“When you go into a co-op, it’s like jumping onto a moving train.”
Chanelle Cruz remembered those words from her Professional Development Seminar when she began her six-month sales operations co-op at Kronos, the time-management software and cloud-solutions company based in Lowell.
“Nobody else is starting from the beginning; the people you work with have been employees for years. So you have to learn how to jump in and adapt,” says Cruz, a junior business administration major from Lowell with a concentration in marketing.
Working in a large corporate environment for the first time as a member of the Global Partner support team, Cruz proved adept at adapting. Besides developing her Salesforce customer-relationship management software skills by managing partner accounts, Cruz improved her soft skills – namely, communication.
“I had to learn a lot about email communication, about being direct and knowing how to follow up,” she says. “That was a huge learning experience for me.”
Most of all, the co-op boosted Cruz’ self-confidence.
“I learned how to reach out to different people and use my resources if my direct manager wasn’t around,” she says. “I gained the confidence to get to the root of a problem on my own.”
While Cruz considered getting out of her hometown for college, the value of a degree from the Manning School of Business proved too good to pass up.
“UMass Lowell is very diverse, not only socially and culturally, but also in the range of programs it has,” says Cruz, who lived on campus her freshman year and now commutes. “I feel like I’m exposed to so many different types of people here. I love that.”
Coming from a musical family, Cruz found a way to combine her passion for music and business through the DifferenceMaker Program her freshman year. Her musical instrument donation-drive project “Share the Sound” was a finalist in the $50K Idea Challenge.
“I ended up leading a group of seniors, which was a very inspiring experience,” Cruz says. “I learned that I can actually start something and people will be interested in my idea.”
Through her work-study job as an office assistant in the Undergraduate Admissions Office, Cruz has gained additional Salesforce experience while earning money to pay for school. She also received the $5,000 Pulichino/Tong Family Foundation Business Scholarship and a $3,000 scholarship that Kronos gives to its six-month co-ops (in addition to their full-time pay).
Now that her co-op is over and she’s back in the classroom, Cruz has a new perspective on her future.
“Having that operations role was good for me as a first job, but I want to explore more creative roles, for sure,” says Cruz, who envisions herself marketing for a nonprofit or corporation dedicated to social causes.
As for her advice to other business students considering a co-op? Go for it – even if it’s a role outside of your concentration.
“If you’re marketing, don’t only focus on marketing. Try something different, because you never know what the experience could be like,” Cruz says.
“You’re expected to learn a lot of different things in school, but you don’t really learn it until you can apply it. That’s when you learn what all this really looks like in the real world.”