Insight from CallRail’s Amanda Raymond
If you ask any of Amanda Raymond’s friends, family members, or colleagues, they’d all agree that she embodies living life to the fullest.
The Staff Engineer at CallRail is currently exploring the great American outdoors in a custom camper which doubles as her portable office. And when she’s not showcasing her coding skills at work, she’s busy exploring, kayaking, solo hiking, or making repairs on her house with wheels. “Everyday something breaks, so I'm learning how to be an electrician, learning how to be a plumber, and everyday I have to learn something new,” she says cheerfully.
This roadtrip is a full circle moment for Amanda because, just over 8 years ago, after quitting her job as a biochemist, she set off on another cross-country trip that reconnected her with an old friend who introduced her to an opportunity to change her career trajectory by joining a coding bootcamp.
“Coming from a biochem background, you had to have a certificate on a wall with a high degree to get through a door. I had a bachelor's, I didn't have a Masters, I didn't have a PhD,” says Amanda. “I knew that I wanted the freedom of a career in Tech and the lifestyle of a coder so I took a leap of faith.” And she dove headfirst into a full-stack web development bootcamp. That leap of faith has helped her transition from a job in science that she wasn’t passionate about and grow a fulfilling career that allows her the freedom and flexibility with a company that embraces her adventurous spirit.
We sat down with Amanda to hear more about her career journey, and to gain some unique insight on starting a career in technology with a non-traditional background. Keep reading for her top 5 tips for breaking into a career in technology.
Tip 1: Acquire the Skill Set: Join a Bootcamp or Use Online Resources
Amanda’s journey began when she attended a coding bootcamp. “At the time I joined, the whole concept of coding bootcamps was new,” she explains. “So a lot of people didn't know what bootcampers were.” But nowadays, bootcamps are one of the most popular ways to learn how to code and, like for Amanda, they serve as a great foundation for career pivoters to break into the world of tech.
Amanda highlights the fact that you don’t have to have a degree in computer science to start working in tech. Career pivoters have valuable experiences, perspectives, and transferable skills that can be hugely beneficial for companies. Amanda sees having a background in something other than tech should be seen, “not as a disadvantage, but as an advantage.”
But bootcamps aren’t the only way to accelerate your learning, especially considering the financial investment required for these intensive courses. “There are so many free resources out there,” Amanda elaborates. “If you have the discipline to teach yourself, you can listen to podcasts, you can do tutorials online, you can watch YouTube videos, the possibilities are endless. Information is free on the internet these days and so at the end of the day, if you're trying to see if you wanna go into tech, I would say immerse yourself with that information.”
Tip 2: Network to Build Personal Connections!
When it came to finding a job, Amanda eagerly recommended networking. “My advice to people going into transitioning into tech is to go to meetups consistently, but don't go with the intent of getting a job,” she warns. Instead, she advises to focus on making connections, and the professional opportunities will follow. “Get to know people, be excited to be there, be motivated to learn, and be curious about the people that you're meeting. Because at the end of the day, a lot of people just want to work with people that they get along with.” Amanda secured her first major tech job at a small startup via a networking event. Her connection with a friend of a CTO of a local startup led to an interview, her first job in tech, and a “forever mentor.”
After a bustling three years of learning under the wing of that CTO, Amanda was ready for the next learning experience via a different lane in the tech industry. “The fervor and energy surrounding ‘startup life’ was incredibly rewarding and insightful for my apprentice-like mind for 3 years, but eventually proved pretty taxing,” she explains. “ I was excited to dig into the next phase of my career transition at a larger company..” So, once again, she utilized her network to transition from her startup to a position in CallRail. “Some of the CallRail admins had previously worked for the same startup I was currently working at, and my CTO advocated for me as a reference to let them know I was going to apply.”. She started her journey with CallRail in 2017.
Tip 3: Leverage your Transferable Skills
When pivoting into tech, your transferable skills will help you bridge the gaps that you might be missing with education. In fact, they can also give you a leg up on your colleagues. In Amanda’s case, applying the scientific method to coding came as a strength. “I use it daily at work for solving problems,” she explains. “It comes down to observing a problem, researching the topic, proposing a hypothesis, running an experiment that can test that hypothesis, analyzing the results, and then reporting the conclusion.”
Having an idea of how your prior skill sets can be applied in your new career is an interview must. Being prepared to explain your non-traditional background can help employers better understand who you are and what you can bring to the table.
Tip 4: Find the Right Work Environment for You
One of Amanda's favorite aspects of working at CallRail is that the company prioritizes employee passions. “CallRail is a place where, if you are passionate about something, then they will do whatever it takes to help you to do it. They want people to be passionate about what they're working on.” And that doesn’t just mean in the workplace. In fact, Amanda credits her current lifestyle to CallRail’s trust and willingness to provide remote opportunities post-COVID. “Not many companies would be okay with what I am doing, but CallRail has been very supportive. My manager has, from the very beginning, been supportive of this track for me.”
