Career,  Featured

How I transformed my theater degree into a profitable career

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theater days
This is me in the musical “Bye Bye Birdie” during my college days.


“Why can’t you see the world in black and white and stop seeing the world in colors?” my rather rational CPA mom when I ruled out ROTC in my high school career.

I love my mom and she is truly inspiring, but I don’t think she or most of my family quite understood my love for theater, except for the fact that I was known as the “drama queen” from my newborn days onwards. I had a knack for crying on the spot. What can I say, I was born for the spotlight.

All kidding aside, I truly loved theater and I couldn’t get away from my passion for how acting built up my confidence. You see, even though I grew up in a crazy and loving Filipino-Mexican family, I always struggled with my self esteem.

childhood photo
( from left to right ) My cousin Zach, cousin Nico, me (in the middle with the snaggle tooth) and my sister charity.

I felt like I didn’t really have a voice, maybe that was because I was generally quiet.

That all changed when I started acting. For the first time I could transport myself to a different time, place, and be another person. I felt free of my own isolation and I loved every second of it!

One of my first roles at my college as the street-wise jazz singer in the musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

I followed my passion and heart and it lead me to a theater degree at a small private university. And yes, it did cost me thousands of dollars and that interest probably took a few years off of my life, but I made some incredible lifelong friends and made even more amazing memories.

Me with my two theater arts alumni on graduation day.

My husband asked me today what I would tell my 19 year old self?

I said that I would have probably avoided all 4 years at a university and utilized community college, but I never said that I would take back those years.

So, how did I change my love for acting into a full time position using those skills?

Here’s what I learned.

  1. Collaboration is an important part of any production process and that applies to any corporate job. If you never liked group projects, well you will have to deal with personalities or people you don’t like and still respect them and support them to make a project succeed.
  2. Communication is pivotal to any position (period). Strong communication skills are needed to explain a product, process, or request. My theater training taught me several great customer service techniques such as how the use of the body and how proper breathing techniques influence the way we speak and project. Improvisation skills taught me to stop overthinking and learn to listen.
  3. Passion is not what you do, it’s who you are. Regardless of what position you hold and whether or not this “role” is your dream job, you have to start with finding that passion in what you do or at least what you are NOT passionate about! Your position does not define you. You define you.
  4. Preparation is a great foundation for an actor. Memorizing lines is the first step in understanding a character. This is extremely true for a job search and your career. Perhaps you are interested in a particular job. Start with researching what the average pay is and look at if that pay increases with years of experience. Network with connections you or your contacts know to shadow people with the job you want to have.  Ask yourself honestly, does this job utilize skills I currently have? If you are not currently qualified for a position, what education or skills are required to get the job.
  5. Do the work. Okay, here is the hard part. You actually have to take time to do it. No, really. I’m serious. Rehearsing lines in the middle of the night or studying for a big exam is not sexy, but acting isn’t just the performance, it’s all the blood, sweat and tears beforehand.

If you would have told me that I would have landed a job in finance and moved to Michigan 10 years ago, I would have laughed so hard I would have cried.

Let’s just imagine that you are trying to land a part in a really well known show and you don’t get picked. You feel devastated, especially when you have prepared and given it your all and you still are not picked. Well, the truth is that not everyone will see your potential. So don’t let that get you down!

You have what it takes to be the best you and only you can do it.

One of the most difficult memories in careerland was when I was overlooked for a training position I felt I was perfect for! I learned quickly that people need to see you showcase the skills you need for the job you want.

So, I stayed late and created helpful best practice emails for my team, lead huddles, shadowed trainers, instructional designers, and really tried to invest all of my time in developing people around me.

I made an impact, without the pay knowing that this was an investment in my future career and more importantly a support for my team.

Keep on going, ladies. I know you can do it even if it is one day at a time.

Next post, I will be interviewing women in technology roles and how to turn passion into a profit.