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What were the steps you took to get in your position? (Please state occupation)

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Josh’s Answer

I am currently an "Architect" at a tech company, which means I don't write a ton of code but I collaborate with teams that do on their designs, as well as work on standards across teams so their work can interoperate together better.

My steps to get here:

  1. age 6-12: Started out playing with computers for fun, and learned to program from a book
  2. age 12-16: Installed linux on my computer and learned it while forcing myself to use it for all my work
  3. age 16-18: Worked as an assistant to a local IT person
  4. age 18-21: Got a CS and EE degree from UCLA while working for the on-campus IT group, working with the Linux Users Group on campus to help other people install linux on devices, and working part time remotely for a dot com.
  5. Graduated right when the dot com bubble burst and took 6 months to find a job
  6. Worked for a wireless company as a "customer integration engineer", though because they never had any customers, ended up working on lots of teams who needed help, from build automation to performance tuning to frontend development
  7. Got a referral from a linux users group friend and worked doing motion control for movies. (Animatronics and CG)
  8. When the movie company went to shoot a movie, got a 'day job' for a web hosting company
  9. Ended up hopping back and forth between full and part time at both those jobs for years, finally spending 14 years in total at the hosting company and becoming CTO. This meant learning a ton about how to be a people manager and a technical leader instead of just a hands on engineer.
  10. Moved to an architecture role when the CTO role became more business-intense than I was passionate about
  11. Got acquired by a Much Larger Hosting Company and worked as a mini-startup inside it helping large companies move to AWS
  12. Moved to my current role

Wow, nice thorough answer. Gil Figueroa

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Claudia’s Answer

Hi Nicolas,

I am currently working as a customer success manager in a software company and my main responsibility is to work closely with our high-value clients to make sure all their team members know how to use our software, train them and make sure they have everything they need to successfully use our software.
This job is very focused on the customer and companies who buy the software, so you have a strong element of talking to many different people from different industries with different challenges, ideas and mindsets. This is also why I find this job so interesting as you can learn so many things and get insight into so many different companies and what they do.

I worked in sales positions before this role, so I was one of the people who spoke to potential new clients and sold them the software. I always liked to build new relationships over the phone and also in face-to-face meetings, so sales was a good choice for me. I moved into Customer Success to work more closely with the customer over a long time. I didn't complete a college degree after school, instead I did an apprenticeship in Germany as a software developer. That helped me to gain an understanding of how the software industry works, and is helping me to this day to understand what my customers are talking about when they explain their technical challenges and initiatives to us.

I hope that helps :) There are many different roles in the IT and it is a great diverse field. Good luck to you!

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Estelle’s Answer

I became a surgeon
1. worked hard in high school making top grades
2. worked hard in college in a technical degree making top grades
3. worked hard in internships building my resume to get into medical school
4. worked hard in medical school making good grades. It was really hard.
5. worked many years in surgical residency at hospitals sharpening my skills lol
6. worked for a group of surgeons of which I was the youngest and needed to get experience
7. started a group of surgeons so we could run the business the way we wanted.
8 . had fun the entire way but worked very hard to get to the goal.

Hello Dr. Archer, great advice! I appreciate steps 1 - 5 because it reiterates what my son did to get into his residency program, and next year he'll start a fellowship program. Thank you. Sheila Jordan

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Max’s Answer

I am a Solutions Consultant with a SaaS Software Vendor. I am quite passionate about being an 'SC', and I chose to respond to your post because I think most people in this role arrive here by way of switching from a different role.

For example, I graduated college a 'people person' & everyone who knew me said "I'd end up in sales". They were not wrong, initially I ended up in Software Sales for a company selling Database Change Management Software/Tooling. However, after lots of introspection & pros/cons lists, I discovered sales is to polarising. I loved working with customers, and helping them evaluate my company's product, but I was not motivated by commissions & felt emotionally burned out when quota's reset every quarter. Discovering Solutions Consulting gave me 'the best of both worlds', as I am now a technical counterpart to the sales guy, not entirely 'hands-on-keyboard' as an active developer or site reliability engineer, but rather, almost like a translator between technical clients and the non/semi-technical sales executive I work with to close their deal.

Finding balance is the primary way I go about choosing what career moves I make. Balance requires lots of thought about what gets you out of bed in the morning, and what creates anxiety or friction in your daily life. Finding balance ensures you contribute your best work, are a pleasure to work with, and generally means people want to promote you!