Having a sense of support and trust at work translates to overall happiness and wellbeing. “At the beginning of my mobile office journey, I asked my manager to please let me know if I have a decrease in work efficiency, and that I would promptly adjust,” she explains. “And my manager responded with,, ‘If anything, we think that you are going to do better work because you will be happier.’”
To find the best work environment for you Amanda recommends doing your research on company values and culture and asking questions to make sure the company is a good fit. “When you're interviewing for a job, they're not just interviewing you, you're interviewing them to see if that's a place where you can thrive.” She further explains, “At the beginning of your career transition into Tech, you want to find an environment that celebrates where you are currently in that journey and provides you with tangible resources and guidance to take you to the next level.”
Tip 5: Build the Right Mindset
In order to best succeed in this field Amanda highlights three mindset shifts she believes led her to success.
Be patient with yourself. “You have to have a lot of patience with yourself when learning something new. And if you have confidence that you can do anything you set your mind to and the patience with yourself to stick with it (because it won't happen overnight)— you can be successful,” says Amanda. “The patience to stick with myself and continue to believe in my abilities during challenging times was my map to transitioning into tech.”
Get comfortable not always having the answer. For Amanda, starting a career in tech requires accepting that you will need to be a continual learner. “I think that being in tech is kind of like being on a constant roller coaster of newness and learning. That journey never ends, and you have to kind of be okay with that and then get good at it,” she explains.
Be passionate and coachable. As the previous point suggests, teachability is a trait that any career pivoter needs to embrace. During her time as a coding instructor, she noted that the most passionate students were the most likely to succeed, saying “What I saw as a teacher and as a mentor is that the people that were truly passionate, in a way that was contagious, were able to succeed by constantly communicating and staying humble, yet eager to tackle the rigorous process of learning.”
The 3 Transferable Skills that Helped Raytheon Technologies’ Sierra Weaver Pivot From Communications to Cybersecurity
As a Cybersecurity DOD Collateral Alt. Information Systems Security Manager (ISSM), it’s easy for Sierra to lose track of time at work because she loves learning, and her field is constantly refreshing itself with new tools, technology, and processes to stay up-to-date on.
Sierra Weaver’s boss at Raytheon Technologies keeps a good eye on the entire team to ensure no one is overworking themselves.
“He’ll jokingly say, ‘I’ve seen you online at this hour!’ and consistently reminds me of work-life balance,” she says. “He’s very supportive—we honestly have an amazing team.”
But ask her five years ago whether she thought she’d be in cybersecurity, and you would have gotten a resounding “no.”
Sierra planned to work in broadcast journalism, but after being exposed to cybersecurity while working in a contract position at a different aerospace company, she realized she wanted to transition into that industry.
“When I started, I didn’t have all of the technical skills, but that was something I learned along the way. Anyone from any background or career, so long as you are determined, open to learning, a great problem solver, and have some core transferable skills can be successful in a Cyber career,” she says.
We sat down with Sierra to learn more about what exactly those skills were, how she uses them on a daily basis, and what the future of cybersecurity looks like from her perspective.
Core Skill: Determination
Sierra studied communication and Pan-African studies at Cal State while working full-time—and she credits a lot of her success in cybersecurity to her ability to work hard.
Even her first experience with the industry required determination. As a contractor, she was involved with different departments and processes, from purchasing to contracting to licensing.
“With all of the hats I wore, I was doing quite a bit, but cybersecurity is what interested me the most,” she says. After getting hired at Raytheon, Sierra applied her work ethic to deepening her expertise in the field through certifications, including the Security Plus certification.
“As long as you are willing and open to the training process, I feel like anyone can make the pivot, just by being determined,” she says.
Core Skill: Communication
Though she loves her job, Sierra is a lot more than just her work. For one thing, she’s one of 15 siblings. Growing up in LA with that many family members, Sierra learned how to communicate with different kinds of people with various backgrounds, needs, and styles of interaction.
“With cyber, you’re communicating and collaborating with many stakeholders most of your all day,” she says, citing everyone from the IT department to program managers, and our customers.
Sierra calls her Raytheon coworkers her work family, and says that at the end of the day, “we all get along so well, communicate effectively with one another, and ultimately they help make work so much more worthwhile.”
“We spend so much time at our jobs. You always want to be in an environment you feel comfortable in, one you can flourish in. I’m lucky in the sense that the folks I work with are extremely supportive. I can leverage their knowledge. I can lean on them if I need anything. And I’m just so appreciative of that. That’s what keeps me at Raytheon Technologies,” she says.
Core Skill: Problem-Solving
Sierra’s team ensures that Raytheon’s clients, particularly those with classified contracts, have their systems set up in a way that ensures no classified information is compromised. They work with the Defensive Counterintelligence Security Agency to keep things up to snuff, which includes maintaining the systems for the life of the technology.
It requires a nimble approach to problem-solving—and a hands-on one, too.
Even though she’s now a manager of a team of six, Sierra still does some of that work herself.
