Enrique Alvarado recently moved to Seattle after several years working overseas. His job took him everywhere from Afghanistan to France; he even spent a few years exploring Africa and the Middle East. It certainly kept him well-traveled and well-occupied, “but I needed a little more stability in my life,” he adds with a grin. Back in his home country and in a new position, he finally had the ability to go back to school. Congratulations are almost in order, because he just completed the capstone and is finishing up his final tasks.
The Perfect Time
An advanced degree has been a dream of his for quite some time, but life and work overseas kept getting in the way. Then COVID-19 pandemic hit (which got in the way of many other things, of course), and forced Enrique to work from home. As a silver lining, the pandemic also served as a sign to commit to that degree. “It was the perfect time to do it,” he acknowledges.
He began with a little research. “I wanted to find an online school that also had a physical, local branch, so Seattle fit the bill,” Enrique says. He was also, naturally, very interested in law. Realizing that he didn’t have the bandwidth for a JD while already working full-time, he chose the MLS degree.
Despite working for a regulatory agency, he isn’t directly immersed in compliance at all times. Nonetheless, he assures us that “it definitely helps to understand how to do my job and how a company runs compliance programs.” When there aren’t many coworkers to fall back on in his small division, it’s crucial to know his craft beyond just a surface level, especially if he hopes to advance in his career. As the American computer scientist Marvin Minsky once said, “You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way.”
Challenges and Learning Curves
When asked what the biggest challenge along the way(s) has been, Enrique admits, “When I started the program, it was the height of Covid. It seemed like I had a lot of free time. Then as the program progressed, work started ramping up a lot. At first I could devote so much of my extra time and energy to the program. I was having a lot of fun. But then, as work started creeping in, it became more challenging to do everything I needed to do and put as much time into it.”
In addition to the expected coursework, he learned the skill of time management. “Perhaps I was putting too much time in initially, just trying to get that perfect grade,” he laughs. “It’s all about learning that balance.” He gradually worked smarter, not harder, and had to let go of perfectionism.
Instead, he worked on having a solid schedule and looking ahead, staying prepared, and using the syllabus as his guidepost. “Some classes were more intense than others,” and one semester, he even chose to drop to just one class. He always felt absolutely supported, and just had to reach out to Kelli Rodriguez-Currie to realign: Seattle U’s convenient flexibility allowed him to adjust his education to the rest of his life.
A Major Personal Achievement
While an MLS is always a boon to one’s career, “Part of the reason I got it was just because I wanted to go back to school. When I graduated all those years ago, I’d really enjoyed it–but I needed to work, I needed to earn a living, and I couldn’t stay in school. I always wanted to go back.” Planning his long-term career trajectory, he deemed that investing in more education could become useful down the road. If not, it’s still a wise investment in himself. “It’s for my own education, to further my knowledge base,” and keep his options open. No matter the outcome, he’s confident in the choice.
Now, Enrique is grateful he followed through with his dream. “I enjoy learning about new things. I found it interesting that I hadn’t really thought about some of these issues and how they affect businesses.” Now he sees these issues in a new light. He also loved the online experience and was impressed by the structure of the program, particularly timely legal courses like Financial Fraud that turned out to be very relevant to his job. Going forward, he expects to use more and more of what he’s learned at work and can see it only growing in practicality.
“Set those standards and boundaries,” he cautions. “It definitely is commitment. If you want a Master’s degree, you have to put in the time.” It’s time worth spending. “If you have the means and ability to do it, I think it helps anybody. Even if this had nothing to do with my job at all, I would say it’s still a benefit. It was a good experience.”