Max recommends the following next steps:

Experience helps you define your pros & cons, so get experience (Talk to people, do Real-world internships, research on here ;) )
Constantly revisit this list as you progress through your first few jobs
Get multiple mentors, some professional (in your career, or a senior leader), as well as personal (life-coach, someone you look up to)
Embrace change and take even smallest of action to experiment with theories, as those small actions reduce feeling of helplessness and anxiety
The longer you put it off, the harder you will kick yourself later, so don't get dismayed if the road to where you want to go seems hard, push on!

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Kevin’s Answer

tl;dr - You never know what will help you move to your next position - never stop learning!

Play/learn about computers - taught myself BASIC at age 12
High school computer and programming classes (learned to type - I can’t stress this skill enough!!)
College programming classes - BS CIS - they used a Novell environment

Key: Title
* what
* why left (showing steps)

Data entry person
* 1st job our of college working with FoxPro database
* Automated myself out of position in 30 days (learned lesson)

Computer person (no title - got it because I had Novell on my resume)
* Supported Novell server and network in a small (really tiny - 4 person) travel agency
* Left after 9 months (planned) to pursue 1st choice career that didn’t pan out

LAN Administrator & PC Technician at very large package shipping company
* Computer person for about 200 computers and the Novell server
* Left because they had a promotion/hiring freeze

Systems Engineer (started path to becoming a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert)
* Chicago area roaming Novell expert - think: one riot one ranger
* Left because they didn’t believe Microsoft was the future as I did (see, I learned my lesson)

Computer person (don’t think I had a title)
* Managing 100s of Windows computers and servers
* Left because LARGE (blue) company was coming in to take over the role

Network Tools Specialist
* Worked with HP OpenView Network Node Manager, Operations and dozens of other ‘management’ applications
* Left for higher pay in the consulting field

Senior Enterprise Management Consultant
* Expert in HP OpenView suite of management applications plus a few others
* Left because I didn’t like the direction the company was going

Partner Solutions Architect
* Supporting partners to my company
* Moved to new role

Solutions Architect (started learning about Amazon Web Services - AWS)
* Pre-sales role supporting sales teams
* Moved to new role

SaaS Solution Architect
* Expert pre-sales role supporting sales teams
* Company was acquired, I wasn’t

Principal Cloud Strategist
* Providing cloud Expertise
* Current role

The ‘steps’ I took were to try to see what was hot or going to be hot in the future and then learning about that technology. You can’t stop learning in the IT/computer industry.

If you liked this answer please upvote it. ;)

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Brandon’s Answer

I am a Cloud/Information Technology (IT) Project Manager (PM), Cloud Analyst, (CA), Agile Coach and Trainer. I originally started in IT as a desktop support technician (troubleshooting hardware and software issues) in my 30's after spending a decade in historical research, then banking. I have always had an interest in IT, technology and how it can help people in their day to day lives.

After 3 years in Desktop Support, I moved into a PM role in my mid-30's, as I identified that desktop support would dwindle with the advent of automation tools and ability to offshore my roles/responsibilities. Additionally, I felt the break/fix mentality of desktop support didn't suit my style.

After working 4-5 years as a PM in a higher education setting, I moved into corporate america working in a formalized Project Management Office (PMO), something lacking in my previous organization. After a year there, I moved into a similar role in a consultant company, which was my dream position.

I have been a consultant for three years, having worked as a PM and CA for my current organization supporting various companies on their cloud migration and/or application deployment. I am responsible for managing projects to delivery but I am also responsible for working with clients to improve their maturity to adapt to the change of business required when moving their apps to the cloud.

Brandon recommends the following next steps:

What about the field interests you; document it to serve as a reminder why you got into the field
What specific roles in the field interest you?
What are the requirements/training/education, by role?
What soft skills are important, by role?
What growth opportunities exist, by role (where do you go next)?

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Joe’s Answer

I am currently a Senior Principle UX Designer at a tech company. This is a recent switch from being a Software Engineer. I don't write much code anymore other than for special prototypes. I now work on the User Experience for the application. That doesn't just mean the UI, but a person interacts with the UI easily, and efficiently to get their job done.

I started out by taking college courses working myself into getting a degree in Computer Science. From there I got my 1st job, and started learning. Always stay on top of technology even if you're not using it. Look at what other people are doing good or bad, and learn from that (what to do, and what not to do). I swapped to UX, because I wanted to make things better for the user using the application being built.

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Gil’s Answer

Currently I'm a Systems Requirements Engineer (15 years), but I've been a developer (11 year) and a systems architect (8 years).
I started learning programming in 8th grade.
I studied mathematics in college where we wrote computer programs to apply the mathematical theory, like finding the area under a curve as a way of applying integration (calculus).
I started working at AT&T right out of college and had lots of on the job learning.

