Meet Kim Colasanti: senior quality assurance engineer, accomplished professional and 1993 graduate of Onondaga Community College.
“Any time someone brings up the College, I will say loudly and clearly, ‘I went to OCC. It’s a great college. I loved my professors and my teachers,’ ” she says.
Colasanti graduated from Onondaga with a math and science degree, earning a perfect 4.0 GPA and becoming a member of Phi Theta Kappa. Hungry for more education, she transferred to Syracuse University and worked toward a bachelor’s degree in computer science. After graduating summa cum laude, Colasanti returned to S.U. and earned her master’s degree in computer science as well.
She’s been enjoying a successful career at Welch Allyn for the past nine years. But her path to success wasn’t easy. As a non-traditional student, Colasanti returned to academia later in life in search of a new career.
“When I graduated from high school, I didn’t go directly to college,” she says. “I always intended to go back to college, but things kept getting in the way.”
To immediately start earning money, Colasanti entered the workforce as a receptionist and administrative assistant. She also worked jobs in administration and arbitration.
But her true passion remained in mathematics and computers. PCs were on the rise, and the software niche started to boom in the early 90s. Colasanti knew she wanted to be a part of it.
“I looked at a lot of different options. Seeing as I was in a low-paying job, money was a big factor,” she says. “I realized I could get a two-year degree from OCC, transfer all my credits into S.U. and could get a full bachelor’s degree with S.U.’s name on it.”
Impressed with Onondaga’s cost and transfer options, Colasanti began taking classes while still working a full-time job. As a part-time student, she took 11 credits each semester. She attributes her success to Onondaga’s class schedule, the flexibility of her employer and the support of her professors.
“There are a lot of colleges and universities out there. But in my mind, OCC focuses on teaching students,” she says.
Colasanti came to Onondaga hoping to learn more than just theorems and coding. She saw the college experience and earning a degree as an opportunity to make her more independent.
“I wanted to be able to support myself. I couldn’t support myself on the money I was making,” she says. “My driving force that kept me going was that I did not want to rely on anybody to support me.”
And she’s maintained her independence to this day. Colasanti became a software engineer after completing her education, climbing her way up the professional ladder and eventually landing at Welch Allyn. As the company’s senior software quality assurance engineer, she trains and leads a number of project teams.
“Now that I’ve moved into quality assurance, in addition to my technical skills, I also need to be able to manage projects and have an understanding of project management,” she says.
Colasanti’s advice to aspiring non-traditional students? Take a chance, don’t hold back and don’t be afraid of change.
“Change is really a good thing. If things aren’t changing, you should be bored because when things change, there are opportunities,” she says. “It was one of the hardest decisions of my life – to actually change that career. It was scary… but that was probably the scariest one. After that, changes are easy.”
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