Restarting Your Career with Upwardly Global – Monica’s Story

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By Mary Voelbel

Monica came to the US in 2006 from Columbia with a Masters degree in Child Abuse Prevention and years of experience in public health. Originally an ESL student, she spent 5 years working minimum wage jobs until she learned about Upwardly Global and how to rebuild her career.

“El que persevera alcanza”

My father told me this when I was a child: “el que persevera alcanza.”  In Colombia, my home, this phrase means that if one has the courage to do something and believes they can do it, they will. From when I was young, I always wanted to help people especially children. I studied dentistry because I wanted to work with children and, in Bogota dentists have the advantage of seeing patients more often than physicians. So, I spent seven years studying at Pontifical Javeriana University to earn my Doctor of Dentistry and Masters in Child Abuse Prevention. 

“Helping families was always the goal. I wanted to help people and it didn’t matter the angle. With my education, I designed a program to teach dentists how to diagnose and prevent child abuse.”


I came to the US with years of experience in public health, health education, and clinical practice.  I moved here to study English, then met my future husband and decided to stay in the US to be with him. I had no idea getting back into my field would be so hard.  When I settled here, back in 2006, my first thought was to go to dental school. But, then you start finding out about all the obstacles – the cost, the years of study, the fact that you have go to University all over again.

“Emotionally it was also difficult. I got really sad and disappointed. I thought I won’t make it – it’s too hard.”  

I truly thought that the only position I was qualified for without aUS medical license to practice dentistry, was as a dental assistant.  I knew it was a big step down but I figured I had to start somewhere. For five years I looked, but I didn’t get called for a single interview.

“I didn’t get interviews because of my resume. I didn’t know how to represent myself in the American way. I just didn’t know how things worked here.”

Eventually, I found a minimum wage job as an ESL Lab Assistant and from the lab, I learned of Upwardly Global. In October 2011, nearly 5 years from the day I arrived, I decided it was time to try again after allel que persevera alcanza. I attended UpGlo’s two-day intensive career training workshop, worked with them to write a new resume, and started my professional job search again.  

“Upwardly Global taught me to appreciate what I have. They gave me the strength to believe that I was qualified and helped me to raise my professional self-esteem.”

In November, Jessie [an UpGlo alumni], shared a job description with me for a Behavioral Specialist at her organization, where they had been looking for someone with exactly my skill-set. Jessie opened a new door for me; she and UpGlo helped me reach my goal. On January 3rd I began work at the Hume Center as a behavioral specialist working with the Spanish speaking population in the South Bay. I provide behavioral management therapies for children with autism or developmental delays. All of it is what I did in my master’s program from Colombia. I teach parents how to understand their children and how to reduce their stress. I’m helping them better their lives. I’m doing what I want to do again. 

“My father was right. In the end, I said to myself ‘I am going to do it, some way, somehow.’ With UpGlo, I did just that.”

Mary Voelbel is a Program Manager with Upwardly Global. Upwardly Global, founded in 2000, is a national, award-winning nonprofit organization with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Chicago, which helps permanently work-authorized, skilled immigrants rebuild their professional careers in the U.S. by providing professional job search training and access to employers with global talent needs. To date, the organization has trained over 3,500 skilled immigrants and has assisted over 1,500 professionals back into their career field.