Think about your past for a moment. Now, during your childhood through your early adulthood, have you ever wondered what you wanted to be when you grew up? It’s a common question we often ask ourselves as we head into our early youth and adolescent years. I know I asked myself this question many times, but never figured it out then. I do not have it figured out now either. And, that’s okay. (Psst! I love to learn & try new things!) In fact, no one ever figures out their journey right away if they ever do. It never happens like that, unless you are one of the exceptional few! The journey of self-discovery and your potential career is an on-going, ever-changing, exciting and frustrating one. However, its through this journey, that we know what each one of us are capable of achieving and soaring for!
Arthur Ashe, a former 3-time Grand Singles American Tennis Player said, ”Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” I could not have said it any better. Thanks Arthur.
To you, my readers: Never doubt your ability to pursue your dreams. If there were no challenges along the way, we wouldn’t call it life, would we? Stay positive, focus on your end goals, work hard & play hard. Someday sooner or later, you will achieve what you set out to do! It is not a matter of if but when. Here’s to that someday. I am cheering for you. 😃
Below is my journey so far, to a glance at my past, current, and forward-looking future. I hope you enjoy reading it.
My Past – In My Youth:
I had dreams of different careers that I would take on, but never really knew what it was I wanted. At 8 years old, I once thought about being a pop singer and interviewing at American Idol for an audition, then getting rich and famous to sing & travel around the world to see & meet beautiful places and people. I loved singing and still do (although, I am a bit rusty these days, mind you!) At 11 years old, I thought about being amongst the stars and exploring space one day. I had big dreams due to my youthful imagination. It was fun while it lasted and I will never regret having them.
Adolescence – Adulthood Confusion:
Fast forward 7 years after, I still was not sure what I wanted to do! In 2006, I graduated Elkins high school and found myself confused & un-aware of what my career would look like. Not knowing what career decisions to take & with my parent’s financial support & guidance, I enrolled in Wharton County Junior College’s nursing school in Wharton, TX. Within 3 months of my first semester, I realized it was not the career for me. I could not stand the blood & gore that comes with it. But I did realized one thing: I wanted to in-directly help people – behind the scenes. Before I decided to make a disappointing call to my parents to tell them the news & pick me up to drive me back home, I decided to explore the campus and meet with a career counselor. Looking back, this was the best decision I made for myself.
After taking an arduous Myer-Briggs career assessment, I reviewed the results with the counselor. It turned out I was personally fit to be either in law, med, or technology-based roles. The counselor asked me what I liked and what passions I had. I informed her I love technology transformations and to see how it benefits mankind. She informed me that pursuing a technical career would suit me and to not look back on the decision. As I reflected on her feedback, I realized she was right. I was excited of using technology as a catalyst to help solve for peoples’ needs and problems.
My parents picked me up from nursing school so I could really identify where I wanted to go career-wise. I trusted my gut and followed my technology interests. I looked for a computer science program where I could be actively engaged and learn all that I could. I started classes at Houston Community college to get through my first two years of course pre-requisites. With a higher gpa and a focus on not letting my dream go, I applied and got accepted at University of Houston-Victoria (UHV) to complete their Bachelors Degree program in Computer Science, with a minor in Computer Information Systems.
An internship with NASA, who knew?!
Fast-forward to Fall of 2011 – I had two more semester of classes. With just one more semester to go before I could graduate, I was so ready to finish my studies and enter the corporate world. Throughout my undergraduate enrollment, I applied to 100’s of companies’ each week for their internship programs – but never got a chance to intern with any of them. No single phone call or email response. Just for fun, I applied to NASA three different times (that same year) on their website for their undergraduate student research program. I got lucky (& blessed) to be selected on my 3rd try. I still remember the phone call I had at home with the program coordinator: The phone rang on a Friday morning and my dad initially picked up the phone. The program coordinator, Diego Rodriguez, introduced himself & informed my dad that he wanted to talk to me. My dad yelled my name from the first floor of our two-story home, “Pearl, its NASA!. Pick up the phone!” My dad chuckled and I was feeling shocked and excited at the same time.
I picked up the phone and Diego introduced himself. He invited me for an interview on the spot! I had given my best possible responses and at the end of the call he informed me to wait for an update the following Friday on the final decision. I got selected! It was a competitive internship program that only recruited 13 students at a time, 3 times a year in the entire United States. It came with a scholarship grant and the opportunity to work at Johnson’s Space Center robotic division designing user interfaces for remotely controlled robots to support their Desert Rats Mission in Flagstaff, Arizona. I enjoyed re-designing the look and feel of the controller screens to help intuitively train new engineers that were going to control robots such as the likes of Centaur 2, the Space Exploration Vehicle and Robonaut 2! I even shook hands with Robonaut 2!!! At the end of my internship, I was required to write a 16 page scientific paper explaining the design decisions I made on those screens and present it to the robotic engineering staff. This was an electrifying experience in of itself!! I am grateful to have had the fortunate adventure to work among a brilliant cohort. Heck, I did reach the stars by interning with NASA!
