PMP staff

PMP Reflects: My First Job

With summer jobs on the horizon, professionals recall the first jobs that launched their careers. Read more, then write your own #CareerLaunch post. From the the President of the United States scooping ice cream behind the counter at Baskin-Robbins to Oprah Winfrey working at a local grocery store where she was forbidden from chatting with customers, every professional has made their start somewhere. Everyone has held a position that they would always remember as their first job. This position was probably not the most glamorous job you’ve ever had, but it served as the stepping stone toward career growth and development. Even if it was 10 or 15 years before your career actually took off!

Reflecting on your first job usually sheds insight on your career journey. How far you have come, why you are where you are at now, and for some cases, just adds a little happiness to your life to know those positions were held when you were young and never again. Practice Makes Perfect’s employees decided to dive into their past and resurrect the memories of their first job to see how their #CareerLaunch gave them the tools they needed to become successful professionals.

Karim Abouelnaga, Founder and CEO - "My first job was working as a salesperson with my father in our family business. We sold Egyptian arts & crafts and sterling silver. I had the opportunity to shadow an entrepreneur, refine my negotiating skills as I dealt with international customers, and learn the ins and outs of building a business. To this day, I leverage the skills and lessons I learned in the family business to continue building Practice Makes Perfect."  

Lauren Reilly, Program Director - "My first job was as a camp counselor at Craig Breslin's Champion Soccer Camp. I was 12 years old and was so nervous, especially because the age of the campers was 5-14! How was I supposed to tell anyone what to do as a 12 year old! My first day I showed Soccer_030 (1)up an hour early, so scared I was going to be late. My first assignment was to run a clinic for the 5 year olds. While it was scary at first, as the day progressed I realized as long as I acted like I was as old as the other 16 and 17 year old counselors, I would be treated with respect. I've carried this lesson with me through every job I've had since. Some would call this "fake it till you make it." I say it's really about having self-confidence and trusting yourself that you were chosen for a reason. You can do anything you set your mind to and you just have to believe in yourself and be your own champion!"

Kristy Zhen, Program Coordinator - "I got my first job when I was 14. I worked at a hospital greeting guests and helping the physician assistants. I wasn't interested in the field at all but it kept me busy over the summer. It also taught me the importance of customer service as I learned that I was a representative of the hospital."

Sarah Elkhayat, Program Coordinator - "When I was around 12 years old, I started babysitting for some of my parents friends. I would plan fun activities for me to do with the kids when I was on the job.  Most of the money I earned went right back into buying crafts for the next new project I wanted us to make. Looking back, I can see how I was excited about education even as a pre-teen babysitter.  It's clear to me that my path into this field was paved at a young age."

Hannah Perkins, Recruitment Coordinator - "My first job was at the Shoe Dept. at my local mall, working as a sales associate. I was in high school when I first started, but continued to work over the summer throughout college. We worked on commission, so this job naturally instilled a hard work ethic in me from a young age."

Akeem Headley, Finance Coordinator - "My first job was at the age of 15. I started working with my parents at a family owned business teaching music. At 18 years old, I received an honor from the queens district for being one of the best young music instructors in the city. This helped me be more disciplined and pursue my passions while being compensated."

Tom Schuster, Data Coordinator - "I started my first job when I was 14, working as a kennel assistant at a local animal hospital. It wasn't the most glorious work (read: cleaning up after animals), but I loved the environment and it helped me develop a strong work ethic at a young age."

Meiling Jabbaar, Program and Recruitment Administrator - "My first official paid job was a summer internship at the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce when I was in 10th grade. As an intern my responsibilities varied from helping to plan their summer events in Harlem and other office tasks, such as making copies, preparing mail, and filing. Although it wasn't the most exciting job, I appreciated being exposed to work and individuals who were driven to give back to the Harlem community, where I grew up. In being exposed to this work, I learned about community development, event planning, and the importance of networking."

Emily Becker, Program and Recruitment Administrator - "My first job was as a CIT (counselor in training) at the Jewish day camp I had attended as a child.  I made less than a dollar an hour because I was receiving training.  But shepherding fifteen rowdy second graders around a hot summer camp turned out to be incredibly rewarding--my two summers as a camp counselor jump started my interest in youth development."

Nicolette Templier, Retail Administrator - "My first job was as a team member at my local chick-fil-a when I was 17. Chick-fil-a is notorious for their southern hospitality and serving others so my customer service skills were created and polished under the guidelines enforced within that company. I learned how to multi-task, time manage and work with a team as a unit to reach daily goals.  It was also one of two longest positions I've ever held ever."

