This story was submitted anonymously to the Work it! Working to Live and Living to Work collection as part of the October SEEQ sessions.
As a little girl it seemed everyone had an answer for the notorious question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” but for me, I felt like I could never just pick one thing, when I could be anything! I came from a long line of hard-working role models from my parents, grandparent and great grandparents. I started my first job at age 15 an IT internship for our local school system, as I was taught never to turn down an opportunity and this was a great one! I remember when I started I felt so young and was one of few females overall, but I’m a hard worker and quick learner so I looked for opportunities to prove myself and that I did for 4 summers of setting up computer labs and running fiber-optic cables in our schools. When I started college at Virginia Tech, I was asked to declare a major and that same little girl was still present: How could I pick only one major when I can be anything?! I began as “University Studies” which is a fancy name for Undecided as I had a year or so of general education classes I would need to complete before diving into major-specific coursework. I definitely didn’t want to work in IT as that seemed like such a manual labor job and I had dreams of being a high-powered executive. After changing majors, a couple of times, I decided on Marketing in the Business School. It tied together business and psychology/human behavior, something I had developed passions for. Fall of my sophomore year, I was approached at a career fair by Philip Morris (now Altria) and after looking at my resume, the guy at the booth asked, “How would you like to have a career in IT?” Befuddled, and thinking of how many majors I went through to finally decide on Marketing, I responded: “No, thank you.” However, they convinced me to join them for lunch the next day and I really liked everyone I met. I did 2 summer internships in the IT Department for Altria supporting Sales and Marketing respectively. IT always seemed to make sense to me and there were so many opportunities as every role in the company needed IT in one way or the other. These internships kicked off my 10-year career at Altria, mostly in Information Service (IS or IT), where I was often the only or one of very few women in the room. I continued to be a hard worker and quick learner which fostered 4 unique careers in the 10 years I was there IT supporting sales, a rotational role working in communications, IT supporting manufacturing and finally a role leading cybersecurity awareness. After being laid off from Altria earlier this year, I thought I would do a career change and finally pursue Marketing, Business Development or Sales. I did a lot of research and applied to many jobs, but my 10 years of experience, did not translate (on paper) to what most of these roles required. A couple of months ago, during this time of reflection, I had a couple of poignant conversations that lead me back into IT. • I’ve always enjoyed working and want to get back into a career sooner rather than later. • IT is a field with a lot of security and opportunities in the future. • IT has always proven to be a way to help people and that is the root of my biggest passion. • IT is something I’ve always been able to understand quickly and that is a gift. • As a woman, I have recruited many other women into the IT field and paved a way for improved gender diversity. I can’t stop now! With all these reflections combined, I am starting a new position in Cybersecurity consulting and very much looking forward to it. I will continue to look for opportunities to use my marketing skills in everything I do and maybe someday, that will also be a focus area for my career, but for now, its back to IT! And yes, I still believe I can do anything!