May 2012, I successfully graduated from UHV (Go Jaguars!) with my computer science degree in hand and ready to take on the world! I was excited with joy to complete my first educational accomplishment. Looking back at my collegial cohort and the number of females in the class (only 2 – me and another student)- I realized when you focus, sacrifice and work hard to a goal, nothing can stop you from achieving your dreams.
Here I come Corporate World!
My first job was at Weatherford International supporting oil & gas software applications for field engineers across the world! I was a support analyst and enjoyed the hectic job. (It was my first job post- college after all!) It was pretty crazy since we only had 3 days of training and on the fourth day I had to start taking calls to support & answer technical questions from almost 100 different clients around the clock (with a mobile pager in hand). The folks that called were super users who knew the application in and out! Amongst a 4 member support team, how could we possibly have the answers for these users? I learned quickly that developing a professional rapport (even without knowing all the answers) was key to delivering a great customer service. The art of listening and effective communication are critical in ensuring a positive relationship with our customers.
Some of the customers were angry & some nice, but I knew irregardless of their behavior, they were in need of help, and I was going to help them the best way I knew how. Although a rough start, I was able to work through challenging situations quickly and perform the necessary elicitation and troubleshooting analysis to identify the root-cause of software issues and pro-actively helped resolve them. Before leaving the company to take on a different role, I improved the way different support requests (tickets) were routed through our 1-800 service number by their request type. I created a business process flow diagram on how that flow would look like and even successfully implemented the process improvement for the 4 member team. This experience was fun and I enjoyed seeing that the process helped the team better route different ticket types effectively. In addition, another key-take away I slowly realized was my passion in helping find software defects before it landed into the customer hands.
After working with Weatherford International for a bit, I took on another role with Boots & Coots who later was acquired by Halliburton. It was my first role as a quality assurance engineer. I was among a 10 member team & was the youngest on it. I actively learned about the oil & gas application (that contained 26 different nested applications inside it) from talking with developers and gaining the subject matter expertise needed to effectively test the application. My best mentors there were Glenn Ozburn, the lead application developer, and Mike Banse, my manager. These two continued to encourage me during my tenure to take on new and interesting tasks. I enjoyed interviewing with field users on site visits & identifying key pain points in the application. These pain-points turned into opportunities since they became new prioritized features to help improve the overall customer experience.
As I got more acquainted with the technical software solution, I served as a subject matter expert for our 20+ member offshore test & test automation teams in Bangalore, India. I got a chance to visit them at their CapGemini office in India to help streamline their test process & centralize their testing efforts. This was my second opportunity to conduct process analysis & make improvements and it was a success. I enjoyed creating efficiency out of the lack of it. Additionally, I supported the training services division by giving worldwide hosted, live webinars on new feature releases that the team worked on. Other interesting experiences were writing a user guide for field users to reference on a new module built into the application that helped the engineers to assess the health of their wells.
Ahoy! My QA Career Launched
After an unfortunate layoff from Halliburton, I took on a role serving as a proxy product owner & QA engineer for Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. There I provide quality assurance services supporting their Salesforce CRM real estate awards management application that calculated & identified the top selling nation-wide luxury realtors. These realtors belonged to nationwide franchisees that partnered with Berkshire Hathaway’s brand name marketing efforts & its company reputation to sell properties. These realtors participated in a yearly multi-million dollar awards convention where they were recognized and awarded for their efforts.
At a solar-based energy company (Sunnova Energy), I led the user acceptance testing (UAT) efforts for a critical project that streamlined their financial reporting efforts with Salesforce solutions integrated with FinancialForce. Sunnova Energy empowers nation-wide household residential customers to lease and own solar powered systems for an efficient energy plan. And, at another stint, I have had the pleasure to work remotely for W.L. Gore, supporting the quality experience for customers shopping on their Salesforce Cloud Craze B2B and B2C e-commerce stores for the Gore-Tex products.
I work at American Red Cross (ARC) full-time as a Salesforce test engineer supporting an array of Salesforce Cloud applications within a fantastic and multi-talented team. ARC has a host of critical initiatives and saving lives through blood donations is just one of them. It is truly inspiring to help empower humanity initiatives through technology. I wake up everyday excited to see how I can best contribute my expertise in the technical delivery teams I am apart of that I serve.
I do not know what’s in store for me for the future. I do know I will continue to follow my interests in pursuing things that benefit humanity through technology. It is the intersection of business, technology and customer centric experiences that enlighten me. There’s a lot to learn and you can never know it all! Keep trekking ya’ll. Onward & upward!