Jose Antonio Ramos
Highline Alum Returns for Bachelor’s Degree
He grew up in Mexico and planned to be an engineer. Now living in Auburn with a career in global trade, Jose A. Ramos is still a bit surprised — but very happy — by the unexpected turns his life has taken.
Ramos was on break from his university in Mexico when he decided to head north to visit his cousins in Burien. His plan? Spend six months learning English and checking out the United States.
“I started to catch a glimpse of the opportunities that you have here, which is so much more than what Mexico had to offer, unfortunately,” said Ramos, who was 19 years old when he came to Washington. “In those six months, I started picking up the language and learning the ways and the lifestyle, and I thought, let’s see what I can do here.”
At 19, he was still young enough to attend high school, so he enrolled at Highline High School to complete his diploma, taking the classes that did not transfer from his previous education in Mexico.
“After finishing high school I wanted to go to college. I knew I couldn’t afford the university and I knew I didn’t want to be in debt forever. That much I knew. So I said, let’s look for a different path,” said Ramos. With the help of his cousins who were already at Highline College, Ramos enrolled.
His original plan was to be a mechanical engineer, but during his first year at Highline, he said he “took a class I hadn’t expected would change the course of my life.”
The class was in international business, where he had his first taste of the global trade and logistics field.
“That’s when I said, wait a minute, let me look into this. As much as I liked mechanical engineering and everything that comes with it, international business and trade intrigued me. It definitely caught my eye and the quarter after I enrolled full time in this program.”
Ramos earned his associate degree in international business and import/export management and has been working in the field for more than eight years.
“I definitely enjoy what I’m doing but at the same time, I’m always looking for opportunities to better myself, both personally and professionally.”
Part of his job involves working with project cargo, which is freight that cannot be shipped on a typical skid measuring 48 inches by 40 inches by 60 inches.
“With project cargo, we’re talking about oversized and odd-shaped pieces. Project cargo is freight that is very, very specialized. Specific coordination/communication, timing and size requirements have to be met. I really enjoy the challenge of managing those projects.”
Now living in Auburn with his wife and three children — ages 7, 4 and 1 — Ramos has been with four companies over the course of those eight years.
“I consider myself lucky because I have the experience of four different companies; four different managerial styles, four different logistic styles, four different offices in general. It has given me a lot of insight into how to do business.”
At the time he was at Highline College, he thought a two-year degree was good enough, which it was to get him started in the field. Education has always been important to Ramos, and he knew that one day he would pursue his bachelor’s degree. When he learned that his alma mater would be offering a new four-year degree in Global Trade and Logistics in fall of 2014, he was one of the first to apply.
“There’s a glass ceiling right now and you need that extra education to break through it,” said Ramos. “You don’t need the four-year degree in this industry, but having it is definitely a better option. It opens more doors.”
Highline’s new applied bachelor’s degree in Global Trade and Logistics is a natural fit for the college. Highline enjoys a prime location for international business and trade. The campus is just south of SeaTac International Airport and between the seaports of Seattle and Tacoma. The college is also home to the Center of Excellence for Global Trade and Supply Chain Management, which provides education and training programs to meet the economic development needs in advancing Washington’s global competitiveness.
The four-year degree in Global Trade is one of four applied bachelor’s degrees now offered by Highline. The others are Cybersecurity and Forensics, Respiratory Care and Youth Development.
For people like Ramos looking to advance their careers or be more competitive in the job market, an applied bachelor’s degree may be the perfect option. People holding a two-year technical degree can build on their education. Before the applied bachelor’s degree was created, students would often have to transfer to a regional or state college or university and take additional lower-level coursework to complete a bachelor’s degree. Now, they can stay in the area, remain in their current jobs, and save time on their way to earning a four-year degree. The programs include a combination of evening, online and/or hybrid courses to work around busy schedules.
If anyone knows about busy schedules, it is Ramos and his wife. With his full-time job and three young children, balancing his school workload is challenging. But he says there is a distinct advantage to going back to school after spending time in the workforce.
“Going back and taking the classes — like the financial accounting class I’m in right now — it’s a no-brainer. If you take the class without having work experience, you’ll get the material, but you won’t understand it as well without the context of real-life experience,” said Ramos. “When you’re in the workforce, you’re dealing with it every single day. So when you go back to school after having the work experience, you’re like, oh, that’s why I’m doing that. You connect and expand the dots.”
What piece of advice would he give other students who are returning to school after being in the workforce?
“Plan your schedule carefully so that you’re not taking too many tough classes at once like I’ve done,” Ramos said, laughing. He quickly adds a plug for adults who feel that they may have missed their chance at getting an education. “It’s really never too late to go back to college and complete or complement your education.”