Exploring the diverse pathways of Cal Poly Pomona alumni

By Elizabeth Teo, Feb. 27, 2024

Commencement is fast approaching for 2024 graduates, as they are only 12 weeks away from walking the stage, closing a chapter of their life.

From the moment they were accepted to Cal Poly Pomona to walking the stage at graduation, graduates trekked different paths  throughout their years at CPP, reflecting on lessons they learned to get where they are now.

Lily Quiros

 Lily Quiros (2013, Food Science and Technology) runs an independent coffee consulting business working with coffee shops to help build their desired signature style. As a food science and technology graduate, Quiros embarked on her coffee journey after being inspired during a class trip to Café Britt, Costa Rica’s largest coffee producer, where she witnessed the intricacies of the crafting process.

Starting CPP in 2009 with only 20 people in her graduating class, Quiros connected with her professors, cultivating strong relationships, ultimately leading her to deviate from the path well-traveled in the food industry and venture into the beverages. Getting to use her hands-on kitchen experience helped bring her food science background into her specialty: the roasting process.

“Seeing that whole side of the coffee world, I basically fell in love with it, and this is the coolest thing and what I want to do with my life,” Quiros said.

Quiros was able to use the advice from her professors to find her path.

“Creating relationships with my professors was the most beneficial thing with the direction I wanted to go,” Quiros said.

Immediately after graduation, Quiros began her career in the coffee industry by overseeing quality assurance and managing food safety programs at a large coffee company. She later transitioned to a smaller shop, where she refined her expertise in roasting and cold brew production.

However, due to the challenges posed by COVID-19, Quiros returned to her hometown of San Diego but continued experimenting with the coffee roasting process.

“It was actually my husband who encouraged me to do consulting, and it’s been super fun being able to help others do what I love and still be able to be a stay-at-home mom to my three kids,” said Quiros.

Today, she works with small coffee businesses in the San Diego area, using her extensive experience across various industry sectors to help companies achieve their coffee perfection.

Quiros and own coffee roaster she uses to test new roasting methods. | Courtesy of Lily Quiros

Laila Fajardo

 Education isn’t solely confined to the classroom; often individuals find themselves learning from the influences of those around them. The people in their lives directly shape their paths and aspirations.

Laila Fajard graduated in 2023 with a degree in psychology and currently works with kids on the autism spectrum. Her goal is to work in marriage counseling and open her own practice.

The start of CPP for Fajardo was unconventional with COVID-19 moving the student body off campus into the virtual world. As a kinesiology student taking online classes, Fajardo knew it wasn’t for her and found her groove in psychology instead.

After declaring her major, Fajardo felt unsure about the direction of her future career until she found guidance during the last few semesters while taking her core classes.

Being back in-person, Fajardo connected with the diverse community in her classes of transfer students, people coming back to school, and students of all walks of life. After hearing about their experiences and their perspective, that guided her to counseling.

Narrowing it down further, her professors held Q&A sessions to help students succeed and give a wide variety of future careers, providing a glimpse into different paths.

“I am thankful for the professors and their help and guidance because without them, I wouldn’t know what I wanted to do with my degree,” Fajardo said.

Today, her career focuses on behavioral therapy with children on the autism spectrum. With her job, she has learned patience, coping mechanisms and how to prepare for the future.

To work toward her future goal as a marriage counselor, Fajardo is heading back to school to get her master’s and work toward her counseling license.

Portrait of Fajardo at her training program. | Courtesy of Laila Fajardo

Victoria Gonzalez

With her love for copy editing and spark in mentoring, she now works at the Huntington Library, creating educational content for the online website, merging her two passions.

Victoria Gonzalez (2019, Journalism) graduated with a major in communication. She works for the Huntington library as a digital learning specialist, creating content for the Huntington’s online website.

Interning at San Diego magazine at the tail end of her college experience jumpstarted the direction Gonzalez wanted to go with her degree. From there, she transitioned to Los Angeles magazine, working until graduation. That’s where she navigated a shift from light-hearted writing to fact-checking politics, finding it initially challenging but ultimately rewarding to tackle significant stories.

Returning to CPP for her final years of study, Gonzalez learned not about the semantics of journalism but the interpersonal abilities and the people around her.

Being an editor  meant long hours and hard work, but she found joy in the people she worked with and how much of a team they were. As an editor, she got to see people grow, and being able to aid that growth was an important factor to her.

“It was so fulfilling to take writers and say we are going to work together and see improvement,” Gonzalez said. “… That growth for me as an editor and then as a journalist is something I still do today.”

From all her experiences to where she is now, the most significant lessons were learned through the people who have influenced her.

Gonzalez at the Huntington Library working on educational content. | Courtesy of Victoria Gonzalez

Feature image courtesy of Lily Quiros, Laila Fajardo and Victoria Gonzalez

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