Episode 16: Choosing Between Two Paths with Andrea

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My guest today is Andrea Hernandez. Andrea was born and raised in Southern California to working class, immigrant parents. Building community and deciding on a career path were the two defining experiences of her time in college. Andrea attended Cal-Poly, San Luis Obispo and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology.  Throughout college, she worked part-time as a bank teller and considered a career in the finance industry. After college, Andrea wanted to determine whether a career in the healthcare sector would be a better fit for her, but she eventually made her way back to the financial industry. Andrea currently works as a Relationship Advisor at a commercial bank that caters to start-ups in the tech industry. Here is a little of her First Gen Journey . . .

Show Notes:

In this episode, Dr. Hernandez interviews Andrea Hernandez, a Relationship Advisor at a commercial bank, about her First Gen Journey. She discusses her decision to transition from one major to another, her experience joining a sorority, and the two separate career paths she carved out for herself during college. Here are a few highlights from her episode:

·      Andrea’s parents had blue collar jobs and made it a point to communicate that education was the path to better opportunities and future success (1:01). Despite the focus on education, there was little guidance regarding choosing a career or how to define success (2:24).

·      Initially Andrea considered a career in architecture (3:22). When she got to college and was studying architecture, she quickly realized that she didn’t have a passion for that field. Self-doubt started to creep in and she began to wonder if college was for her (4:45).

·      While struggling with her academic concerns, Andrea reached out to her sister, friends, and school advisors but got mixed results (6:44). Her sister provided some encouragement and her major advisor wanted to help her find an ‘easier’ option within the department instead of helping her find a meaningful major outside of the department. Eventually, Andrea connected with an advisor who listened to her, advocated for her, and helped her transfer to a different department while still being able to transfer her credits (8:25).

·      Another challenge Andrea faced in college was building community. She felt a disconnect with most of the student body due to coming from a low-income background (9:44). Andrea connected with members of Sigma Omega Nu, a Latina interest sorority, and found the community she was looking for (14:36). A lot of the members of the sorority shared aspects of Andrea’s background which made it easier to develop relationships. Although it was a time commitment and a stressor, Andrea credits her academic success to the sorority.

·      Andrea worked part-time throughout college to be able to afford meals, books, utilities, and fun (18:04). She looked for jobs based on pay and flexibility instead of having a plan for building professional skills. The job that provided the most professional experience was her position as a bank teller for Wells Fargo (20:04).  

·      Andrea was building professional skills and a professional network in the finance industry through her Wells Fargo job while studying Kinesiology at Cal-Poly, SLO. She was preparing for two different career paths (health versus finance) without necessarily having that intention at the outset (21:13). Upon graduation, she felt she needed to pursue a career in healthcare due to the time and energy spent earning her degree. However, she also felt that if it wasn’t a good fit, she would be prepared to pivot to a career in the finance industry (22:24).

·      At this point in her career, Andrea works in the finance industry as a Relationship Advisor with a commercial bank (24:13). She realized that there are aspects of the finance industry that fit better with her career goals and is happy where she is now.  

·      Looking back, she thinks taking a more intentional approach and aligning your academic major and work experience in college might be a better decision (27:49). However, she recognizes that the reality of her situation didn’t allow for that and she was still able to create a career path that works for her.


Andrea’s tips for First Gen students and professionals wanting to go into the banking industry:

1.   Network – you need to build your community, be approachable, treat others with respect, and demonstrate your work ethic in whatever job you are in.

2.   Treat others well because your network speaks for you.

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