Joanne Mammarelli

Systems Engineer
Montclair, NJ
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What is the one piece of career advice you wish someone gave you when you were younger?

"It's not all about the money". Find a career that you love because that career and the people you meet within that career, honestly, become most of your daily experiences, and you want the best holistically for yourself. Love what you do.

How did you pick your career? Did you know all along?

I honestly picked this career because I didn't like to memorize. I was always a good student and folks thought I would have a career in biology. However, I never liked memorizing, which is what studying biology (or most sciences) honestly felt like. I was good with numbers, I could type, and computers were just being created (yes .. I'm THAT old).

What is the most useful piece of career advice you got as a student, and who gave it to you?

OK .. this may sound crazy ... but I received this information from a mentor during an internship. I had a programmer internship and the most important piece of logic he gave me was 'whatever goes into a program, should come out of a program modified; otherwise, you're wasting resources'. It's a simple accounting principle, but if you take the 'what goes in should have an effect on what goes out", that logic applies not only to coding, but also to time management. At some point, you are going to master juggling tasks, so you want to channel your energies where you can get the best value for your effort.

When did you get your first Big Break? How did you get it? How did it go?

LOL .. I am still waiting for a Big Break. I followed the rules. I went to college, worked part time, and had a few internships. That experience helped with my first job. Most of my moves within the company have been the result of others leaving - which has been fine.

What is it like when your job gets tough?

Ugh .. days get long. Working in some industries doesn't have an 'end of day'. There was an entire holiday week (Christmas through New Years) where my manager and I literally worked 20 hours a day in attempt to rectify a problem. There's 'need it now pressure', so your day doesn't end. It's really important to have an understanding family and support system.

How did you start building your network?

My network has been small. I've worked for the same company for 25 years, so most of my contacts are within my company. Recently, I have been expanding into organizations within my company. Also, going to school at night broadened my exposure to other methodologies.

When you were a student, did you do anything outside of school to build skills or get knowledge that has helped your career?

Part-time work and internships was crucial in helping me identify what i DON'T like to do. I prefer a hands-on, immediate response type of tasks. Long-term, drawn out, spirit crushing projects are fine for some folks, but not me.

In layperson terms, what do you actually do at work?

OK .. imagine a database with a LOT of data. This data, which is always changing, is used by many, many, teams and it has to be RIGHT. Some days, I write code to help check the data. If it's wrong, then I have to go hunt down why it's wrong. Other days, I write code to pull the data from many sources into the 'big cauldron' of data. That's always interesting. On other days, I get the task of presenting the data. That's FUN - there are so many ways to show the data but the goal is to 'keep it clean'. A nice presentation where you don't have to read/think too much is always awesome.

Did anyone ever oppose your career plans when you were young or push you in a direction you did not want to go?

Nope .. I was lucky. I was a smart girl with good grades who worked hard. I never really gave folks a reason to wonder what I was up to.

What is the biggest challenge you had to overcome to get to where you are now professionally? How did you overcome it?

Too frequently, you're handed a task and told to 'figure it out' .. and you do. Sometimes you take a class or buy some books. Other times, you work through your network to see who has an idea as to how to handle the problem. It's an exercise in being resourceful.

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