Not Just a Man’s World (aka: My Awesome Tech Career Journey)

My job is awesome.

Every day, I realized how blessed I am to be able to say that. To be able to wake up each day and look forward to the work I get to do. To be able to use my unique skills and talents to impact the lives of other people in a positive way. Yes! *Pumps fist*

It feels good.

I never used to imagine that one day, I would not only have a successful career, but that I would find so much fulfillment from my work. In my early years, work was just something I did to pay the bills, and my ambitions were small. I used to be a teacher of young children — a low-paying career that led to a seamless transition into full-time mothering. Mothering as a SAHM was, of course, fulfilling in its own way. It was also the thing to do among young conservative Christian women in my circle, at the time. To focus on raising your kids, cooking meals, cleaning your home, and supporting your husband, the breadwinner, was considered the most honorable, ideal role for a woman. Even a woman with a 4-yr. college degree.

Gag.

Quick digression: I’m no longer sure how I ever bought into that philosophy. I now believe firmly that the responsibilities of child rearing, caring for the home, and financially supporting the household belong to both partners, rather than to one or the other based on gender. But since I’m no longer married, none of that applies anymore anyway.

Anyway, at some point, when my youngest kid was in grade school, I went back to work as a teacher in the local school district. I was good at it, but it was tiring, brainless work. Not to mention it paid very little. So when I was laid off due to state budget cuts, I decided that it was time. I would return to college to pursue a career in the one field that made me excited to think about.

Information Technology.

Code on a computer screen

After all, I’d been using computers since my Commodore Vic 20, back in 1981. I used to listen to my now ex-husband talk about the IT work he did, and think to myself how i could easily do his job. Plus, let’s face it — IT is a lucrative industry. But for me, a teacher of young children and former SAHM with literally no IT job experience, switching careers was like climbing a mountain that was largely hidden in the clouds.

I started off with the goal of doing IT support. People would call me with issues, I would tell them to reboot their computers, and everyone’s happy. When I first went back to college, I knew pretty much nothing about the other branches of IT. Coding? Zip. Databases? Zilch. Networking? Nada. But one cool thing about IT is that each of these areas is somehow interconnected. The more classes I took toward becoming a tech support girl, the more I learned about the rest. Suddenly, I knew about subnets, and protocols, and network layers, and basic coding. And I fell in luv with System Administration. That was my dream job.

It was a little intimidating, at first, heading into the world of IT. There are still very few women in this industry, compared to men. Especially in the higher-up positions. I intend to change that. So does my daughter, who is preparing to study Computer Science or Software Engineering when she heads off to college this fall. *More fist pumps* When you’re working in a world largely dominated by men, you have to learn to assert yourself pretty quickly. Ask questions. Speak up when you have ideas. And study your brains out, because until female-male ratio is even, we women still have to prove our worth and competence.

Men and women in a business meeting

Today, I am a System Admin (which is pretty much like God, in case you were wondering), as well as a declarative developer (who just happens to do some software engineering, as well). I get to analyze business issues, then come up with technology-based solutions to solve their issues and improve their processes. Then I design and build those solutions, train the users, and provide ongoing support. I guess you can say I wear a lot of hats. And I like it like that.

Me at work

So, here I am. Career-Focused Single-Mom Barbie, armed with a laptop and a cellphone. It feels good to be able to use my brain every day to create systems that actually make things better for a lot of people. It also feels good to bring home a decent income, to pay the bills and support my family. Yes, I’m still a great mom. Yes, I still cook and clean our home (as do my teens). Yes, i still get plenty of me-time to relax. Whoever said that we can’t balance it all was clearly trying to discourage us. Don’t buy it.

When I look back on how far I’ve come in just a few short years, and how I managed to switch careers and land a great job in midlife, I feel pretty satisfied. It’s like climbing to a mountain peak, then looking back at where I began. I did it! Now, I get to enjoy my work while assessing that next mountain peak. It’s pretty high, half-hidden in the clouds. Just like my current job once seemed. But I’m confident that I can get there, if I just keep climbing.

16 responses to “Not Just a Man’s World (aka: My Awesome Tech Career Journey)

  1. It’s interesting how upbeat this post is, compared with your recent one about loneliness and lack of friends. Maybe something work- or tech-related — where you feel most confident — is a place to start making those connections?

    • Believe it or not, I’m almost always upbeat. 🙂 But sometimes, introspective, I guess. And kind of, yes. I have a few acquaintances at work who I chat with from time to time — you know, the usual workplace chit-chat. Nothing too personal. Once in a blue moon, we even go out for coffee. It’s nice, but I am super hesitant to try and form friendships in the workplace. I guess I worry about the mixture of work and personal entanglements of any kind. I like that clear separation of professional me and outside-the-workplace me, if that makes sense.

      I actually tried to connect a little better with one woman at my last job. But away from the workplace, I quickly learned that she and I, despite having a few common interests, were just far too different. She seemed fond of gossip and backbiting (which I detest, really), and so much negative talk that it became unbearable, and overshadowed her good side. I tried to keep my distance after that, but that’s hard to do when you work at the same place. I guess I don’t want to make that mistake again.

  2. I always share a T.D. Jakes quote with my students, and clients “If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose” and its clearly you love to teach, and enjoyed your computer’s back in the 80’s so I am glad you found your passion. 🙂

  3. Very inspiring! I’m so happy you’ve made the transition and, most important, you actually like it!!!

    When we stick with things, the small efforts day-in-and-day-out really do add up much faster than human brains are good at calculating!! Especially in areas like learning, exercise, nutrition …

    • That is so true. Perseverance often leads to such great rewards!

      I hope that my story may inspire others to seek the career path that feels right to them. It’s so fulfilling to have a career that allows you to do what you enjoy and do well, and pays nicely, too.

  4. Good on you. It’s good to hear a success story. Seems like you made it in a lucrative industry.. My own daughter is forging her path in a developmental role in a male dominated firm. My other daughter is doing well too. Love the photograph of you with the office staff 🙂

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