I work in the tech industry and like so many more in our industry, I am not a techy.
We all have different stories as to how we got here and I would like to share my unconventional story with you, how I got from a small village in Co. Donegal, Ireland, called Glenties to Chicago via Scotland and the UK.
We all have significant moments in our lives where we make decisions that may affect our future and our journey through life.
Mine was during August 1980 – I was seventeen years old and working in the family grocery shop during summer holidays while my parents were away on a summer break.
One of my customers that day worked for an organization who placed students into work based apprenticeship programs and he offered me an opportunity to join an electrical apprenticeship program starting a few weeks later.
Apparently, during a Career Guidance class earlier that year I had ticked a box confirming that I was interested in becoming an electrician!
I did remember the form and there were many other careers on the list but I am certain that becoming an electrician was not my first choice. In fact I do believe my first choice was to play football for Manchester United!!
He needed an answer that day and although I felt pressurized, I accepted his offer.
I was convinced that my aspirations to play professional football were doomed and I also knew that this was the right move for me. When my parents returned from their break, they were none too happy at my career choice. as previously we had discussed university or working in the family business and expanding it, but being a stubborn teenager I stuck to my guns and joined the four year program.
For the first year I was in a training center with a three month block release to a college.
During that time I spent my weeks away from home and lived in a boarding house. I was seventeen and it was the first time I had lived away from my family learning a lot of valuable life skills that were critical to my development as a person.
After the first year, I was placed with a local employer where I was to serve out the remainder of my apprenticeship.
I spent three months each year at college and after a year in the workplace, I realized that I had made a mistake and that being an electrician was not for me. However, I also understood that I needed to continue and get my qualifications, which I did.
Once I finished my apprenticeship I started to consider other options and recognized that I had gained a lot of sales and customer service experience from working in the family grocery shop – check out one of my earlier blog posts, Lessons I learned from my first job.
So, using my electrical knowledge I got a job selling CCTV, intruder alarms, door entry systems and fire alarms.
I really enjoyed the sales aspect of the job a lot, I honed my skills and loved the face to face engagement with building contractors, engineers, architects and building managers.
As computers were becoming more common in the workplace I was offered a job selling computer consumables, specifically re-manufactured toner cartridges. We were one of the first in the UK to have a quality re-manufacturing process and our customers loved our products and our service and as a result we became very successful.
More importantly I had made that leap into the IT Industry.
Like so many industries over the years, the toner cartridge business was disrupted by entrepreneurs back in the early 90’s and the printer vendors did not like it. As the recycled cartridge became more in demand a lot more providers entered the market. Most of these latecomers were using unsophisticated processes and unfortunately the industry as a whole got a bad reputation from these “Drill and Fill” merchants.
The next step in my journey took me into IT training where I spent sixteen years getting a wider understanding of IT skills, assessments and the training industry. The IT industry was in its infancy and growing so fast and the demands for a skilled workforce were as challenging back then as they are today.
I joined my current employer, CompTIA over eight years ago.
During my journey I did not realize that I was on an intended path or if any of it made sense. As I look back now, everything seemed to happen for a reason and it was moving me along in an intended manner, working towards my goals and aspirations.
There were many bumps along the road (like most roads!) but all the skills I learned along the way have helped make the journey so interesting and rewarding.
Being in the IT industry, doesn’t have to mean you are a techy or that you need a degree to have a wonderful successful career.
I am a true product of the apprenticeship model and the skills I learned as an apprentice, the sales skills and the life skills I picked up along the way have all contributed to who I am and what I do.
On that warm summers day in Glenties, back in August 1980, I never once dreamt that my impulsive decision to become an electrician would have been so influential in crafting my journey. When I started working in 1980 I thought there was a destination somewhere but have come to realize that there isn’t a destination....just a wonderful journey!