Staff Spotlight – Jacqueline Gaetano – Her career journey

Jacqueline Gaetano, FacilitiesJacqueline Gaetano has had quite a journey during her 19 years at Yale. These days, as a Facilities Superintendent for the music and Cross Campus areas, she keeps busy managing 21 buildings and the 17 staff members that report to her. Her journey started in the Yale Divinity School’s dining hall, with a work-study job she got just after graduating from Eli Whitney Technical High School. Well-liked by her manager and co-workers, she bid-on and transitioned to a part-time stint working the weekend grill at Timothy Dwight (TD) College. From there, she secured a full-time custodian position responsible for both TD and Silliman Colleges.

As the years passed, Jacqueline worked hard, continued to learn all she could, and constantly looked for opportunities to advance her career. For several years, she held the position of Local 35 Union Steward, where she learned the intricacies of the union contract, spent time lobbying for workers and working on the safety committee. She then transferred back to the Divinity School as a custodian. Soon after, with encouragement from her customers, she applied for and was rewarded a pilot custodial team leader position. After graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree, Jacqueline moved into her current managerial position.

During her journey, Jacqueline returned to college at night, while working and raising a family. She credits Yale’s tuition reimbursement program with helping her to continue and eventually finish her studies. In addition, she received a scholarship from the Yale University Women’s Organization.

Currently, Jacqueline lives in North Haven with her husband and four children—3 boys and 1 girl. She is expecting her fifth child next March. She, her husband and kids are very active in their local church, Vox Church.

What made you decide to go back to college?

Originally, and while I was working at Yale, I thought I wanted to become a nurse. I eventually decided to pursue a career at Yale and changed my major. In 2017, I graduated from Southern CT State University with a B.S. in public health.

How did you hear about the scholarship?

My supervisor, Julie Renko, encouraged me to apply for it. That scholarship, and Yale’s tuition reimbursement program, really helped keep me going. It would have been very challenging to go to college without those two resources. Julie was very supportive of me going to school and helped me to balance responsibilities of my career and personal life.

How long after graduation did you become a manager?

Before I could get my degree, I had to complete an internship. I was lucky to work with Ginger Chapman and the staff at the Office of Sustainability. After I finished my shift, I’d walk over to their office. They tasked me with researching sustainability initiatives including green cleaning methods and across-the-board equipment standards. It’s interesting because some of what I worked on during that time directly impacts me as a supervisor now. For instance, using high-efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) vacuum filters—these reduce the quantity of particles that go back into the air and can cause respiratory issues. Once I completed the internship I was able to graduate.

How does your past experience inform your present role?

Before becoming a manager in 2018, I was very active in Local 35 and was, for a time, a Union Steward. I learned a lot, it was a great experience, and I respect the union. It instilled in me the importance of being consistently fair when dealing with my team and my customers. Fairness is paramount for me. I feel knowing the contract, and understanding the rights of employees, is important and helpful to me as a manager. I think it makes it a bit easier having been a union member myself.

Advice to others wanting to move ahead at Yale?

Don’t be afraid to try something new. There are so many opportunities for growth at Yale and the facilities managers are very supportive. When you move around and try different jobs, you can learn different sides of the university and acquire different skills - both very valuable. It may take some time to move up, but be patient; it will be worth the wait. If you asked me many years ago if I would be in my current position, I would have laughed. But looking back and ahead I feel I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

Best Yale memory.

It is so hard to pin point a “best memory,” but what I can say is that I’m grateful for the people at Yale, which are the customers, students, union employees, and managers. I have made such great connections with so many different people through the years. The people at Yale make all the time spent at work well worth it. I could not have asked for better work life memories.