Damian Garcia joined the Making Waves community almost 20 years ago when he was a 5th grader in San Francisco. With continued support from Making Waves, Damian went on to attend and graduate from Saint Mary’s College of California in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science degree in business. Most recently, he has taken on a new role as a part of Making Waves Foundation’s Alumni Advisory Council.
The council is made up of alumni committed to cultivating transformational relationships that support current students and alumni in Making Waves’ college success program, known as CAP. The group meets monthly and aims to foster personal and professional development through mentorship, connection, and community building.
Damian sees the Alumni Advisory Council as an outlet to give back and improve resources for students and alumni while also building his leadership skills.
A first-generation college student, Damian describes going to college as a “necessary experience” and one that further developed his skills and provided a path to his current career.
“Saint Mary’s has a beautiful campus. It’s not too big but big enough. It was a different experience that’s for sure,” Damian shared.
“I was very used to being in a city environment, around a lot of different types of people. Saint Mary’s, I would say, wasn’t as diverse as being in San Francisco. But it helped me gain experience navigating a new environment,” he said.
Networking into the tech industry
In addition to his education and experiences, Damian credits networking as leading to his current job in San Francisco as a dispute intake specialist at Checkr, a background check company with a mission of building a fairer future.
“I always say that I take opportunities whenever they’re presented to me. And I always put myself out there so opportunities can be presented,” he shared.
Damian originally submitted his resume to another organization, which no longer had open positions but did pass his resume on to someone at Checkr. Though Damian didn’t necessarily plan on being in the tech industry, he’s now going into his fourth year working at Checkr.
“I’m glad I am in this industry that’s for sure,” he shared, noting he finds his workplace has been adaptable during the COVID-19 pandemic and has been progressive and dynamic in the face of change and growth.
Damian is also eager for the opportunity to grow professionally having already received multiple promotions during his time at Checkr and continually enjoying learning opportunities, such as getting to take courses or getting to shadow people in other roles to get a sense for their day-to-day work.
Growing career and leadership skills
Damian sees Making Waves as being able to provide students and alumni with practical resources — whether it be understanding credit scores, how to apply to rent an apartment, or how to apply for jobs and pursue career development opportunities.
In terms of his own advice for Wave-Makers looking to develop their careers and their leadership skills, Damian shared: “First, I would say be patient more so than anything. I would also say just being open minded about things that are possible even if there’s not a clear route to how you would get a certain job or how you would make a certain amount.”
“There’s a power in applying for a lot of different jobs. Make sure you put yourself out there,” he added.
Damian also hopes to provide more insights into different work cultures and experiences so students and alumni can find the right fit for them and can find success in navigating their roles.
“I realize a lot of people don’t always have the answers. If you can provide a solution, then it’s very valuable. A lot of people are open to suggestions. It’s just a matter of how you provide them,” Damian shared.
“You know a lot of people think of managers as your boss who tells you what to do, but in a way, you have to tell them what you need and what you want in order for them to actually help you out,” he said. “I feel like that that’s also big skill for management and leadership in general: to actually be open, to not just be power hungry, and to be an effective leader.”
This Voices of Making Waves storytelling series spotlights the voices and journeys of the students, alumni, teachers, coaches, and more members of our Making Waves Foundation and Making Waves Academy communities — and highlights our work in creating educational opportunities that change lives.
About Making Waves Foundation
With a unique focus on college attendance and graduation, Making Waves Foundation supports historically underrepresented and underserved students in pursuing their dreams. Making Waves Academy is a public charter school in Richmond, California, educating more than 1,100 students and Making Waves Foundation’s college success program, known as CAP, provides coaching, scholarships, financial literacy, and career support for more than 500 college students as well as a network for more than 500 Wave-Maker alumni.