Michael Zygmont is a longtime Austin resident who recently returned here after working for 5 years in Venezuela. While he enjoyed many experiences overseas, the national crises in Venezuela ended his time there in disaster.
“When I came back, after getting wiped out financially in Venezuela because of what’s happening there, I had to get assistance to return,” said Michael. “When I came back, I returned with nothing, to nothing. I am starting my life over again, basically.”
Michael returned to the U.S in 2016 and began rebuilding his life with necessary aspects like a driver’s license, bank accounts, and credit history. He house-sat and worked—first in retail, then temporarily as a data entry clerk for the Texas State Senate. That job ended when the regular senate session did, but by then Michael was renting an apartment and had a steady place to live.
The deposit, rent and utilities for the apartment increased his monthly costs, so Michael began looking at available assistance programs. It was during his search that he encountered Workforce Solutions Capital Area and began developing a plan.
“Last summer, I really started to investigate what I would do longer term,” said Michael. “I could get jobs that are low pay but at least put food on the table and keep me housed, but where would that lead? This decision had to be made, and I thought I would move to IT, for the job growth and flexibility.”
One idea was to enter financial technology to leverage his knowledge of financial services and writing: “I have been a fully licensed financial advisor and worked at companies like Dean Witter Reynolds and Morgan Stanley. When I graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in English Literature, that is what I went into,” Michael said.
At Workforce Solutions Capital Area, Michael met with Merih Ghebregiorgis, a career counselor. They explored job search assistance and skills training opportunities funded through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program.
After entering the WIOA program, Michael received IT training from Consulting Solutions.Net, a training partner with Workforce Solutions Capital Area. WIOA program funds paid for his training, and Michael also received assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), including gas cards to travel to and from his classes.
“In supplementing textbook training with real life experience, I connected with Goodwill Central Texas and started an internship,” Michael said. “It helped me to make bill payments and keep pushing along.”
Michael interned at Goodwill’s Computer Works, harvesting electronics components. He requested and received an internship with Goodwill’s IT department, located at Goodwill’s Community Center, where he learned more about IT and received a pay raise. He completed the internship in July.
“Michael was almost going to be homeless had it not been for his determination to succeed and WIOA’s assistance,” said Merih. “WIOA helped him to stay focused and stay optimistic.”
Searching for a job and creating life stability has been a stressful experience, but also a learning experience, for Michael. For other job seekers in Austin, he has some words of advice: “You’ve got to focus, get the job done, be there, and get yourself into a position where you have the possibility of moving forward and upward,” he said.
“Coming from Venezuela, I was surprised to find how many resources are available here for people like me, and I am grateful,” Michael said. “Many job seekers may feel discouraged or helpless, and that can be like a mental trap. To overcome that, you must take advantage of your opportunity and take responsibility for your own life—take the bull by the horns,” Michael said.
Michael would like to give back and is willing to assist job seekers looking for advice. If you would like to speak with him, please submit a request at our Contact Us page.
Workforce Solutions Capital Area offers financial assistance to eligible individuals for job search assistance, training, and other support services through funding from the WIOA program. This is a no-cost employment program designed to give job seekers the support and/or skills training they need to find a job.
Visit Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s WIOA page to learn more.