In this post, I would like to share my first experience working in the IT field as a career changer.
My first post on Explore Blog was about how I initiated a career change towards IT. It was challenging process, but I decided to take one step at a time. First, I decided to start by building my capacity with a master’s degree in Information Technology at Griffith University. Then, as a next step, I desired to get my first job in the IT industry.
Work Integrated Learning (WIL)
In the last year of my master’s degree, we were required to take a course called Work Integrated Learning (WIL), and complete a three month internship in an IT-related industry. As I am particularly interested in Data Analytics for education, I decided to look for internship opportunities inside Griffith University.
I spoke to a lot of different people inside the university, and one person would recommend talking to another person, and then, to another person…and finally I got in touch with Clancy Birrell (pictured), who is the Strategic Senior Leader inside the sector of Planning and Analytics at Griffith University. This department is responsible for analysing data from the whole university and providing insights that can feed the Learning and Teaching team. So, this was the perfect place for me.
Clancy welcomed me to his team in the sector of Planning and Analytics and became my mentor. This was the most incredible experience that I could have in the field of Data Analytics and education. I was not only handling data from one of the best universities in Australia, but also, I had the support from a senior data professional. The work was not easy. I struggled a lot, especially in the beginning, but having a mentor was crucial in these moments to keep me motivated and growing.
Having a mentor is something that I highly recommend when you are a new starter like me because you can get feedback and support from a more experienced professional. I kept frequent communication with my mentor through weekly meetings, where he would give me new tasks and provide his feedback on what I had done. Usually, I tend to focus too much on my weaknesses and on things that I should improve, rather than on what I have accomplished.
My mentor helped me to balance that. He would always encourage me, give me compliments and support me when I was stuck. That was exactly what I needed in that moment of my life, and this experience allowed me to feel more confident in how far I could go. From the mentors’ perspective, I believe this is also an opportunity to consolidate their knowledge and help others who are less experienced.
As a career changer, this internship was vital to put into evidence my technical capabilities, and make my CV more attractive for IT-related roles. When I saw an advertisement for a dream job as a Graduate Analyst inside Griffith University, I knew that I would need some extra help with my personal branding. I contacted the Careers and Employment Service from Griffith University, and with their advice, I remodelled my resume and became familiarised with the expected structure of a cover letter. As a foreigner, it was also very useful to have someone review my resume and include more relevant and powerful words that they recommended.
As a result, I was shortlisted for an interview. My mentor was very supportive and filled me with positive energy and good vibes. And again, the Careers and Employment Service helped me to prepare for the interview using some techniques and the resources available in the BigInterview platform.
I believe that a good preparation is critical to do well in an interview, and I decided that I wanted to do my part. As I was recommended, I read over the job description line by line, and was trying to imagine what was important for that role and what they could potentially ask. I thought about moments in my professional and student life that taught me about teamwork, problem solving and conflict resolution. And I made sure that I was able to tell a story using the STAR framework. Also, I prepared myself to answer the famous question “Tell us about yourself”, using only information that was relevant to that role.
The interview went smoothly, and I was able to answer all the questions with confidence. A few days later, I received the call that I was selected for the Graduate Analyst role. I guess every recent graduate dreams about the day when they will receive this call. This was no different with me. This was one of the best days of my life!
Kickstarting my career
For two years, I was a full-time student in a new field, in foreign country during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a toddler. This was a combination of challenges all at once, and I am happy that it enabled me to shape who I am today. I was lucky to be surrounded by supportive professionals, and a nurturing environment at Griffith University.
Now I face another exciting challenge: to integrate myself as a respected IT professional in Australia. Development happens with focus, patience and one step at a time.
My message to anyone who is reading this post is to discover your dream job, (the one that you would do even if you were not paid for it), give your best and have a mentor. Your dreams will inevitably come true. And don’t forget to give back (as a mentor) when you are a skilled professional too.