“You’ve got to constantly reinvent yourself.” IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has cited this guiding principle as the key to IBM’s success over the past 100-plus years. I believe it applies as much to the people who work here as it does to the company itself.
I know a thing or two about reinvention. I joined IBM two years ago, with a degree in early childhood education. Needless to say, IBM has given me a chance to learn a new industry and build new skills, both inside and outside the classroom. It was the willingness to make changes and explore new opportunities that led me to a job that not only allows me to support my family, but also offers the chance to learn and grow, while challenging and fulfilling me professionally.
My journey started after earning my teaching degree from Frostburg State University. I was struggling to find consistent work as a teacher. I worked as a substitute occasionally but with a family at home to support, I faced a decision that many people have had to make – would I change careers or relocate? My husband and I are both from the Cumberland, Maryland area, and we were committed to staying there to raise our daughters, so I began researching job openings nearby.
After getting tips from a few friends, submitting applications and having a few interviews, I was able to translate the behavioral skills I’d learned as a teacher into a job as a project staffing professional at IBM’s center in nearby Rocket Center, West Virginia. I helped identify the right IBMers to work on various client projects. As I learned more about the technology industry in my new position, I began to notice that at IBM and many other companies, there was a lot of buzz around cybersecurity and a lot of open jobs in the field. I was curious – what could qualify me for one of those jobs?
I contacted the local community college and learned that cybersecurity is a growing area, offering lots of opportunities to learn and advance. While there are not many women in the field, I wanted my daughters to know that they can do anything they set their minds to do. I thought of them as I decided to set that example and get started on my second reinvention.
I started taking an online class in cybersecurity at Allegany College of Maryland to learn the basic skills – an understanding of technological processes, terminology, how systems work together, and how to look for signs of potential online threats. With a foundational knowledge of the field, I wrote an email to the manager of IBM’s local cybersecurity team stating my interest. Over the course of several interviews, he shared with me the various career paths available in the security field, which gave me a greater understanding of the potential for growth within IBM and across the industry as a whole.
Since being hired in my new role in October 2016, I’ve continued to build my skills both in the classroom and through on-the-job training as a compliance officer for IBM’s highly-secured cloud environment for U.S. government clients. I’m proud to work directly with IBM clients to secure and manage work that’s truly important to our country. In fact, IBM’s Rocket Center is the industry’s only cloud offering to receive the highest government certification available to handle sensitive workloads vital to America’s national defense.
My journey and my story are not all that unusual today. A lot of people are struggling to find work, or who feel stuck in the work that they’re doing. But opportunity is out there if you’re willing to take a chance on reinvention. Yes, there are risks. But that’s all part of reinvention. My four-year degree is not in the field I currently work in and it wasn’t required for my roles at IBM, but a degree does not define or limit a person to one career. By learning a new industry and new skills, I have been able to embark on a new career in technology – a field with some of the fastest growing opportunities in the country.
That’s my new collar story.
As Ginni Rometty has said, growth and comfort rarely coexist. While change can feel uncomfortable and risky, if you believe in yourself and summon the courage to try something new, you can reinvent your career. The world is changing, and we have to change with it.
Adam R. Pratt
Ph: (202) 551-9625
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