Skip to Main ContentSearch Site

A life-changing decision helps CCRI grad earn her dream career in Process Technology

A life-changing decision helps CCRI grad earn her dream career in Process Technology

From titles to top-secret technology, Shakira Juliao turned the ultimate gamble into the career of her dreams.

A Providence, RI, native and 2019 graduate of the Community College of Rhode Island’s Division of Workforce Partnerships’ free Process Technology certificate program, Juliao is now working as a Manufacturing Associate for the West Greenwich branch of Amgen, one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies.

Six years ago, the 39-year-old Coventry resident worked at Equity National Title Company and Closing Services in Providence as a Post-Closing Coordinator reviewing closing documents to ensure they were properly executed. Science and biotechnology weren’t on the radar until her sister, Linda, showed her an ad for CCRI’s Process Technology program, a 300-hour training funded by Real Jobs Rhode Island at the college’s Westerly Education Center.

Overwhelmed by the desire to build a better career for herself, Juliao decided to roll the dice.

“When I saw the ad, I though to myself, ‘A job in science? That would be interesting,’” Juliao said. “I never thought I could work in science. It never occurred to me. But it was a free program, so that made it very appealing. What did I have to lose?

“It wound up being a life-changing experience.”

Up until the time she enrolled at CCRI, Juliao had worked several jobs in unrelated fields hoping to find something she could stick with. A Class of 2003 graduate of Mount Pleasant High School, she originally wanted to enter the film industry as a camera operator, so she enrolled at New England Institute of Technology and earned her Associate of Arts and Sciences degree in Television and Radio Production in 2005. Later that year, she moved to Miami and enrolled at the now-defunct Miami International University of Art & Design to continue her education and, potentially, break into the film industry, but she returned home in early 2006 and transferred to the University of Rhode Island to pursue her Bachelor of Arts in Film/Cinema/Video Studies.

After earning her degree in 2010, Juliao began working as a substitute teacher for the Providence Public School Department in addition to driving for Enterprise Rent-A-Car until her sister helped her land the job at Equity National Title in 2012.

“It was hard to find work in my field, especially in Rhode Island. I would’ve had to move to California or New York, and I didn’t want to do that,” she said. “I bounced around a lot trying to find where I belonged. I even considered joining the Air Force or police academy. I was open to anything.”

When her sister approached her again about the Process Technology program, Juliao didn’t hesitate to change gears; despite enjoying her work with Equity National Title, she still felt that there was something else out there for her to pursue. She just didn’t know what it was.

Once she enrolled at CCRI and began the Process Technology training, she took an immediate liking to the science element of the program, which lines up students for potential careers in the health science, pharmaceutical, materials testing, or medical research industries. After completing the three-month training, she earned a position as a Laboratory Technician with Thielsch Engineering, Inc. in Cranston where she tested soil samples.

“I’m glad I took the chance and applied to the program,” Juliao said. “I took the class very seriously, studied at all hours, and discovered a part of myself I didn’t know I had. I actually liked and understood science. It felt comfortable and fascinating, and the lessons were so intriguing and fun.

“The classes were informative and the professors were assertive. Our instructors were awesome – very helpful. To this day, I apply what they taught us. They are also there to help you and guide you, and they gave us a lot of help with resume building and job placement. Even once you finish the program, they’re there to help.

“Ten years ago, this wasn’t even on my radar. I had no idea what would happen once I finished the program. You just hope it’ll get you somewhere.”

Eager to keep learning, Juliao reenrolled at CCRI in 2020 and took Biology, Algebra, and Precalculus courses; she was so locked in, she earned the highest grade her professor had ever awarded in her precalculus course. Eleven months after starting at Thielsch, she was hired by Amgen in November of 2021. In her role as a Manufacturing Associate, she performs and monitors critical processes, trains staff, and works around high-pressure systems, most of which she is forced to keep under wraps, but describes as “working with cells.”

“I love it a lot,” she said. “I learn every day. They put me in situations I never thought I’d be in and, because of that, I gain a lot of experience and become a better worker.”

With more than two years under her belt at Amgen, Juliao hopes to stay with the company – “Amgen was always the goal,” she said – and perhaps continue her education and earn an additional degree in Cellular and Microbiology. Her dynamic shift over the last six years from working with mortgages and titles to organizing supplies and raw materials is proof that it’s never too late to find the career that’s right for you.

“If you see something, go for it,” Juliao said.

Share on Social Media