To celebrate national first-generation week, we spoke with a few of our first-generation alum. Gerardo Amigon ’20 graduated from Binghamton University with a Master’s in Business Administration. Currently, he is in CVS Health’s Finance Leadership Development Program (rotational program). He first rotation is in Corporate Accounting.
What do you like about your current role/career?
A few things:
- The FLDP culture: super inclusive and welcoming – colleagues are willing to help with anything that I approach them with. There are regular meetings/chats with our leadership/executive team members where we are awarded the chance to interact and learn from their expertise as healthcare and corporate finance leaders.
- My team: Extremely supportive of my development; always open to new ideas; always have an open door for anything I need or want to talk about; a ton of 1:1 time discussing rotation work as well our personal lives.
- The rotational program: Get to see 3 different finance areas to build the essential soft and technical skills needed to be a leader in corporate finance. It is like getting to experience three different jobs during 3 years without having the risk of looking like I have a high employer turnover rate on my resume.
- The company: It is so well diversified in the healthcare industry that I am exposed to 3 different healthcare segments – Retail Pharmacy, Pharmacy Benefits Management, and Health Insurance.
What does it mean to you to be a first-generation professional?
My parents came from Mexico in their teens with some of their siblings. They dropped out of school in the 4th (pops) and 8th grade (mom). Their initial jobs in the US were as a food delivery person and essentially a sweatshop worker, respectively. Somehow they managed to help my brother get a BS in Computer Science, me a BA in Poli Sci + an MBA, and my sister on track to a degree in Architecture (about 2.5 years away).
To go from living on a poor farm, not having enough money to feed the entire family, and not being able to afford shoes, to holding a position at a Fortune 5 company (five largest companies in the US by revenue), all within one generation’s difference is something that was only possible because of 4 reasons: 1) My parents’ courage to leave their families without bringing any money, an education, or even knowing the language; 2) My parents’ discipline and work ethic to create a better life for their children; 3) The opportunities that the US provides; 4) Luck. Without these four, it is difficult to hear of situations like that of my family’s. This is why I get so upset when people are anti-immigration – doesn’t everyone deserve a chance to pursue a better life? Why should being born in the situation you are born in define what you and your family’s future will look like? If you ask me what it means to be a first-gen professional, I can’t answer it because there is no way to put the gratitude I have for my parents, this country, and everyone who has helped me along the way into words.
What were some programs and resources that helped you during your academic career?
Chegg… Just kidding (not really though). At one point being both a Harpur and SOM student, I can say that both career offices do a phenomenal job in helping their students with professional development. In terms of actual academics, I think that working together with other students was most helpful. If I ever got stuck on something, it was always nice to have others in the class to go to for help. The more peers I knew, the better. If no one else knew what was going on then it was a good sign because at least I knew I wasn’t at the bottom of the class. Working through assignments together was a great way to develop friendships, form memories, and get the work done.
Were you involved in any extracurriculars? If so, what were they and how did they shape your college experience?
- Working at the Fleishman Center: this really helped me transition into a professional environment. The Fleishman Center revolves around preparing students for life after college and working there allowed me to really hone that professional etiquette.
- Walked onto Men’s Soccer at Binghamton: this helped me become even more disciplined and really forced me to push myself out of my comfort zone on the field as well as academically as both of these always competed for my time. It also allowed me to meet friends who I may have never met had I not been on the team. I think that social life is critical in college which is a huge reason to go away for college. I built some real bonds that I know will last forever, none of them were developed in the classroom – actually many of them weren’t made through the soccer team either. It’s about finding the right balance between your academics and your social life.
What is some advice you would offer other first generation Binghamton University college students?
- Embrace your culture. When I first arrived at Binghamton I felt uncomfortable and out of place because I was Hispanic and grew up in the NYC public school system. My elementary, middle, and high school were so diverse compared to Binghamton. I felt out of place and like I didn’t belong. I felt like everyone would stare at me when walking on campus because of how I looked. At some point, I realized I almost felt embarrassed or ashamed of not being like the majority – I was so wrong to think like this. I now realize that it is a privilege to have a distinct background. If it weren’t for my culture, I would likely have very different values and would be a different person. I can now say that I am proud to be Mexican and Hispanic. Share your native dishes with others, share your language, and discuss your customs.
- Get involved. This is how I got over my discomfort. The more I interacted with those who weren’t like me, the more I felt comfortable and confident socializing with just about anyone. Find a club/organization that you could be interested in and use that as common ground to start building relationships and meeting students you otherwise may not meet. Before joining Men’s Soccer, I played club soccer where I made a really good friend who introduced me to his main friend group. I joined that friend group and after living together for a couple of years, I can practically call them my brothers. Having such a strong bond with other students who are going through similar experiences in college can really help overcome the curveballs that your academic and personal life throws at you.
- Build your network. If you have a background that in any way resembles mine, your family may not have the best network in corporate America. GO TO THE CAREER FAIRS/INFO SESSIONS. You are likely speaking with representatives who can push your resume forward for an interview. If they themselves can’t get you an interview, then at a later time they may be able to put you in touch with a recruiter who can get you once. The difficult thing is standing out because they will likely speak to a lot of candidates. The main objective is to get them to get a good feeling about you. No one is going to really remember what you said, but they will remember how they felt when speaking with you. You make your first impression in fewer than 20 seconds. Those first few seconds of the interaction are crucial. While it may not be a conscious judgment, they will pick up on your handshake, your eye contact, your confidence in your voice, how well put together you look (find clothes that fit), and more. Let the conversation flow naturally. I really believe this is a skill that can be learned, but the sooner you start practicing that skill (I.E. Freshman/Sophomore year), the better. Networking isn’t only done by going to the career fairs. Your network is also composed of your peers. You never know who will end up where so it’s always great to have some sort of relationship with as many other students as possible. You want to be the person who when you call, they will look at their phone and be glad to pick up your call.
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