I got started in IT in an unlikely way. I was in retail management (athletic shoes) at the time and I was looking for a career that would provide better hours and benefits. I was in my early twenties and decided to take a temp job at a large insurance company HQ in Columbus, Ohio. I had no previous experience in IT but I demonstrated a willingness to learn. Initially I landed an executive assistant job within the Business Architecture team. This was the first time I had really worked directly in an IT environment. There was much to learn and I realized very quickly that my management skills in retail transferred really well to this team. The majority of the work we did was with stakeholders/sponsors of large new development projects. Our team would facilitate the discussions with the stakeholders and the development teams. We were also responsible for project governance, project budget oversight and use of standard patterns and practices. I quickly picked up additional responsibilities (by asking for them) and earned my spot on the team as a business analyst. From there I decided to study for my PMP and moved into more of a project management career path still working with the Business Architecture team which later became the Project Lifecycle Solutions Team.
In 2001 my husband joined the Army and we were expecting our son Brenden. In June 2002 we left Ohio and moved to Ft. Riley, Kansas. I decided to take a break from my Project Management career to support our military and focus on being a mother. During this time I volunteered as a family readiness group leader, studied abnormal psychology and started a cleaning business on the side. I learned some valuable lessons about having grace under extreme circumstances, motivating people under extremely stressful situations and building supportive communities.
In 2005 I returned to Columbus, Ohio and at the time I was going to return to the insurance industry where I had an established track record and connections. However, this would not be the path I ultimately chose. My brother-in-law asked me to consider coming to work at a small consulting firm that specialized in executive search and IT consulting. I agreed to meet with the leadership of this company and was offered an opportunity to take a role with the sales team under the IT consulting division of the company. My project management background came in very handy during this transition. Shortly after starting at this firm, SharePoint really started to gain popularity among their customer base and the leadership decided to begin building a SharePoint practice. They hired their first SharePoint consultant, Jennifer Ann Mason, and she and I set out to build a practice together.
During this time I also teamed up with some other local leaders (including Jen) and we started our local SharePoint User Group and hosted our first SharePoint Saturday in Columbus.
In 2008 I was ready for my next challenge and SharePoint had really starting hitting a fever pitch in the industry and I really longed to get back into delivering software solutions. At this point I decided to join the largest privately owned IT consulting firm in Columbus, Ohio. From 2008-2013 I worked with their leadership to build a successful SharePoint practice and support our regional SharePoint community through events, sponsorship and thought leadership. I continued my involvement in our local technology community and picked up an additional role in support of our local Microsoft Dog Food Conference.
In 2013 I was again ready to seek new opportunities that could offer me additional upward career movement and skills advancement. I decided to take a role with Avanade. I continue to be very happy with my decision to move to Avanade and they continue to give me opportunities to take on new challenges both technically and from a career growth perspective.
Over the last 16 years of my IT career, I have collected a few observations that I will share with you now.
- Don't be afraid to learn something new or admit you don't know something.
- Look to connect with other women in the IT industry. Build each other up, help one another, be visible and approachable because the generations behind you are watching.
- Seek mentors (both men and women) who are willing to give you coaching and constructive feedback to help you grow. These mentors might change as your career matures.
- Build your own personal “cabinet of advisors” - have a list of people you trust that you can use as a sounding board throughout your career.
- Get involved in your local technology community. When women see other women leading and making an impact, it inspires them to get more involved.
- Stay flexible and adjust your career goals as you grow. Don't be afraid to take risks.