After a 25-year IT career in El Salvador, Cleo Valencia felt it was time to leave. Ageism in her industry made her feel like there were no more growth opportunities for her, despite her vast experience auditing information systems and her IT engineering degree from the National University of El Salvador.
When Cleo and her son immigrated to the U.S. three years ago, she dreamed of finding another job in the IT industry, ideally at a big tech company like Amazon. She took the first job she could find at Amazon – as a picker preparing online orders at the first Amazon Fresh store in the Los Angeles area.
She enjoyed the work; she was fast, efficient, and excelled quickly. After two years, she was transferred to an in-store role where she works on stocking inventory and supporting the customer service team. She also supports the store’s Front End Department on the register, customer service or Dash Carts.
While in her third year at Amazon, Cleo enrolled in Springboard’s Data Analytics Bootcamp offered through Amazon Career Choice, an education and skills training benefit for employees to learn new skills for career success at Amazon or elsewhere. Cleo completed the course in October and is working with her Springboard career coach towards her dream job as a data analyst.
I used to work as an IT manager at a software company in El Salvador. Unfortunately, older workers were being pushed out in favor of younger ones. So, I moved to the U.S. to find more opportunities. I wanted to work for a major tech company like Amazon. After three years of working there, I think I made a good choice. Amazon has given me many opportunities to grow and develop my knowledge. The people at Amazon feel like family. They take care of us and give us room to grow.
I started as a picker, gathering items in the Amazon Fresh store to fill incoming orders. I was one of the fastest, and I enjoyed it. I earned every badge.
After two years, they moved me to an in-store role to work on merchandising. I arrange the product displays, stock inventory, and ensure all the products are on the right shelves. If the cashiers or customer service representatives need help, I’ll chip in. It makes me happy to interact with customers and help them find products.
I work part-time at Amazon because I like to do more than one thing at a time. I also work as an accounting assistant for a hospice provider, overseeing accounts payable for seven branches.
I have a lot of experience in the industry. In El Salvador, I worked in IT for 25 years. I started as an assistant to the president, then did software development. Then I worked as an IT manager at another company, overseeing three people and all of the company’s systems.
In high school, I won a scholarship to study in the U.S. I decided to learn computer science. Even back in 1986, I knew computers were the future–plus, I liked math. My program was offered in partnership with Georgetown University and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
I studied at a small community college in Coalinga, California. One condition of the program was that I had to return to El Salvador for at least two years. So, I moved back to El Salvador after graduation and started my IT career there. I discovered I loved solving problems and making things easier for people who don’t understand IT.
I’ve always been curious about learning Tableau and Power BI, along with newer coding languages like Python. When I saw Springboard offered a Data Analytics Bootcamp, I immediately chose it. I have a background in analyzing information and making software decisions, so it seemed like the right program. Plus, I already know SQL since I used it to match computer systems while working in IT.
I applied for a software developer job at Amazon, but it would have required me to live in the Bay Area, and I wasn’t ready to move. I want to stay in Los Angeles because my son attends college here.
The course offered so much more than I expected. I didn’t know we would have a career coach, mentor, and dedicated student advisor. It’s a very integrated program. When I signed up, I was only focused on learning Tableau, Power BI, and SQL.
When they said, “You have a meeting with your career counselor,” I was surprised but excited. I’ve learned how to optimize my resume. They take care of us and give us many tools to develop our careers–not just the technical knowledge but also how to navigate the job market.
I’m so grateful to Springboard. It was the best choice I’ve ever made. I’ve learned how to do things better, not just technically but also in real life.
I spent 25 hours a week studying and I enjoyed it. Between my two jobs, I work 64 hours a week. On Saturdays, I spent a few hours studying before work. Sundays were entirely dedicated to studying.
I have a busy work schedule, so finding time to study was hard during the first few weeks. My Springboard mentor told me that I could ask for accommodations through Amazon Career Choice, so I could dedicate time to my course. I spoke with my manager at Amazon, and they told me I could adjust my schedule – it was very easy and fast.
I built my portfolio using Tableau and Power BI. These tools let you do things faster and more creatively. I like data visualization. I did so many presentations in my previous jobs, where I had to sell the CEO on a specific idea for a software implementation. If I’d had access to these data visualizations back then, my job would have been much easier.
My mentor works in the financial industry. I used to work at a bank in El Salvador, so we have that in common. Springboard matched me with the perfect mentor and I felt like they carefully selected him to meet my specific needs, based on my student profile. He’s fantastic and we have a similar way of thinking. He has been very helpful to me and he was the best advisor during my course.
His expertise helped me understand the technical issues I might encounter in real-world situations. In addition to the knowledge I gained through the bootcamp, my mentor gave me a wider perspective on my career prospects.
I plan to apply for my dream job in data analytics at Amazon. That would be my first choice, but I’m not ruling out other opportunities.
It’s important to me to stay focused, and I always remind myself that execution is the discipline of getting things done. I want to be a role model for my sons.
Even if you have a bachelor’s degree, it doesn’t matter because knowledge becomes outdated quickly, so you must always learn new things and set an example for the next generation. In the U.S., you have a lot of opportunities to chase your dreams.