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Linda McGraw shares her story and advice on how to transition into IT

Danielle Bechtel
Danielle Bechtel

“To put it simply, I didn’t grow up with an easy life. I saw how my life changed when my mother decided to go back to school and get her nursing degree. As a single mom, she walked every day to college. Her persistence inspired me to stay the course, and get three degrees. I now have an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science, a Bachelor’s of Computer Science, and a Master’s in Information Systems.”

— Linda McGraw, PHP Developer @ A Cloud Guru
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“The struggle was real.”

I found myself in a situation similar to my mother’s. I had just come out of a divorce, and I had a 4-year-old son. I thought to myself, “You have a child. You can’t live like this. I’m used to having certain things. How do I get back to where I can get those things that I want?”

At work, we were migrating systems due to a corporate acquisition. My manager sent us all to a day-long Microsoft Access training. I had never done something like Access before, but after I took the course I was able to streamline my own job. I wrote logic within Access in macros where I could basically just push a button and it would spit out the final report that I needed. A job that was taking me a week to do, ran in half a day.

Once I realized I had a little knack for IT, I thought maybe I should change my career. I started applying for IT roles and kept getting declined because I didn’t have a degree. I got so impatient. As a single mom, I was so frustrated and I needed that degree like yesterday. I needed the extra income and insurance for my child. That caused me to be a second-time student.

A lot of the times, when you are going through a transition you can feel the urgency. You want to overload yourself with all these courses, and then you may not be able to do it, or your life is out of balance and then you’re not happy.

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I took my son to the college campus with me with a Nintendo in his hand…

My advice for other females is to be patient with yourself. I remember when I first started working on my Associate Degree, I wanted it right then. I wanted to increase my income, but I had to have the patience to take one course at a time some semesters or give up the weekend. I remember those days that I took my son to the college campus with me with a Nintendo in his hand, because I had to take a course on campus. You have to encourage yourself and patiently go through it day by day, week by week.

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I run into a lot of young ladies who are thinking about making a transition into tech. A lot of times they just want to know how to get a seat at the table, what type of IT role they can really get, and whom they should talk to. Having access to an organization like Women Who Code fosters a support system for women. It’s a place where you can meet people who have accomplished goals you aspire to, whether it’s a role in IT management or a role as a junior software developer. I would just say women considering transitioning to tech shouldn’t fear.

Steps to take to transition into IT

  1. First, what do you like to do? Be very realistic with yourself. Are you the type of person that can sit at a computer every day or are you the type of person that needs to be in meetings? Within the technical field, you have business analysts, project managers, data engineers, software developers, and managers. Ask yourself, “How do I see myself spending my day?”
  2. And then ask yourself, “What am I good at doing?” I discovered before I went back to school that I was good at math and science, and I could solve problems using SQL. It gave me a little fuel to go the computer science route and take a deeper dive.
  3. Try to take a free course. It will give you a broad view of a specific area. For example, if you wanted to code, take a free Javascript course. You’re going to have to break out a laptop and follow along. While you’re taking the free course ask yourself, “Do I really enjoy doing this? Am I good at doing this?
  4. Decide your path. Explore talking with a career advisor that can take your passions and what you’ve learned and show you some type of career map. There are tons of career maps, because every year tech changes. When I went to school we had C++ and Java. Now the young folks going to school are learning Python and DevOps. 
  5. Decide how much time you have to give. Depending on how much time you have to invest, it will determine whether or not you should do a Bootcamp, online learning like we offer, or to take a much deeper dive and do a full college path. If you have 6 months, maybe you should do an online certification. If you have 2 years, maybe you do a couple of certifications or go for that Associate’s degree. If time is not relevant, go for that Bachelor’s degree. If you need your money today, I would say go get a certificate.

Do I have to go back to school? I don’t think you need a college degree. That’s why it’s so important to identify what you’re good at and passionate about. I met a young man who hasn’t graduated high school yet but had gotten a couple of certificates. He was making what I was making [financially] and he hadn’t even graduated yet! If you know you are smart like that, and you can pass those certifications, go for it! Because within 6 months to a year you’ll be earning a real salary that most people would kill for.

I want to tell everyone that there is still room at the table whether you are a woman or a man.

Given the current state of the world, I am glad that I decided to explore a career in tech. I want to tell everyone that there is still room at the table whether you are a woman or a man. A Cloud Guru has several online offerings for you to dig into and get your feet wet. Who knows, you may find yourself transitioning into tech.

Thinking about transitioning into tech? You can explore careers at A Cloud Guru by visiting our LinkedIn Life page and careers site. Nervous about applying? Don’t be! If our mission, vision, and values speak to you, we want to speak to you too. College degrees aren’t required for any roles, and career gaps or switches are totally welcome.


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