Everybody’s career journey is entirely unique. You may have travelled via university or followed a winding road into full-time employment. Maybe you found yourself on a track that involved more practical experience, or perhaps you had to take a few unexpected breaks along the way. However your path looked, it got you where you are today – and we believe that should be celebrated.
We know socio-economic diversity benefits everyone, and we think that everybody who wants to join us should be given a fair chance regardless of education, experience, or background. That’s why we introduced ‘Create Your Own Path’, a blog series designed to shine a light on members of our community who took a path less travelled to find VMware, and to highlight some of the employment initiatives we’re most proud of.
We asked our volunteers what three words they would use to sum up their career journey so far, where they are now, and where they’re headed.
In this final instalment, VP and GM for Northern Europe at VMware, Melinda Lee Ferguson, reflects on the changing nature of the tech industry and some things we can consider to resolve the ongoing shortage of talent.
When asked to pick a few words to sum up my own career journey, I landed on the following: not being afraid to take on difficult or unexpected assignments, staying curious and open minded about the dynamic nature of the technology industry itself, leading teams to tackle the big challenges that come with change, and having great sponsors and mentors along the way.
My career has definitely not had some kind of grand plan from the beginning. Technology was not what I had in mind as I completed my university education, but I’m fortunate that I had a lot of encouragement, and a bit of young fearlessness, to take that chance and switch my career path towards technology early on. It’s extremely important to me that anybody considering a career in technology understands that no matter your background, age, or relevant experience, there is a path ready and waiting for you to follow… You just need to be willing to set off.
As a leader in the industry, I think it’s my duty to amplify this message. That’s why I was delighted to be given the opportunity to round off the Create Your Own Path series, which shows first-hand that there is no ‘one route’ into tech, or into VMware.
The brilliant, bold (and sometimes bizarre – in the best of ways!) stories shared so far prove that every career journey is a valid one: from Patricia Buena Lacasa, the VMware employee who made the move from Physiotherapy in Barcelona to VMware in Ireland to Gerry Murphy, who runs the Kickstart programme which works to get unemployed people into tech roles.
We’re so proud to have been able to showcase the range of talent in our community, which is where my first key word comes into play – in the context of taking a chance on an unexpected path.
As proven by team members like Patricia, and Andy who joined VMware after a successful run as a professional Water Polo player, there are no hard and fast rules about what type of experience you should have before you move into the technology industry.
I try to be as open-minded as possible when it comes to talent. We have some employees who have degrees, and some without. We have some employees who came to us with extensive tech knowledge, while some were complete beginners. As a leader, it’s my job to nurture our talent and make sure that they have everything they need to excel, not to vet them.
It’s also important to acknowledge the need for an inclusive, diverse workforce. Having a range of different perspectives on your team removes blind spots, and allows you to come at a project from all angles. In fact, a recent Gartner study found that inclusivity within teams can boost performance by up to 30% in high-diversity environments.
What’s more, the tech industry is facing a huge talent shortage crisis across EMEA. According to the State of European tech report, overall investment in the European tech ecosystem is at an all-time high, but this rapid growth has led to a skills shortage.
For employees, there’s never been a better time to get into the industry, and for leaders, having a diverse range of employees from different backgrounds with a varied set of skills is obviously a win-win situation.
As a leader, you’re only ever as effective as your team is, which is why I want to surround myself with people who are curious problem solvers, willing to grow, seek feedback, and to use it to get better. For me, it’s not as important whether you’re coming in with the necessary hard skills, it’s just about whether you’re coming in with the right mindset.
I’d encourage anyone who is interested in a career in tech to take any possible steps to get started, whether that’s applying for your dream role, or just reaching out to a new connection from the industry on LinkedIn.
For those that do venture into the industry, be curious about the possibilities and never stop learning. The most important aspect of any career is to recognise that there is always something to learn. No matter your role, it’s important to come at it with a curious mindset.
The importance of a curious mindset cannot be understated when it comes to the technology industry. The landscape is ever-changing, constantly moving and evolving and we, as tech professionals must evolve with it.
You should never assume you’ll be able to box yourself into a very specific, planned out path, and some the most important advice I have been given is to remain open-minded. Roles change, requirements change, and you will change. Early on when it was first suggested to me that I should consider a sales trainee job in the tech industry, I really did not have a clear understanding of what a job in tech sales really meant. I was nervous of whether I had all the skills to be successful.
I went into my first interview expecting to not be qualified and also prepared to possibly be bored – but all of those preconceived ideas were blown out of the water. Tech sales was dynamic, interesting, and it allowed me to have fun learning about different customers’ businesses and solving real problems for them. I also have had the opportunity to work with and learn from so many great people in the industry. Remaining open-minded enough to take that first interview turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done.
So many jobs are ‘tech’ jobs. Just think about how much technology we all use on a daily basis, and think about the design, engineering, development, marketing, support, management, etc that goes along with it. The opportunities across functions are endless in tech.
There’s a vast industry out there to be explored by enthusiastic, willing people. If Create Your Own Path has done anything, I hope it has inspired at least one person out there to jump in with both feet and give it a go.