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First-generation American. First-rate success.

July 09, 2021
Armando Placheta

We recently had the pleasure of talking with Armando Placheta, MBA ’21, USAF, and the recipient of CSUMB’s 2021 Outstanding MBA Student Award. Armando grew up in the Philippines, and he generously shared insights into his background, his experience in the Responsible Business Online MBA program, and his thoughts for students who follow in his footsteps. Excerpts of our conversation follow here.

What was your path to arriving in the United States in pursuit of the American dream?

“We had very limited resources. Everybody wishes to go outside the country to look for a better chance in life, better opportunities. My mom and dad, they separated. So my mom actually was the one that raised me. She went outside the country to look for a better way to provide a better future for me. When I was finishing up high school, I didn’t have any plans for going to the U.S.

I was in a band. There’s a lot of opportunity for bands to go and play in other countries, as entertainers playing hotels. When I was maybe 17 or 18, I didn’t see myself affording a house or a car in the future. And then my dad reached out to me. When I was 18, he said he was petitioning for me to go to the U.S.”

What happened once you arrived?

“Coming over here, I saw a lot of opportunity. When I got to the U.S. back in ’94, my first job was getting carts from the parking lot at Target in Mountain View. Even though I was just getting carts in a department store, I was still earning a lot more compared to having a good job in the Philippines. So the American dream made it possible for me to have a better living now.

And then I worked for Manpower temporary agency, and after that I joined the Air Force. After I got out, I became a U.S. Postal Service custodian, cleaning restroom floors. And I also finished a medical clinical assistant program at Empire College in Santa Rosa. I took the California certification for medical assistants and I passed it. And then I worked for Kaiser as a unit assistant while still working as a U.S. Postal Service janitor.

I told myself, ‘Okay, my friends from high school in the Philippines all have good engineering jobs.’ So I changed my course. I used to be in the medical field and I shifted to technical courses. I finished my bachelor's in electronics engineering, worked at Space Systems Loral and then went to Lockheed Martin as an engineer. Got my master’s in electrical engineering and then worked at other companies as an engineer.”

Your parents must be extremely proud of you.

“Both my parents dreamed of finishing college. I know they're strong proponents, as a Filipino family is, of getting a good education. My mom and dad didn't finish college. I'm like a continuation or extension—to continue what they wanted to do, but they couldn't. But I did it for them.”

What has your professional path been most recently?

“I was a test development manager for a contract manufacturing company in Fremont. That's when I started having more leadership and a management role. And then I joined the business development group for Jabil, which is one of the biggest contract manufacturing companies globally. I was handling the Tesla account, so I traveled multiple times to China and Malaysia, where Tesla has its production line. My current job is developing application software, testing out the hardware, doing documentation on the test cases. I recently got promoted to Senior Manufacturing Test Engineer, so I have more meetings and a bigger workload.”

Why did you decide to pursue your MBA?

“When I was at Jabil, my manager told me that he had an MBA, and he strongly recommended getting an MBA if I wanted to go up the management ladder with the organization. That's when I started looking around for schools and found CSUMB.”

What is a key benefit of getting an MBA online?

“The flexibility of earning your degree at your convenience.”

What was your favorite class?

“The development class. Even though it's a one-unit course, I think it made a lot of impact. It gave concrete examples of how to use networking tools like LinkedIn. I remember Organization and Responsible Leadership, as well, where we looked at different CEOs and different types of leadership: what worked and what didn't work. You have to think about what's the global impact, what's the impact in this society, so I liked that class.”

Congratulations on winning the Outstanding MBA Student Award. What does that accomplishment mean to you?

“Basically, it means all the sacrifices—not just mine but my [those of] family who supported me—all the sacrifices, all the hard work: This represents all that.

To be honest, the first class was so tough on me. It was a communications course and that made me think, ‘Is this really for me?’ But I hung on and continued, got good grades. And then I added the next class. Got good grades. So, after five classes getting A’s, I really wanted to maintain that standard, to get an A in all classes. You know, with the help of family, friends, classmates, professors, I was able to do that.”

How would you describe your experience in the program?

"The program has been a positive experience for me. I got to know other people who will be friends forever. It also gave me bonding experiences for me and my family, who supported me.

I did struggle because there were times when deadlines coincided with deadlines at work. Somehow, you have to do both. And since my goal was to get all A’s, I had to put my best in from midnight to 4 a.m. or 6 a.m."

What does responsible business mean and why is it important?

Responsible business is having to look at everything that's going to be affected by your decision: Is it going to have a negative or positive impact on the customer or the environment? So, taking all those into account and being more conscious of the decisions that you make.

I think it's important for leaders to take everybody affected by their decisions into account. They have influence on ordinary people's lives. So that's why it's really important for them to be responsible and accountable for their actions, and to be the voice of equality and advocates for a healthy planet. It will not only help them, but it will help everybody.

If you make ethical decisions, I think you can sleep peacefully at night.”

How does this program’s focus on responsible business tie into your life?

“I always see myself looking out for who I’m dealing with. I want to take care of the customer. I want to keep the integrity aspect, as well as having an impact. I'm also a big proponent of recycling because I have a daughter now, and I want her to live in a healthy environment. As much as I can, I want to provide the best for her.”

What advice would you give to another first-generation American who's thinking about getting an MBA?

“My advice is just continue. Continue to work hard. Set your goals. If your goal is to get an MBA, go for it. Opportunity that wasn't presented in your home country will be presented to you. When I updated my LinkedIn profile during one of the later courses—the development class, I think—I received a lot of messages from recruiters. So that shows that getting an advanced degree, such as an MBA, will open a lot of doors for everybody, not just immigrants, but for everybody.”

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