The best thing I ever did for myself was to take "Office Block" classes in high school where I was trained in typing, shorthand, calculator and business correspondence. It helped me greatly - landed my first clerical position right out of high school in 1981.
I worked in clerical positions for the first 10 years of my adult career - mainly in the hospital setting. I eventually became the Assistant to the VP of Nursing at Sinai Hospital of Detroit.
Because I was a secretary (a keeper of secrets), I was one of the first people in the workplace to receive a computer. It was the early 90's and boy how I loved that computer. I took the manuals home and studied them late at night. These were the days of the IBM clones with bootable floppies.
Not only did I study the computer manual - but the manuals of the software that it ran. MS-DOS, Lotus/WordPerfect. I was soon writing amazing spreadsheets and even small batch programs. I began to streamline and automate the processes I was responsible for and because such - took on many new responsibilities. Pretty soon I was sharing my batch files and macros becoming the "go to" for anything computer, even advancing into Access databases.
Since I worked for the VP of Nursing, she often met with the CIO for the hospital, which ironically was a woman. I have never since worked for a woman CIO or CTO. The CIO would praise my talents often and finally whispered to me one day about an opening at the Help Desk. Would I like to apply? WOULD I? I couldn't image anything better.
I started my new job, answering phones and questions - doing first level IT work. If I couldn't solve the problem, I would schedule a hardware technician to make a visit. During down times, I would sit with the hardware techs when they were doing repairs and annoy them with my many questions. Soon, I was repairing and rebuilding computers - both hardware and software.
My boss moved from Sinai Hospital to Providence Hospital and wanted to take me with him. "We'll open a training facility. You can teach hospital personnel how to use office software products." he said. And that's what I did. I trained nearly 5,000 nurses, doctors and other hospital staff on how to use their new computers. I even created a certification program of my own that was integrated into employee development plans. I had the most fun using an authoring software to create little tests with audio feedback.
Novell dominated the networking operating system at the time and Microsoft had just come out with NT (New Technology). I had studied for and passed the certification exam for Novell System Administrator (CNA). Not many people had knowledge of the new Windows NT, so I studied for the exam and took it and PASSED! Newly certified to work on NT, I wanted in. We were setting up the network in the hospital and I wanted to work on it. No one else was as qualified and yet .... I was not to be authorized. I was to do exactly what I had been...... training.
I realized I would never be seen as anything more than a trainer in my current position and began to look around for opportunities. I found that spot in a small manufacturing company called Spring Engineering. I was a female with no college education and I was a steal, it didn't take long.
I had a great boss, Dan Blatt who gave me free reign (basically) - do whatever you like. And ... I did. I created networks, installed mail servers, implemented firewalls, and wrote many many applications. I also finished my MCSE certification - following a self study pace. Reading and building labs. I know people who spent $10,000 on such certification tracks and I spent $1,000 in books and test fees.
It was at Spring Engineering that I finally got serious about programming, starting off with classic ASP and MS-SQL and moving up through the .NET frameworks as the years went by. I built all kinds of custom software for shop floor automation and reporting, becoming very knowledgeable in the product lifecycle.
I've worked for various other companies through the years, developing and honing my skill set, but have never been able to break through the glass ceiling. The closest I've ever come was at Spring Engineering where I was IT Manager and even sat on their Long Term Planning committee. I won many recognition awards through the Scanlon network for innovating best practices.
The year of The 50th Extravaganza, I became head of a nonprofit for a time which was great. Then went on to mentoring for FIRST Robotics Club - becoming their Programming Mentor and Co-Lead of the Club. This has been one of the best experiences of my life - mentoring and coaching is absolutely the best!
Next I took a big risk and left my "close to home" comfy job and took the role of Director of Software Development for Dynics, Inc. That job was the best! I got to hire a great team, put in Agile and other processes and provided internships for kids going to school for a CS Degree. Ed and Jeff were the best bosses you could have. They stood behind me and encouraged me to realized who I truly was and we built some pretty awesome software.
Then .... Microsoft called. When Microsoft calls, you have to answer - and so I did. It was hard to leave Dynics, but the potential for growth at Microsoft is tremendous, not just in career opportunities, but technology and business practices.
So here I am - living my best life and I couldn't be happier.