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Career Quick Look
Salary: $50,840* Education:
Years in Field: 16 Diploma in Electronics; A.S. in Telecommunications Technology (in progress)
City/State: Coventry, RI View Roberta Bavaro's Resume

"Make sure you enjoy your work," Roberta says. And don't be afraid to stand up for yourself in the workplace. "Sometimes you have to fight for what you want," she says.

"If you do the best you can," she says, "you can achieve anything."

"As far as work barriers, it's like any other job," Roberta says. "You have to prove that you're a good technician."
Getting Started: Roberta had spent several years doing clerical work in the medical field, but found herself frustrated by the lack of growth opportunity. "It was a dead-end job," she says, "there was just no room for advancement." She decided it was time to change gears and learn a new trade, and enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Electronics, where she earned her electronics diploma in two years.

After several years in the field, working at Verizon, Roberta enrolled in the company's Next Step program, which offers further training and education for employees through the Community College of Rhode Island. "We go to classes one day a week, from 8 to 5," she says.

Education: Roberta had studied liberal arts at Providence College in the 1970s, but after several years in the workforce she wanted to pursue a more technical career. She earned her diploma in electronics from the Rhode Island School of Electronics in 1986. Sponsored by her employer, she is currently enrolled in Community College of Rhode Island's Telecommunications Technology program, where she'll receive her associate's degree.

"It's a very accelerated course," Roberta says. "Last semester we learned electricity, this semester it's all electronics. After the second year we get into more specific subjects, related to the telephone business, advanced switches and things like that." With the Next Step program, she'll have even more opportunities in her work with Verizon.

Greatest Professional Achievement: Roberta says that passing the oral examination to receive her technician's rating- where she was tested by a chairman and examiner from Verizon, and a union representative - has been her proudest achievement in the workplace. She had been studying for almost 2 years for the exam, which requires a thorough knowledge of every aspect of her job, including company policies, basic electricity, electronics, binary math, all types of circuitry and test equipment. She failed two sections on her initial try, but persevered and passed the second time. Achieving this rating means Roberta can earn more money for doing the same job.

Barriers: Roberta says she had always enjoyed math and science, which helped her when she returned to school for her electronics training. "I've encountered no barriers at CCRI," she says. "There's that old saying, you have to do the job twice as well if you're a woman," Roberta says, "but I really think that if you go in there and do the best you can, people will recognize and respect that."

Working with Men: Roberta says that electronics is still a mostly male profession, but adds that these days, "there are more and more women working in this area."

As in any other field, she says, "you have to prove yourself. You have to go in there and act as a worker, and be ready to do anything." Sometimes the job involves something physical, such as moving a bag full of wires. "I do it right along with the guys," she says, "because I make the same money they do."

Throughout her career, Roberta says she's found the electronics union to be a great source of support. "I've got a very strong union that fights against all kinds of discrimination," she says.

Advice for Women:
"Never let anyone treat you differently," Roberta says, "or make you feel 'less' than the guys." She feels it's important to be pull your own weight, and be prepared to help with whatever is needed - act like a team player and you'll be treated like one.

And don't be afraid to stand up for yourself in the workplace. "Sometimes you have to fight for what you want," she says.

Above all, she says, "make sure that you enjoy your work."

Typical Workday/Environment:
Much of Roberta's work evolves around the installation and maintenance of analog and digital circuits, which transfer phone signals and increasingly, data, for all manner of businesses and applications. "It's very technical," she says. "We use laptops to get into the circuits. It's phone related, but it's also working with data, installing and maintaining what we call T1, T3, and fiber optics. Roberta works out of Verizon's downtown Providence office, the largest and most diversified in terms of equipment. With the advances in telecommunications technology, and the rapid growth of Internet and wireless applications, she says her work is constantly evolving.

"It's amazing how the field changes," she says. "Day after day there's something new."

Career Ladder: An entry-level worker in electronics might start at $12 an hour - and as Roberta's career shows, there are great opportunities for further learning and advancement. A trained technician, with five or more years of experience, can earn up to the $64,000 with full medical and pension benefits. To keep pace with the changes in tools and technology, many companies will offer further education on the job, which benefits workers and employers alike.

She also recommends teaching, as a great way to share your expertise and experience. "It feels so good and gratifying," Victoria says.

Professional Associations: Member of Union Local 2323, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

Hobbies: When she's not working, Roberta enjoys gardening and taking care of her home, as well as reading, listening to music and watching movies. She's also proud of her involvement with the Union Local 2323 (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers), where she's been an active member for 16 years, and a steward for more than 10 years. Roberta helps the union investigate grievances which include some discrimination cases.

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


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