Gustavo Gomez

Age: 30

Electrical engineer

Chelan County PUD

A college internship with the Chelan County PUD turned into a full-time job for Gustavo Gomez back in 2012.

His ability to apply academic learning to the workplace and his passion to learn the many facets of the utility led to a job offer then, and his supervisors, who nominated him for 30 Under 35 this year, say that hasn’t changed.

“Gustavo proves he can learn new specialties of expertise at hydropower projects quickly, having played integral roles in automation of spillways at the Rocky Reach project and modeling generating equipment — helping meet federal regulatory requirements and ensuring reliability throughout the Western U.S. electrical grid. Both specialties are critical to Columbia River hydropower operations,” reads the nomination. “You put a project in front of him, and he not only learns what he needs academically, he gets it done operationally.”

Raised in Entiat and Malaga, Gomez graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Washington State University. He was the first member of his family to complete college. He also mentors high school students on “a day in the life of a hydropower engineer” and has helped with math competitions at elementary schools.

“When I started my employment, it seemed impossible to understand the many moving pieces involved in simply completing a project or task,” he said. “Now I am able to complete projects and provide engineering support for most electrical issues that arise at the hydroelectric dams. It is rewarding to be trusted as one of the few plant engineers supporting the generation equipment at Chelan County PUD because our generators are some of our largest assets and they are unique in their designs.”

How have you responded in your personal and professional life during these uncertain times?

COVID-19 and recent political movements have created some uncertain times. Regarding the former, my family and I have been taking precautions to practice social distancing, wear face coverings in public, and reduce exposure as much as possible. I have also been working from home whenever possible.

Regarding the latter, I try to have an open and understanding mindset. It is our responsibility to look at things like this with our fellow Americans in mind and strive to always improve our nation for future generations.

Amanda Vargas

Age: 34

Supply chain analyst and special projects

Stemilt Growers

Amanda Vargas started working for Stemilt Growers in 2007 as a night shift apple sorter while attending Wenatchee Valley College. She continued working there after earning her associate degree.

“In my first couple of years, I held several different roles on the packing lines and then transferred to the shipping department. I was intrigued by the produce industry and realized there was opportunity to learn and grow within the company,” she said.

Thirteen years later, she is still intrigued, earning recognition from her co-workers who describe her as hardworking, determined and an up-and-coming leader.

“She never shies away from a challenging project, bringing insight and knowledge to the table,” reads her nomination for 30 Under 35. “She has strong interpersonal skills and is willing to set aside time for others to help ensure their successes. She continually seeks out more responsibility, all the while balancing being a full-time working wife and mother.”

In 2012, she became inventory supervisor, discovering she really enjoys developing strategies and problem solving. Later assignments included logistics specialist and IT functional analyst before moving to her current position in January 2019 as supply chain analyst, helping manage inventory on a global level and leading special projects.

“I am known as a go-to person for analyzing situations and solving problems,” she said. “Stemilt encourages growth and often trains and promotes employees within the company, which is one thing I greatly admire about this company.”

How have you responded in your personal and professional life during these uncertain times?

The unprecedented times we are going through have tested us in many ways. My response has been simple in theory yet difficult in action: Be flexible and reframe!

I was used to working full time in the office and warehouse, participating in multiple face-to-face meetings every day, then going home to my family. As I quickly found myself working full time from home, my personal and professional life mashed together and stress mounted.

I realized that having a routine was essential, as was maintaining balance between work and home.

I started paying closer attention to the positive things that were coming to light through the uncertainty. As a technologically adept person, it was exciting to help my co-workers embrace newfound tools like Microsoft Teams and Power BI that we were implementing when the pandemic hit. Doing so enabled me to stay connected and in better communication with my colleagues. To help with separation of work and home, I followed a routine as closely as I could but accepted that not every day looked the same.

As a mother I realized that the extra time I had with my children was invaluable.

Uncertainty has become part of our daily lives. When unexpected events or challenges arise, I adapt to the situation, reframe negativity and focus on the things that I can positively impact.

Cristina Escalera

Age: 30

Assistant branch manager, Wenatchee

Numerica Credit Union

Cristina Escalera went from teller to lobby manager to assistant branch manager at Wenatchee’s Numerica Credit Union in the span of six years.

Her success, according to her supervisors, comes from her dedication, problem-solving skills and can-do attitude.

She secured their admiration by returning to Wenatchee Valley College nearly a decade after graduating from Eastmont High School to earn an associate degree in 2017 — while working full time, raising a young family and supporting her husband’s startup business.

She has gone on to participate in this year’s Wenatchee Valley Chamber Leadership Group, serve as a Numerica mentor and sit on Numerica’s Hispanic Committee.

Escalera said earning her degree is a big accomplishment.

“I did it to show myself that it can be done and be a big role model for my girls,” she said.

How have you responded in your personal and professional life during these uncertain times?

I think that both in my personal and professional life it has been to take it one day at a time, especially with all these changes coming all the time. I'm trying to stay positive through it all because at times there is nothing that we can do that is in our control and if there is I have tried to take it positively.

Personally, we try and comply with the regulations given by our government as much as possible.

