Ashley Garcia may be young, but she realizes that careful planning and doing what you love can lead to success.
When Ashley Garcia arrived at her campus as a college freshman, she was overwhelmed. Not by the classes or the curriculum, but by how impersonal her interactions were.
“The experience of trying to register and understand what was going on was really difficult,” says Garcia, 24, of Gilbert, Arizona. “No one knew who I was. I had to get a number and wait. Every time I went back to talk with someone, I had a different counselor. It was a mess. I really liked the idea of having a counselor who was going to be there for me and really understand where I’m trying to go.”
At her father’s suggestion, Garcia shunned the traditional college environment and enrolled in online courses at University of Phoenix. She pursued the dream she had since she was a child pretending to be a newscaster in front of a mirror: to become a journalist.
“The teachers were really adamant about building your own style of writing and making yourself a strong writer,” says Garcia. “My teachers had been through a lot of different journalism jobs, and they know how it is.”
They also knew who Garcia was, which made all the difference compared to her previous college experience. And then there were the learning teams, which made her feel as if she were in a class with peers who were all focused on the same goal.
Garcia, who admits to being “a little crazy” when it comes to her focus and drive, completed her bachelor’s degree in 2014.“I definitely didn’t see sunlight for a while, but it was worth it.” She approached a local magazine and asked if she could write for them. Her initiative got her hired as an intern, a position that led to a freelance writing gig—her first being paid as a writer.
– Ashley Garcia, BS/COM-JRN ‘14
From there Garcia got a staff job at a local online technology news magazine. She learned how to turn around stories on deadline. She attended the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a leading trade show notorious for making headlines with new tech product launches, as a credentialed member of the media.
“We got to interview a lot of people,” Garcia says. “It was really cool to get your name out there and be part of an actual publication consistently. I learned a lot about the industry there.”
While the work was exciting, Garcia quickly learned that the pay rates in journalism aren’t in line with her dreams. She talked with her mentors and bosses about her career choices, and it soon became clear that an MBA would allow her to continue the writing career she loves while also increasing her earning potential. Garcia researched employers and discovered that PayPal has a solid social media department, which is an area of communication that interests her. The company also offered opportunity for advancement, so she got her foot in the door by taking a job in the customer service department.
“I had a conversation with my manager as soon as I started,” Garcia says. “I told her, ‘This is where I want to go. Can you help me get there?’” As a result, Garcia is writing weekly newsletters for her team and is able to shadow the social media department to learn the ropes. She’s doing that while enrolled in the University of Phoenix MBA program. She hopes to earn her diploma in two years.
“I followed the opportunity to make more money and make more of a career out of what I was doing,” says Garcia. “I know if I work hard, I can get there.”
Garcia isn’t sure where she’ll be in five years—she won’t even be 30 yet—but she does know that as long as she is writing, she’ll be happy. “I’d like to write a book,” Garcia says. “I’d like to have my degrees under my belt and be successful. But mostly, I want to be passionate about what I’m doing. If you’re not driven to do something, if you’re not moving forward, you’re not going to be happy.
For gainful employment information, please visit phoenix.edu/programs/gainful-employment.html.