Finding the Right Fit
Through class projects, management roles, diverse internships and volunteer work, Christine Zenteno '09 discovers her passion for business and leadership
When Christine Zenteno began her freshman year at St. Edward's, she was sure that Pre-Med was the perfect match. In high school, she volunteered with area hospitals, took Health Science Technology classes and even passed the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board on the first try.
It wasn’t until Christine took a rhetoric course that she started to question if Pre-Med was the really the right fit.
In the class, Christine wrote a paper about NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the subject immediately intrigued her. "I started exploring the topic in-depth, independently," she said, "and discovered that I was more fascinated by how businesses from different countries interact than how mitochondria power the cell."
Christine changed her major to International Business and immersed herself in classroom projects, where she worked with classmates to brainstorm business solutions for local companies. In one assignment, Christine created a plan for KLRU – Austin’s PBS station – to increase viewership.
Through all of her business classes, Christine learned to think creatively and adapt to change. She also learned to recognize that her work inside and outside the classroom, no matter how inconsequential, could help her reach career goals.
She supplemented coursework with management experience at H-E-B, eventually moving from in-store leadership roles into more senior, titled positions. After a year of working as a department manager in customer service, Christine decided to gain some experience in other departments. She applied for the Management Internship program, and through this opportunity, she worked directly with regional managers to create and implement a strategic plan.
Although she was busy with both school and work, Christine felt giving back to her community was important. She used her proficiency in Spanish to help elementary school children with their reading comprehension.
"This seemingly irrelevant activity came in handy when I decided to volunteer with the Mexican Consulate General in Austin, where normal business was handled entirely in Spanish," Christine said. "My role at the Consulate was a major factor in securing a paid internship position in the Office of the Governor’s International Business section."
This ripple effect – different skills and experiences propelling Christine to different opportunities – impacted the direction of her career, but she always stayed humble, took initiative and approached each task as an important step towards her goals. "I was determined not to be the intern that only copied spreadsheets, so I requested to become more involved in day-to-day operations," she said. "Because of this, I was afforded the opportunity to really see how state and local agencies interact to bring foreign business and jobs to Texas."
Through her part-time jobs, internships and volunteer roles, Christine took away human resource experience, leadership and understanding of private and public sector work – all of which serves her well in her current role as a human resources specialist in staffing, classification and organizational development with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
As a human resources specialist, Christine screens applications, helps hiring managers navigate the process and interprets employment laws, policies and procedures. She enjoys working with supervisors, staff and the general public to make the complex policies easy to understand. "I am just getting started in this role," she said, "but I am already excited about the opportunities."
Top Four Takeaways from Christine
Tap into your network.
Use your contacts to learn more about different work cultures, ask for resume and interview advice and get leads on job opportunities.
Remember that success is not linear.
"The journey can be a very confusing tangle that feels repetitive, stuck or even as if it is moving backward… To make this work, you need to believe in yourself."
Learn to look at things from different perspectives.
Even if what you’re doing now doesn’t lead to more money or more responsibility, find something meaningful in whatever you do – and in that, see your success.
Develop resilience, especially when failure hits.
"You made it this far – the only person who can take you to the next step is you."