Working in IT has prepared me to work in many other fields.
Back when we had computer rooms I would wait until everyone in my house was asleep and type fanfiction on the computer. When said computer would break, I would find any way to fix it because “it couldn’t get any more broke.” My success rate was about 70 percent in fixing said desktop computer but that was great for teenage me as I had no IT tech experience. Or so I thought I had no IT experience. Before Facebook, a bunch of us were learning basic HTML and CSS to code our Myspace pages. I was also dabbling a little deeper for my B2K fanfiction website hosted by MSN Groups. I went deeper down that rabbit hole and wrote PhotoShop lesson plans for my Highschool Computer Teacher after she told me she wanted to teach it, but she had not the slightest clue on how to use it. I thought all these things were just me being creative. Turns out I was breaking stuff and trying to fix it and that was feeding my inner STEM student.
I did all that to graduate with a BA in Professional Writing and Mass Media Communications. I was trying to make a journalism degree happen at a school that didn’t have one and one of the biggest lessons that I learned outside of the classroom was transferable skills.
Take a little bit of everything you do somewhere else and apply it because most likely that will set you apart from the rest of the pack when in the workplace.@justdae
I got rejected from my dream internships at Pittsburgh Magazine, Whirl Magazine, The City Paper, and all the newspapers in Pittsburgh for not having enough experience. I was willing to go get these people coffee for free and of course, college credit but they all told me no. I was frustrated but as the professional optimist I am, I kept writing and redirected. By senior year, I had three years of secretarial experience under my belt from working in the Student Affairs office. It felt right to take a position in the Department of Education at my alma mater.
This is where all those transferable skills came in. Since no one would pay me to be a writer at the time. I decided I would insert writing and communications into every job that I could. I wrote web copy for the Student Teaching Portal, Instructional Design for an online course, and all the press releases for the department. It was to the point where Penny in the Communications Department was probably tired of me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to take any of this proprietary information with me but I tucked it away as experience.
My departure came and went after about three years. I ended up at Point Park in the Registrar’s Office recommending procedures and editing course catalogs. By the time I was finished in Higher Education Administration I had worked in almost every department except for financial aid.
I grounded myself from being a flight attendant because I was living in New York making less money with a full-time job than I did from my three part-time jobs in college. I assessed my values and my peace portfolio, and a temp agency talked me into a data steward position. It was quality assurance at the beginning and then I got promoted to a business analyst where I was doing root-cause analysis, user experience, and project management. I spent a great deal of my time looking for a way to cut waste. When I first thought of waste, I was thinking of money, but little did I ever think it would be all about time. Money can be earned again and again but once the time is gone it’s gone.
I found ways to cut processes and procedures and to create a better user-end experience. 2014 me fresh into IT wouldn’t even know what that sentence meant. My six years as a business analysis have taught me to find patterns in problems and to be proactive instead of being reactive. When the same tickets from different vendors come in, I question how I can be proactive and answer questions before they are asked and catch problems before they are thorns. I can’t be psychic and catch everything but watching for patterns and thinking about how the problem arose in the first place is a great solution to imploding the problem in the first place. At some point, I was sitting around waiting for tickets to come and found a report with all the things that would one day most likely become tickets, so I began to work these reports to decrease the ticket load earning me a Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt. Finally, all my administrative assistant experience had prepared me for some light project management tying the beginning of my employment journey to my present.
If present me knew what I knew now, I would’ve pressed for cross-training in my executive roles because there is no way that one person should hold all the knowledge in the workplace. Everyone should know how to do a little of everything because of Person A gets hit by a bus then no one knows A’s job that’s money and time that will be wasted on training the new person for that position. Being proactive in any position is a key component to job security. No one is ever fired because they went out of their way to exceed a customer’s expectations.
If you would’ve told me back in 2014 that I could get into IT without an IT degree I wouldn’t have believed you. If you would’ve told me I would be asking for a promotion at said full-time job, I also wouldn’t have believed it. Seven years later I know it’s not only possible for a Black Woman to be in Tech but it’s common because most companies need someone with a creative edge and a diverse background. There aren’t many women in Tech and the arena gets smaller when it comes to Black Women in Tech.
Sheryl Sandberg said something that stuck with me every time I heard it. “57% of men entering [the workforce] are negotiating their first salary, and only 7% of women are.” Negotiate and apply for that job that you think that you’re not qualified for but pause and take a second look at the boring and dry job description and compare it to your creative resume full of transferable skills that you’ve pulled from your many jobs. Your dream job is out there but you just don’t think you’re qualified for it and if our former question mark of a president taught us anything if you apply yourself enough the world is somehow your oyster.
People with highly transferable skills may be specialists in certain areas, but they’re also incredible generalists – something businesses that want to grow need. — Leah Busque