January 4, 2022

Growing with Catalyst – Celebrating 10 Years as an Attendance & Enrollment Supervisor!

By Valerie Kelly

We recently interviewed Gabriela Barriga about her journey working for us. At Catalyst Family, Gabriela has held a variety of different positions and has seen the organization through many changes. 

How long have you been with Catalyst Family and what roles have you held? 

I’ve been with the organization for almost 10 years now and I’m the Supervisor for the Attendance and Enrollment Specialists here in Orange County and Oxnard. I started off being hired as a temp doing attendance for several months and later applied for an admin position, where I covered for the front desk for the OC office. Shortly after I became the point person for our CAPP program in OC and then a Superuser for center track. I’ve been in my current role for about 4 years as Attendance and Enrollment Supervisor. 

Tell me about your career and educational background.  

 I went to San Diego State University and studied Sociology for two years before I decided to study abroad in Spain. I loved a lot of the art that was out there, so I decided that I wanted to become a Spanish teacher. When I returned to the states to SDSU, I decided to major in Spanish and minor in English. I worked for a Real Estate company at the time and hosted a radio show in Spanish. When I finished school, I moved back to Orange County. It was difficult to find a position within my field, so I ended up working as an assistant for a CEO who was running a vitamin company. I worked there doing translations for things like PowerPoints and brochures before a friend told me about a position that was open at Catalyst, formerly Child Development Centers. I interviewed and thus began my journey as a temp to hire with the organization. 

What do you enjoy most about working here at Catalyst?  

I think it is the culture that we have built, and by we, I mean the employees. One thing I miss about working from the office since I mostly work at home now is that it felt like I was working at home while I was in the office. Everyone really got along and my supervisors were always understanding whenever I needed time off. We’re all really nurturing and I feel like it is partly due to the field we are working in. For me, it’s knowing that we can count on each other. It feels very homey to me when I think of work and it’s a really nice feeling because it’s the other place where we spend most of our time aside from our own homes. 

What does a typical day look like in your position? 

Right now, I’m short-staffed, so my team is a little smaller than usual. I’m normally supervising 15-17 people and that’s down to 10 right now. My day normally starts around 630-7, just making sure everyone is coming into work. I start checking emails around 7 and seeing if anything came through the previous day that I need to catch up on. Because I work from home now due to COVID, a lot of it has to do with answering emails, texting, a lot of calls, conference calls. I’m doing a lot more trainings now through teams. Teams has become my best friend along with Outlook, my email. 

Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of?  

I think it was becoming a superuser for center track. It was a brand-new system and just me and 3-4 other people were selected to be a superuser. We were given the challenge to learn the system so that we were able to help our assigned regions and I didn’t want to mess anything up. It was a bit nerve-wracking when I had to enter a family for the first time. My supervisor at the time had come to me and said “you just have to go for it.” There was a lot of learning, trial, and error. However, I felt like it was such a wonderful opportunity to learn something new and be part of the entire process from the start. I felt like my input was always welcomed and because of that, I became comfortable with it even though it was a big challenge at the beginning. It’s important to me as a Supervisor to know what I’m teaching and what I’m asking of my team. 

Tell me something that you think makes our organization unique. 

It’s the company culture and employees that make it unique. It is fun coming to work and that’s why I’ve been here for so long- it’s because of the culture and feeling at home. It’s more than just a 9-5 job and I think that’s what I enjoy the most. 

With so many great organizations to support, why should others choose to support Catalyst? 

It’s really what we stand for, we’re helping children. They’re our future.

It’s the main reason for us to have all the resources to provide the enrichment programs that we offer at the centers. We invest a lot of time, energy, love, and care towards these kids because we’re passionate and believe in them. 

What do you wish people knew about the world of child care/camps/etc? 

Childcare is super important and I think a lot of times it’s really downplayed. A lot of people think we’re just babysitting their child or playing a movie from them and aren’t thinking about everything else that goes with it. We offer so many things like camps, activities, enrichment programs, etc. A lot of kids are able to experience things they otherwise wouldn’t in some cases due to affordability difficulty. 

Childcare is very important and for those of us in this field, we’re here because we want to be here and we’re passionate. 

Is there a particular experience/memorable moment that stands out to you in your time at Catalyst?  

I think it was the experience of Covid, we’ve never experienced it before, and I hope we don’t experience it in the future. I was used to supervising a bigger team and when covid hit, half of my team got furloughed. The other half went part-time and I think navigating through all of that and all of the changes that came with it. We were really short-staffed, working really long days, nights, and weekends but we were all doing it with a good attitude. It was one of those moments that was very challenging but also very rewarding. Even though we still face challenges, I always remind myself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and to keep a positive attitude.