Olexa C. was an outstanding student that graduated from the Court Reporting Program! Olexa was selected to be the student graduation speaker for the 2018 Graduation Commencement Ceremony. We interviewed her about her time at Plaza, as well as her life as a court reporter after graduating, which you can read below!
Q: How long did it take you to graduate with your degree?
I graduated the program in December of last year and have been working for about a year. When I first started the program, I had a goal in mind to graduate in 2 years, and I was very happy that I graduated in 2 years, 3 months. It was very important for me to graduate within a 2-year time frame because I was paying for college out of pocket. I had already gone to college previously and was not eligible for financial aid. I was also very determined to finish quickly because I’m a single mom and wanted to start earning “real” money as soon as I could. Another reason I was very motivated to graduate quickly was because I met my now fiancée when I first started school, and I knew we would get married and buy a house after I finished school. While in school, I managed to balance raising my daughter, setting aside time to practice every day, and work part time. You are in control of how quickly you graduate. The amount of time you practice every day and how committed you are to the program determines how quickly you can graduate.
Q: Is Court Reporting everything you thought it would be?
Nothing in life is ever exactly how you think it will be, but what I know for sure is that the things in life that are worth the most are worth working hard for. This profession requires a lot of work and dedication both in school and after you graduate. There are always things you are learning, and you are constantly adding words in English to your stenographic dictionary. Think of all the words there are in the English language and building a dictionary of those words in another language! When I’m not at a deposition, I’m busy at home working on transcripts. Even though this is a challenging profession, there are a lot of rewards. How many other professions can you name that only require an associate’s degree, the ability to make as much money as you want, the ability to make your own schedule, and job security for the rest of your life?! The odds of finding a job like that today are very slim! The ability to make your own schedule is invaluable, especially for working moms. Personally, I believe there is no amount of money in the world that can make up for the ability to make your own schedule. I have the ability to plan my schedule around doctor visits, parent/teacher conferences, and whatever else I need to take care of. There is enough work in court reporting that you could work five days if you wanted to, or you can work two days a week. You can make this profession into how you want you want it to be.
This is also a lucrative profession, and you can expect to make more money as you progress in your career and earn various certifications. I might even have two jobs in one day because my agency needs me for an emergency spot call and is scrambling to find a reporter. We are very much in demand.
Q: Are you freelancing or working in the courts? What is your current speed?
I am a freelance court reporter. For me, personally, having the ability to freelance was a major reason I chose to become a court reporter. Like I said, I believe this is no amount of money in the world that can pay you in lieu of the ability to make your own schedule. I’m the type of person that doesn’t like sitting behind a desk 9pm – 5pm all day and having to report to a boss. When I graduated the program, I exited with a speed of 225 words per minute, which is required to graduate. I admit I don’t have a lot of time to practice now, so my speed has dropped a little because I’m not in the habit of practicing every day to pass tests. In your first year of court reporting, your main priorities are to get adjusted to the job, figure out how to handle a manageable workload, and make money.
Q: Are you going to get your RPR or CRR within the next year?
I do plan to eventually get my certifications in the next year. Like I mentioned, I spent this year, which was my first year out of school, getting adjusted to the job. This is a craft, and like a fine craftsman, you need to continue to hone your skill. It takes time to get used to the weekly flow of writing at depositions, producing transcripts, and building your dictionary.
Q: Would you recommend this program to your friends or family?
I would recommend this program to everyone. I am very fortunate that I chose this school and received a high-quality education. The teachers here are excellent and truly care about the students. They will bend over backwards to help you in whatever way you need. They have the students’ best interests at heart and make it their duty to turn you into a great reporter.
Q. If you are freelancing, do you work for one or more than one agency?
I currently work for one agency, although I’ve worked for and “shopped around” with different agencies. It’s important for you to do the footwork and explore different agencies and find the one best suited for you. When you’re in school, you are required to do an internship, and you want to use that time to sit in with different agencies and take advantage of your internship and see how they operate. What is the staff like? Are they professional or rude and/or disorganized? What kind of jobs do they have? What are their attorney clients like? The bottom line is how much are they willing to pay you and how much work they have to give you on a weekly basis.
Q: Are you a member of the NCRA?
I am a member of the NCRA, and I get a lovely monthly magazine as part of my membership and discounts to various things including certification testing. It’s a good way to stay connected to people in the industry and keep up to date with what’s going on. Because we’re in such a niche field where we’re working independently, you will want to stay connected to people after you graduate and find mentors to guide you.
Q: Did you have a mentor when you were in school?
I signed up for a mentor through the NCRA mentorship program and was paired with Josh Edwards, a former graduate and current instructor of this school. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor and am so fortunate to have Josh in my life. Josh has evolved into a friend and has helped me in so many ways. Ever since I was a student, he has always been there to answer my frantic texts and phone calls whenever I was nervous or had some hurdle with court reporting I needed to overcome. He is super generous with his time and will not hesitate to let me or anyone else in on his tricks of the trade. He is well known in the court reporting community and a great leader, and I always strove to follow in his example. I take him out to lunch once in a while because I find the advice he gives me is so valuable.
Even after school, I’ve also taken it upon myself and reached out for advice from other amazing people in the profession, including Mark Kislingbury, who is considered the Michael Jordan of court reporting and holds the Guinness World Record for fastest court reporter. It’s very important for me to gain wisdom from more experienced reporters and learn as much as I can from them, thus making me a better reporter.
Q: How did you feel about the court reporting program here at Plaza College?
I feel very fortunate that I chose to study at Plaza, even though I had other options. The staff here is excellent and they really care for the students. When I finished the program last December, I interviewed for four different companies and they all wanted me to come work for them. I felt more than ready to start working because of what I learned in school and because of my internship. The world of court reporting has opened up many doors for me and given me the financial freedom that I always wanted. I’ve been out of school for a year and am now enjoying house hunting with my fiancée in Long Island. It’s an amazing feeling to look back on my journey and appreciate how hard I worked and finally enjoy the fruits of my labor. I know that I have finally found a career that I will have the rest of my life.
Q: Would you mentor a student if they wanted to ask you some other questions?
I am definitely open to being a mentor. My personal email is olexacapilI@gmail.com for anyone that has questions. I love mentoring students and am often invited back at the college to speak to current students. It’s very gratifying for me to be able to pass on real life experiences and prepare others to become court reporters. I had a lot of great people who help me along the way, and it’s my pleasure to pay it forward.