Insight from SoftwareONE’s Jeff Cannon and Chris Lecosia
SoftwareONE’s Jeff Cannon Business Development Executive US) and Christopher Lecosia (Senior Consultant) share a similar adventurous and brave spirit, which has led to a long trajectory of creative experiences for both of them. From taking care of two new puppies to backpacking across Europe — neither of them back down from a challenge.
As members of the LGBTQIA+ community, Jeff and Chris spent a large portion of their careers fighting for inclusive workplaces where they feel a sense of belonging, and opportunities to use their experiences to serve people, no matter what career stage they’re in. And they’ve both recently found that in the global provider of end-to-end software and cloud technology solutions SoftwareONE.
We sat down with Jeff and Chris to hear their stories on how they navigated mid and late career changes and their journey to finding a company where they felt valued. Keep reading to the end for four major tips on how to successfully pivot careers.
The Journey to SoftwareONE
Jeff Cannon was born in Tacoma, Washington, but considers both Texas and Georgeia his home. After graduating from college with a bachelor's degree in English and History, “I wanted to go to graduate school for history,” he explains. But upon arrival, he realized graduate school was not the right path for him, so he packed his backpack and set out for a trip through Europe instead.
This adventurous spirit led him back home to pursue exciting challenges, such as opening a hotel in Austin, working as a flight attendant in New York and Hawaii, and eventually pursuing a sales career at Dell. “I was an account executive for large university systems and large K-12 systems providing information technology to students to be able to further their education. It really fit in with my mantra around how important education is in society,” Jeff explains.”It's kind of my thing.” But after nearly 20 years at the company, he decided to look for new opportunities. “I was tired of doing the same thing all the time.” Enter SoftwareONE.
“This was an opportunity to do something completely different and take the information that I learned and use it to help build a practice that can accomplish some of the same things,” Jeff explains. He joined the company as a Business Development Executive Executive where he works to build the company’s education practice within the public sector in the United States.
SoftwareONE is a company where Jeff can thrive professionally and personally. He specifically cites the company to be people-first, which his coworker Christopher Lecosia agrees with. “SoftwareONE is a place where you can thrive as an employee, and where your creativity can flourish,” says Chris.
SoftwareONE is a leading global provider of end-to-end software and cloud technology solutions, with headquarters in Switzerland. The company itself prioritizes people as their “greatest asset” and advocates for life-work harmony. Their company’s core values are Employee Satisfaction, Customer Focused, Speed, Passionate, Integrity, Humble and Discipline, to name a few, and they ensure that they have “a welcoming – and constantly evolving – work environment for all”, no matter the racial, ethnic, religious, sexual or other preferences.
Christopher works as Senior Consultant for SoftwareONE. He entered the field of IT in 1974. “Back then it was called data processing,” he jokes. “But I kind of fell into IT consulting.” He enrolled in college as an accounting major, but quickly realized that was not the path for him. “I drove into the parking lot of this college for the first day and I got very scared,” explains Chris. “I turned around and went home and I found a job.” And he was able to pursue jobs that allowed him room to change and grow with the market. He began as a systems programer and, progressively, he scaled to managerial data processing roles at multiple software companies, including IBM. He played a key role in leading and growing software asset management programs, directing support for configuration and asset management, and serving as a senior project manager for multiple teams in his previous companies.
His successful 40+ year-long career led to the start of a well-deserved retirement. “I turned 65 last October, and I thought, ‘okay, I think I’ve had enough,’ and I decided to retire in full.” But his retirement was short-lived. “A few months before I retired, [my company] had put out an RFP to the street, which SoftwareONE responded to, and I'll never forget,” says Chris. “I was hearing them respond to me and I thought, ‘Wow, these people know what they're talking about. They're really sharp and I really believed in the value that they could bring.’” So when he was offered a position as a Senior Consultant, he didn’t think twice about coming out of retirement. “In November, a recruiter from SoftwareONE called, and I started in January of 2022.”
Changing jobs after working for a company long-term can be risky, especially later in your career. But both Jeff and Chris agree that the benefits of working at a company like SoftwareONE are well worth the risk. And for the first time, they’ve felt like they can show up as their full, authentic selves at work.
Jeff recalls past workplaces that, when push came to shove, “had an undercurrent of non-acceptance.” This undercurrent brought many challenges, but he credits them for his confidence today. “I have no issues whatsoever showing up originally as myself. And at SoftwareONE, everybody's been really lovely.” Even remotely, he finds ways to connect with his coworkers, and he feels like he can do so authentically.