The key for me has been to keep learning and being willing to do things I did not know how to do so I could learn how to do them.

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Matthew’s Answer

I am in Software Sales. For me, you should always make sure to have a strong resume. Even if you don't have anything flashy to put on you should always make sure it is clean-cut and the spacing and wording are relevant to the industry. Using LinkedIn was a very useful tool for me. You should spend some time making a professional profile. There are job search functions as well on LinkedIn that can really help you narrow down your search.

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Cecilia’s Answer

Hi Nikolas, I currently work as a user experience (UX) designer and researcher at a software company.
I studied Computer Science Engineering and worked in IT for 2 years before going back to school to get a Master's degree in product design. The combination of the two degrees positioned me to work as a user experience designer. At my job, I worked with colleagues who were researchers and really liked what they did and brought to the table. I started to volunteer on research projects to slowly learn more about the craft until I had enough knowledge and experience to take on projects by myself.

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Lei’s Answer

Hi Nikolas,

I currently work as a software engineer (focusing on backend data processing).

I went to college for electrical and computer engineering (ECE), because I put together my own desktop in high school and really liked it (really no more complicated than that). I did not code at all before I went to college, so it was a bit of a shock when I got there and started learning Java in my first semester. I did not understand it at all - I didn't know what all this object-oriented programming was, it was all too abstract for me. I didn't like the math and statistics classes that I had to take either - I just didn't get it! Instead, I really enjoyed the hardware-focused classes that I had in my major, so I graduated with a masters degree in ECE, with a focus in computer architecture.

I interned at a large hardware manufacturer during college, so I returned there after I graduated. Initially I was supposed to be working in hardware validation, but due to internal re-organizations at the company before I returned, I was put on a firmware validation team instead, and most of the time I worked with Ruby and C++. Both were completely new to me, and since I avoided CS classes in college/grad school, it took me a while to get the hang of it, but after a while, I realized that I actually really, really enjoyed programming (as opposed to hardware design and computer architecture). So I started my career change.

After 2.5 years with my first team, I moved within my first employer to a performance team, working with Java and other frameworks (funnily enough, that's the language that made the least sense to me in college). As part of that team, I met with many customers that worked with what I was developing, and it opened my eyes to the software industry as a whole. So 3 years later, I left my first employer and joined a SaaS company, where I develop the backend data processing/storage pipeline (all in Java).

At the same time, I've taken up learning machine learning and statistics on the side (again, a subject that I hated in college), to explore the fields of data science, ML, and AI, as part of my future career growth. That's what's great about this industry - you can do whatever you want, as long as you put your heart in it, your effort will be rewarded.

Hope that helps!

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Sunil’s Answer


I work as a Solution Architect in Customer Experience organisation in Cisco System. I have been working for 12 years now and got promoted this role in the last year. I have done my engineering degree in Computer science and chosen computer networking as a profession. Started with helpdesk engineer, helping customer over the phone to resolve IT related to issues to today advising organisations to solve their business challenges through technologies.

Its a long career journey but what helped me at the start was to take some stretch assignments outside of my day to day tasks. These can be any challenge that looks interested. Initiative for wider team benefits, initiative that can make teams task easier like automation, people development and more importantly continuous investment in yourself.


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Nic’s Answer

I love Claudia's answer "There are many different roles in the IT and it is a great diverse field." I think this is critical and it is something that many people underestimate.

I have been working in the field for over 20 years now, and have done many different things along the way. I started off by getting a job working for the "Unix Systems Staff" at my local university. This meant adding & removing users, applying updates, installing software and fixing things when they went wrong. The university was great, because by design they let us do things we were in no way qualified to do. That gave me the opportunity to learn a lot of things fast.

After college I went to a very small startup, who was therefore willing to hire me even though I had very little experience. I had also interviewed at some large companies, but I ended up turning those down. The big company jobs wanted to train me on one thing and then have me do that one thing all day long. At the small company, I did everything that needed doing, and so continued learning lots of new things. At each new job I have always looked for that freedom to move around and do many things.

As that startup grew, I ran our IT team for a little while, then moved over to focus on production operations (linux systems). When I went to my next startup, I started in the same area, but soon moved over to development. At the next company I went from development to development management, then saw a need and moved over to operations management, got tired of that, went back to development, and now do management for a group doing both development and operations. At any point in my career I could not have told you what I'd be doing next, and right now I still couldn't tell you. Instead I have tried to always go where the important problems are and push myself to learn new things.