Graduation 2010: Angelica Macatangay’s long journey to a degree

Angelica Macatangay’s drive to succeed was inspired like this: She was a smart, 17-year-old high school grad in Guam holding acceptance letters to three top-tier private colleges when the doors to opportunity slammed shut.

With three siblings who had gone to college ahead of her and her parents looking for work in the Unites States, Macatangay graduated alone in Guam knowing the price of college was beyond her means because her parents couldn’t afford to help pay.

First step was to rejoin her family in the US. Her parents landed in Seattle where her next oldest sister was graduating from Seattle University. “When I got out here, there was some animosity within the family,” she said. “I was the only child left and everyone else got to go to school and I was pretty upset about it.”

The sting of that first blow motivates Macatangay still, even as she prepares to graduate with a BA degree from the UW Foster School of Business, a top-level finish in the 2010 National Collegiate Sales Competition and a consulting job at Oracle, one of the world’s most prominent software companies.

“Knowing that I couldn’t go to school, knowing that I had that opportunity and I couldn’t take it killed me,” she said. “I told myself I am not going to ever let that happen again.”

The road to Foster: a challenge overcome

Bucking the trend of her siblings who all went into medical fields, Macatangay pursued a career in business. “Eight days after graduation I was in Seattle,” she said. “After two weeks, I had my first job.”

She lived with her parents for a month, then got an apartment in Seattle with a coworker and landed a second job. Although it would be two years before she could afford to go to Bellevue Community College (BCC), Macatangay kicked off her education.

“I told myself, if I can’t learn through school, I am going to learn through work. I was looking to find companies where I was able to work hard and be promoted so that I could learn all I could about their business.”

Macatangay’s path to Foster almost ended with her early success in business. Working in a modeling agency generating client leads, supervising the front desk at an upscale beauty salon, managing aspects of an English language service and leading in sales at a Bellevue boutique, Macatangay had several opportunities to advance her career without a formal education.

One opportunity was a $40,000-a-year job in California. Her quandary: Why not skip college and make money now?

When she thought about it, that stinging disappointment in Guam reminded her she wanted to make sure she didn’t limit herself and that an education was the best way to ensure as many options as possible. She finished at BCC and transferred to the University of Washington. However, due to confusion between advisors, she hadn’t applied to Foster before the transfer and found herself on a campus without the clarity of direction she’d worked so hard for.

“I literally sat in Odegaard (undergraduate library) and cried,” she said. “I remember sitting there crying, asking myself – Why am I here? Why did I choose such a huge college?”

Macatangay did eventually apply to Foster. One afternoon, she opened her mailbox at her apartment and there was a small letter carrying the Foster logo. Her heart sank. It was so small, so normal looking that it couldn’t be good news. She was too panic-stricken to open the letter, so she called a friend. With her dog by her side and friend on the phone, she read the news – Foster had accepted her.

Career launched: From Balmer High to Oracle consultant

“People would refer to Foster as Balmer High and I had no idea what the heck they were talking about. And then I came and I said, Oh, god! I see it. There was definitely a sense of community,” Macatangay said. “I knew when I walked into the business school that they were all business students. You could feel the tension and the competitiveness.”

The high-intensity of the students matched her own drive. Macatangay thrived. She also continued to work nearly full-time until well into her senior year when she had to devote more time to school.

Macatangay jumped at the chance to compete in the 2010 National Collegiate Sales Competition. After six months of grueling preparation, she and fellow graduating Foster senior Kaitie Fisher teamed up to take second place, beating teams from more than 60 US universities.

Recruiters at Oracle spotted Macatangay at the competition and brought her in for interviews. As an Oracle sales consultant, she said, the learning curve will be steep. But that environment suits her perfectly.

“There are going to be a lot of new challenges and experiences,” she said. “In a sense, there will be an endless hallway with a ton of doors and I think I find comfort in that.”

Graduation approaching, she will miss the camaraderie she felt walking into Balmer High daily. Nevertheless, she has only eight days to ponder life after college before her new job begins in San Francisco.

While her degree and success at Foster leave her feeling for the first time that she is now on a level playing field with her peers, no longer playing catch-up because of the time she had to work before entering college, Macatangay is still driven to achieve.

“Now what?” she said. “How many years do I want to work before I get my MBA?”

 

For a list of all of this year’s Foster graduates, go here.

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