Faces of CNM: Sonya Sena
Sonya at the Smith's store on Carlisle at Constitution that she helps manage.

Faces of CNM: Sonya Sena

A graduate of CNM’s Retail Management program, Sonya now helps run one of Albuquerque’s most well-known Smith’s stores.
July 13, 2018

Sonya Sena likes to tell a story when she talks about how the Retail Management program at CNM helped her and her family succeed.

Before enrolling in the program, Sonya and her daughter just got by. Sonya’s a single mom and sometimes had to work multiple jobs to stay afloat. Her 18-year-old daughter, who’s always been interested in pharmacy work, knew there wasn’t enough money for a four-year college so she was going to pursue a two-year Pharmacy Tech degree instead.

After graduating from the program last fall, however, life changed. With her program certificate, Sonya was able to apply for and get the Assistant Store Director job at a local Smith’s grocery store. She was up against other qualified candidates, but the certificate and all the training it came with put her at the top of the list.

Sonya is now salaried, leading a store full of employees, and making enough money to support her daughter through school. Her daughter plans to attend CNM for the Pharmacy Tech associate degree and then transfer to a university for a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy down the road.

“The certificate from CNM has been everything to me,” Sonya said. “I finally have a healthy work/life balance and the doors are wide open for my daughter.”

The certificate program, which was created through a partnership with the Western Association of Food Chains, helped teach Sonya everything from how to use and create an accounting spreadsheet, to best practices for business professionalism. Since she was already a long-term Smith’s employee when she decided to enroll at CNM, the company paid for all her tuition and did everything it could to help her find shifts that worked with her school schedule.

“Knowing that I was working for a company that wanted to invest in me created real loyalty,” she said.

Nonetheless, the years she was in school were not easy. Sonya said she often took the 4 p.m. to midnight shifts so she could go to class during the day. Sometimes she was so tired she would fall asleep on her tablet at night and wake up with tablet lines all over her face.

The classes themselves were also challenging. She enjoyed the work, but really struggled with some of the subject matter. Math was not her strong suit, but there was always someone who could help.

“CNM did everything it could to make the journey as easy as possible,” she said. “There were tutors who were always there to explain what I didn’t understand, and I came away feeling like you really have to want to fail with all the help that’s accessible at CNM.”

Watching her at her job nowadays, it’s clear Sonya loves what she does and that her employees respect and appreciate her leadership. Walking through the aisles of the Smith’s at Carlisle and Constitution where she works, she greeted everyone by name, made everyone smile, and ensured they had what they needed to get their job done.

“It’s definitely been a long couple years getting here,” she said. “But I couldn’t be happier.”