Making the decision to pick up and move across the world is no easy feat. A man with decades of work experience in a career he loves, Atila Darafshandar relocated from his home country of Iran to San Diego County in 2018, experiencing both language and professional barriers he had never encountered before. Determined to continue his career in structural engineering, Atila knew he had to find help – but he didn’t know where to start.
Holding both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in science, Atila took his sister’s recommendation to reach out to Poway Adult School (PAS) for guidance.
We recently interviewed Atila about his transition to the United States.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background as a structural engineer in Iran? When did you move to the United States?
I earned my bachelor’s degree in civil engineering more than 26 years ago in Iran and continued on to get my Master of Science degree in structural engineering at one of the best universities in Iran. I have worked as a project manager for nearly two decades and have supervised many projects, including bridges, roads, buildings and more.
I moved to the United States in September 2018 and immediately started looking for a job, but quickly found that the transition would not be as simple as I anticipated. My main concern was the language barrier. I knew the first step would be to improve my English language skills, so I enrolled in Poway Adult School for English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.
How did you hear about Poway Adult School? When did you begin taking ESL classes?
My sister, who has lived in the United States for more than 30 years, told me about Poway Adult School. She explained that they had classes that could help me with my English, but also student support services that could help me find a job in my field. I knew they would be able to help, so I enrolled shortly after arriving in the U.S. I could not be more grateful for all they have helped me to accomplish!
Can you tell us a little bit about what additional support services you received at Poway Adult School and how they helped you prepare to enter the workforce in the United States?
Not only were the ESL classes extremely helpful in improving my English, but they also helped me find my
self-confidence to begin applying for jobs. After only four months, Denise McAndrews, PAS Career Education Specialist, introduced me to a lot of job opportunities and tips on how to approach them. Mrs. McAndrews and my teachers,
Ms. Uriell and Ms. Neal worked with me on my resume and shared resources with me on the hiring process, interviewing techniques and what to expect.
I felt hopeless after receiving several application rejections, but they stood by my side, reassured me that I should not be disappointed and helped me follow up on my applications. They were right! I was rejected two times before being hired at my new job! With the help of PAS, I was able to follow-up with the employer, explain my situation and background experience and was then qualified for an interview.
I have never been in an interview like that in my life, but I qualified and was selected for the position of Surveyor Aide for the City of San Diego Engineering Department. All of it was made possible with the help of the Poway Adult School team, especially Mrs. McAndrews. She helped me like an athlete that goes to the Olympics!
Do you have any advice for other students in a similar situation and would you recommend Poway Adult School?
I would absolutely recommend Poway Adult School to all new adult immigrants in this area. Not only did their ESL classes help me to become more confident, but they also stood by my side through the application and interviewing process. I couldn’t have done this without them! I would encourage any new adult immigrants to make the effort to improve their English, work to understand the culture and business environment of the U.S. I would say that it takes time, but you should not get easily discouraged.
While it will take more work and time to find a job that aligns with Atila’s advanced skills here in the U.S., he is certainly on the right track and more motivated than ever. For more information about Poway Adult School’s program offerings, visit powayadultschool.com or call (858) 668-4024.