By Eric Cholula-Martinez
Submitted by IBM
My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico and moved to California, where I was born. They eventually settled in Brooklyn, New York, where they worked endless hours doing labor jobs to support me and my two younger sisters as we attended school. My parents may not have been fortunate enough to have a full education but they modeled the value of hard work and dedication to their family, as they wanted us to have all we needed for a successful future. Seeing how hard my parents worked I decided at young age that their efforts will not go to waste. I always knew I had to apply myself, and when I did fail, I always took time to reflect before trying again.
In 2011, after applying to several high schools with no luck, I was accepted into Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), which was in its inaugural year. I considered myself very fortunate to be one of the first students to enter. At P-TECH, I studied robotics, software development and networking skills on top of regular high school courses. There, I met my mentor who opened my mind to new career paths and opportunities in technology by sharing his experience with me.
He gave me insight into what it was like to work at a Fortune 500 company and talked about what kind of things IBM was doing upstate. He spoke of the challenges of being in the technology field and how he approached and overcame his challenges. This mentor, plus an internship at IBM as a Macro Excel Developer to figure out a better way to do payroll, helped shape my education and eventually my career
I was always a technologist at heart, but P-TECH helped pave a direct path into the tech world. Learning is one thing and getting experience is another. Thankfully, P-TECH provided both, as well as a supportive family of peers, mentors and teachers.
In June 2017, I graduated P-TECH with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Electro Mechanical Engineering and continued on to higher education, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering at City Tech in June 2019. It took some time after graduation to find a job, but after weeks of applying and interviewing, I got my first job at IBM as a Hardware Developer in Poughkeepsie. I was very fortunate to be paired with an amazing team who were very supportive throughout my onboarding and to this day still help me if I have any questions.
Technology is not standing still, so neither should we. As a hardware developer I work on characterizing components in mainframes to help understand our system better and to improve our machines for future systems. It is a very technical role and has been a great start to my career. As technology keeps progressing, roles change. That’s why it’s so important to have mentors to answer questions and provide alternate viewpoints and exposure to new experiences.
Looking back, I am not so sure I would have taken the chance to work at IBM Poughkeepsie if my mentor had not told me so much about it, and if P-TECH hadn’t given me the opportunity to take part in an internship there. Mentorship made a difference in my career, and I hope to share my experiences to make a difference in someone else’s.
Innovation – joining invention and insight to produce important, new value – is at the heart of what we are as a company. And, today, IBM is leading an evolution in corporate citizenship by contributing innovative solutions and strategies that will help transform and empower our global communities.
Our diverse and sustained programs support education, workforce development, arts and culture, and communities in need through targeted grants of technology and project funds. To learn more about our work in the context of IBM's broader corporate responsibility efforts, please visit Innovations in Corporate Responsibility.
More from IBM