As an accomplished Bowdoin athlete in rugby and track and field, Addison Carvajal is used to being several steps in front of her competition. “I like to be ahead of the game,” she said. “I don’t like to be behind.”
Knowing this about her personality, it’s a little less surprising to hear that the senior has already begun working part time at the company where she’ll work full time after she graduates in May. On top of that, she’s closing on a two-bedroom condo in Portland in three weeks.
While Carvajal’s determination and organization have certainly helped secure her future, she also credits a bit of her story to chance — and to rugby.
Though she had never played rugby before, Carvajal joined the Bowdoin rugby team. It’s likely her prowess in her track events — the heptathlon and pentathlon — helped her quickly excel at the vigorous sport. After just one season, the U.S. national rugby coach reached out to Carvajal to urge her to try out for the national team.
In her sophomore spring, Carvajal, who grew up in Seattle, Wash., flew out to California on an all-expenses paid trip for a week of training. “They wanted to check me out,” Carvajal explained. From her perspective, the experience was brutal. “I got my ass kicked. It was pretty rough.”
But the coaches decided she had what it took and they offered her a spot on the team if she was ready to defer her college education. Black and blue with bruises, her head reeling with uncertainties about her future, Carvajal boarded the plane home. She ended up chatting with her seat mate, describing the intense experience she had just lived through. Evidently something about the tale impressed the fellow, who works for a software company in Portland called Kepware Technologies. He told Carvajal that if she was ever interested in an internship, she should take his card.
Carvajal kept his card in her wallet for a year. She also decided to put off committing to the U.S. Rugby team, although she stays connected to the team and practices with them twice a year. “I wasn’t ready to drop everything, but I still love rugby and want to play for my team and get better,” she said. The Bowdoin women’s rugby team placed fifth in nationals this past season, and is undefeated in its league.
The following spring when she was thinking about what to do with her summer, she called up her Kepware connection. He was glad to hear from her and invited her for a tour of the office in downtown Portland. “I went down, looked around, and I loved it,” Carvajal said. “It’s a neat company with nice, engaging people who love what they’re doing.” Kepware was founded by an Amherst College graduate, Corson “Corky” Ellis. The company makes automation software to help run industrial systems, and clients range from vineyards to car makers. Though Carvajal is majoring in economics rather than computer science, she accepted an internship with the company’s software support sales team.
When the company asked her to continue working part-time during her junior year, she accepted. Traveling to Portland for two days a week, working 7:30 a.m. to noon, Carvajal still managed to make all As and one B in her classes.
One day when she was at the office this past summer, her boss sat her down and made her a job offer. “I saw it as a great opportunity to be at a company where I can both grow and have more opportunities in that company,” she explained. “It’s very good sales and marketing work. Work experience is very important for someone my age, especially for someone who graduated from a liberal arts college that doesn’t offer technical training.”
Knowing what her next step will be has relieved her of the stress she sees a lot of her fellow seniors experiencing. When her friends are open to hearing advice, Carvajal said she likes to offer it. The first thing she does is reassure them. She likes to remind them that healthcare and technology are two great fields to consider, and she’s also made her budget spreadsheet available to them. She set up an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of her own expenses and ensure she lives within her means.
“Everything is going to be okay,” she said she tells anxious friends. “You’re smart, you’re going to be okay, you just have to take these little steps,” like how to get a credit card and maintain good credit, how to set up a retirement fund, and how, perhaps, to apply for a loan. “It makes people more comfortable if they know how manageable and easy it is.”