs have been all related to the engineering degree I earned at college, but with a different perspective to what I already knew; which helped in my professional development and eventually in pursuing a non-engineering, but relevant, master’s degree. The opportunity of having my employer paying for a portion of my master degree came up. This time it was not packed with challenges but with a key for opening the door to new opportunities.

There is a lot more to this story, but I can’t put it all in just one post. If something to remember about my story is to take advantage of the opportunities. They come and go without notice, but we will see them coming. After that, you just need to dare, because nothing has been written about cowards.

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