“Don’t second guess going to college,” Efren Zuniga advised. “I enrolled in the Information Technology program at Midland College in 2014, and since that time my life has only gotten better.”
Eight years ago, Zuniga moved to Odessa from Plainview because of the job opportunities in the Permian Basin. He started working at the Family Dollar warehouse and trained for his commercial driver’s license.
“That job was OK, but it wasn’t really my passion,” Zuniga explained. “I eventually left Family Dollar and started working as a waiter at The Shrimp Boat restaurant, just as a way to earn a living and make ends meet.”
It was about this time that Zuniga met his future wife Nelida, who had graduated from Midland College’s (MC) Associate Degree Nursing program.
“She couldn’t say enough good things about Midland College,” Zuniga said. “I told her that I had always wanted to work with computers since I was a little boy, and she encouraged me to enroll in classes at Midland College.”
In 2016, Zuniga graduated from MC with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Information Technology. He immediately was offered a job working for Ector County ISD as a Level I computer technician. Because of his degree and his industry certification as a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), he was soon promoted to the position of network engineer. As such, he is a member of a four-person team responsible for ensuring that the school district’s information technology systems are running smoothly.
“It’s a great job,” Zuniga said. “I wouldn’t change it for anything. I see myself staying here a long time.”
Zuniga credits part of his career success to the hands-on training he received at MC and the college’s CCNA Academy Boot Camp.
“I quickly learned that if I applied the time and effort to learning all I could about computer network technology, the skills would come,” he stated. “The instructors were great. Marty Villarreal taught a lot of my courses, and she was always willing to go the extra mile. She always stressed that there were no dumb questions, and she really wanted us to succeed. Another memorable instructor was Heather Sanders. She was always available to help.”
“Efren was dedicated to completing his degree,” Marty Villarreal, MC Information Technology professor said. “During the time he attended Midland College, he had a full-time job while also driving from Odessa to Midland to take classes. He is now reaping the rewards of his hard work.
“He recently passed a Cisco certification and reached out to thank me. He wanted to share his success with his instructors at Midland College. He placed his trust in the Information Technology program at Midland College to help him meet his goals. Now, he is happily working in his chosen career.”
Efren and his wife Nelida have been married for five years, and they have two boys — Esteban, 4, and Eduardo, 2. Nelida is the manager of a health clinic in downtown Odessa. The family enjoys spending time together. Efren said that movie night is always fun, and visiting Nelida’s parents at their ranch south of Odessa is a special treat for the family.
“Life is good,” Zuniga said. “I have a great family, and I’m finally fulfilling that career passion that I’ve been trying to find. Passion is the difference between having a job and having a career!”
Rebecca Bell is executive director of Institutional Advancement at Midland College.