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Your dreams. Our mission.

Michelle Coppola

 



Michelle Coppolo-180   

For now, a thankful Michelle Coppola is happy to be at MassBay. “I’m psyched I’m doing this.  If I could go to school every day I would.  I want to find a position in a company with room to grow, where I can use my skills, work and retire there.  I’d say to anyone going through what I’m going through, don’t be afraid to be a career changer because you can do it.  The time to do it is now, or it’s never going to happen.”

 

Age: 46
Hometown: Hudson, MA
Major: Central Processing  (Certificate)


Michelle Coppola’s story is all too common in today’s down economy.  After 25 years in the workforce, her position at Hewlett Packard Company was outsourced – sent overseas – leaving her unemployed for nearly a year and a half.  Today she’s a career changer enrolled in MassBay’s Central Processing Technician program and reinventing herself as a health care professional.

Michelle keeps track of the number of jobs she has applied for since she was laid off on October 31, 2011: “One hundred sixty-six,” she says.  “It’s humbling.  You don’t realize how tough it is out there until it happens to you.  I’ve always worked, always supported my family.  It’s been really hard.”

Her work ethic dates back to her days when she worked as a quality inspector at Digital Equipment Corporation in Hudson.  She started as a temp at Digital, eventually being hired full-time after 18 months. After two years, Michelle took a new job with Digital as a Transportation Clerk, transferring to the Westminster facility in western Massachusetts.  She rose through the ranks, becoming an international export coordinator, then supervisor and eventually a transportation system analyst.  It was during that time Michelle decided to take some business classes at the local community college, Mount Wachusett.

“I felt like I hadn’t completed something,” she explains.  “At that time I wanted to work toward a business degree.”  She took classes on and off for a few years, got married, and had twin boys in 1998.

Meanwhile the Digital facility in Westminster was acquired by Simplex and the office in Westminster was shuttered.  Michelle was transferred to their Andover facility and was hired within the customer service department as a Customer Service representative, managing the southeastern United States region.  When Hewlett Packard acquired Compaq (formally Digital Equipment Corporation), Michelle’s job changed again as the company aligned their software programs with SAP.  For the next 10 years, Michelle became a SAP SME (system material expert).  She worked with a vast team of people integrating all of the legacy systems onto the SAP platform, which involved intensive testing, corrective action on delivery systems failures, diagnosing system issues in order to get orders filled and other quality control measures.  But in February, 2011, Michelle was laid off.

“I wasn’t totally surprised,” she says.  “We had been training people overseas for years, in Costa Rica, Brazil and other countries.  They found a way to do it cheaper.”

Just three weeks later, Michelle took a job in Ashland as a Program Manager at Onprocess Technologies.  The job, however, was a grind. “I managed client relationships and a 24/7 customer call center.  I’d get calls from Japan and had to take conference calls from home with Japan at 11:00 pm to sometimes after midnight, and that was after working a full day. I also found myself working a lot from home on weekends, over 70 hours a week at times.  It was really a job for two people, and that’s what I told them when I left.”  Michelle was laid off on Halloween 2011 when the company merged with another company and reconfigured the position.  “I haven’t worked since,” she says.

After awhile, Michelle says she was “in a rut.  I quit going to the gym, didn’t feel like going anywhere.  I was really getting depressed.”

When she found Massachusetts Employment and Training Resources in Framingham, she began to see a clearer path for herself.  She learned about the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Program, a provision of the 1974 U.S. Trade Act, which offers funding for fees and tuition for Americans who have been laid off when their job is outsourced.  She was encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to go back to school, and uncovered several programs at MassBay that qualify for TAA funds through a U.S. Department of Labor grantthe Massachusetts Community Colleges and Workforce Transformation Agenda.  The programs approved at MassBay include offerings in health care, clean energy, information technology, and social service, and they are designed to accelerate learning and reentry into the workforce.

Michelle chose healthcare: “It’s a totally different career path for me.  But they can’t outsource medical, and I want a stable job where I can make a difference.”

When she set foot in the classroom on January 22, 2012, she was anxious and nervous because she didn’t know what to expect.  But she says she was “pleasantly surprised.”

“As soon as the professor started talking all my anxiety went away,” said Michelle.  “I felt really comfortable.  Professor (Joyce) Ifill is such an inspiration to me.  If everyone had a teacher like her they’d never leave school.  She’s tough, but she’s good.  And that’s what you really want in a teacher.”

Her twin boys, now 14, have been really supportive she says with a smile.  “They ask me how I did in school today, and are proud when I do well.  I can’t help them with their math, but they can help me with microbiology because they’re studying it in their school too.  So they quiz me, and help me out sometime.  It’s fun!”  She also calls her boyfriend Mike “a godsend.  He has been so supportive of me going back to school and has taken more on in order to allow more time for me to make this happen.”

“I find myself looking at things differently because of all I’ve learned in class,” she adds.  “I’m more curious and more interested, especially when I take my mom on her medical appointments.  I know what tests they’re going to order, because that’s what I’m studying.  It’s really exciting.”

Without the funds from the DOL grant, Michelle speculates what she would be doing now.  “I would probably be pretty depressed,” she says.  “Being unemployed I wouldn’t be able to afford to go back to school, so maybe I’d work four minimum wage jobs to support my family.  We need programs like this one that gets people re-educated, and you have to realize we’ll pay it back.  You get a job, you pay taxes.”

For now, a thankful Michelle Coppola is happy to be at MassBay. “I’m psyched I’m doing this.  If I could go to school every day I would.  I want to find a position in a company with room to grow, where I can use my skills, work and retire there.  I’d say to anyone going through what I’m going through, don’t be afraid to be a career changer because you can do it.  The time to do it is now, or it’s never going to happen.”

Michelle Coppola is a career changer, pursuing a Certificate in Central Processing and intending to transfer credits toward an Associate in Science Degree in Surgical Technology.