Mbemba Romain, born and raised in the Bay Area, is studying be become a Pharmacy Technician at our Carrington College California San Leandro campus.
Aged 28, Mbemba was tired of drifting from one job to the next – a pattern he’d followed after a brief spell at a community college.
“I’d been moving from one job to the next since high school. I’ve worked café jobs, as a delivery driver for FedEx, and most recently for a computer company. I noticed a pattern; it took me about two years before boredom made me move jobs. Something had to change – I decided I needed a career for myself.”
Mbemba started the Pharmacy Technology program in July 2012; he starts his externship later this month and will complete it in September. Unusually Mbemba has already attended his graduation ceremony, in fact he was the graduation speaker.
“They only have one graduation ceremony a year, so if you’re scheduled to finish by a certain cut-off date then you can walk the stage. So yes, I’ve already walked although I’m still in school!”
When Mbemba left community college at 19, he’d promised himself he would one day go back to school. It just took him a few more years than he anticipated.
“It’s not as if I wasn’t pushed to go back; my parents were always on me about it. Why now? I think it was just a case of being older and wiser, realizing that now was the time to make a change. Back then a lot of my friends came out of high school knowing exactly what they wanted to do – I personally had no clue what I wanted to do. It just took me a few years to work it out.”
Once he made the decision to come back to school, Mbemba knew that he wanted a health care career but he had yet to narrow down a profession. On the recommendation of a friend he visited Carrington College California; it turned out to be the only school he would visit before enrolling.
“A friend of mine graduated from Carrington in Stockton; he was telling me what a great experience he’d had. So once I got to that place in my life last year, I went to check out the San Leandro campus. I came in and met with everyone and I got a really warm feeling. I decided I’d give it a shot. I knew I needed a change in my life, that I needed a career path, and for me personally this felt like the place to do it.”
When he came to tour the campus and meet with the Enrollment Services Representative, Mbemba still wasn’t sure exactly what path to take. He met with our team and explored his program options.
“I wanted to see what was available, and what would be the best fit for me. I already knew that I didn’t want to study Medical Assisting – I’m not fond of having my blood drawn, so I knew that wouldn’t work. They went through all the programs, and honestly Dental Assisting was the one I considered first.”
Mbemba went home seriously thinking about a career as a dental assistant, but when he told his father that he was still a little undecided, his dad said that he couldn’t picture him working in dental. He hadn’t said anything before as he didn’t want to be negative about his son’s decision.
“When I told my dad about Pharmacy Tech, he told me that his father, my grandfather, had actually wanted my dad to be a druggist. He’s from the Caribbean, they call pharmacists ‘druggists’ over there. When he told me that, I thought you know what… that sounds good to me. If I’m feeling good about it, and my dad’s got my back, then it’s going to work. Maybe it was meant to be!”
Although dad’s support was important, there was a more practical, less sentimental reason for his choice.
“Pharmacy Technology is an associate degree program – one of only two at the campus, along with Veterinary Technology. I figured that if I was going to go back to school, I wanted to leave with a degree rather than a certificate. It’s a step closer to getting my bachelor’s. I’m actually already enrolled with DeVry University in an online bachelor’s degree in Technical Management with specialization in Health Services Management; the main classes start in September.”
One of the reasons Mbemba quit community college after high school was the need to work; he couldn’t find the time to do both. He’s been fortunate this time around to get a job on campus.
“After my first term here I was able to get a job within the school through the Federal Work-Study Program. I work 20 hours a week at the Student Success Center. I tutor and offer students help on anything they need; I’m kind of the ‘go to’ guy whether I like it or not. But it’s very convenient; I save on gas money and get to spend a lot of time here on campus. I have a couple of hours between my classes finishing and work starting, so I really have no excuse not to get my work done!”
The most valuable thing that Mbemba has learned during his time at Carrington is that he now feels that he could achieve almost anything.
“This experience has taught me that whatever I want to do, if I put my mind to it, I can do it. You’re always told that, but maybe you don’t believe it. It takes work, and you don’t really have time for any fun, but I now know that I can do anything if I put my mind to it and put the work in.
The hard work not only pays off with a great career, but also in recognition of accomplishments. I’m on the honor roll, I’m a student mentor, I’m on the Student Advisory Committee and I have perfect attendance, all of which were recognized at the graduation ceremony – that was a great feeling.”
When it comes to a career plan, he realizes that experience will be critical to his success. At the time of writing, he doesn’t yet know where he’ll do his externship, but he knows he must make the most of it.
“The first thing I need to do is build my experience. Initially I only wanted to go to a hospital pharmacy, but now I know if I go to a retail pharmacy I can still build my experience. If I want to move over to a hospital I can try to do that later. It’s kind of hard to get into hospitals these days anyway, so the key thing for me is to get some experience wherever and whenever I can.
If I could get lucky and get an externship at a place that’s hiring, that would be great…but I know that’s rare. I just want to continue on to the next level building my experiences; in the meantime I’ll be working on my bachelor’s too.”
Mbemba wants to continue his education to give himself options as his career progresses.
“I want to be able to grow within the field; I don’t want to be ‘stuck’ as a pharmacy tech if you know what I mean. I want to be able to work in different areas. Maybe I could be a pharmacy manager rather than a pharmacy tech. I don’t know right now, but I definitely want to stay and progress in the field.”
Having made the decision to come back to school eight or nine years after quitting community college, Mbemba has a good perspective on returning to school, and on attending Carrington especially.
“If you want to build a career in the medical field then Carrington is worth looking at. I personally would recommend this school, but not everyone may have the same experience as me. It’s definitely worth checking out; everybody here helps you as much as they can, they bend over backwards to help you.
That’s one of the biggest things about this school; not everybody is lucky enough to have a support system outside but every student has a support system inside. I’m fortunate to have a great support system both outside and inside the school. My parents have been really supportive throughout this experience – they know I’m serious about this, and whenever I’ve asked for help they’ve been there.”
Mbemba offered some advice to anyone considering going back to school, and specifically to those weighing up Pharmacy Technology as a career option.
“Building a career is a great step to take in your life if you want something better for yourself. As I said earlier, if you want something bad enough you can do it. Pharmacy Technology is a great program, with a great teacher. It’s going to take some hard work, but as long as you’re not afraid to do the work then you shouldn’t have any problems succeeding.”
For comprehensive consumer information on our programs, visit carrington.edu