“Ask an Alum” Staff Spotlight- Health Informatics student to UW Administrative Specialist

Tera Figueroa graduated from University of Washington- Bothell in 1998 with a degree in Society, Ethics & Human Behavior and a minor in Health Informatics.  While at UW, Tera enjoyed spending her time at the IMA, going to husky football games, and playing recreational Volleyball. Since graduating, she has held many titles including Program Coordinator, Health Care Supervisor, Client Care Supervisor and Administrative Specialist. Tera is currently the Administrative Specialist for the Career & Internship Center and Disability Services at University of Washington- Seattle. Feel free to connect with Tera about her journey, career, or education at tsimmons@uw.edu, you can give her a call at (206) 543-9105 or connect with her via LinkedIn.


We asked Tera some questions about her career journey and what advice she would give to help launch her fellow huskies to success! Here is what Tera had to say:


In what ways did your UW education support or advance your career?

My UW education provided me with advanced critical thinking skills, which have allowed me to be successful in a variety of professional environments. Critical thinking includes analysis, information seeking, breaking down complex processes and assessing goals to fully understand components of problems.  Having the ability to give and receive feedback with confidence is also part of complex critical thinking and continues to be a valuable tool in all of my professional experiences. The interdisciplinary curriculum of my degree program taught me to think broadly about many different social issues, which has allowed me to mold myself to the mission of each professional role I’ve held. Being able to thinking critically has allowed me to advance professionally because I am able to see big picture trends and offer valuable recommendations for change, rather than just seeing the work that is directly in front of me.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in your field?

As a young girl I always thought of myself as a “helper” and I dreamt about having a career in which I could help others and make a difference in their lives. As a first generation college student, supporting myself emotionally and financially through my educational journey, I had no idea what to study; my primary goal was to graduate from college with a degree. Given my desire to help others and promote social justice, I chose an undergraduate degree path that provided me with a solid base for public health, healthcare, or social work.

How is your current career the same or different than what you thought it would be when you began college?

I started college with the intent of going to graduate school to study public health, nursing, or healthcare administration and work for an NGO or non-profit. I have not yet made it to graduate school and I did not work for an NGO or non-profit, but I have found ways to work in these fields without an advanced degree. Each professional experience has taught me something valuable and allowed me to utilize my degree in ways I would not have imagined. My current career allows me to help front facing professionals by improving processes, and administrative services delivery.  

What is something you wish you knew about finding a career while you were an undergrad?

I wish I would have viewed job postings in fields that I was interested in working to better understand the degree and experience required for employment. Researching job postings would have provided me with a more realistic understanding of what companies were looking for in candidates. This could have made a difference in my degree pursuit; I might have focused on nursing or healthcare administration as an undergraduate degree, rather than general studies.

What advice do you have for current students looking at stepping into your career path?

Develop critical thinking skills and practice using them in every area of your life. Critical thinking skills will provide you with the ability to communicate with peers and colleagues in every situation. They will teach you to question information, in all forms, and allow you to understand the goals of your organization and your role in its success.  Whether you are a an engineer, social worker, doctor, professor, academic counselor, program coordinator or admin specialist, having strong critical thinking skills allows you to analyze and provide valuable ideas to your teams. If critical thinking is not part of your degree curriculum, consider taking an elective class or reading books on critical thinking and emotional intelligence.

Share an experience where you failed during your professional journey. How were you able to come back from that experience? What did you learn from that experience?

After working at the UW for over 15 years, I was ready for a new professional experience. I looked within the UW system but did not initially find a position that interested me. A friend suggested working in home care so I gave it a try.  I was hired by a local agency and found the work fulfilling, but the environment was not a good fit. I really enjoyed assisting home care clients with care management and home care assessments, however, the office environment was challenging and I resigned after 6 months.  As someone who’s worked hard to achieve my goals and traditionally stayed in jobs for many years, I struggled with the decision to resign after such a short time. I initially felt like a failure. After deeper reflection, I realized a valuable lesson; that my work environment is just as important to my happiness as the work I am performing. This experience taught me to reflect on why I wanted to leave the UW in the first place. What was behind my motivation to do something different? What did I like about my time with the home care agency? What did I not like? I spent a lot of time trying to understanding how my culmination of education and work experience could be utilized in a new position. While I initially felt like I was giving up and failing, I realized I was taking charge of my own happiness.  

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned is that it is absolutely okay to fail because we learn more about who we are and what we want through these failures. We get so stuck in our “plan” that we sometimes don’t realize the benefit in adjusting our expectations.

What activities do you enjoy outside of your career?

Hiking, volleyball, snowshoeing, spending time with my husband and children.

By Izzy Wroblewski
Izzy Wroblewski Profile Picture