Christine Zenteno

BBA in International Business, Class of 2009
Human Resources Specialist in Staffing, Classification and Organizational Development, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

Why did you choose to major in International Business?

When I began my first semester at SEU, my declared major was Biology with the intention of being Pre-Med. I had taken Health Science Technology classes in high school, volunteered with area hospitals and even passed the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board on the first try. You could say that I felt certain I had chosen my best career path.

Then, I took a required composition course in rhetoric, and it was suggested that I choose NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) as a controversial topic for a paper. That one topic opened up a new avenue to me that I had never previously considered. I started exploring the topic in-depth independently and discovered that I was more fascinated by how businesses from different countries interact than how mitochondria power the cell. I changed my major to International Business, started volunteering and seeking internships in that field, and felt confident that this new career path was right for me.

What did you enjoy about your coursework?

When focusing on my business classes, my best experiences involved classroom projects with real-world perspective. Many of my professors gave the class opportunities to work with real area organizations. It went beyond just classroom learning – the ideas that we generated could actually be used by the organization we were working with! One of my most enjoyable experiences was working with KLRU to establish a plan for increasing their viewership. There were many face-to-face meetings and e-mails to discuss their vision and how our group could develop a plan to help KLRU reach their goal.

Beyond major-specific classes, the cultural foundation classes and a few others (Rhetoric and Composition in particular) really went beyond the scope of forming competent business professionals. They taught me to think outside the box and look at things from a different perspective. A popular theme from my time at St. Edward’s was “learn to think,” and I stand by that statement. St. Edward’s taught me so much more than standard business administrative practices. I learned to ask questions and take a more active role in my community.

What are some lessons you learned from professors or mentors in the business school that you’ve used in your current role?

I learned that my contributions at work, even those which seemed inconsequential, could impact the big picture and propel my career. By consistently building upon my skills, I became flexible enough to adapt to constant change. The skills I learned in one particular area could help me be more successful in a different area later on.

Did you participate in any extracurricular activities during your time at SEU?

During most of my time at St. Edward’s, I worked in management and leadership roles at H-E-B. At first, I accepted in-store leadership roles and then progressed into titled management positions. After working over a year as a department manager in customer service, I decided to make some lateral moves to gain leadership experience in other departments. I applied for the Management Internship program and worked with store department managers and regional managers to create and implement a strategic plan to meet a specific goal.

While attending school and working at H-E-B, I decided I wanted to do more to give back to the community. I saw a bulletin posting for HOSTS (Help One Student to Succeed), seeking tutors for a local elementary. They had plenty of English-speaking tutors but were in desperate need of Spanish speakers. I had only completed a few semesters of Spanish but saw it as an opportunity to help children with reading comprehension while perfecting my own use of the language.

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. 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. I was determined to not to be the intern that only copied spreadsheets, so I requested to become more involved in day-to-day operations. 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. By taking this initiative, I was successful in having the internship extended to a second term in the same section.

How did these experiences prepare you for your current role?

A lot of perseverance and looking for the benefit in every role that I've held has helped prepare me for my current role. My previous volunteer and internship experience has helped me understand how government agencies work. I have worked in both the private and public sector, and each has their own appeal. It is beneficial to understand both, especially in my current role, in which I review applicant work history from both sectors.  

My former role as a manager at H-E-B has also helped me to become successful in the role of a staffing specialist. As a department manager, I helped screen applications and conduct preliminary interviews. This allows me to understand how my hiring supervisors may be feeling when making a job posting. I also managed several other human resource duties that helped give me the specialized experience necessary to land my current HR role. It has been a convergence of various skills and experiences, as well as personal interests, that have led me to this role. I have picked up the important pieces along the way and framed them to suit my current position.

What aspects of your current job responsibilities excite you?

I was recently promoted from an administrative assistant to a Staffing Specialist within TCEQ’s Human Resources division. I am very proud of this accomplishment. I am just getting started in this role, but I am already excited about the opportunities. The short description of my job is “coordinating staffing and job posting functions.” However, I find that my job is a lot more involved and interesting.

While I do screen applications, there is a lot more that goes into the process than just reading work history. My position helps hiring managers navigate the entire hiring process. From the job posting draft to the final candidate selection. Along the way, the staffing specialist helps to interpret complex employment laws, policies and procedures and communicate that information to the hiring supervisors, staff and general public. This work has a strong structural framework to build on but does leave some room for flexibility in helping the organization fill its business needs and still maintain compliance with laws and policies. I enjoy the work because I can take my passion for interpreting complex information and help other people understand it.

What advice do you have for current SEU business students?

Networking is extremely important – not merely for making connections to get a job, but to also continue developing. From my own experience, I tapped into my network to gain an understanding of certain fields I was interested in, and even to scope out workplace cultures, before applying to certain organizations. I also used my network resources to solicit advice on strengthening my resume and interview skills. The great thing about networking is that you can start anywhere. With your professor, with a fellow classmate, volunteer organizations, or even church. The opportunity is always there. It is up to you to take the initiative. Keep in mind that you are part of the network. Use it to your advantage, but also remember to give back to the network.

Remember that success is not linear and is driven by your actions. The journey can be a very confusing tangle that feels repetitive, stuck, or even as if it is moving backward. Success comes right after the last failure. With that in mind, failure is experience. Do not take failure as your signal to quit; use it as an important step in the learning process. To make this work, you need to believe in yourself.

Develop resilience and learn to look at things from a different perspective. You made it this far – the only person who can take you to the next step is you. That next step does not necessarily mean the next promotion or pay raise. You may decide something with less responsibility or a different path altogether means success to you. That is okay. The most important part is that you feel successful in whatever you do, and find something meaningful in all the steps along the way.