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Career Quick Look
Salary: $69,760* Education:
Years in Field: 2.5 Microsoft Networking Technology Certification, College of Alameda B.A. in Business Administration, Peru
City/State: Berkeley, CA View Carolina Pezua's Resume

"Beginning a computer career at the Lab is a dream come true for me, she says . " I remember working as a waitress at the restaurant and meeting people from the Lab who came to eat there. I told myself, 'One day I would like to work there too.' So I did it!"

Getting Started: A native of Peru - "I was born in a mountain village that at the time did not have water or electricity," she says - Carolina moved to the Bay Area in 1985. "I didn't speak any English then, so I had to take classes," she says. She had always been interested in computers, but with a large family to help out back home, Carolina says, "I had to concentrate more on working and then taking a couple of classes here and there on the side." For 12 years she was waiting tables and working as a manager in different restaurants - "at one point I was working 70 hours a week," she remembers. She'd kept computers in the back of her mind, and after taking classes "on and off" at the College of Alameda for a couple of years, she discovered network administration and decided it was time for a change in careers.

Education: Remarkably, during her busiest years, Carolina still found the time to tutor students in Spanish, and to take occasional classes at the College of Alameda, trying out various subjects. "I didn't really know what I wanted to get into," she says, but when she hit on networking administration, she thought, "I can see myself doing that." She made up her mind to complete the college's Microsoft Networking Technology program.

Carolina credits the "patient" and helpful staff, along with College of Alameda's internship program with providing an excellent foundation for getting into the workplace. "I think the internship and the program they have is just amazing," she says. "We have right now about four or five people that got hired doing the same thing that I did: doing the internship first, then you get a chance to do it full time, and then eventually you can get hired." Carolina began her networking classes in the spring 1998, and started her internship at Lawrence Berkeley Lab in February 1999.

Greatest Professional Achievement: "I have to say my greatest accomplishment was being hired to work at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab," Carolina says. After starting as an intern in February of 1999, she was hired as a full-time employee that September.

"Beginning a computer career at the Lab is a dream come true for me, she says . " I remember working as a waitress at the restaurant and meeting people from the Lab who came to eat there. I told myself, 'One day I would like to work there too.' So I did it!"

Barriers: Sometimes the greatest barriers can come from inside - from our own lack of confidence, Carolina says. "A lot of times women would will think we can't do this, we can't do that," she says, "and I come from a Latin background where women are meant to have kids and be a wife and stay home." For Carolina, it was a case of overcoming traditional ways of thinking, and reminding herself she could achieve anything with persistence.

Working with Men: "Always in computer classes you see more men than you do women," Carolina says, a ratio that's still reflected in the workplace. "I think it was a challenge for me and it still is sometimes," she says. "Yesterday we had a meeting in one of the departments at the lab and I realized that I was the only woman there."

By now she's become accustomed to holding her own in the lab. "I just kept telling myself, 'as long as they don't fire me I'm going to stick around'," she laughs. "That was how I went through and learned so much."

Advice for Women: "Definitely," Carolina says "my advice would be not to give up and just keep on trying. As long as you keep on trying you will get somewhere. Pretty much anything is possible. You just have to get your mind ready to do it. There are times when you have your doubts, there are times when you just want to give up. But you just have to keep on trying."

"The mind is very powerful," she says, remembering some of her early struggles. "If I would have given up as many times as I thought I wanted to give up I would not be where I am right now."

Typical Workday/Environment: : "I do network administration and desktop support also," she says, which involves everything from setting up computer networks to troubleshooting problems on the spot. "Sometimes it can be stressful," she says. "But I enjoy what I'm doing. I enjoy learning." Carolina says she's happy to work at the University's lab because of the academic atmosphere and the great benefits it offers - not to mention its location in the picturesque Berkeley hills. "Where I work there are a lot of opportunities," she says.

Career Ladder: "Networking can be very lucrative," according to Carolina. Actual salaries depend a lot on your particular employer. In the education/public sector, you may start at $45-50,000 as a network technician, while a private company might pay $60-70,000. Carolina says she enjoys the University environment, where she feels she's learning all the time. "I'm really happy where I am right now," she says, "and I'm confident that I could earn more money if that becomes important to me in the future."

Professional Associations: None.

Hobbies: "I love the outdoors," she says, enjoying everything from hiking and camping to sports like volleyball, basketball and soccer. Also an enthusiastic traveler, Carolina has been to Guatemala, Costa Rica, Brazil, Mexico and France in recent years. "I go pretty often to Peru," she says. "Once a year I try to go and do trekking in the mountains of Peru."

*Annual salary number is not the role model's actual salary. Salary for Computer Networking based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition

 


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