Bessy Varela

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to BioSci

I am an immigrant and a first-generation college student.  I received my bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara and following the advice of a mentor, I decided to get a job with a UC until I could figure out what I wanted to do next.  I applied to jobs at UCLA and UC Irvine and was offered an entry-level position at UC Irvine with the Office of Academic Computing (currently OIT).

I came to Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Sciences (Bio Sci) in 1999 as a front desk administrative assistant for Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (MB&B). I left Bio Sci to try other opportunities, but came back to MB&B in 2004 as a contracts and grants analyst.  Then in 2006, I was hired as MB&B’s department administrator.  Working in Bio Sci has been rewarding, challenging and beneficial to my personal and professional development.

2. How did you get into your field?

My first administrative job was work-study student at UCSB and I was fortunate enough to work with a great group of individuals who, through the years, became my mentors.  One of these individuals was an exceptional woman who took time out of her busy day to listen, provided feedback, and held me accountable for the projects that were assigned to me.  Later, when I got my first full-time job with UCSB, she continued to encourage and guide me as I started my administrative career with UC.

3. What do you enjoy most about what you do at BioSci?

I enjoy working with a collaborative team to solve problems and support the teaching and research mission of the department and the school as a whole. I also enjoy the variety each day brings…the job is constantly changing so it offers learning opportunities and professional growth.

4. What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of managing and leading successful administrative teams throughout the years.  These teams are made up of diverse, knowledgeable, and collaborative individuals, who work hard to provide outstanding customer service to our faculty, grad students and staff.  I am also proud of the fact that the training, knowledge and skills that these individuals acquire in our department have helped many of them successfully promote within UCI.


5. Can you speak to the importance of diversity and representation in the workplace?

I strongly believe that having a diverse team is a benefit to the department and/or institution.A diverse team is one made up of individuals that have different characteristics such as race, age, gender, education, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. The mixture of the different characteristics each individual brings to the team adds value to the workplace by increasing creativity, and offering new perspectives which may ultimately lead to innovation.  Another important benefit of diversity is that it provides a larger talent pool which improves recruitment efforts. However, having a diverse workforce is not sufficient, employees also need to see that these individuals are representing the organization at different levels.  If employees have supervisors from various backgrounds and cultures, possibly from their own or similar to their own culture, then they will feel more comfortable, possibly more understood, and be more open to speaking up and become more productive employees.

6. What is one piece of advice you can give to young women entering their careers?

Be willing to learn as much as possible…be a sponge.

7. Who do you look up to? What is your source of inspiration?

My grandmother and my mother.  Strong women who were leaders. Women who didn’t shy away from working hard to ensure their families had food and shelter, and a better future.

8. What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work?

Spending time with my husband and kids.  It doesn’t matter what we do or where we go, we always have a great time together.

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