When a College Degree is Not Enough
by Mia Ratino
Cristal Quiñones is an MLT Career Prep Fellow studying Mathematics at Pomona College. She is a first generation college student getting ready to put her math skills to use as a business consultant.
Cristal Quiñones’ parents saw education as the ultimate key to her success and financial stability, particularly since they never had the opportunity to finish high school. They advised Cristal, “Go to college, and you’re good.” But even as a student at a top-tier school like Pomona College, Cristal didn’t feel secure in her future.
Cristal is majoring in Mathematics. While she’s always had a passion for math and considered it a practical field to study, she wasn’t quite sure about how to apply those skills outside of the classroom. She worried that obtaining a college degree in and of itself was not going to be enough. Cristal says this is where MLT made a critical difference in her career trajectory, helping her find the clarity she needed to pursue a career that was both interesting and could provide financial stability for her, and her family.
And so really, when we touch one person, one MLTer like myself, it’s not only affecting me. It’s affecting my immediate family, my more distant family, friends of family.
As a Career Prep Fellow, she got career guidance, one-on-one coaching and a broad professional network. Cristal says MLT’s Career Prep helped her unlock her potential, reflecting that the program provides “preparation for the rest of your life” by making Fellows think about life goals, and how to achieve them. She says MLT helped her to explore different industries and companies, and to realize how many career options she actually had outside of the academic world.
In addition to professional clarity, Cristal notes the personal transformation she experienced over the course of the Career Prep program. Cristal’s coach, Angie Temming, says “When she started Career Prep, Cristal was really reluctant to self-promote. But she has definitely found her voice.” Cristal explains that she initially felt shy, out of place, and underprepared. She says the Career Prep program helped her get over her imposter syndrome and instilled in her a strong sense of self-confidence and willingness to share with other Fellows. “If not for MLT…I would not have a network that is there to support me, to guide me, and that really gives me inspiration every time I talk to them.”
Cristal’s stronger sense of confidence translated into a better ability to communicate her value proposition to potential employers. She explains that her critical thinking skills were not only developed through her coursework, but that many of these skills were established through her experience growing up as a child of immigrants in a low-income household. “Prioritizing things, or really having a game plan and a strategy for how you were going to do something—it was something I’ve always been able to do,” she says, “and so that’s a perspective I can bring.”
Cristal realizes she has an “analytical brain in a very friendly package” pointing out that while she has the ability to work through complex problems, she is also a people person who can effectively communicate her thought process. “I am kind of a liaison, a bridge, between the hard work that goes between finding an answer and then communicating that answer.”
Cristal used her broad set of skills to convert her summer internship at A.T. Kearney, a business management consulting firm, into a full-time offer. She says she hopes to give voice to the experiences of those who are not traditionally represented in the industry. Cristal’s coach, Angie, says of Cristal, “She’s humble, highly analytical and just a great human being. The combination of those traits will serve her well.”
Cristal shares that being a part of MLT Career Prep and securing a post-graduation position with A.T. Kearney will completely change the financial trajectory of her family. She feels more knowledgeable about financial planning and literacy, and plans to pass this information on to her family to ensure generational wealth. “And so really, when we touch one person, one MLTer like myself, it’s not only affecting me. It’s affecting my immediate family, my more distant family, friends of family.” Cristal says anyone who listens to her story can clearly see how MLT uplifted her.