For Heather Marrero, it started with a dream of visual design. Now, after some soul-searching, a switch in her academic focus, and in spite of a global pandemic, she’s on her way to work for JP Morgan Chase.

Heather Marrero '20

Heather Marrero ’20

Marrero came to Syracuse as a freshman in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, hoping to focus on animation. Several semesters and a gap year later, she decided to make the switch from design to programming after taking a few iSchool classes.

“I took the gap year to figure out my situation and then decided to go for the iSchool,” Marrero said. “I took IST 256, which teaches Python, and I liked it, because it felt like solving puzzles.”

JP Morgan first caught Marrero’s eye on the iSchool’s road trip to the company’s Jersey City headquarters. Then she saw a flyer advertising JP Morgan’s Tech Connect program, which provides software training in Java as well as a pathway towards a software engineering career. She took the leap and applied, but didn’t think she had a chance.

“The [Tech Connect program] was for people who aren’t necessarily computer science majors who want to do software programming, and I thought I could do it,” Marrero said. Now, she has accepted her full-time job offer as a software engineer.

The iSchool’s director of career services, Christopher Perrello, had worked with Marrero since her junior year. Perrello said that he kept in touch with her at every stage of the application.

“Heather is dynamic, enthusiastic, and creative,” Perrello said. “I was lucky enough to meet her on the road trip to New York City, and I helped her with the alumni event there.”

In the age of coronavirus, even those with full-time offers still face obstacles. When the pandemic hit the U.S., Marrero was preparing to go through JP Morgan’s training bootcamp in Delaware before she began working full-time. Now, she is close to completing her training.

“I’m almost done with my initial bout of job training, and have been working remotely due to COVID-19, which I am incredibly grateful for,” said Marrero. “It’s been great so far, and I couldn’t have done it without the amazing staff at the iSchool.”

Marrero also offered advice to iSchool students seeking jobs and internships during the pandemic: keep talking to people, and not to let the situation slow the search down.

“If there’s a job you’re interested in, just apply, because you never know,” Marrero said. “JP Morgan took me by surprise when I applied. Connections are very important, but they don’t have to be everything.”

Perrello agreed, adding that it is also important for students to showcase their most flexible skills and to broaden their horizons during the job search.

“I’m advising our recent graduates to recalibrate their plans and to look at industries they might not have considered before,” says Perrello. “We’re seeing a ton of hiring in the health care and tech-ed fields, and we’re hearing from employers that demand in these areas is only expected to increase.”