“Within reason, I will try anything. Put a piece of work in front of me and I will try. That’s why I’ve managed to change careers.”
Proving them wrong
As a Year Nine student in Ipoh, Malaysia, Elaine made a decision that would shape her future career.
“My teacher told me, ‘You are never going to go to university. You’re better off taking an arts subject versus a science subject.’ So, I decided to prove them wrong,” she laughs.
“I didn’t do that well,” she admits, “but I passed it. I got into a science course, and I finished it.”
From there Elaine had other decisions to make. She says her heart broke when her matriculation scores weren’t quite good enough to get her into an engineering course, but they were good enough to study Computer Science at Swinburne University of Technology, in Australia.
I fought to stay in IT
“I stayed in IT,” she says. “I fought to stay in IT.”
“I graduated from Swinburne with an applied Science and Computer Science degree, so that qualified me as a developer,” she says, “but I haven’t written a line of code that went into production in my entire life!”
After gaining her degree, Elaine went on to a job with an insurance company in Singapore as a Data Security Officer. After a couple of years, she then moved to a large multinational company as an IT Auditor.
Wanting to move back to Australia, her employer offered her a role there as a Server Administrator. “All right, I’ll take it,” she said. Before long, their Network Administrator resigned, so Elaine found herself covering both roles.
Eventually, she was told to pick which role she wanted. “So, I picked one! There was a reason I chose it: I preferred networks over servers.”
While her employer paid for Elaine to do a one-week networking course, she knew she needed more.
“I didn’t have an environment that I could explore in, because everything was production, so who was going to teach me? I had to buck-up and do this on my own,” she says of her decision to enroll in Cisco Networking Academy at TAFE NSW Meadowbank.
“And that’s what I did. I enjoyed it thoroughly.”
While she was working full-time, Elaine spent eight hours every Saturday for 20 weeks studying CCNA courses for her diploma, and then a further “year or 18 months” doing her advanced diploma several nights a week studying CCNP courses.
“This is just the course before doing the certification,” she says. “When I think about it, I took eight papers just to get to CCNP.”
To any young people considering Cisco Networking Academy study, Elaine says: “Try it! If you don’t give it a go, you’re not going to know.”
It is a philosophy she has applied throughout her own career. “Within reason, I will try anything,” she says. “Put a piece of work in front of me and I will try. That’s why I’ve managed to change careers. I have failed, too, or not enjoyed some things.”
“I didn’t chart my future, I didn’t chart my career, I didn’t know what I wanted. It was just, ‘here, have a go,’ and off I went.”
“I must admit I was very fortunate. I still am,” she says. “Every career change I had was supported by someone. It wasn’t out of the blue, it was always an internal change.”
After 18 years as a Network Engineer—and thanks in part to the Covid pandemic, and a change in life priorities—Elaine has recently changed roles again and is now a Technical Business Analyst.
The hum of a data center
When asked what the best part of her career journey has been, she is unequivocal: “The installs—the data centers. I still get to walk into one every now and again, and it is like oooh,” she smiles. “There’s a calming factor to the hum.”
“I love building things. There is a thrill to unpacking the boxes, pulling out the parts, and putting things together. I got to unbox a lot of things and put the kit together.”
With the recent career change, Elaine’s knowledge is not going to waste, however.
English for IT
“With the knowledge that you’ve gained, you can diversify,” she says. As a Technical Business Analyst with experience in networks, “I try to bridge the conversations between IT and the business. That’s the biggest key.”
“I like to use the phrase: tell it to them in English! So, tech talk on one side, English on the other side. That’s a skill set that one can hone,” she says. “I am still learning how to tell it in English!”
“I’ve changed careers in IT a few times, but being a Network Engineer was my longest—18 years! Two years as a security/compliance person, five years as an IT auditor, 18 years as a network engineer and now Technical Business Analyst.”
With the determination of that Year Nine student, a willingness to try new things, and an ability to see opportunities, Elaine has leveraged her experience and knowledge for a fulfilling career.
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