Where there's a will, there's a way: Finding a rewarding career path after an unexpected beginning

Allison Fisher '14, Asset Management Technician

Major: Geography, Environmental Studies minor

Study Abroad: MHC/Goucher in Monteverde, Costa Rica

I presently work for the City of Portland, ME, as a Water Resources Asset Management Technician. My position is fairly technical, and I got the job with no real previous work experience. People often ask me how I got this job, what path I took to get here. The story is an interesting one, and I think it is reminiscent of my studies at Mount Holyoke.

I moved to Portland after traveling a bit after graduation. I worked at a handful of restaurants for about two years, but then something catastrophic happened that catapulted me down a path toward an actual career position.

There was a tragic fire in Portland that killed six young people, my age. In fact, some were friends of friends. A good friend of mine survived the fire by jumping from a second story window to the ground. Shortly thereafter, a friend of mine, who had been deeply impacted, started organizing tenants in Portland to create the resurgent Portland Tenant's Union.

We met with not-for-profit human rights advocacy groups and legal organizations to work to have the City recognize the issues at hand with unsafe and increasingly unaffordable housing in Portland. Eventually, the City created a Task Force that resulted in a municipal Housing Safety Office being formed and running out of City Hall. This office would implement a fee on rental units to fund an inspection and code enforcement program to ensure housing safety in Portland.

Around the same time, I started searching for jobs through a temp agency. Waitressing is exhausting, emotionally and physically, and I was ready to step out of the comfort zone and into a career position. Perfect timing aligned with an open position at the Housing Safety Office. I took a job as the administrative assistant, processing applications and working with landlords day in and day out. A two-week temp position turned into a 4-month endeavor, and at the end of it, I had applied to other jobs within the City. I landed the position I have now, a technical position which puts my geography degree, particularly my GIS skills, to work.

At Mount Holyoke, I was always interested in so many courses. I switched from studying Spanish to International Relations, to Environmental Studies, and finally to Geography. Geography was the department where I could pursue a little bit of all of them. From hard sciences to human geography, the department had all that I was looking for. It is so interesting to see my varied interests express in real life, where being able to pursue multiple interests has led me to a rewarding job.