Chris reiterates this in his own trajectory at SoftwareONE. “When I started, my Regional VP asked me for a bio. In my bio, I talked about my husband and my two dogs and how long we've been together. That got sent out to everybody in the organization. So when I onboarded, everybody already knew,” he explains. “It was the first time in 65 years that, right from the get go, there was no pretense at all as to being something different than I am. And that's how I came out at SoftwareONE. It was good to do that. I feel truly authentic.”
Advice for Mid-Career Pivoters
Both Jeff and Chris have successfully pivoted roles and companies later in their careers. They offer four tips to consider before making the jump to a new role or joining a new company.
1. Find a place that values service to the client. “Have the mindset of service,” says Chris. “ I'm a service oriented person and part of being of service is to share my experience, strengths, and hope with other people. Whether that's on a, social, spiritual, mental level, or on a professional technical level, this helps bring growth to you, and to the company you’ll work for.” Jeff shares that, “with this mindset, we see the challenges that customers face, so we're able to better articulate to customers what our value proposition is. We can help clients achieve their goals, and everything comes a lot more easily and naturally.”
2. Believe in what you have to offer. Chris and Jeff share that aligning with the company’s mission is another key aspect to consider before changing companies. “I never thought that anybody would want to hire me at 65 years old,” Chris shares. “I had been in my former job where I saw many opportunities that I thought I was perfect for, in terms of advancement, but I wasn't given those opportunities because of my age. I started to feel dried up a little bit. When I got the offer at SoftwareONE, I felt I really wanted to come back, be of service, keep my brain sharp, and do something. I do believe I have something to offer to many clients, as well as colleagues. And that's what made me make the move.”
3. Think of the experiences you bring to the table. Jeff shares how he transferred his knowledge to his new role. “I was able to take everything that I had learned about building an organization and bring it over to a company that needed that expertise specific to the United States. Being able to have the opportunity to do some of that background work and build on alliances has been, and continues to be, a great opportunity.”
4. Find a workplace that prioritizes diversity. “Each one of us brings a certain set of characteristics with us that sit well with our clients,” explains Chris. “The diversity we bring to the company — whether it be age, gender, color, educational background, intellectual capacity — all of that color makes us more relatable to our clients and our customers.” This leads to the company’s overall success.
SoftwareONE is constantly looking for dynamic employees like Chris and Jeff. Check out their company page to find out more about their roles!
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Nina Unger, Talent Acquisition Specialist at SoftwareONE gave us a behind-the-scenes look at SoftwareONE's Application process, culture, and values.
Learn about the company and how you can make your application stand out!
To learn more about SoftwareONE and their open roles, click here.
7 Tips from SoftwareONE's Khristy Young
Khristy Young is used to working hard.
She came to the U.S. from the Philippines at 19, computer science degree in hand, and landed her first job in tech, working in frontline support, at 21.
"I realized that for them to see past me being an immigrant and a woman, I had to be very competent. It sucks to say, but felt like I always had something to prove. Eventually, instead of worrying about what other people thought, I decided to show them what I could do," she explains. She dealt with coworkers who didn't listen to her and generally underestimated her, but she kept working to prove herself.
Khristy spent almost a decade at that company, eventually climbing the ranks into a coveted developer role, but left after her manager wouldn't give her a chance to become a team lead. "I realized I'd outgrown that job, and leaving it was almost like dating. I hadn't dated for nine years, and then all of a sudden I had to go out in the world again," she says.
A few months later, an old coworker suggested she join him at SoftwareONE, a leading provider of software and cloud solutions, including and especially Microsoft products. She came over and had to work to prove herself again, especially as her role was something new to her: consulting as a Microsoft partner. "I saw it as a gift. I'd never done that before, and I had the chance to learn it," says Khristy.
Once she got up to speed, she knew she'd made the right decision. Several years in, she's currently working as the Practice Director of their Future Workplace team with about 15 people—who she affectionately calls her "techies running around North America"—reporting to her as they advise clients on transitioning to the cloud and enable the technologies that allow for that. "One thing I like about SoftwareONE is that they recognize talent and diligence," she says. "Competencies speak more than words. So working for a company that appreciates self-starters is working really well for me."
But what do you do when competency isn't enough?
Khristy has been running up against that question for the first time in her career thanks to the pandemic. As SoftwareONE's cloud-based business is booming, she's found herself stretched thin, expected to run her team, take care of her two children, spend time with her partner, and not lose her mind along the way.
We sat down with Khristy this week to get her honest advice on what works and what doesn't when it comes to finding work-life harmony during a pandemic.
