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Life After Graduation: PCCC and Ramapo Alumni Speak About Their Careers by Yairi Almonte Suero

On February 20, 2024, TRIO SSS Classic and Prosper Grant held a panel featuring former PCCC and Ramapo College business professionals who talked about their careers and how they achieved their goals. The event took place at Passaic Community College (PCCC) in the University Center A128 (Paterson Library) from 3:00-4:30 pm.

Guest speakers included Rebecca Gonzalez, Assistant Vice President, Branch and Business Center Manager at PNC Bank; Jessica Sanchez, Financial Aid Facilitator, Outreach and Communications for HESAA; and Ali Zamarra, Project Manager and Quality Assurance Analyst for Michael Kors.

Each guest speaker provided an insight into their career journeys and what led to their success. Jessica Sanchez, financial aid facilitator for HESAA, majored in political science at Ramapo College. As a student, she worked at the financial aid office of her college, which helped her gain the necessary skills for her current job position. She was also involved in clubs, government associations, and peer leadership during college, which benefited her tremendously.

Sanchez goes to different colleges and schools to offer financial aid presentations so students can make informed decisions. She is the youngest in her team and is currently working from home. Because Sanchez works for a state organization, she has to be knowledgeable and well-informed. She emphasized, “Confidence is key.” She admits that she does not have all the answers, but how you present yourself is crucial.

Rebecca Gonzales is also the youngest in her job; she is 26 years old. Gonzales, a PNC manager for a year and a half, was a PCCC student and later transferred to Montclair State University to major in Justice Studies.

Gonzales worked closely with her counselor to find internship opportunities. While at college, she started to work part-time at PNC Bank as a teller. Through the bank, she received training at Princeton for 18 months. This development program opened many opportunities for her. She is now a branch manager at Franklin Lakes and plans to transition to the legal department of PNC Bank.

Gonzales mentioned that it is important to have a positive attitude when facing challenges. “Not everything is pretty. You have to adapt to change, believe in it, and be uncomfortable to be comfortable,” she says. Gonzales also explained that she contacted her supervisors for career advancement opportunities. “You have to own your development,” she emphasized.

Finally, Ali Zamarra, also a PCCC graduate, talked about his journey, and the importance of being open-minded when it comes to career opportunities. He majored in Liberal Arts at PCCC and then transferred to Ramapo College.

Zamarra never imagined he was going to end up where he is now. He worked for five years in a restaurant and then as an Amazon delivery driver. He asked his supervisor about an Amazon internship shadowing program, which propelled him into a new field. He started to work for Michael Kors' IT department and was trained on the job by IBM in SQL.

Zamarra works as a project manager/scrum master and quality assurance analyst there. He believes networking is essential when it comes to finding job opportunities. He states, “Your network is your net worth.”

Overall, the career panel offered a deeper look into the lives of these business professionals, and students now have a clear picture of how to create a successful career path for themselves.

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