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QCC Alumnus Launched A Career that Knows No Bounds

October, 2018
  • QCC alumnus Juan Poma
    QCC alumnus Juan Poma

Juan Poma has rocketed himself into Quinsigamond Community College alumni lore. The 2013 QCC Engineering alumnus has taken the foundation he received at the college and jettisoned himself into a career at Boeing Aircraft Manufacturing Company.  Today he is an Information Technology (IT) Engineer and an Assistant Business Manager, acting as the bridge between business and IT.

Recently Mr. Poma came back for a quick visit to QCC, reminiscing about his time at the college where he said his future began.

“I was at QCC seeing all the students eager to learn, experience college and also being just a little bit scared. I used to be one of them,” he said.

Mr. Poma said his journey to QCC came by way of a circuitous route. In 2010 after graduating from a high school in Bolivia, he moved with his mother to Queens, New York in a quest for a better life than the one he had left. He eventually settling in Worcester with a family member who was living there at the time. Through this relative's wife, he learned about QCC. as she was attending classes at the college. Having come to the U.S. not knowing any English, Mr. Poma knew that while he wanted to further his education, he must first learn the language of his new country. He spent the next six months at a private school immersed in learning English. At the end of 2011 he felt ready and applied to QCC.

“I took my placement test and started from the bottom with the basic English and math classes,” he said.

While taking classes at QCC, Mr. Poma also worked in jobs that included busing tables, making salads, to working full-time at a pizza place from 7:00 p.m. at night until 4:00 in the morning, before attending class full-time during the day. He took the bus to the college every morning and was there by 6:15 a.m.

“You want to do better to help your family. It’s a great motivation,” he said. “My mother couldn’t have an education (in Bolivia). She’s a housekeeper. She fought hard to bring me to this country to have better opportunities. She led by example.”

Eventually, Mr. Poma was able to quit his full-time night job by becoming both a math tutor and student ambassador, which allowed him to practice his English while also taking classes and studying.

“I had a plethora of resources at QCC that I took full advantage of,” he said, adding with a laugh that he was able to “convince” one of his mentors, Mishawn Davis-Eyene (Director of Admissions), to hire him as a student ambassador.

“The goal (of being hired as a student ambassador) was to force myself to keep learning English,” he said. That opportunity led him to a lot of on-campus connections, which included mentoring other classmates.

Mentors have played a huge role in Mr. Poma’s life, from family and friends to the ones he had at QCC.

“Mishawn guided me through the four-year college application process, helping me on where to apply. I had an almost perfect grade point average and she said, ‘we’re going to apply to an ivy league school.’ At that time I didn’t even know what an ivy league school was,” he said.

He also credits Martha Upton, the Learning Manager at the Math Lab; Michelle Tufau Afriyie (former Director of Admissions and current Interim Assistant Vice President of Student Success), and Professor of Engineering Dadbeh Bigonahy, as the mentors who helped to guide him.

After graduating from QCC, Mr. Poma attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), earning his bachelor degree in Computer Science. It was at an RPI Job Fair that fate gave him the chance to speak with a Boeing representative, after a friend gave him his spot in line enabling him to talk to the Boeing recruiter. An hour after handing over his resume he received a call for an interview the following day.

“They liked my honesty and technical experience and I got the offer. I never planned to work for such a great company,” he said. “QCC provided me with the foundation to succeed. It provided me with everything I needed.”

Today, Mr. Poma lives in St. Louis, Missouri working at one of Boeing’s sites. In addition to his current position, he is also a NASA Boeing SLS (Space Launch System) Ambassador, which gives him official permission and training from Boeing to go to schools and talk about the SLS program.

“We motivate the student base on the importance that this program has for the future. The people who are in high school and college will play a role in the continued development of SLS that will pave the wave for deep space exploration,” he said. "Some of my presentations have included the Bolivian Embassy in D.C., other Boeing sites, and colleges."

In his “spare time,” Mr. Poma has started a non-profit with a couple of family members to help promote STEM to Bolivian students and will be going to Bolivia soon.

He reiterated that it was QCC, which gave him the foundation to be successful and encourages current students to make the most of their time at the college.

 “If you are able to take advantage of all the resources at QCC it will help you in your career and everywhere you go,” he said.