In April 2021, Carmen dela Pena came to the United States from the Philippines, where she’d worked 12 years in the tech industry for six years as an Application and Data Analyst. She had just resigned from her job to care for her grandmother living in Illinois. While there, she met her husband-to-be, fell in love, and married.
Unfortunately, Carmen found it challenging to find a similar job in technology in the States so she took an ESL class through YWCA’s Literacy Council. Because of her background, Carmen was recommended to YW Tech Lab to learn the front-end of web development to add to her back-end coding knowledge. As a newly married woman with a four-month-old baby, Carmen took advantage of childcare assistance services through YWCA Northwestern IL while attending Front-End Web Development class at night.
Carmen was a woman on a mission. She especially wanted to learn the soft skills taught in class. At the same time, she sought out another online ESL class to help with her English to fast-track her route to employment.
A year before she decided to move to the U.S., Carmen had a nasty experience on a plane while flying from California back to the Philippines on a company training trip. She had fallen asleep on the plane only to awaken and overhear a group of strangers mocking her, publicly shaming her, and even following her to take a picture and call her crazy because of her language abilities. This incident shook Carmen’s self-confidence, and she was so depressed that she avoided verbal communication because she was afraid of making mistakes expecting to be harshly judged. Her fear intensified when she was interviewing for jobs after she first arrived. Potential employers told her that language was the barrier that had prevented them from hiring her despite her many qualifications.
She was becoming a member of an inclusive web development class, where all cultures and races were welcomed, which allowed Carmen to open up, find her voice while rebuilding her confidence, and become proactive in continuing her acquisition of English skills.
Because she wanted to gain employment as quickly as possible, Carmen also took an online tech course in Google IT Support to add to her bachelor’s degree. With part-time jobs working as Door Dash delivery or a personal assistant, Carmen had to balance work, her two tech classes, and caring for her baby and husband—to say the least, she was extremely busy but laser-focused.
By this time, Carmen had come a long way from the student who once froze during mock interviews when she couldn’t find the right word in English to express herself. YW Tech Lab also helped Carmen pay to get her college degree translated for American employers to remove yet another potential barrier to employment.
Finally, her hard work paid off when, five months later, Carmen received her two tech certifications from YW Tech Lab and then, one month later, landed a paid internship through them with Aqua-Aerobic Systems in the IT department. Calling Carmen “phenomenal,” the HR Director introduced Carmen to her new IT Director. At the end of the internship, Carmen was offered a permanent part-time position as Programmer Specialist, a job created just for her.
Carmen’s supervisor says she meets all his requirements because she “fits in, works hard, and is willing to learn.” Her job has entailed creating and maintaining her company’s intranet website and developing reports for numerous departments. Carmen said she loves her job and is especially pleased that her supervisor is advocating for her position to become full-time in 2024.