Professionally, Numerica has also been very aware and on top of all the changes and we have put them all into practice to keep our community and our employees safe. We can only hope that things get back to normal soon.

Jess Tyrrell

Age: 32

Registered dietitian

Confluence Health

Jess Tyrrell struggled with obesity during her teens and 20s before making a choice 14 years ago to live a healthier lifestyle. She lost 130 pounds over six years and, in the process, found her true passion.

“Through my own weight loss journey, I discovered what lit my soul on fire and I decided to make it my mission in life to help others live a healthy lifestyle,” she said.

She is now a registered dietitian for Confluence Health and is the wellness dietitian for the employee wellness program. She hosts multiple weight loss support groups for Confluence employees and engages with others outside of the organization.

Getting to that point took some time.

Education had not been a priority, she said. She almost did not graduate from high school and had half-heartedly started college three times. The fourth time, in this case, was the charm.

She completed her bachelor’s degree in food science and nutrition at Central Washington University in 2016 and followed that with a master’s degree in nutrition in 2019, which included completing a 1,200-hour supervised internship through CWU’s Dietetic Internship program. She passed the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist exam in 2018 and is registered in the state of Washington as a Certified Dietitian.

Prior to COVID-19, she was teaching bike classes at Worx of Wenatchee Valley and guest speaking at the high school on a regular basis. She also was invited to participate in community projects, such as the Inspirement Plan and Doc Talks at Confluence Health.

She leads by example, she said.

“Growing up in poverty and being told I would never succeed has set the tone for me; it pushes me to break free from this pattern and to share the message with every child and teenager that success is always possible,” she said. “We get to be whoever we want if we are willing to work hard and be present every single day.”

How have you responded in your personal and professional life during these uncertain times?

Working in health care has been eye opening during these times of uncertainty. We have had to roll with the punches, change frequently and learn new ways to do our jobs through technology.

I have a reputation for being constantly positive and happy, and I have tried my hardest to maintain that throughout the past few months. I continue to encourage people to become the healthiest version of themselves without the use of the gym, which I do miss a great deal.

I do my best to encourage people that I have met from the gym (or other settings) to stay active to stay in shape. In addition, I have switched my education efforts to match community needs and help support local businesses while encouraging healthy food choices.

With the ever-changing environment of providing patient care, I have done my best to transition smoothly to virtual visits to reassure patients regarding their care and treatment and to adjust to meet the needs of my patients, my department and Confluence Health as a whole.

I have continued to run the Confluence Health Wellness Weight Loss Support Group remotely and I have adjusted my work hours to assist both patients and friends with their diet needs and questions. 

Armando Bendito-Zepeda

Age: 26

Associate accountant


Armando Bendito-Zepeda has focused the work ethic he learned from his parents into college and career, ultimately paving the way for his younger sisters as a first-generation college student and successful professional.

He started his college education at Wenatchee Valley College and completed his undergraduate degree in accounting at Eastern Washington University in 2016.

“It was a victory not only for my immediate family, but for all of the cousins and extended family,” his sister Teresa Bendito said. “He taught us to persevere and never give up on our educational goals.”

A year later, when he was 23 years old, he bought his first house.

He had graduated debt-free, commuting back to Wenatchee from Cheney every other weekend to continue working at Pybus Bistro.

Once he earned his degree and landed his first career job — doing tax audits for the state Department of Revenue — he continued working at the restaurant.

“I would save as much as I could knowing I wanted to purchase a home as soon as possible,” he said. “I had grown up moving from place to place around the valley and I wanted one place that our family could finally call home.”

It changed the family’s outlook.

“This was the first time that my family was able to move into a home after spending years renting apartments, and being displaced from mobile home parks,” Teresa Bendito said. “This immediately provided our family with housing stability, something that we never had in our time living in this valley.”

After buying the house for his parents, he continued working the second job and saving his money, with plans to buy a second house — one for him.

He purchased it in January 2019. It’s not too far from his parents’ home.

About that same time, he joined CliftonAllenLarson, an accounting firm large enough to specialize in a variety of business services, which would allow him to expand his accounting experience.

“My goal is to one day be able to help families in the situation much like the one I grew up in, without a stable place to call home,” he said.

How have you responded in your personal and professional life during these uncertain times?

This year has been unlike any other. All my goals, family gatherings and other events were put on an indefinite hold. There is a great level of uncertainty. I believe in order to be successful, I must be able to pivot and adapt to unexpected situations. Life is not always as easy as we draw it up.

While I’m currently at CLA, I do not work at Pybus Bistro due to COVID-19. Tax season is an extremely busy time that requires me to have just one job January through April 15. But as we know, dine-in restaurants were shut down for about three months and the tax deadline for individuals was extended until July 15.

I appreciate CLA and its leadership for managing to not have layoffs. I accepted the fact that I would have only one job for an unforeseeable future and to just focus on the job I had in front of me.

I continued to work hard through the extended July 15 deadline and have decided to study for the CPA exam after the new deadline.

My hope is that we will be able to move to a new phase once it is safe for our community. I will continue to work during these uncertain times to reach my next goal of passing the CPA exam.

Nevonne McDaniels: 664-7151