christianramosI remember being inside the IBM building when I was a young boy. I used to go there to help my uncle, who was a janitor on the facilities team. Now, because of Year Up and my training, I could be a telecom technician or an engineer there in the future. I’m not restricted to certain types of jobs anymore.

After high school I was caught in a cycle familiar to a lot of my peers. Money was tight and I was unsure of what I wanted to do, so I started at community college. I was working full-time and going to school full-time. In the end, I had to drop out of school to focus on my job at Best Buy. It was a great place for me to work because I loved technology, but I kept thinking I could be doing more.

I was at a point in my life where I needed to make a big change. My friend Carlos, a Year Up graduate, told me about the program. I went to orientation and was all for it. I couldn’t believe that after five months of training I could get an internship at a big company in Silicon Valley. I thought, “How can you work there and not be a genius or have a degree?” I knew I couldn’t take this huge opportunity for granted.

Even though I had some basic tech knowledge from my time at Best Buy, I was able to learn more advanced skills. I also discovered that I really enjoy helping people, and I began to be seen as a leader. If there was a chance to participate, I raised my hand – from the first day to the last. I was really serious about the program because I thought it could be my last shot. That hard work led me to an internship at LinkedIn.

During my internship I worked with LinkedIn’s telecommunications-operations team. At first, I was finishing my work more quickly than they could give me assignments, so I had some extra time. I overheard some managers talking about a problem with the conference rooms and how we needed a way to let people know when we were in meetings. I did some research on how much blank door signs would cost and made a prototype that everyone could use. My manager was really impressed with my work, and I think they recognized that I’m willing to put in extra effort and due diligence.

Towards the end of my internship, I was offered a full-time contract position. It was a dream come true. In my current role, I wear a lot of different hats, assisting customers and employees with tech issues. At LinkedIn I have room to grow and stand out.

This job has allowed me to save money and help my family live more comfortably. But I’m just getting started. I want to return to school full-time to study IT and get an associate and then bachelor’s degree. I’d like to be certified for telecommunications and eventually start my own company to offer education and training to people who face the same obstacles I have.

As a graduate of Year Up, I have been on both sides of the Opportunity Divide. I used to accept lack of opportunity as a way of life, but as an adult I’ve learned to create my own success. It’s the hard work you put in that counts. Year Up catapulted me into what I should be doing, but there is still much more work to be done. This is just the beginning.