Nowak, of Bay Ridge, was one of seven students chosen for the 2009-2010 much sought after Vanguard Award. This year 93 students applied state-wide for the award that recognizes the accomplishments of students who are enrolled in Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs that are not traditional to their gender.
“Nontraditional choices are important for the 21st century workplace as changes in society and gender roles are shifting,” Nowak said. “We should be allowed to do the job we like.”
Nowak, 35, a native of Poland, first traveled to the United States when she was 18 to visit her grandmother in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. In 2000, seven years later, she paid grandma a second visit, but this time she was here to stay.
“[There are] big differences between living in the U.S. and Poland,” said Nowak. According to Nowak, it was “the cultural diversity and openness,” in the Unites States, along with the positivism and optimism of Americans that motivated her to leave her parents and sister back in Poland and brave a new path of life.
Now a sophomore at New York City College of Technology (CUNY City Tech), Nowak started off working as a babysitter and a personal assistant. She landed a job working at a construction company, the part-time job that ended up shaping her future.
“I liked this job so much that I knew it was time to advance,” said Nowak, who was encouraged by her employer to enroll in college courses.
“I knew I could not advance and expand my knowledge and skills without going to college, especially since I was not going back to Poland.”
In addition to attending classes full time at City Tech, Nowak currently works as an assistant project manager for a Manhattan based consulting firm that deals with documents for compliance with building code and zoning requirements.
Nowak aspires to one-day work as an architect for a firm that specializes in the restoration of New York City landmarks.
According to Nowak, learning to delegate her time and entering the working world particularly the male dominated field of construction and architecture doesn’t’ intimidate her.
“I think women can handle this juggling of responsibilities best as we often have to shift our priorities between family and career to make sure we keep both under control.”