City Colleges of Chicago helped connect Maria Garcia to the tools she needed to succeed. Now, she’s working as a Google Cloud Architect at Accenture.

Two incidents inspired Maria to return to school. In 2015, she was hacked. The experience startled her, and she wanted to be able to protect herself and her family against future cyberattacks. Around the same time, Maria was working in hospitality management and sometimes filled in for servers. Maria’s daughter put on Maria’s apron and declared she wanted to be just like her mom. Maria wanted her daughter to see her accomplish her goals instead, so she enrolled in classes at Truman College one month later.

She began studying accounting at Truman before switching to computer science at Wright College. A comment from a family member who is in the field inspired the switch even more. The relative shared how hard computer science is and that there are barely any women. Maria felt he was implying the field might be too hard for her, but it just made her work harder.

“It’s challenging,” Maria said. “It’s a male-dominated field, but more women need to get involved.”

Two years later, Maria graduated with her associate degree in computer science with honors. In high school, Maria didn’t take her classes seriously. College was different. She wanted a high GPA, wanted to graduate with honors, and wanted to prove that women can succeed in a traditionally male-dominated field. When Maria reached her goal, she was overwhelmed with emotions.

“It was really emotional and overwhelming,” she said. “It’s just a marker of my growth.”

Maria had help along the way to reach her educational and professional goals. Wright College provided her with a more powerful laptop for developing than the one Maria owned, as well as a voucher to obtain her Security Plus certification. Professor Gustavo Alatta was instrumental in shaping her understanding of programming because he helped make coding more digestible.

“Gustavo was very accommodating, passionate, and made himself available,” Maria shared. “I owe a lot of my current success and accomplishments to him. He’s the one who pushed me to get my apprenticeship.”

Professor Alatta shared an apprenticeship opportunity at Accenture with Maria that was designed for City Colleges students. Maria didn’t feel ready, despite Professor Alatta’s encouragement, so she didn’t apply. Professor Alatta persisted and told Maria about a second cybersecurity apprenticeship opportunity at Accenture. Maria took this one seriously. She filled out the application and went to the Career Center for help formatting her resume. Maria got the apprenticeship.

For one year, she worked with the portfolio management office at Accenture, attending meetings with leadership on security projects. In this fast-paced environment, Maria learned how a corporate office worked, how to work with people from different countries and cultures, and various security tools and terms.

“The apprenticeship opportunity gave me the experience I needed, which helped me land a great full-time spot at Accenture,” she said.

Now, Maria works full-time at Accenture as a Google Cloud Architect on a small, highly visible team of experts in internal security.

Maria is extremely grateful for all the ways City Colleges changed her life and proud that she’s showing her children a life she wants them to aspire to.

“City Colleges gave me everything I needed to succeed,” Maria said. “Access to work, apprenticeships, places to study, and a program that taught me everything I needed to know.”