Becoming a Technologist

It feels a little strange writing about myself and my career journey. It’s absolutely not been perfect or easy and it’s far from over, but I’m hoping that sharing-is-caring and this might serve as inspiration (or warning!) for anyone considering a switch within the I.T industry or feels like they have a non-traditional entry point.

Back to the Old Skool

To explain how I got to this point, I’d like to take you back to 1997. Just imagine it, Tony Blair is the Prime Minister of the UK, Mike Tyson is suspended from boxing because of biting Evander Holyfield’s ear, and Piers Brosnan is still James Bond (the best one). 

Simpler times.

12 year old me is sitting with dad, setting up our first family PC with an internet connection. I remember how excited we all were to have internet access as it was still rare then. Dad really is my inspiration from a technology perspective, he’s been an engineer for a 40+ year career in telecom and is still excited about what the future holds for technology.

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By age 13, the technology bug hit me hard. I wanted to tinker with tech more than I wanted to play outside. Dad noticed my interest and signed me up for some night school classes at college. I studied HTML, PHP, and a little Java. I was the youngest in my class by around 20 years and that felt pretty good. 

In 2001 I turned 16. I remember mum asking for my birthday whether I would prefer a laptop or a 50cc moped. I was floored, as both were unusually extravagant gift options in my house, but I didn’t even hesitate. I instantly chose the Laptop. I think mum was a little worried I’d become a loner with no friends if I spent all my time staring at a screen though. Anyone who knows me well, knows she needn’t worry!

Then came college as high school ended. Music was now an obsession. I had been playing guitar for about a year and had big dreams of becoming the next Dave Grohl or John Frusciante. The two A-Levels I focused on were ‘Music Technology’ and ‘Computer Science’. In Computer Science I enjoyed learning about exactly how binary and hexadecimal worked. In Music Technology, I loved how you could orchestrate each digital instrument visually on screen and create something beautiful.

The Decision

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At 18 came a decision point. A fork in the road, where I needed to decide what my degree would be. It felt like my entire life had brought me to this inflection point. Would it be Music or I.T.?

To help with the decision, my parents took me to a beautiful university in Bath for an open day in Music. I was blown away by the instruments, the recording equipment and the people. Then later, we joined an open day at another university, to check out what a computer science degree would look like. In comparison I was underwhelmed. There were some computers, that was essentially it.

It felt like an almost impossible decision to make. Would I pin all hopes on becoming a musician? Or would I be destined for the I.T. industry?

So I started the Computer Science Degree and didn’t look back!

Accumulating Experience

The choice to focus on technology has taken me all around the world. From Turkey to Canada, from Mexico to India and many places in between. I feel extremely fortunate and I’m pleased I made the decision.

OpenStack Summit in Vancouver

Leaving university, I joined British Telecom (inspired by Dad). At BT, I took as many training courses as I could. I swapped jobs internally as much as possible over my 7 years there, building up technical experience in WiFi, Core Networks and eventually Automation.

Automation then led me into an EMEA-wide consulting role at HP Software. There I learned how to interact with clients and help them achieve their goals. I remember learning the importance of speaking up in meetings because being heard and being visible is essential to gain the trust and credibility you need to help drive transformation.

Setting up a customer even in New York

Then came a Datacenter specialist role at Cisco. I learned technical selling, solving client’s problems through technology. The pre-sales organisation at Cisco is extremely effective and highly educated. It was fun to be the one teaching everyone about the value of software vs hardware. This led me to VMware, the experts in Software Defined Datacenter.aa

Joining VMware in 2015 as a Cloud Management Pre-Sales engineer, I got to talk about the technology I loved, but I also got to be part of a growing company, meeting some amazing people that have inspired me to stay to this day.

I quickly realized I wanted to try some other roles across the business.

I found a mentor, Jonathan Alexander who has been an inspiration since and right up to his retirement. Jonathan helped me prepare for a role leading business development for Cloud Management across VMware’s channel partners in EMEA. This really helped to bring it all together for me. Instead of focusing on mostly single technologies, like I had before, these people were truly talking to their customers about solutions. They had the flexibility to position technology from multiple vendors to their customers

For this reason, I knew I wanted to move into a customer facing role again. I wanted to take these skills and work with customers to provide real solutions to their challenges. In 2017 I started as a Business Manager for Cloud Management and have enjoyed every second. Moving slightly away from the technology side and into the business side has given me perspective, understanding the customer’s industries deeper, building relationships and getting to know the characters.

Becoming a Technologist

It’s been 3 years as a Business Manager at VMware and I’m now ready to move deeper into technology again.

We now live in a world where tech drives change, for good and for bad. Data is more valuable than oil and local businesses or startups are using technology to compete with the global enterprises. It’s more exciting than ever to work in tech and although this won’t be my last career move, it might be the most important for me

Thank you for reading to the end. Hopefully it’s been helpful encouragement for anyone considering a move. Honestly, the stress of changing between roles has been significant at points, but with the different things I’ve learned with each move, I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. Gaining experience across these different angles of a similar industry has given a unique perspective, which I’m as eager-as-ever to put to work. I encourage anyone considering a move, to try not think so much about the salary or worry about taking a non-traditional change. If you can make sure it’s something that inspires you and feels right in the moment, this will make it much more likely that you’ll focus, put in the effort and most of all, enjoy it!