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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

A Complete Career Switch Was the Right Decision

November 18, 2013
Heather was tired of working as a security guard, before deciding to enroll in the Pharmacy Technology program.

Heather Howell was not certain she could handle the rigors of going back to school. Almost 20-years since she graduated from high school and lots of start-and-stop college credits, she wasn’t sure she could do the whole classroom, study, exam thing again. She was sure, however, that her job in security – as a “mall cop” – was wearing her down.

“It was my job to ‘observe and report’, which meant that I spent a lot of time looking for someone doing something wrong,” says Heather. “There was a lot of negativity and I started to be a negative person, and I didn’t want to be that.”

She has had a long line of security and law enforcement positions. Over the years Heather provided armed security for NASA and a hospital, and spent about 7-years as a 911 Dispatch Operator for the CA Highway Patrol. It was a life of dealing with a lot of people making or having a very bad day. She felt the need for a change, something completely out of this dynamic.

Heather became interested in working in the medical field when her mom, Pam, found out she had breast cancer 3-years ago. Although her mom is now in remission, Heather was influenced by her mom’s treatment and experience and felt she could do something to benefit someone with health issues.

Heather wasn’t sure she could handle direct patient care, so she thought that a career in the pharmaceutical industry might give her the level of serving others she could enjoy. With her decision made, she hit Google to see what kinds of career training programs were out there.

Her first foray into a Pharmacy Technology career training program was not what Heather wanted.
“There was a lot of pressure to enroll that day,” says Heather. “I just felt like a number and they didn’t really pay attention to what I needed.”

Back to Google. Heather found SJVC’s Lancaster campus and made an appointment.

“The campus was nice and new, and I could walk there if I had to,” says Heather. “They encouraged me to enroll too, but I didn’t feel pressured.” From Google to enrollment, it only took her a week to decide.

Heather wanted to test the waters of her education re-entry with the 7-month certificate PT program. If all goes well she plans to re-up for seven more months to get her A.S. degree.

She has been in the program 3-months now. “This just feels so right,” she says. “Every day I’m happy and looking forward to the day.”

Classes are going well and Heather is making strong academic strides. She received her first award for Academic Excellence with a 4.0 GPA, as well as Perfect Attendance.

“I’d never had a 4.0 – ever!” she says. “I was so proud of that, and my Mom and Dad (Tony) were incredibly excited about it.”

Heather’s mom is her biggest supporter and recently when Heather was sick and had to miss a day of school Pam said to her, “Well, there goes your perfect attendance.” Once a mom, always a mom.

Heather’s excellent grades haven’t faltered even after her 10-year old laptop computer sputtered out. Still working part-time, she manages to get to school early enough to use student center computers to complete her assignments.

One of the most important aspects Heather brings to her education is a commitment to a strong work ethic.

“Joel Morgan, Career Services Manager, told us at Orientation, ‘This is your on-the-job-training’, and I’ve never forgotten that,” she says. “I feel that every day when I walk in that this is my job, and I make sure to have my uniform crisp and clean and that I bring that work ethic to the classroom.”

Her professionalism does not go unnoticed.

“Heather beams with pride when she walks into class,” says Lindsay Sapp, PT instructor. “Nothing puts a smile on her face more than when she is able to apply her skills both professionally and technically. Her enthusiasm to learn and her generous commitment to her fellow classmates are endless.”

“Everything is kind of shaping into place,” says Heather. Her new career path is proving straight and smooth.

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