“Stay organized, focused and driven,” is Christina Bolanos’ best advice.

That’s what she has done and she’s earned TWO professional certificates and been promoted a few times! Her journey wasn’t easy—she’s juggling her career and education with motherhood. We love sharing her inspiring story because we can all learn a lot from her!

Q. Looking back at where you were when you started this journey, where did you think or hope it would lead you?

A. When I first started my Lean Six Sigma certificate program in 2020, it really opened my eyes! It was challenging, but I did very well in the program and enjoyed the classes. So much so, that I then decided to pursue my Professional Certificate in Project Management in 2021. I was really hoping that obtaining these two professional certificates would lead me to a more powerful, lean position within my current organization.

Q. What were some of the unexpected hurdles in your journey?

A. Attending class after working a full day, and presenting in front of my classmates were two of my biggest hurdles. Presenting was not in my comfort zone but BOY, by the end of this course, I can say that I mastered it!

Q. What were some of the unexpected benefits?

A. Being able to take my newly acquired knowledge, and immediately implement it in my work area. It was like getting a promotion!

Q. What difference did your experience at UCR University Extension make to your life path and career goals?

A. I really loved the fact that UCR was willing to come to our location and deliver the classes onsite each evening. It made it very easy to get off work and make the short drive to our corporate building to attend class. I did not have any excuses as it was conveniently on my way home each night! Even better, the instructors did not overwhelm us with homework because each assignment was done in class, working with a partner. I felt this method helped me grow and better understand each of my coworker’s insights and different perspectives on the subjects and projects we were working on.

Q. What are you doing now (current role and responsibilities)?

A. I have been employed at the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians for five years now. I am currently a Project Manager with Procurement Services. It is my job to streamline, optimize (and maybe even add a little sparkle!) to our programs and processes. I love it.

Q. What have been some of the most exciting or rewarding moments of your career so far?

A. I would say the most rewarding thing about my career is looking back at how much I have grown over the past five years and advanced within my organization. I started out as a receptionist, moved up to a Senior Administrator, then a Contract Administrator and now, I am a Project Manager! It’s a dream come true to accomplish my life’s goals. Another exciting thing is having such a wonderful leader. I feel that finding great management is really rare these days. My current “report to” always challenges me to push myself and, as a result, I am able to grow even more and realize greater personal success.

Q. What professional and personal achievements are you most proud of, and why?

A. How far I have grown in my professional career, and how much more I can look forward to are at the top of my list! Being able to provide my co-workers with the benefit of my past experiences, and share with them all I have learned, is a true pleasure for me. I love to see this journey bloom!

Q. What has been the greatest challenge you have faced during your career?

A. Most definitely speaking in front of people. When I first began my role as a Project Manager, I was asked to give a presentation about a project that was handed to me with very little insight or background. Boy, it was tough! But I found my way by doing a ton of research, and I learned that a lot of preparation and understanding sure does work!

Q. What career (or other) advice would you give to students or graduates looking to move into your industry?

A. STUDY! It is SO IMPORTANT to have a very focused mind set when you want to grow—both professionally and personally. Staying organized and driven. Those are KEY!

Q. What are your hopes and aims for your future, and, what in your life today makes you really happy?

Alumna Christina Bolanos with her two children A. To continue to grow within my organization, and make my kids proud.

Being able to sit down near an open window with a cup of coffee in my hand to study and enhance my personal self-growth, to invest in myself, and hope that the future will also provide my colleagues with opportunities for personal growth and leadership.

Q. Was there a particular department, staff member, or instructor memorable to your experience?

A. Yes! Instructor Linda McKean. I cannot extend enough gratitude to this woman. She always, always pushed me to do better in every single aspect of my courses and career. She was my “red penner” and made me redo things 1000 times until I realized what I had done wrong, and then she would help me understand why.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like us to know, Christina?

A. This is program is HIGHLY recommended to full time working mamas out there! You’ll find the support you need to complete it, and remember: you can do anything if you put your mind to it!!

Christina speaks to what continuing education can do for both personal and professional success. She also shows how determination and drive can affect career trajectory. She’s a shining light of what it means to overcome hurdles, conquer your fears, and check off those LIFE GOAL boxes. Thank you, Christina, for sharing your story. We should all follow your lead!

Alumna Christina Bolanos in a professional headshot Christina Bolanos, Project Manager, Procurement Services, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
Graduate, UCR University Extension
Professional Certificate in Lean Six Sigma
Professional Certificate in Project Management