Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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April 14, 2016

To Move Up the Career Ladder, Be Competent in the Job You Have Now

AngelaAllenAfter more than 30 years with IBM, Angela Allen retired earlier this year, and Creating IT Futures was lucky enough to have her join our Board of Directors last summer.

Last working as vice president of IBM’s Global Sales Technical Enablement organization, Angela was a leader and teacher who designed solution methods and training programs that teach IBM’s technical sellers to identify and solve customers’ IT problems. While at IBM, she also started the University Delivery Services program where IBM partners with universities to hire students to work part-time on various projects until they graduate.

Originally from rural eastern North Carolina, Angela understands the value of a quality education. Her alma mater, East Carolina University (ECU), afforded her several opportunities for which she is grateful, like an internship at the Department of the Navy in Washington, D.C., where she first learned about computer programming. She later received her master's business training through Harvard Business School's Program for Management Development.

We asked Angela what got her into technology and how others could follow her example.

“I was first intrigued by computers in high school. I heard about computers in my business and typing courses,” said Angela. “After those courses, I researched what types of careers were in computers. At the time, there were only a few universities near me that offered a degree in computer science. After my first programming course, I was hooked.”

A contact she met during her Navy internship helped Angela get an interview with the IBM, and from there, she moved up the career ladder.

“My jobs at IBM were interesting, dynamic and challenging with lots of world travel. The first fourth of my career was very technical in systems programming,” said Angela. “Then I moved into the application side of programming and management of technical professionals. I added project management skills and began working with systems across various industries. I worked more than 20 years in large application development, and then in the last five years, I moved back to my system roots, helping technical field sellers with solution designs and sales.”

Angela advises new entrants to the IT workforce to build a suite of mentors and to create relationships with people who are ahead of you on the career ladder and with peers who have a specialty in your area of interest.

“I had good great mentors who were willing to share their experiences, and I asked lots of questions,” added Angela. “No one can know everything, so commit to being a life-long learner. Find something you’re good at and become the expert. Use that strength, whatever it is, in every job.”

One of the biggest pieces of advice that Angela gives is to do the job you’re in well.

“When I mentor people, and I’ve mentored a lot of people during my career, I advise them to perform well in their current job,” said Angela. “Be confident and competent. Build trust that you can do a solid job. That will get you noticed.”

When it comes to new hires, Angela looks for passion for technology and the job. She also wants to see how flexible they are and if they are adoptive to change and willing to continue learning.

For new people coming into the IT workforce, Angela specifically says to pinpoint your passion for technology in what you’ve done on your own. Also reinforce the soft skills you can bring to the job. Show that you’re a well-rounded person and can collaborate in a team environment.

“Have a plan, improve and build your skills, and be competent in what you’re doing right there today,” advises Angela. “Then you should ask for the next assignment. Be bold. Ask for what you want. Your work gets you noticed, and your passion and desire to succeed gets you promoted.”