IT Career Transition Series – Part III: From Social Work to Technology

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IT-workerAdecco Engineering & Technology’s “IT Career Transition” series examines how to transition into information technology after having already started a career in another field. We’ll be sharing real-life stories along the way about professionals who’ve already embarked upon their IT careers after having left an unrelated one. Read on and continue to follow this series to learn more about why and and how to transition into IT. The first post in this series examined why now is a good time to transition into IT. The second post shared Sabrina’s experience evolving into a data analyst. And with David Clark’s story, you’ll see that even a former social worker with a bachelor’s in psychology and a masters in theology can start a second career in technology.

Q: Let’s start at the beginning. Can you share your background in terms of your formal education and the start of your career?

David: As a teen, I was very involved in the youth group at my church, so I planned to pursue youth ministry. In college, I studied psychology to help me in this path and was fortunate enough to get a full scholarship. This scholarship had a stipulation that I had to get a post degree, so I earned a Masters in Theology from Duke. Then, as it does, life through some unexpected situations my way in the form of major injuries which forced me to return to my childhood home in 1999 for months of rehab.

Once I improved, I needed to get a job and get out of my parents house. My sister was in Jacksonville, Fla., and knew of a non-profit hiring family services counselors in foster services. I moved there to begin helping rehabilitate families.

Q: How did you go from social work to technology?

David: As you’d probably expect, it’s a long story. The liability of my position was stressful, and, while it could be rewarding, it was often frustrating. Additionally, my wife and I were considering starting a family and needed more stability in terms of a more consistent schedule. I stayed in social work at first and took a position training new counselors. This helped us afford our family home, but still had me traveling quite a bit.

During one trip, I noticed a job posting from my current employer to manage its Learning Management System, something I had begun to do in my social work training role. I did everything you’re supposed to do to get the job, and I got it. The timing was fortuitous as this new company was implementing a new CRM program and had many employers working on its development. This allowed me to take over training employees on the old system, so internal resources could prepare the new one. That was the beginning of my shift into technology as I handled both the training and day-to-day operations.

From there it was a domino effect. Our company was bought and my job title changed in the new company from “Trainer” to “Support Analyst.” My new boss saw my abilities and had my work on level 2 ticket support along with other related aspects that were more in an IT wheelhouse.

As this company continued to acquire new companies, I helped with data migrations. This got me further involved in the data side. As you can see, I am purely self-taught. All the training I’ve received for my career in technology has been on-the-job.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to transition into technology from an unrelated field?

David: Remember that IT is the one field where you do not need formal training. Yes, I was in the right place at the right time, but I also pursued the opportunities that came my way.

The best thing I ever did was identify my goal and plan my steps. It takes time. Strategically plan it out. You will transition well when you prepare well and set yourself up for success. I love the quote “Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.”

So prepare. Be willing to take an opportunity when it’s there – and be actively on the look out for opportunity, especially niches where adding to your skillset is mutually beneficial to you and your employer. People are willing to help when it also helps them. During data migrations, I learned new skills like SQL to figure things out on my own. This made the IT folks happy because it got me off their back, and it helped me more in the long run that relying on others.

Found out what it is that’s fun to you and take off in that direction.

Q: What have been the top benefits of having a technology career?

David: There are three.

1. It never gets boring, because technology is always changing. You’ll always be working in this dynamic field. You have to think on your feet.

2. IT gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of time and when you work. You don’t always need to keep set hours.

3. In this field you’re often able to see a finished work/product, which is satisfying.

Q: Now that you’ve already transitioned into IT, what do you see in your own future in terms of career development?

David: I never see myself leaving technology. I see myself progressing deeper into IT. Moving from senior solutions analyst into development. As developer, I don’t care about the projects, it’s about the puzzle. I have passion for it.

Q: Does your non-profit social work past help you at all in your current technology role?

David: Absolutely. Working with parents and kids taught me a level of patience that is difficult to come by naturally. I’m accustomed to creatively work around obstacles and roadblocks. That job cultivated a level of flexibility in me that I wouldn’t have achieved otherwise.

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Anne Shaw is the Lead Generation & Attraction Sr. Marketing Manager for Adecco Staffing, USA. Her background includes public relations, brand development and event planning. When not having a blast at the office, Anne can be found initiating dance parties with her adorable children and dashing husband.

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