Recent Grads Share Stories From Tech Valley Jobs Close To Home

Oct 5, 2016

A school bus pulls up to the TEC-SMART campus in Malta
Credit Lucas Willard / WAMC

Coffee and bagels were provided to students and guests Wednesday morning at the TEC-SMART Campus in Malta, where high schoolers get a jumpstart on a career through the Clean Tech Early College High School program. 

One of New York’s P-TECH schools, the program, in association with Ballston Spa School District and Hudson Valley Community College, lets students from the surrounding area receive college credit for classes in engineering and technology.

On this occasion, young professionals working high-tech jobs held a discussion with curious students about how they landed after college.

Stephen Zavos, originally from New York City, graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy in 2012. While working toward mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree, he did a co-op with Simmons Machine Tool Corporation in Albany. After graduating, he was offered a job.

Zavos said the co-op introduced him to advanced manufacturing. He wanted to tell students not to be afraid of trying something difficult.

“Something’s broken, for example. You have your dishwasher, or whatever. Take it apart, try to fix, what’s the worst that could happen? You can’t break it any more. So I think just dive into anything and get your hands dirty and try to fix something,” said Zavos.

The TEC-SMART campus is a stone’s throw from GlobalFoundries, a massive computer chip manufacturing plant that employs 3,000.

After graduating from the Clean Tech ECHS program, Morgan Pakatar began working at GlobalFoundries in 2015.

In high school, Pakatar was interested in solar energy, but when she discovered nanotechnology in her senior year, her goals changed.

“And I fell in love, I guess, with nanotechnology. Like, you can do so many different things with it so I really just wanted to do something in that field. Then I just got lucky that GlobalFoundries was hiring and they’re just 20 minutes from my house. So I applied there and got in,” said Pakatar.

Pakatar’s message: “If you really want to do it, just stick to it.”

Ballston Spa schools wants to make sure the Clean Tech ECHS is developing the local workforce. Superintendent Joe Dragone said the fact that the panelists were just a few years older than the students helps carry the message of the opportunity available close to home.

“If you look across all of our panelists right now, I will guarantee you that they are all hiring. And one nice thing that we have in our program here, even last year at graduation, kids were getting their diplomas and they were getting business card from our partners saying, ‘When you finish your associate’s degree or if you go on, you call us and we will have a job for you.’ So the opportunity is really tremendous,” said Dragone.

Also participating were panelists from the New York State Research and Development Authority and Schenectady County-based Applied Robotics.