Sarah Comiskey of BearingPoint tells SiliconRepublic.com about what she found rewarding and what she found difficult when she embarked on a new career journey.
Growing up, Sarah Comiskey dreamed of becoming a secondary-school teacher. However, one year into a degree in English and Geography, she realised this dream was no longer the career path that she wanted to pursue.
Today, Comiskey has her dream job – a technology consultant in software testing at BearingPoint, a role that she found through a period of working in telecoms.
After graduating from Maynooth University in 2010, Comiskey began working in telesales in Dublin’s telecoms industry, which she described as “challenging work with long hours”. However, Comiskey said that she was happy working to targets and deadlines.
“I would often find myself helping others with technical issues they were having, with systems, headsets, documents etc,” she said. “I believe my team leads noticed this and would often refer people to me when they had issues.
“After some time, I was put forward for a secondment role onsite with the client, to help with Business Acceptance Testing [BAT] on a new ordering and billing system they were planning to go live with within the next few months.”
What made you decide to pivot away from your previous work and move into the tech world?
During my time working with the BAT team, I realised that this was the type of work I wanted to keep doing. I had spent most of my time in customer services or sales roles up until this point, but I always had a good understanding of computers and technologies. So, this secondment role really showed me where I wanted to be.
When the system went live, I became the lead of an escalations team, to support staff and customers who had problems with orders or technical issues with the system. My role changed to meet the needs of the company and so, I ultimately went back into working in the call centre. It was at this point I decided I wanted to make a career change.
How did you go about making that move?
I had been actively looking for a role as an entry-level software QA [quality assurance] tester. I had limited experience, and very little knowledge of programming languages, so I began researching and trying to learn on my own time from wherever I could. However, I was not a graduate at that stage, so I was not confident in applying to any open roles.
‘Luck is where preparedness meets opportunity’
A team member who had moved on from the company I was working for at that time reached out to ask me if I would be interested in a role as a software tester in BearingPoint. I felt confident that this was the right move for me. I was able to speak to someone I knew about expectations and what the role entailed, and so I applied for the position.
I started as a senior analyst in BearingPoint in April 2016, as a member of the quality assurance team. I was supported by the company in getting my ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) foundation-level certificate as well as given multiple opportunities on projects in different domains, working with many different types of people, different technologies and tools.
I have been able to continue to develop my skills and I am currently a senior technology consultant and a test lead for a large team.
How does working in tech differ from your previous experience?
The roles are very different. I find the work I do now more challenging and rewarding day to day. There were a lot of skills that were developed in my previous roles that have contributed to my success as a consultant and a collaborative leader. I had experience working with clients as an outsourced agent brought into a secondment role, I led a large team in my previous role; all granting me much needed experience to handle some of the challenges faced today.
What were the most challenging elements of making a career pivot into tech and how did you navigate these challenges?
I feel that confidence would be the biggest challenge – if you are coming from a background where a lot of the language is new to you and your peers are already aware of the terms, it takes some time to be able to ‘speak’ the language. One of the ways I overcame this was to ask my peers what certain terms meant, or if a process did not make sense to me, I would do some of my own research to understand. I asked a lot of questions in my first year of my new career.
What do enjoy most about your job now and working in tech in general?
I enjoy the people I get to work with every day. I am surrounded by a group of very talented people. There is a lot of problem-solving and thinking outside the box, which makes every day very different. There are different challenges when working in tech, needing to remain adaptable and prepared to make changes with a quick turnaround, which makes every day different.
What advice would you give to others considering a career pivot into tech?
I often said that I got very lucky in the role I have today, but luck is where preparedness meets opportunity, and that is one thing I would urge people looking for a pivot in their career to keep in mind.
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