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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Personifying Persistence

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by Kara Kavensky

Raina Camara Tiendrebeogo moved from the west African country Burkina Faso in 2010 to go to school in Wisconsin. She did not speak English, knew one friend in Wisconsin and had a suitcase filled with ambition and tenacity. Raina is one of five girls from a country that only educates girls enough to marry them off. However, Raina’s mother had a plan for each of her daughters and getting a strong education beyond the meager levels encouraged in Burkina Faso was a foundation of this plan.

Possessing a high level of motivation and determination, Raina learned English so she could navigate transportation, buy food, and learn how to get around LaCrosse, Wisconsin. She had never experienced a winter like that before, but she persevered. Raina heard an advanced manufacturing engineering associates degree offered at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She earned this degree with honors while working full time on a night shift from 9pm until 6am, often with a 7:30am class to attend. While other students were off doing fun things, Raina focused on school and work to pay for her tuition, books, apartment, and food. While in Iowa, she met her husband, Abdoul, through mutual friends.

After Raina and Abdoul were married, they moved to the Boston area for Abdoul’s job as a software developer with an insurance company. Raina looked for work opportunities and discovered that the competition for jobs in the northeast was mostly dependent upon college degrees. She enrolled at Southern New Hampshire University and earned her general studies degree with a focus on human resources while pregnant with their first child and when their baby boy was a few months old, Raina started her Masters in Business Administration from the same university.

“It is important to me to be a good example and show them what is possible and give them the life they deserve and getting her education was a way to get there,” says Raina, who worked for an investment bank.

The cost of living, including childcare, inspired Raina and Abdoul to look at moving to another area of the U.S. Abdoul’s employer has a large office in Carmel, so the couple moved to Indiana. Raina was pregnant at the time and after maternity leave was over, her short-sighted new manager let her go from her human resources position indicating that “working remotely” wasn’t working for him. While this was a depressive and disappointing period in Raina’s professional life due to not finding immediately employment, she decided to try something new.

From women in his office, Abdoul had heard about a women’s meetup group with Salesforce and Raina attended a meeting.

“The meeting was very informative and many women were working in the Salesforce ecosystem at various employers and they all had various backgrounds, which was encourage,” says Raina, who enrolled in the Salesforce Trailblazer program.

At a subsequent Salesforce Women in Tech Group meetup, Raina heard Eleven Fifty Academy mentioned, and someone gave a testimonial about the availability of CARES Act dollars. Raina researched Eleven Fifty and spoke with Alex in admissions. When Raina speaks of how transformative Eleven Fifty Academy has been in her life, she gets teary. After graduating as a web developer, Raina got a job, which she loves, as a marketing cloud mobile and social specialist for a Salesforce platform with OffPrem.

Raina arrived in the United States with not much more than a dream. She was already very determined, and having two small boys has given her a deeper sense of motivation to be a great example for her children.

“Since I moved here, I have been surrounded by people who have helped guide me and I have had to overcome those who have attempted to block me from my dreams,” states Raina, who was the only female of color in her class and the only one with an accent. “Don’t be afraid to be you. Be yourself and you will be great!”

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