1. Learning to say no: the rule of three
Khristy's first piece of advice is something she's only just recently learned. "I have historically been a 'yes' person. People say I'm an overachiever," she explains. "I say yes to things when I shouldn't. But when the pandemic happened, it forced me to prioritize what's important."
Yes, that includes wellbeing and family and health, but Khristy is talking specifically about professional prioritization. "People don't realize we spend most of our time at work. I want people to value my time instead of just throwing stuff over the fence to me," she says.
To do that, she's adopted a hard and fast rule: she only focuses on three things at a time, and she says no to everything else.
Those three things could be updating her budget, checking in on team morale, and building next year's strategic plan, or any other set of priorities. The key is in keeping them limited to just three. "A friend told me that if you have more than three priorities, you're not really prioritizing anything. Ignoring something can take just as much energy as focusing on something, so you're better off saying no. I'm finding that's true. If I can meet those three, then I can make room for more," says Khristy.
2. Stay just the right amount of informed
Some people have been going on media diets during the pandemic, paring down the amount of news they consume each day. Not Khristy. She's found that staying informed through trustworthy channels, as in certain news and science outlets instead of social media, is allowing her to keep focused on why we're all making sacrifices.
"It puts into perspective why we're doing this, why we're in this situation, why we can't go out," she says. "It reminds you that things are not as bad as you think when you see the amount of people that are dying."
She keeps that perspective for herself—her kids are happy, healthy, and actually enjoying remote learning—and for her team, who are all employed (Khristy retooled her budget to avoid layoffs) and safe at home with their families.
3. Cater to you
"To find that balance between teacher, mom, and employee in the same place and with the same hours allocated is really hard," says Khristy.
"Being a mother, it's a very thankless job, and it's natural for us to cater to our kids, who are now always home. And then you also may have to cater to your partner, your husband, your boyfriend, whoever it may be. And we forget to cater to ourselves," she says. "That's when you get to that burnout factor, that pressing state of, 'Oh, God, I'm just exhausted.'"
Khristy suggests finding one activity, any activity—"It could be scrapbooking, it could be going to Target, it could be paint by numbers or yoga," she says—that is just for you. Something you can do alone and use as a bit of a retreat. "[Alone time] really resets my mind a little bit," says Khristy.
4. Take actual time off
Khristy knows what you're thinking: where are you going to go?
But just because you can't travel doesn't mean time off isn't worth it. Khristy says she used to travel up to two weeks each month for work and go on at least one fun trip around California or nearby states every few weeks pre-pandemic, but now she's learning how to take a different type of PTO.
"To be quite honest, even if you're just having those days where you're sitting on the couch and watching Netflix, taking time off really helps with a mental break," she says.
5. Draw new boundaries
Khristy's cue to turn off her work brain used to be the sound of her partner opening the door after his work day. But now that everyone works from home, that boundary has disappeared. "My compass is all messed up!" laughs Khristy.
Instead, she's learned to set new boundaries on her time and how she spends it. First, Khristy has committed to only working in her office. "When I'm there, I work. Anything outside [of that space] is life," she says.
And for timing, she's made a new version of that dinnertime rule, setting it at a specific time versus waiting for her partner. When that time rolls around, she leaves her office and doesn't return until the next morning. In between, she hangs out with her kids and enjoys the new rituals they've set up to make pandemic life more fun, including Taco Tuesdays and Saturday movie nights.
6. Stay connected
Months into the pandemic, Khristy realized she was struggling to stay focused. To combat that, she reached out to her peers.
"If I feel like I'm not on an island by myself—if I know that there is purpose to what I'm doing, that it's moving the bigger needle somewhere—I feel like my time is worth something," she says. "Keeping in contact with peers across the business in all different verticals has helped with that."
Khristy stays in touch with catch-up calls and teamwide happy hours, which are focused on entirely random topics. "Last Friday we talked about cats and cat lady syndrome," she says, smiling. "It uplifts the team and reminds us that we're all fine. We ask how everyone is doing and we say, 'We're COVID good.'"
7. Remember that work is just work
"The saving grace," says Khristy of what keeps her able to balance her work and her family, "is remembering what I'm doing this for. In the end, I'm working for my family, to give them a better life. That's really the only reason."
Keeping that focus in mind allows Khristy to live within the work-life boundaries she's set up for herself, and she suggests others figure out what's driving them and rigorously protect that goal.
"Some people leverage work to get them out of their lives. I don't have that," says Khristy. "My life is really good outside of work. Knowing that I don't want to miss the moments that actually matter keeps me from spending too much time on work."
If you're looking to join Khristy in finding work-life harmony at SoftwareONE, check out their open roles.