Career Switch from Retail and Caring for Kids to Tech

By Michelle Lange

Erin Waterman graduated from high school and picked up jobs here and there while she tried to figure out her future. A placement to care for kids with special needs by the Department of Human Services showed Erin she liked caring for people, and the job really sparked a different, surprising interest — technology.

“It’s a thing where I see the people’s vulnerabilities and want to protect that,” said Erin, who was stocking shelves with sensible flats, sneakers and party heels before she got into IT. One day, a friend’s mom told her about a program that could be the right ticket.

CompTIA Tech Career Academy’s IT-Ready Technical Support program is an intense eight weeks of tech training, a chance at CompTIA A+ certification, plus mentorship and help in finding a job to get started. “The holistic attitude they have, how they stay with students and have the alumni program, that’s what really sets it apart,” Erin said. 

She said her family was surprised when she brought up technology as a job idea. “They were pushing me toward psychology or social work and that’s not a direction I wanted to take,” said Erin. “I’m empathetic and I also have this technical side, and I want my pathway to combine the two.”

Now she works as a support engineer at the TeamLogicIT, a managed services provider. Day to day she’s scheduling and triaging tickets to other members and solving problems for people. She also handles support coordinating and is stretching into customer outreach. “I’m meeting with smaller clients to see what their needs are and see that their needs are met,” she said.


Soft Skills and Cybersecurity

After graduating from IT-Ready, Erin got an internship at MSR-FSR, an engineering service provider, and spent some time learning the ropes before they hired her on the help desk. Then after moving onto a job at TeamLogicIT, she started teaching herself how to blend her communication skills with the power of a technology assist.

“It starts with customer outreach. I would go to the client, sit with them and assess what their goals are. Then I’d take that back to the team, lay it out and make sure when they’re suggesting something technically it’s aligned with what the customer wants for functionality,” said Erin.

The job she’s describing fits most job descriptions for information technology project managers, a job that on average pays more than $40 dollars an hour.

She also uses her communication skills to strengthen the relationships that have already been built. “I work in tandem with another guy who is really good at onboarding and building trust relationships with customers. He gets them on board and then I take it further to get the customer comfortable with us and streamline that experience so they want to stay on board,” she said. “I’m continuing that value.”

The soft skills she learned in the IT-Ready program are coming in handy, too. “I really like the way they emphasize soft skills. The more I go through IT career-wise, I realize how important that is.”


Plans to be an Informatician

Originally Waterman thought she’d work in cybersecurity in a hospital environment to make sure their critical infrastructure stays strong. Since IT-Ready, she’s realized she likes data science in IT and is working toward a career as a clinical informatician.

“A researcher would gather data and give it to the informatician to configure in a program and create results from that data,” Erin explains. “I think it’d be really great to actually be a part of the research that goes into enhancing humanity and helping us thrive no matter what challenges we may have.”

She’s taking a wide turn back into the career that first sparked her interest, working in IT in a hospital. “Eventually I want to get into IT in a hospital and learn about the imaging machines,” she said. “I’m thinking about doing it specifically with neurology – the humanities with an understanding of ourselves through information.” 


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