From Security to Biotech…at 54 years old

Ben Romans shares his story of unemployment, frustration, and finally relief.

First, tell me about your employment background.

I worked for Knight Security in Escondido for 15 years. I had worked as an alarm response patrol officer, an emergency services dispatcher, an alarm installer, service technician, and fire systems inspector in the 15 years with the company. I was laid off on February 2, 2010.

After the layoff, did you expect you’d be able to find work again quickly?

I knew that the economy was bad, but I thought with my experience and steady work history I would find work quickly enough. It has never taken me more than a week or two to find work in the past, but I guess things were different 15 years ago.

So how did your job search go?

I signed up at the EDD [Employment Development Department] Career Center in Escondido the next day. A man named Cirilo Urmeneta was assigned as my Veteran’s Representative and started sending me job openings right away. I also searched on Craigslist everyday, as well as every other online jobsite I could find. I had always found jobs before by looking in the newspaper or going into a business and asking if they were hiring, so this Internet searching was a brand new experience for me. I did manage to get a half-dozen interviews, some with alarm companies, some sales positions, but the alarm companies wanted someone younger. (Of course they didn’t say that, but at 54 years old I didn’t expect to get hired to crawl around in attics repairing wiring and so on.) The sales jobs were commission-only, and you had to use your own vehicle, so that didn’t seem like a good option.

Did the Career Center help you in any other ways besides passing on job leads?

The Career Center helped me in so many ways during this ordeal. They helped me with gas cards, building résumés, typing classes, computer classes, tips on how to interview, job fairs, how to navigate online job-search sites, and so much more. They also helped me with a program that reimburses prospective employers with training expenses for new employees.

What was the next step in your job-search strategy?

After about six months of searching with no luck, Cirilo asked if I was interested in going back to school to train in a new field. I said “Sure, why not?” I decided on Miramar College’s Applied Biotechnology Certificate program. Dr. Slivka heads the program, and Dr. Bowers taught the majority of the classes. They are both wonderful ladies and excellent educators. The program waived the normal prerequisites of biology, chemistry, and algebra. I last studied algebra in the early 1970’s, and never studied biology or chemistry, so I knew I had my work cut out for me. But Dr. Slivka and Dr. Bowers work very hard to try to insure that their students succeed. I was one of 23 students that completed the course out of 80 that started. It was a very intensive course and required a lot of homework, but it has definitely paid off.

How did this change your perspective, if at all?

Completing that course reinstated my sense of self-confidence and changed my outlook on the future. I felt like I had new skills and qualifications to bring to a job interview.

And now you’ve found work?

About two or three weeks after completing the course, Cirilo sent me information on a job opening and I called for an interview and got the job. I am now employed by Auto Genomics, Inc. in Vista. I am using my newly acquired skills to manufacture medical assays that are used all over the world to help diagnose diseases.

Do you have any advice you’d pass on to those who are involved in their own fruitless job searches?

My advice to anyone who has lost their job is to go to the EDD Career Center and take advantage of all the help and advice they have to offer. If you put your best foot forward they will give you the help you need, and you will be successful.

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