I’m an IT professional who focuses on bridging the gap between IT and the business I work for. I’ve been working in the IT field since 1998 in the retail industry, and also food/cpg (consumer packaged goods).
How did you decide which initial career to pursue?
I was previously in the construction industry, but, during a big recession in the early nineties, I decided to quit, retrain, and find a job that also let me work inside (out of the cold Canadian winters). I had a friend from school who was already working in IT, and it sounded like it was worth a look.
Where did you receive your education and how did you find this helped you to begin your career?
I went to Sheridan College, in a co-op program. I originally chose the co-op program to be able to work in the field when not in class, to make contacts, and to be sure that it was going to be a career that I’d enjoy. The co-op program also has the benefit of graduating with a year’s worth of related experience.
I also found that the teachers/professors were very helpful, as most worked in the field already, and had tremendous insights that they were willing to share.
Finally, the hands-on approach that college provides sets you up with current skills that can help you be a functional employee very quickly.
Who provided the most support to you as you were getting started and how did you connect with this person or people?
Many people helped. My first boss was a great model for continuous learning (a definite success factor for the IT field). Also, there were a few project managers that showed me examples of things to do/not to do.
Generally, I found that observation was a very helpful guide. Watch what people do, how they handle situations, and decide if that is the kind of person you’d like to be or not and start modeling yourself accordingly. If you feel so inclined, buy the person a cup of coffee and talk to them in order to see if you can get any more helpful information for your own development.
Please briefly outline your career path beginning from when you first started out after graduating, to where you currently are in your career.
I started by taking a co-op position, after graduation, to get my foot in the door of a large retail chain. Within months, my job was posted as a full-time junior planning analyst, which I applied for and got. I was then promoted 2 years later to a senior planning analyst. During that time, I was able to learn new technology, and figure out how to leverage it effectively at work. We moved into online grocery, banking systems, and building fast, scalable platforms that allowed different systems to talk to each other. Once we hit a certain point we could no longer be called R&D because we were supporting vital business systems, so we became a group called electronic business systems, and our titles were changed to senior software developers. As time progressed, I saw the appeal of more seniority and more responsibility, so, I started managing projects, and eventually was promoted to project manager. Our team was rebranded a few times over the years, and my title was also changed to a solution delivery lead (a project manager for a specific area), and a team lead. It became apparent to me, that while I had become an expert on all of the systems that my teams supported, and my voice was respected in IT and the with my business clients, I was not going to get promoted to management in the current area I was in, so I applied to a different team and became a manager for a struggling team of business system analysts who worked to build the team’s morale and productivity. After about 18 months, due to corporate restructuring, my position was no longer needed.
After a brief hiatus, I found a new job as a senior business analyst for a frozen seafood company, focusing on relationship management, and strategic planning. I supported the Canadian operations, some corporate functions, and was the point person for anyone needing an IT person (e.g. a problem that an employee thought needed some sort of automation process to help with).
What is the best career advice you have ever received?
Just keep learning. Make yourself responsible for your development. If you’re not getting enough training from work, then go out and pay for your own. Think of it as an investment in yourself (one that usually pays very handsome dividends).