In Case You Missed It! Real Talk: Education and Government

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By: Sumaita Mahmood 

Hi everyone! My name is Sumaita, and I am a Wasserman Career Ambassador in my senior year studying Global Public Health and Chemistry. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Real Talk: Education and Government Panel. As someone who has been a teaching assistant and interested in work in the public sector, I was excited to hear about the experiences of the panel. The key points discussed by the panelists could apply to anyone’s career, regardless of whether they are interested in education or government.  

The speakers at this event included:

  1. Tahiri Jean-Baptiste, Principal of Middle School in Success Academy Charter Schools  
  2. Crystal Alvarez, Former first and second grade teacher, Teach for America and Director of Innovation Lab
  3. Thomas Badilla, Peace Corps Recruiter
  4. Raymon Cruze, Department of Citywide Administrative Services and Office of Citywide Improvement

Each panelist contributed valuable insight into their own careers and here are some of my key takeaways:

  1. People have a tendency to discount themselves rather than count themselves. Recognize your strengths.

All the panelists were drawn to New York City when searching for their careers and had a hard time finding themselves, feeling like a small fish in a big pond. However, over time, they were able to recognize their own strengths and realize they had the ability to take on these positions and advance in their careers. As Tahiri and Crystal threw themselves into their work as teachers, they were able to use their passion to launch them into leadership roles. Raymon recognized his knack for presenting and picking up skills from his mentors, which has led to him lead hundreds of presentations on behalf of the city for years. Thomas seconded the value of having mentors to guide you on your journey and help you find out how to play to your strengths in your career. 

  1. Identities impact your career choices in a positive way

Tahiri described how her background in French helps her connect to black and brown families in her day to day work. She enjoys helping families navigate these unfamiliar spaces because it reminds her of her own experiences. Raymon discussed how helping out his family was part of his identity growing up, directing him to the Marine Corps straight out of high school. When he returned from service, things were difficult, but he realized it was important to pick up the challenge and survive, which led him to finding a city service job and continue to provide for his loved ones. 

  1. Diversity can mean different things at different institutions 

Reflecting on his career working for city government, Raymon expressed that when he started there were very few women working in municipal jobs. Now, the city’s recent efforts to analyze what the challenges are for women of different backgrounds to take on municipal jobs have allowed them to create solutions that have increased the number of women in city government. Tahiri explained how the city’s population of teachers is a diverse subsection of the city. Teachers come from all walks of life, gender identity, social identity, socioeconomic background, and reasons for why they are teaching. Crystal reflected on how 55% of teachers within Teach for America identified as people of color, and have gained the experience of working with first-generation students. Thomas showed that there is always room for improvement as only 30% of Peace Corps volunteers identify as a minority and that recruiters are working to change those statistics. 

While this panel was especially helpful for someone in education and government, I found it incredibly valuable to listen in on how identity affects careers. For anyone interested in getting great advice, Real Talk panels are must-attend events!