“I had a great experience. I really enjoyed learning (at SRJC). The faculty there was awesome, especially in the electronics program (and) they were really helpful in working with you if you have an ‘off’ schedule.”
Healdsburg native Chris Lee enjoys working on automation systems as an engineering technician for Labcon, the world's leading manufacturer of earth-friendly laboratory disposables based in Petaluma. He didn’t know that’s where he would end up, but Santa Rosa Junior College helped him get there.
Chris was a teenager when he had his first positive experiences with SRJC; at the time, the college held first responder classes at Healdsburg High School, and he took photography at the Santa Rosa campus. Those classes began Chris’s multi-year relationship with the College.
At 18, he graduated high school, and joined the military in the San Diego area, taking more community college classes while he was there.
When he returned to Sonoma County, he began taking general education classes at SRJC. He was still in school when “I ended up getting hired full-time by JDS Uniphase Corporation (JDSU) in Santa Rosa.” They appreciated his military experience, electronics background and mechanical aptitude. Happily, JDSU saw talent in Chris, and paid for his education in SRJC’s electronics program.
“I had a great experience,” Chris said. “I really enjoyed learning there. The campus (in Santa Rosa) is beautiful.” He remembered “great instructors, they were awesome, especially in the electronics program. They made things interesting in a field where some of the information can be dry.” He also made good friends at the College, some of whom had a background like his. “Because it’s a vocational program, you get a lot of older students who have come from the military, or have taken time off to pursue other careers and are coming back to pursue a new trade.”
It was challenging to juggle a full-time job and a full course load, so Chris was grateful that “instructors were really helpful in working with you if you have an ‘off’ schedule.” He also appreciated counselors who helped him figure out what classes he could and should take.
His SRJC education has been a big help to his career and his prospects. “The skills you learn from an electronics program are universal. I could go to a foreign country and get the same kind of work, because it’s a foreign language in itself. You’re learning how to repair things that not a lot of people understand, and it’s the same worldwide.”
Looking for a way to advance, he eventually found his way to a position at Labcon, a manufacturing company with $35 million in annual sales and 230 employees. He’s very happy there. “Everybody pretty much knows each other; it’s pretty close-knit. Everybody’s looking out for each other,” Chris says. “We’ve had employees leave our company, go to our competitor, and end up coming back because they like the work environment.”
This married father of two children always enjoys learning. “Manufacturing is constantly changing,” he says, and he is interested in taking more courses like welding and machine tool technology. Whenever he wants to improve his skills or knowledge, he’ll know SRJC will be there to give him a hand.
SRJC's Applied Technology Department offers programs in numerous industries leading to a variety of career paths. For more information, visit their site and/or meet with a counselor.