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How i got started in it: from shoes to SharePoint architect

  • Posted on March 24, 2015

TennisShoesHow I got started in IT in an unlikely way. I was in retail management (athletic shoes) at the time and I was looking for a career that would provide better hours and benefits. I was in my early twenties and decided to take a temp job at a large insurance company HQ in Columbus, Ohio. I had no previous experience in IT but I demonstrated a willingness to learn. Initially, I landed an executive assistant job within the Business Architecture team.

This was the first time I had really worked directly in an IT environment. There was much to learn and I realized very quickly that my management skills in retail transferred really well to this team. Our team would facilitate the discussions with stakeholders of new projects and we were also responsible for project governance, project budget oversight and use of standard patterns and practices. I quickly picked up additional responsibilities (by asking for them) and earned my spot on the team as a business analyst. From there, I decided to study for my PMP certification and moved into more of a project management career path.

In June 2002, my family and I moved to Ft. Riley, Kansas. I decided to take a break from my Project Management career to support our military and focus on being a mother. In 2005, I returned to Columbus, Ohio and was offered an opportunity to take a role with the sales team under the IT consulting division of an executive search company. My project management background came in very handy during this transition. Shortly after starting at this firm, Microsoft SharePoint really started to gain popularity among their customer base and the leadership decided to begin building a SharePoint practice. They hired their first SharePoint architect, Jennifer Ann Mason, and she and I set out to build a practice together.  During this time, I also teamed up with some other local leaders (including Jen) and we started our local SharePoint User Group and hosted our first SharePoint Saturday in Columbus.

In 2008, I was ready for my next challenge and SharePoint had really starting hitting a fever pitch in the industry – I really longed to get back into delivering software solutions. At this point, I decided to join the largest privately-owned IT consulting firm in Columbus, Ohio. From 2008 - 2013, I worked with their leadership to build a successful SharePoint practice and support our regional SharePoint community through events, sponsorship and thought leadership. I continued my involvement in our local technology community and picked up an additional role in support of our local Microsoft Dog Food Conference.

In 2013, I was again ready to seek new opportunities that could offer me additional upward career movement and skills advancement. I decided to take a role as a SharePoint architect with Avanade. I continue to be very happy with my decision to move to Avanade and they continue to give me opportunities to take on new challenges both technically and from a career growth perspective.

Over the last 16 years of my IT career, I have collected a few observations that I will share with you now.

  • Don't be afraid to learn something new or admit you don't know something.
  • Look to connect with other women in the IT industry. Build each other up, help one another, be visible and approachable because the generations behind you are watching.
  • Seek mentors (both men and women) who are willing to give you coaching and constructive feedback to help you grow. These mentors might change as your career matures.
  • Build your own personal "cabinet of advisors" - have a list of people you trust that you can use as a sounding board throughout your career.
  • Get involved in your local technology community. When women see other women leading and making an impact, it inspires them to get more involved.
  • Stay flexible and adjust your career goals as you grow. Don't be afraid to take risks.

This post was originally published by ITUnity at: http://www.itunity.com/article/started-in-it-shoes-to-sharepoint-973.

Glenn Gutmacher

Great story about how you can make some major career pivots, keep an eye out for opportunities, ask for the chance to demonstrate new capabilities, take the initiative to learn new skills (formal and on-the-job training), and those excellent 6 bulleted tips at the end that, taken together, prepare you to seize each next step up in your career.  Congrats, Michelle!

March 27, 2015

Stella Goulet

Thanks for sharing your story!  Great to hear how you got into IT and built your own career!

March 26, 2015

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