“I want my team to know that anything that I ask them to do, I’m willing to do,” she says, referencing site visits and tough systems. “I want to give my team the tools to be able to fish on their own, and to feel comfortable and confident, but I also want to be just hands-on enough for them to know that if they need my support, I’m there and available to help them.”
Building the Next Wave of Women in Cybersecurity
When Sierra looks around her industry, she doesn’t see many people who look like her.
“I would love to see more women within cybersecurity. And I am absolutely doing my best and doing my part to encourage women, and women of color as well, to join cybersecurity,” she says. “For us to continue to be successful, we need diversity on all fronts.”
Part of Sierra doing her best is sharing her story, like she’s done with us here. Another part of it is offering herself up as a resource for women looking to break into the field.
“I hear from folks that they look at job requisites for cybersecurity, or research all of what the field entails, and get intimidated and discouraged because they feel like they have to have all these certifications or several years of experience just to get their foot in the door at a company like Raytheon Technologies. But honestly, we truly need individuals who are passionate about cybersecurity and willing to learn; you don’t need to be a technical expert to get started,” Sierra says.
This June 2020, PowerToFly partnered with Flexport, the first digitized operating system for global trade, to present a virtual event focused on a timely topic: career progressions and pivots.
During our virtual event with Flexport's Head of Learning & Development and two employees who pivoted careers we discussed inspiring your career search and gaining the tools to get where you're going. Flexport also led our attendees through an illuminating activity where you planned your own retirement party followed by breakout discussions.
Speakers from Flexport included:
- Sarah Gehrki, Director, People Programs and Chief of Staff to Head of People
- Christina Cook, Business Intelligence Analyst
- Lauren Fernandez, Head of Learning and Development
Flexport is the first digitized operating system for global trade. They have a rare business model that not only satisfies the global trade market but grows it. Over the past two years, Flexport has more than tripled its headcount and expanded its worldwide presence to 14+ offices and warehouses. While scaling rapidly, they've developed critical employee learning and development programs. Those involved in these initiatives will work with you to reassess your priorities and grow your own career, no matter the industry.
If you're interested in joining Flexport's team, check out these job opportunities. The team looks forward to connecting with skilled.
A Q&A with Rachel Cohen, A Software Engineer At Dow Jones
Rachel Cohen, a Software Engineer at Dow Jones, spent the first decade of her career in journalism and recently landed the career of her dreams after attending a PowerToFly event! If you're currently pivoting your career, in the trenches of a coding bootcamp, amidst your first technical interview, or have been rejected once or twice, don't be discouraged!
"The letdowns and rejections are experiences that will make you better in every aspect," Rachel says. Keep reading to hear more about Rachel's journey and if you're interested in learning more about careers at Dow Jones? Click here to 'Follow' them on PowerToFly!
Can you describe your journey to your current position?
Rachel Cohen: I used to be a reporter and attended a software engineering bootcamp to make a career change. After I graduated and started my job search, I was interested in potentially staying in the journalism world with an engineering job at a media company. I tried to be very deliberate in the process - before I applied, I both wanted to make sure a media company was proactively using technology and to speak directly to someone at the company because I felt my backstory was likely more compelling in person than on a resume that someone might skim. It really was incredible timing when I got the email about the PowerToFly event with Dow Jones because I had been trying to gather more information about them just then. I had previously attended PowerToFly events and enjoyed them, so I was confident this event would be valuable. It was indeed a great opportunity to get a feel for the company's culture and solidify my interest in applying there, and it was also the perfect opportunity to tell my story in person to a hiring manager there. That conversation started the process that eventually led to my hire. Pretty cool how it all worked out!
What was the most valuable thing you learned on your journey to this new role that you'd like to share with others?
RC: Job searching, especially that search for your first software engineering role, is a learning process. The letdowns and the rejections along the way - as discouraging as they feel in the moment - are experiences that will make you better at every aspect, and in turn, better-positioned to land a position that's the right fit.
How did the hiring process differ with Dow Jones over other companies?
RC: What I appreciated about the hiring process was how the engineers who ran the interviews created a supportive atmosphere. One moment that sticks out came during an onsite coding challenge. While looking something up online, I commented that it feels as though I can't remember anything when I'm nervous. One of my future colleagues good-naturedly responded she likes to joke that all she does all day is Google how to do things. That helped put me at ease.
How did PowerToFly help you get your new role?
RC: PowerToFly hosted an event with Dow Jones while I was job searching - and, in fact, at a time when I was looking to learn more about the company. It wound up being the perfect opportunity to both gain insight into Dow Jones' culture and to make a connection there. I introduced myself to an engineering manager who put me in touch with the technical recruiter, and that started the process that culminated in an accepted job offer.
What excites you about your new role at Dow Jones?
Rachel Cohen: I was a reporter for more than 16 years before making a career switch, and one of the inspirations for my move to coding was my long-standing fascination with using technology to do my job more efficiently. Now I work on a team that creates software for the newsrooms of The Wall Street Journal and other Dow Jones publications. It's a satisfying feeling that I can relate so well to the needs of our users and see how our apps make journalists' lives easier.