Jose Tamayo is a 23-year-old from National City who has had an eventful journey to finding his passion and career path. Knowing that college wasn’t the right fit for him, Jose decided to explore other opportunities. He participated in the Ocean Discovery Institute as an AmeriCorps intern and later landed an internship through the San Diego Workforce Partnerships. Below, Jose tells us how internships have shaped his career journey.
My father owns a maintenance company which I have helped him with since I was in high school. Working with him and seeing firsthand his work ethic to care for our family and provide a better life for his kids played a significant role in my outlook on the workforce. Towards the end of high school, I wanted to start working and earning money as soon as possible, so I made finding a job more of a priority than going to college. Even though we were told the importance of attending college and earning a degree, I felt that other paths could lead me to make a sustainable living.
Another experience that influenced my professional life since I was young was my involvement with the Ocean Discovery Institute–a local nonprofit in City Heights that creates learning experiences for young adults traditionally excluded from science. I have been involved with the organization since I was in the fifth grade, and they have always sent me career and education opportunities over the years. While working with my dad, I learned they offered a paid internship, which I applied for and got accepted into. During the internship, I worked with K-12 students in City Heights, teaching them about science, organizing field trips and hosting after-school activities. The internship allowed me to observe and learn about marine biology, particularly endangered species, further fueling my passion for the environment.
After completing the internship at Ocean Discovery Institute, I transitioned to a manufacturing technician role at Illumina. This position involved working with heavy machinery and making products. Even though the job paid well, it was not where I saw myself working long-term, and I knew I had other skills that I wanted to develop. When I learned about an internship opportunity available as part of the County Youth Internship program through the Workforce Partnership, I jumped at the chance to sign up.
My role at the County was as a recycling specialist, where I worked with the commercial and multifamily recycling programs for 5,000+ properties in San Diego County. My primary duty was to ensure their compliance with state and local laws, while providing resources and outreach.
The internship provided a new experience for me and changed my thoughts about work. I discovered what it felt like to work in an office environment and had the opportunity to work with new people, learn new skills such as Excel, and enhance my customer service and professionalism.
The environment differed from my last job where I mainly worked alone. Being in a more social setting with other professionals took some getting used to, but it allowed me to expand my professional network and meet some fantastic people. I was nervous that I would not be able to do data entry as it seemed so complex at first, but I had such a great team and mentor that helped me through it, and now it is something that I enjoy doing.
Natalia King, my mentor at Illumina, was vital in guiding me through this new experience; she showed so much patience with me despite my lack of prior experience. The internship also provided learning resources where I learned about emotional intelligence, which helped me understand how to interact and handle difficult situations that would arise and helped me build up my confidence in my work. I was dedicated to learning and growing in my role, which must have been evident as I asked to apply for a permanent position within the department to continue the work that I was doing.
I credit my willingness to learn, adapt and collaborate with others as crucial factors that have helped me navigate my career successfully. Whenever I reflect on my decision not to pursue college, I still believe it was the right choice. I advise others to take their time in understanding their career aspirations and to focus on gaining job experience. I am excited about my upcoming contract with the County as a recycling specialist and continuing my work to preserve our environment and help champion new environmental and sustainability solutions for San Diego. My journey of self-discovery and growth has been rewarding, and I encourage others to find their path to fulfillment and success.