IT Career Transition Series – Part II: From Data Entry to Data Analyst

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Adecco 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. In the third post, 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.

In this post, meet Sabrina Beasley, data analyst. Eight years ago, Sabrina was in data entry, making $20K per year as a single mom. Today she’s a data analyst in a Fortune 500 marketing department, and she makes… well, a good amount more money, too.

Q: How did your transition into IT begin?

Sabrina: I was doing data entry at a CPG firm. The director was very big on internal promotion. I told them I was taking courses that concentrated on business information systems and technical management, and that I would be interested in taking on additional responsibility. After that I began mentoring with the Senior Data Quality Analyst and the Project Manager. I assisted with reporting, data flow and database maintenance, training, project documentations, etc. – anything they would let me do. Through these relationships, I was able work with all types of personalities, learn different methodologies and develop my technical and business acumen.

Q: How did you fit in this extra learning time?

Sabrina: I used what I was learning on the side in what I did at work to improve my business as usual tasks. It was a great and practical way to practice new skills. I took night classes and worked on the weekends. Each time I learned something new, I’d take those skills to my current job and expand it. For instance, I tried to use excel more into my day-to-day work and in new ways which I hadn’t prior. 

Where the industry is now, with all the online options, you wouldn’t actually be stuck doing it only on nights and weekends. You could use your lunch hour every day. It all boils down to personal time management. Sit by a pool and bring your tablet. If your company offers you free classes, talk to you boss about taking a company-sponsored class the last hour of your workday. If it’s about career development and expanding your skill set, most bosses will agree to it.

Q: What benefits to your life have you gotten?

Sabrina: When I was in data entry, as a single mom and before gaining IT experience, I was making $20K. Now I have experience across multiple genres, which allows me to have more job opportunities within the IT space. I have also had the opportunity to work with people from all walks of life and skillsets. The great thing about IT is that there are multiple methodologies and, if you take the chance to engage with others in the industry, you gain new perspectives on how to do things. I have the opportunity to learn something new every day. The IT field is always changing. It never gets boring.

Q: Why should people transition into IT?

Sabrina: IT skills give you more versatility. Once you have learned a skill, you generally won’t get stuck in one path. It’s always changing, always new. If you’re the type of person who gets bored easily, or likes new challenges, the IT landscape offers that to you. In many fields, people are always looking for the younger generation, but in IT I feel like there’s more stability for Gen X or older, because even older IT skills are still very relevant. Those of us in older generations can help in that we are familiar with the older enterprise applications and can learn the new ones, so we have more range.

Q: What’s your advice to deciding which direction to pursue?

Sabrina: Think about what you’re initially interested in and do some research on it. Watch YouTube videos, take a free iTunes U class, or talk to people in your organization who already have those jobs and ask if you can shadow them. Once you think you know the direction you want to purse, take a class. You don’t have to go back to school full time. There are many new sources for education and training to choose from. See if your company has online classes. Watch YouTube videos, check out Google Course Builder. There are many massive open online courses (MOOCs), try multiple things before you invest money in it. You don’t even have to choose one path. Lend extra support to projects in that field. IT isn’t all technical. You don’t have to build a website or create a database. If you’re good at writing, you can get into technical documentation. You could be a PM if you enjoy organizing projects. There are numerous options.

Q: How many IT professionals do you know who don’t have a college degree in their field?

Sabrina: A lot. Many people are self-taught. Even if they have a degree, it’s usually not in their field. One DBA I know has a masters degree in theology and a bachelor’s in social work. He actually started his career as a social worker. And one of my first mentors didn’t have a college degree at all; she didn’t even take college courses. Every job she’s had, she’s learned from people on the job. She’s completely self-taught. Her husband is another example. He learned programming at a technical high school, and then just launched his career from there. He never went to college. Google is a good friend! You can always find something free that can help you learn. Check out W3Schools – look up anything and try to code. Much of it is free at first. You can practice there before pursuing certification.

Q: What type of person succeeds?

Sabrina: Anybody, but you have to be someone who easily adapts to change. IT is always evolving, so you need to be able to evolve with it. The people who are really successful can communicate with all types – from the CEO of a business to a programmer or end user, and it makes sense. Emotional intelligence will make you stand out. To many the technical part is easier to learn. It has a foundation and framework. It’s the soft skills that are harder to find in terms of bridging those gaps. Today’s businesses are looking for the “purple unicorn.” What they miss is that they have a company full of people who have the ability to learn something new if they would be willing to invest time and training into them.

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