Today, Karen Gonzalez is a Site Infrastructure Activities Coordinator for Dow AgroSciences (part of the Down Chemical Company) in Pittsburg, Calif. But just a few short years ago, she was a young mother with a 40-hour a week job and a full course load at Career College of Northern Nevada. It took serious dedication to take her dreams from the incubation stage to reality. How Karen made the transition from aspiring business student to successful entrepreneur and Dow employee is an inspiring one.
In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we sat down and spoke with Karen on the challenges she faced as a CCNN student and what motivates her to do her best every day. Following is our conversation.
CCNN: What are some challenges you faced while attending CCNN and how did you overcome them?
Karen: To be honest, a lot of the challenges I faced were mental. I had to overcome them by making changes to my schedule, having supportive people around me, and reminding myself daily of the reasons this was going to help me down the road. Most of the time we keep this internal dialogue to ourselves. What I discovered was that if I spoke to a CCNN office staff member or had a one-on-one with one of my instructors, they all had different perspectives or insights that I had not thought about. Letting my family know how important this was to me was also key in allowing them to give me the space and time to complete assignments, and a push when I needed it the most. At that time, I was working eight hours a day, going to school in the evenings, a wife and mother. You get tired, beat, and wonder if you will ever see any good come out of all that angst, pain and commitment, but I’m here to tell you that it will.
CCNN: How was the staff of CCNN supportive during challenging times?
Karen: I didn’t have one dedicated mentor but I did have mentors whether they knew it or not. I would find myself in the office asking questions, talking to my instructors and finding nuggets of wisdom in the stories that they shared with me. I also knew some of them worked other jobs and taught at night and I can recall thinking they are just like me in a sense, I can do this too. CCNN was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to take classes that would prepare me for real world training. My instructors and the classes that I took did just that.
CCNN: What lessons did you learn at CCNN that you’ve carried into your career?
Karen: I used a lot of the business acumen that I learned there. I was in the business program and I have used it not only to secure work but I have also started my own business. I am the proud co-owner of G6 Builders, a residential and commercial contracting company. We focus on energy efficiency, solar, remodels, etc. CCNN gave me the confidence that I needed to get ahead. I knew they weren’t going to be the end but the beginning.
CCNN: It’s Women’s History Month. To you, who are some of the most inspiring women in history?
Karen: Oprah Winfrey, because she has used TV to help us live our best lives, her book club created millions of readers, and because she gives back to causes that helps women prosper. I’m also inspired by Martha Graham. I love to dance and I had come across one of her quotes while taking a modern dance class my senior year in high school. The quote gave me an epiphany on the importance of self-expression.
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open… No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others”
This quote is etched in everything I do. I want to be free to express who I am and be open to showcasing the very best that is in me.
CCNN: Anything else you’d say about your time at CCNN?
Karen: My reason for choosing CCNN was due to the fact that I felt traditional community colleges had a one size fits all mentality, and I wanted something different. I wanted something accelerated, a career oriented perspective to education, and needed something that would work with a budget. I also really liked that the class sizes were smaller and that they had hands on learning.
Here at CCNN, we’re proud of our graduates like Karen and so many others who have gone on to lead successful and fulfilling lives. Ready to get on the path to career greatness? Take the quiz to see if you’re ready, then start exploring your options here today.