An intrepid member of Guttman’s inaugural class, Carl Headley graduated with his associate degree in Information Technology in 2015. He went on to earn a bachelor’s in Computer Systems at CUNY’s City Tech. In 2017, Headley applied for a position with New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority and began his employment with the MTA in 2021.
Wait a minute—you applied in 2017, but only got hired by the MTA in 2021?
That’s right, and I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I say that because there are some people who applied for positions who didn’t hear back for almost ten years, so I lucked out with a rather quick call back. I’m a track worker, I work the night shift. I clock in at 10 p.m. and finish my shift at 6 a.m. Working those hours took some getting used to, but I don’t mind it. I still feel like I have time to do things in the afternoon and evenings, plus I have weekends off, so that’s good. I appreciate that we’re represented by a union, too. They fight for us in the event of an on-the-job injury, wage increases, and other benefits.
Since the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, the Transit Workers Union has especially fought hard for its frontline workers, because the pandemic really hit us hard. My job entails the safety and upkeep of track infrastructure. We’re trained to maintain the tracks, look for hazards, set up flagging lights to alert trains to workers being on the tracks, and basically to notice anything out of the ordinary on-site, like unauthorized people in the tunnels, debris on the tracks, that sort of thing. I and my gang once reported a bag found by a customer that was left on the trains once—things like that, help keep everyone safe.
Thank you! You studied computers, right? Does your job tap into your academic training?
Not yet, but that’s what I’m aiming for. I had to get my foot in the door first. As long-time employees retire, I will have more opportunities to apply my technological skills, and that’s my plan. We get sent to work on tracks all over the city, so I get to meet a lot of people in the MTA, and you never know how that could lead to hearing about an opening. In fact, I got into transit initially, through a friend who’s a bus operator, who suggested I apply. I hadn’t considered it before but I’m glad I did because the opportunities for advancement are plenty. But computers are everywhere and people are always going to need public transportation, so I think it’s a pretty secure job, and I will always have an opportunity to utilize the skills I learned in school.
Now, tell me what it was like to be part of Guttman’s very first class when you started in 2012. You took a bold leap, coming to a brand-new college, CUNY’s newest community college in 40 years! Are you a huge risk-taker?
I don’t really think so, but yes, I guess in some ways it took a lot to start something so new. I was skeptical at first. None of us knew what to expect. In high school, our teachers would always warn us that nobody would be looking out for us; we’d have to figure everything out for ourselves. In a way, that’s true, but at Guttman, they were always looking out for us. Guttman has a strong structure and support system that gave us a lot of strategies. That makes it very different, in a good way. I had some great professors, like Parviz Kermani, whom we were lucky to have.
I was able to be a Peer Mentor at the College from 2017 to 2019. When I needed an internship for my degree at City Tech, I asked Robert Klein, the director of IT, and got to intern at Guttman. From there, I applied for a paid position as a tech ambassador during COVID, where I was able to help students and faculty whilst everything went to being online.
I always ask Guttman alums, what do you do for fun? We’re so focused on success, and meaningful work is important, but it’s not the only thing—fun is part of success, too!
I’m active with my church in Brooklyn and like to hang out with friends from there. Oh, and I love playing table tennis at Bryant Park. Believe it or not, I didn’t even know they had it when I was a student at Guttman right across the street! I started playing when Guttman got the table tennis table in 2013 and began playing more consistently once I transferred to City Tech in 2015. I stopped playing for a while because of school and work but started playing again more often at Bryant Park in 2019. Believe me, there are some serious table tennis players that go there, Olympic-level players! I like that it’s open to everybody, though, no matter what level you are. Bryant Park has so much going on. You should try it.
Dr. Claire King, an inaugural Guttman faculty member, interviewed Carl Headley before his night shift.