Success Stories

Grant funding helps new resident on biotechnology career pathway

Ernesto de Leon

Hailing from Torreón, Coahuila in Mexico, Ernesto de Leon had already completed an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and a master’s in quality and productivity when he fell in love with partner Jesse Cruz 10 years ago. He decided to move here for Jesse four years ago, which meant he has had to adapt to a new environment and a new language, using the opportunity to choose a new career pathway.

Ernesto enrolled in the biotechnology certificate program at San Diego City College and reached out to SDWP for assistance gaining hands-on lab skills and experience.

Through SB-1070, a career technical education pathways grant, and California Community Colleges Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy initiative, SDWP collaborates with community college biotech programs across the region, working closely with the grant’s Deputy Sector Navigator and Sector Navigator to place students in life sciences internships.

In March of 2016, Ernesto was placed in an internship at Triton, where he worked on running several lab tests and supported the other research scientists and engineers. He was then offered full-time work at Ajinomoto Althea, Inc. doing quality control of raw materials in August. Ernesto credits the San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) and the community college programs for the guidance and assistance securing full-time employment. Below is Ernesto’s story in his own words.

I knew I had to go back to school to train in the biotech field, but I didn't have much money and time to invest in my education. Fortunately, I had a part-time job which helped me save enough money to complete the biotechnology program.

I wanted to increase my chance of becoming more employable; maybe destiny put the City College program in my path. I'm glad it did, because it put me in touch with the San Diego Workforce Partnership, which is how I learned about the internship at Triton through Dr. Dave’s program (David Singer of City College).

Some of my instructors at the biotechnology program at City College were ex-students of the program and it was amazing that some of them didn’t even have a background in the life sciences. Dr. Dave’s program trains anyone who wants to work in biotech. I remember one person had a B.A., and found work in a biotech company with the help of SDWP, which supports students by making them more employable.

It is great that SDWP works with City College, because it provides the opportunity that many need — to gain real-life lab experience. I have met many mentors who helped me develop communications and people skills, or soft skills, which have proven immensely useful in my job search.

Being a tool in building students’ skills—both personal and professional ones—helps put labs and companies on the map. I am so grateful for the help I have gotten along the way; there are many people that I wish to thank: Gloria Banuelos, Erika Aranguré, David Singer, Roya Lahijani, Miller Tran, Oscar Gonzalez, Steve Mayfield, Robert McBride, John Deaton, Beth Rasala, Xu Wang, Beatriz Moreno, Michael Bailey, Michale Molony, David Enloe, Douglas Jackson, Darrel Cheng, Sheila Dentino, Torben Bruck, Jesse Cruz, and many more.

Ernesto is now married with two dogs, and hopes to be a mentor and more directly involved with research and clinical trials in his career.

One of Ernesto’s mentors, Dr. Tran, whom Ernesto credits for challenging him during his internship and working with him on his interviewing skills, will be speaking at the upcoming Workforce Conference, taking place on November 2.

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