I left Russia on my own five years ago to pursue a better life for myself in San Francisco. Once I settled in, I started looking into local community colleges, but I couldn’t yet afford tuition. I always wanted to achieve bigger goals for myself and be successful. I knew that I was capable and smart enough to get myself somewhere; I just didn’t know where.

I discovered Year Up while searching for anything that would give me a leg up. I liked the intensive IT and on-the-job training and the fact that students earn internship placements upon completing the program. I was impressed by the fact that 85% of Year Up graduates are either working or enrolled in college full-time within four months. I applied and was thrilled when I found out I was accepted.

For me, the hardest part of Year Up was my Business Communications class. Because of my language barrier, I had to work extra hard to ensure that my deliverables were of quality and completed on time. As challenging as it was, I appreciated this experience the most because it helped me dramatically improve my English. Year Up gave me the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and skills that have set me up for success.

As a result, I earned an internship at Blue Shield of California where I was a Business Objects Developer Intern serving as general support for the Business Intelligence team. My responsibilities were to collect and submit access requests, conduct research, create and maintain documents, and plan team-building events. What surprised me most is that colleagues who were more senior are still learning as they go. It does not matter how educated you are, you’re not going to learn everything in school – most of it is gained on the job.

At Blue Shield of California, I had to take initiative to work on larger projects, so I made an effort to meet as many people across different departments as I could. The most important thing I learned is that people really enjoy and appreciate a colleague who can help and is open and ready to work. It’s all about accountability and creating value for other people. Over time, my manager noticed how much value and support I added to the team, and offered me a full-time job as an IT Business Analyst upon graduation.

Today, most of my job consists of conducting data analysis and coordinating communication for a big IT project. It’s terrifying, but they trust me. I like that I can contribute to our team’s goals and initiatives. My personal goal is to get a bachelor’s degree in Engineering or Information Systems. I am very grateful and happy for how things fell into place.