Eliana Rodriguez, Direct Support to the CEO - "Starting at the age of 6 or 7, my mom would take me to the hair salon she worked at on Saturdays. After several years or shadowing and learning the trade, I was able to help my mother when she opened up her own hair salon. Working mostly on Saturdays, holidays, and summers, I learned skills that I will never forget and an appreciation for my mother's hard work.  Although I was grateful for the experience, working at a hair salon is one of the most taxing working class jobs which further motivated me to attend college."

Devan Tierney, Communications Administrator - "My first job was when I was 13 years old at the local pool in my town. I was not a lifeguard, however, I was a “DP”… a dirt person, or basically, a janitor. As a “DP” I started at the bottom of the totem pole; I cleaned 10141494-largethe trash up around the pool, cleaned the bathrooms (both boys and girls), pretty much just made sure that the entire pool was clean at all times. Even at 13 years old I knew that this position would not be the end-all be-all for me, I could not clean trash forever. So, I pushed myself that summer, I was the best bathroom-cleaner that that pool had ever seen. I proved myself to be a hard-worker and showed that any task I was handed I would do with confidence and do well. The next summer I was promoted to kitchen staff, I was very happy to leave the bathroom cleaning behind.

Peter Daskalov, Business Development Administrator - The first job i ever had was at a nursing home during junior year of high school. It was part time, and was there four times a week. At first I thought it was the most boring place on earth, but after a few week I started speaking with the senior citizens and their stories were unforgettable. I met war veterans, doctors, lawyers, authors, and it was very interesting to see how much the US has changed over the last 50 years. My first job was certainly one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

Tania Wahdud, Program and Recruitment Administrator - My first job was working as an English tutor to a first grade student. I was 15 years old, and in the 10th grade. It was a short summer job, but I learned valuable skills of discipline, scheduling, and communication, all which continue help me grow.


Welcome New Staff Members!

Here at Practice Makes Perfect we value education more than anything. As we continue to expand our team to be able to serve more students across New York, we wanted to give everyone the chance to take a more personal look into backgrounds of PMP’s employees, and how their educational journey has led them to where they are now.

With that said, we are happy to present the education stories of the five most recent additions to the team: (inline with photo - left to right), Joseph Ward, Meiling Jabbaar, Devan Tierney, Peter Daskalov, and Eliana Rodriguez:


Meet Eliana! Position: Direct Support to the CEO Alma Mater: Cornell University, College of Architecture

Education is important because it provides us with the opportunity to accomplish our dreams or to land on our destined path. In reality, education allows us to form knowledge from experiences and information. It exposes us to our histories and allows us to learn from past mistakes, thus, making every journey a lesson. Education exposes us to the world and helps us learn of tolerance, social justice, and human rights among other things. Having a proper and honest education allows us to form our own opinions that stem from our ethics and values, also formed through education.

Education has always been important to me because my mother instilled its importance in me. Ever since I was a toddler, she would read to me in Spanish; she always helped with my homework when she could; and she never missed a parent-teacher conference. However, despite the fact that my mother was the driving force behind the type of public school education I received, I also had an affinity and a liking to school and learning. To me, education was the only way “out” of my neighborhood and out of our socio-economic status—I wanted to be able to provide for my mother one day and live comfortably. Additionally, education gave me a purpose and allowed me to feel as if my dreams were achievable and attainable. As a first generation college student who attended public school in Ozone Park, Queens, I now understand the effects and the existing education inequity that prepared me enough for college but not enough for an ivy league or a large private university. All in all, I wouldn’t be who I am today without education and all of the experiences I have undergone—I love the kind of person that I am and I know that through education I can and will continue to better myself internally and externally.


Meet Joe! Position: Operations Coordinator Alma Mater: Cornell University, College of Arts and Sciences

I grew up with no interest in school whatsoever.  I wasn’t a terrible student, but neither of my parents went to college and my mother was a single parent with non-traditional hours, so she didn’t have the time to convey how important school was – if she even really knew.  I played sports, joined clubs, and worked year-round to pay for my expenses.  My spare time was for friends, not homework.

Thankfully though, all my friends were applying to college and I was still around the top 11-15% of my class. 15 applications, 8 rejections, and 2 local acceptances later, Cornell University decided they liked my extra-curriculars enough to give me a shot.  I was more excited and optimistic than at any point in my life.  My choices went from community college, the military, or staying at the supermarket to almost literally anything.  But I also didn’t realize how unprepared I was for Cornell.

