• Serena McGowan

How I Landed in the IT Field

Updated: Feb 26

I never thought I would land in the IT field. Ever since high school, I always thought I would be a math teacher. During my sophomore or junior year of high school, I had a biology teacher who inspired me to go down the education route. I wanted to have the same passion about teaching math that he had about teaching biology. I picked my college based on that major and started freshman year as a Math Secondary Education major. One of the classes I had to take during freshman year was Intro to Programming. This course was a general overview of coding in Visual Studio. I ended up loving it so much that I switched my major from Math to Computer Information Technology.

Computer Information Technology covers a wide span of topics. Some of the classes were Networking, Algorithms and Data Structures, Advanced Database, Project Management, and Cyber Security. I found myself liking the programming classes, then switching gears to the security classes, then switching again to networking and hardware. I had a very hard time choosing one area that I would call my favorite. The programming courses were challenging and made me think critically and analytically. The cyber security classes were overall attention grabbing because we learned about the dark web, hacking and encrypting. Networking and hardware tied into everything because we learned about how computers work inside and out.

The last semester of my senior year was when I thought I would latch on to one particular area and focus my time and energy on that. Boy, was I wrong. I started 2019 thinking I would become a web developer or web designer. I loved watching the HTML and CSS bring websites to life. I was interning for a start-up company in Manhattan at the time, and they allowed me to practice my web developer skills while learning more about database code and structure. I thought I found my future until a class called Networking and Infrastructure came along and stole the show. Half way through this course, I knew this was what I wanted to do as a career. I found myself always wanting to learn more about how computers talked to each other and the ins and outs of them. While the tests and lab assignments were hard, I finished the course with a beginner’s understanding of networking.

From that point and throughout the summer, I searched for entry-level networking positions on any and every job board. I was under the impression that “entry-level” meant little to no experience, four year degree or equivalent experience, and ready to learn. Numerous posting listed “Entry-Level,” but they required two years of experience, coding projects, experience with particular technologies and the list goes on. I started to get discouraged thinking that I wouldn’t find a job because I didn’t have the particular requirements that anyone was looking for. Eventually, I stopped letting those “requirements” limit me and I started applying anyway.

Summer of 2019 was the summer of interviews. I was constantly going for interviews. I attended some great interviews that I thought went well, only to not hear back from them after following up a week later. I also attended some really bad interviews. One in particular asked me to take a quiz in person about a particular programming language that I had zero experience with. Needless to say, I didn’t get that job. I also went through rounds and rounds of interviews with companies only to find out that the benefits or the pay didn’t meet what I needed to pay the bills. By the end of the summer, I was so fed up with the process that I almost gave up all together.

Ever hear the saying, “You always find something when you’re not looking for it?” This is exactly what happened to me in August of 2019. I was so stressed and anxious because my current internship contract was ending two weeks later and I still didn’t have a job lined up. My boyfriend and mom suggested that I just take some time off, relax, breathe and then pick up looking again. I sent in a few more applications and then did not look at a single job board or email for another week.

Finally, in the beginning of September, I received a phone call from one of the companies I applied for in early August. I honestly forgot I even applied to this particular company. I met maybe one or two of the requirements but figured since it was an apprenticeship I would give it a shot. Four rounds of interviews, two written assignments, and a network diagram later, I landed the original position that I applied for. I was beyond nervous but also very excited to start this new journey. I absorbed all the information I possibly could in those three months. I also made some stupid mistakes and asked a lot of questions. Through all of that, I matured and gained so much confidence in the IT field. After three months, I had my first review. During this meeting, I found out that I was going to be promoted to an official full-time position, and at that moment, everything I’ve ever worked for fell into place. The office I work in now is my second family and I wouldn’t trade the relationship I have with them for anything. They have taught me so much more than I ever learned in a semester of college and have built up enough trust in me to send me to clients any time they can not go.

Overall, landing in the IT field was a happy accident. Five to seven years ago, I never thought I would be where I am today. I thought I would be in a school teaching math. I never thought having a career in the technology field would be achievable. Now that I’m in it, all I can say is I’m living the dream and wouldn’t trade it for the world.