Career and Transfer Connections: Changing with the Times

Many students on campus are already aware of the various resources available at their disposal, such as the library or financial aid. However, one area that less people know about is Career and Transfer Connections. Since Sierra College is a career-based school, it only makes sense to have a team of people who help students with their plans after they graduate. Whether a student wants to transfer or go into the workforce, this team is here to guide them.

Career Dreams

It can be intimidating if you’re unsure of where to start. Perhaps you’re struggling with figuring out what your next step is after Sierra. Brook Oliver, the Applied Technology Interest Area Counselor, shares her process of helping students; when they first come to her, some of them aren’t sure of what they want to do. However, she says, “They know more than they think they do. So, it’s a matter of having a conversation to kind of try to mine some of that.”

Brook Oliver
Brook Oliver, Applied Technologies Counselor/Internship Instructor at Sierra College, and President, The California Internship and Work Experience Association (CIWEA).

Another part she says is important in acknowledging is the predisposed ideas of the “good or bad” careers. In order to combat those, she says, “Well, think back to that first time going to kindergarten, or four or five years old when someone says, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ What did you answer? Because at that point, you’re applauded for saying, ‘I want to become the president,’ right? Nobody’s going to say, ‘Oh, well, girls don’t become president,’ or, you know, some of those gender, racial, [or] cultural things. They don’t want to impose that on a very small person.”

By letting students go into that “dream state,” as she calls it, Brook helps students find their passions by relieving some of those fears they may have. Another way she and the rest of Career and Transfer Connections helps students is by providing many resources, such as career assessments that suggest options for you or inspirational videos about successful professionals. You can also find transfer and internship resources on the Career and Transfer Connections webpage by using the drop-down menus. They have also released a brand new YouTube channel with how-to videos that help students with UC and Cal State applications. To hear more from Brook Oliver, feel free to watch the interview here, or read the transcript.

Welding: Ismael’s Story

One student Brook Oliver led in the right direction was Ismael Velasquez, a sophomore at Sierra who has practically already achieved his dream job. Through just one suggestion of an internship, Velasquez’s career began developing before his very eyes. Oliver suggested that he participate in one of the classes at Sierra with a professor who was actually a manager at Siemens Mobility, where they create rail vehicles. After connecting with the manager, Darryn Tardif, he admits that he did sit on this opportunity for a while until he remembered it, as he still had the business card he was given those months ago.

Photo of Ismael Velasquez, smiling, dark hair and small beard, grey hoodie with Santa Cruz symbol, Latinx
Ismael Velasquez, photo by Salma Garcia.

Craftsmanship in the Family. Before he attended college, Velasquez got his inspiration for craftsmanship from his father, who does carpentry and construction work. When he looked into that area to study in college, he noticed welding on the list and became intrigued. He decided to reach out to one of his relatives who also did welding for guidance. However, they weren’t able to get back to him, which motivated him to work his hardest to get the degrees and do the work necessary to “go be something”; to become a welder.

His determined spirit would stay with him when he started the internship. They started him off on simpler tasks in order to gain practice, which didn’t bother him in the slightest, as he says, “In school, they always tell you the same thing: You’re not going to get better over just one day, you got to keep going. You got to keep going, no matter if it’s hard or if you just don’t understand, you know? Just keep going at it.”

Working During a Pandemic. He was accepted into the prestigious internship and began working right before the pandemic struck. They started him off with these easier tasks to ensure quality, as he says that among safety, quality is one of their top priorities, “since its public transportation.” If a job was done incorrectly, the damage to the passengers would be catastrophic. He worked his way up, though, soon reaching the end where they test the interns on their skill.

Velasquez felt that it was partially luck that helped him, since he said that he was extremely nervous during the test. It makes sense, since welds need to be in precise positions depending on the direction, such as “upwards or going downwards, or simply in a flat base position.” On the test, he said they gave examples of “crazy positions” as well, which threw a curveball for test-takers. He prevailed and in the end, he is now working for Siemens full-time. To hear more from Ismael Velasquez, listen to his interview above or read the transcript here.

The Shift to Virtual

Ever since the mandatory quarantine due to COVID-19, many of Sierra’s Student Services have undergone massive changes in order to fulfill the needs of its students. Career and Transfer Connections is no different, many of their resources have changed to strictly digital.

Bethany Okusako
Bethany Okusako, on LinkedIn.

Bethany Okusako is familiar with these changes and has seen them shift. Her focus is on incoming college students by connecting with high schools and providing resources to them. As she states, originally, “students would come to the college, they would have kind of a career and academic planning experience. And then they would be with their counselor and do a little more work one on one, and do their educational plans… My job was to get all that content and all that experience online.”

The pandemic has essentially forced everything to become virtual. Despite the hardships nearly everyone has been facing, there is a silver-lining through it all for the Career and Transfer Connections team; they were successful in providing resources online through Zoom meetings as well as providing resources on the school website. Most of that wasn’t available online, and Okusako knows that many students tried to do all online before the pandemic struck, so they’re “creating a future” for the virtual version of Career and Transfer Connections.

While COVID-19 has put a damper in many students’ lives, it’s the small changes that Sierra is making that will not only improve the current situation but will make everlasting change going forwards. Okusako says, “This is the stuff students have needed or wanted for a long time, and we just didn’t have it, because we didn’t have to have it.” Through the forced changes, good came from it.

The Career and Transfer Connections resources are available through the school website under Student Services. To hear more from Bethany Okusako, feel free to watch the interview here, or read the transcript.

Through Career and Transfer Connections, students have been able to find within themselves the strength to pursue their career dreams. Even the simplest of actions, as we’ve seen from Brook Oliver simply suggesting a class, has set Ismael up for success. The hard work of Bethany Okusako and her other teammates setting up the online access to students has also helped, as even more students can take advantage of their many resources. Those who didn’t have the opportunity before now have a chance, and that’s an everlasting change for them. The pandemic has made many flustered, but they have adapted and helped other students to adapt to the changes seamlessly.


Hayley Repetti is a Journalism major at Sierra College. She served on the Editorial Team of Roundhouse News & Review in Fall 2020.

Written and reported by Hayley Repetti | Podcast edited by Leonor Bright, cover image by Glen Hansen, Unsplash

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