When I was asked to participate as a blogger for PhDs at Work a year ago my transition felt recent. At the time, I had been in my current position as a database developer and account manager at a small business-consulting firm for three years. The transition from the research sciences to technology consulting was easy to write about because it was still fresh in my memory.
A year ago I was looking for ways to expand my career beyond my day job. I had fantasies of a dual career as a science writer for young adult audiences. However, between work and family time, I never felt like I had the time to move ahead with these goals. Somehow, the process of documenting my transition as a guest blogger for PhDs at Work ended my transition phase. One year later, I am less concerned with how I should honor my graduate experience or use my degree. Instead, I spent most of the past year being appreciative of my current position and the work-life balance I maintain as a working mother.
At the same time, like most working adults, I feel the need to acquire new skills to ensure I stay gainfully employed. Up until now, I felt like my skill set was in demand. This is important to me because the hardest part of my career transition from academics was feeling I did not have valuable skills outside academic research. When I started developing online databases four years ago, fewer people were experts. Over time that has changed and now more firms compete for similar work.
So, I have returned to a truth that I have known all along. If I want to stay relevant, I need more technical skills, specifically, programming skills. I’ve had this goal before but I have not carved out time to do the work. Is it a realistic goal given my work schedule and family time? And, is it a good fit for me professionally? I think the answers to both questions are – yes. I did some workshops a few years ago but between work and having young kids I was unable to pursue it further. Now that the kids are getting older, and I’ve gained more mastery of my work, I have the time and mental space to resume my goals. As luck would have it, an old friend from graduate school has similar goals, so we’ll start our first Udacity online-class together this month.
It is a good time for me to take on new challenges. I am in the process of getting certified as an Intuit QuickBase developer. It’s good for our firm to have certified developers, and certification is good for my resume. It has also been fun to learn in the process! There are two main components: an online set of quizzes, samples of development work, and an interview. I completed the online and development portions last week. I’ve scheduled the interview.
My client work is still challenging and engaging. I am developing a process for customers who are non-database users to submit deliverables and approvals for those deliverable to the database.
The same client also needs a software application for managing client communications. They are interested in a cloud-based system that provides a shared inbox for customers to submit support tickets. Someone in-house set it up but it was not functioning as expected. To help evaluate the product I started from scratch and created my own proof of concept. In a few hours it was up and running and I was able to troubleshoot the cause of their initial problems. Testing new software can be a frustrating experience, so it was a good feeling that my experience with similar products makes it easier to evaluate new ones.
The timing of these blog posts could not have been better. It allowed me to think about my next steps and to brainstorm ways to expand my career options and to stay challenged.
Start from the beginning – Read Alison Fisher’s “Week in the Life”