#CareerTalk with Yolanda Marrero, Project Coordinator Assistant at Paterson Habitat For Humanity with AmeriCorps & Coordinator at VITA

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Here at Braven, we truly believe that the support we provide our students should go beyond the classroom and into the real world. By providing professional mentoring, internships, and skill-building events, we prioritize our current Fellows and Post-Accelerator Fellows (PAF).

We recently caught up with Yolanda Marrero, Rutgers Newark graduate and Fall ‘17 Fellow. With a B.S. in Accounting and a minor in Public Administration, Yolanda chose two separate career paths to pursue after graduation. By combining the skills she gained in Braven with her experiences in public administration, Yolanda has embraced the power of giving back to her community.


Tell us a little about yourself.

I graduated from Rutgers Newark with a B.S. in Accounting and a minor in Public Administration. I was a Braven Fellow in the fall of 2017 and have been with the Braven family for the past three years. I’m currently in two separate career paths and am learning many valuable skills. 


Take us through your career path. What led you to your current career?

The power of networking and being kind, reliable, honest, sociable, and openminded to various opportunities have helped me pave the way to a successful career. Keeping my life simple has helped me in my career and treating people with respect has taken me to places that I never imagined. Moving towards success should not be a destination or a job – it is a journey of different experiences, new opportunities, and the people one encounters along the way. By being a part of the Braven community, I have been able to enhance these skills and experiences. 


Walk us through the average day as an Assistant Project Coordinator and Coordinator for the VITA Program.

I have always believed in the power of giving back to my community. I have been given professional opportunities to work for corporate companies–I walked away from them. I yearned for professional growth, giving back, and being involved with many opportunities, not just one.

As a result, I joined AmeriCorps. Through this professional experience and opportunity for growth, I am now connected to Paterson Habitats For Humanity, United Way of Montclair, The Internal Revenue, and St. Paul’s Community Development Corporation. Fortunately, during the worldwide crisis of COVID-19, I have been serving in various organizations, which helps expand my network.

My main service site is Paterson Habitats for Humanity in New Jersey. I am an Assistant Project Coordinator for the Construction Department. I support the contractual process and operations of building homes. I get to help individuals from various organizations learn about the positive impact they’re making on families when building these homes. When we have lunch, I eat with the volunteers and listen to their stories and how they enjoy serving Paterson Habitats For Humanity. 

At Paterson Habitats, I create proposals for contractors that describe what we are hiring for and the services we are seeking for building homes. After proposals are submitted, we determine which contractor offers the best price, services, and value for the cost we incur to make homes. Currently, I have a project of eight homes that need to be contracted–they’ll cost approximately $2,000,000. 

At the United Way of Montclair, I am a Coordinator for the VITA Program. I work directly with the IRS in providing free tax preparation services to the public. I support communication between volunteers and other coordinators, keep everyone in our site informed about what is happening with stimulus packages, and I help organize training between the State of New Jersey and our site. I also keep our site organized in terms of which volunteers have appropriate training for the type of tax return he or she is capable of preparing. 


Tell us about your Braven experience. How has Braven impacted you?

Braven has prepared me to exceed expectations in my professional life. I learned how to navigate the interview process, present my strengths, and network with other professionals. I also learned the importance of mentoring and the positive impact it can have on others. Most recently, I was reminded of how taking care of one another in the Braven community is how we will all grow together


Tell us about a failure you’ve had in your career. What did you learn from it and how did you bounce back?

Going to interviews became challenging at times because of my visual impairment. I have a congenital genetic eye condition called nystagmus. With nystagmus, my eyes move involuntarily and I cannot stop or control the movement. I have lived with it my whole life, and I am not ashamed or embarrassed about it.

Yet when you enter a job interview, the company tries to get to know you while you try to get to know the company and learn more about the role. Due to my nystagmus, recruiters would stare at my eyes during most of the interview instead of listening to what I have to offer. These moments were very awkward and frustrating and I didn’t know how to handle these types of situations. As a result, some companies who liked me over the phone did not contact me back for the obvious reason of my involuntary eye movement. 

I learned to tell a recruiter right away when introducing myself in an interview so they could focus on what I have to offer. I also learned that if that organization is not openminded to my eye condition, I will find one that is.


Which people have had the most influence on your growth and why? What is some valuable advice they gave you?

My first supervisor from Elizabeth City Hall Finance Department gave me the most valuable advice during my summer internship:

“Always be honest with your supervisor and hold yourself accountable for your mistakes.”  

I had made a mistake by being dishonest about why my work performance was lacking at the time. I was afraid to share what was really going on in my personal life, so I created an excuse. He explained that it is better to be upfront. Things will end up showing in the quality of your work, so it’s best to be honest and seek support from your team.


What advice do you have for current Braven Fellows nearing the end of their undergraduate programs?

Know your worth when starting your career. Do not let anyone make you feel less than–you are awesome in your own way. Good things happen over time–not overnight. Your career is a growing and learning experience, not a competition.

Do what makes you happy. This life is meant to be enjoyed. You do not want to wake up feeling unhappy every day simply because your job pays well. If you do what you love, the opportunities will eventually follow suit.  

In the real world, no one is going to hold your hand, so take advantage of everything Braven has to offer. Braven will be there when you graduate and when you start your first job. The Braven community is a family that you can always come back home to.