gladisalarconI grew up in El Salvador, and moved to the US about seven years ago so I could someday pursue higher education and new opportunities. After high school in San Francisco I was struggling to manage both work and part-time college classes. When I heard about Year Up I thought the program was the perfect option for me because I’d be able to explore a new field that I never considered. I really wanted to see if Information Technology was something that I would like. I took this new opportunity to challenge myself, to come out of my shell and try a field that could turn into a long-term career.

Learning to be confident and speak up was a big culture shock for me. It was tough because I knew very little English, but it was great meeting people, getting out there and making presentations. I learned you can’t just stay in your comfort zone; you have to push and challenge yourself. I put myself in situations that I was uncomfortable with, but I knew it was going to help me. Now I’m able to do many more things.

Another useful thing I gained at Year Up was business etiquette – the little things that you might think you know, but at the end of the day you don’t, even writing an email. I knew that we would get support from Year Up, and I never knew we would get as much support as we did. Those skills helped me out a lot going into my internship at Salesforce.

When I came in as an intern, everything was so technical that I even stayed late some nights to sort it out. I tried to catch on by watching all the senior people and managers on my team. They knew I didn’t have 10 years of experience but they were very understanding. Even when I made mistakes and thought the world was going to end, I learned that you just move on because everyone makes mistakes. During my internship, I knew that even if I didn’t get a position that I wanted to network and do the best I could.

Eventually, Salesforce offered me a position. They knew that I wanted to go to school and they said they were going to be very flexible with my schedule. School is not only important for me, but important to them as well. I have been promoted a little bit and now I am heading towards helping lead my department. Year Up put me on the IT track and from there I have figured out that project management is the right fit for me. As for my personal life I’ve been able to lighten my family’s financial burden and make them proud.

Every Year Up success story helps show we can close the Opportunity Divide. Some of us young adults never thought we could actually have opportunities to get in the door of these big companies. We’re showing corporations that we can be an important part of their business. We can become a great asset to communities if given the chance. Year Up gives this opportunity to young people who really want it.