I arrived in Ithaca with no AP credits, no calculus, and not much else.  One of my roommates came in with a full year’s worth of credits, another went to Bill Gates’s high school.  Everyone I met seemed impressive, and if that wasn’t enough, my first lecture ever took an iClicker poll on our household incomes.  I was the only person in a 300 person class to select “Under $50,000.”  I doubt I was the only one in that bracket, but I was still rattled.  

I didn’t know going in that I was behind, and just a few months into my attendance I was on the verge of dropping out.  I struggled to hit the threshold to remain academically eligible for sports and only attended my economics class again to take the exams.  I never once reached out to Cornell faculty.  

At the end of my freshman year though, the value of a Cornell degree was abundantly apparent.  I returned home and spoke with a panel to rising juniors and seniors about the importance of an education and began to turn things around.  I graduated on time and, despite my relatively low GPA, landed a great job because of the name on my degree.

I’m still not convinced of the value of a system that focuses so much on testing that textbook knowledge is prioritized above critical thinking, but I am fully aware of the advantages a “good education” creates for a person, and it’s important to me that low-income students gain equal access to these opportunities. Every kid should experience the feeling I had and know, with acceptance in hand, that the world is theirs.  

Meet Meiling! Position: Program and Recruitment Administrator Alma Mater: Brown University

Growing up in Harlem, New York I witnessed first-hand the impact and implications that inequalities in our society, namely racial inequality, class inequality, and education inequality, have on the lives of individuals. As I traveled across different neighborhoods in New York City, I noticed strikingly apparent disparities between neighborhoods and this bothered me. I would question why in some neighborhoods there was more trash in the streets, why the buildings were more elegant in some areas, and why schools looked significantly nicer in specific neighborhoods. The more I observed how these inequalities manifested across NYC, the more I realized that they are strongly interrelated issues and was moved to learn how I can help solve these issues that so deeply affected my community.

I am passionate about combatting education inequality in particular because education has had a huge impact on my life.  My parents always stressed the importance of receiving a great education and the opportunity that it can afford you, and as a young girl I naturally cultivated a love for learning and excelled in school.  I was fortunate to attend a private high school and went on to attend Brown University. I soon became the first person in my family to graduate from a 4 year university, which was a huge accomplishment for me. Yet, throughout high school and college, I would return to my community and see the lack of opportunity and access to quality education that existed there. This angered me, but simultaneously sparked my passion for education equality because I firmly believe that every child has the right to a quality education. Not only do their futures depend on it, but our futures depend on it, and our society’s future depends on it because the students we educate today are our future generation.


Meet Devan! Position: Communications Intern Alma Mater: Ramapo College of New Jersey

My education story began on my brother’s first day of kindergarten, he was five and I was three - he was crying to go leave and I was crying to stay. From the moment that I walked into Ms Finks’ class at Midtown Community School I fell in love with school. There was something about the environment and the process of learning that excited me, even at three years old. And as I got older, that passion grew, inside and outside of the classroom. Asking questions, discussing information, and gaining more knowledge became second nature to me, and I loved every second of it - until high school.

While my grades remained average, my eagerness to be the most curious student in the class transformed to the drive to be the funniest or the most popular. I dedicated more of my time to making friends than I did to studying and gaining knowledge, which eventually landed me in a less than perfect situation when applying for college. However, once I found myself sitting in a college classroom taking classes that challenged me again, like statistics and psychology, that eagerness returned - and thankfully it was here to stay. College excited me, it reminded me how beneficial it was to gain knowledge, to know more information, to learn. Although I am finally done with school and moving on to new and exciting chapters in my life, I will never be done with education. Those few years of high school and the repercussions that followed reminded me how valuable learning is, how even when being the funniest or most popular kid in the class passes - education never leaves you.   


Meet Peter! Business Development Intern Alma Mater: NYU Current school: Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

To me, having an education means having the ability to reason, to solve problems, and to apply the material learned toward thinking critically about any given situation in life. Merely memorizing facts, or being able to read, but not absorbing the material is completely useless. Education means being able to evolve, and to adapt to an ever changing world. There are so many people, and so many different cultures, and beliefs on this planet that the only way for a person to communicate with those people would be by having an education. Most importantly, a path in life where education is a priority will lead to happiness, success, and stability.

For me education is important because I want to be aware of the world I am living in. I do not want to go day to day being blind and unaware. I want to be a productive member of society, and live life to my fullest potential. I want to change this world for the better, and the only way I can do that is if I am able to think critically about potential solutions to problems that concern not only myself, but those around me as well. My ultimate goal in life is to be happy, and I think the biggest reason why education is important to me is that I'll be able to give my family the life that they've never had, but always deserved.