From Liberal Arts to Technology – Transitioning to Tech

I consider myself a Techie-In-Transition. But transitioning into technology isn’t as easy as simply racking up certifications.

This week has been eventful in both the career sector I used to work in and the field I have been watching with fascination. This week in Kansas was the joint Kansas Museum Association/Mountain Plains Museum Association conference in Wichita, and many of my museum friends have been posting wonderful photos of them having a good time networking and discussing current and future trends in the museum field.  In the Medical Technology field, yesterday was the first day for the new ICD-10 implementation; all billing codes for medical conditions must now be submitted to payers using the updated International Classification of Diseases version 10.  For my museum colleagues, it would be similar to updating Chenhall’s Nomenclature.  It’s a BIG deal.  Although it has spawned some pretty hilarious memes showing crazy conditions or injuries that people could suffer and giving the new ICD-10 number for it.

All of this has me thinking about the strange and yet not-so-strange career transitions I have made, and the changes I am hoping to make in the future.  After starting in the museum field, which is where I had intended to stay, I transitioned into technology three years ago.  Today I am an education specialist at a software firm, using my decade in public speaking and interpretation experience to prepare customers to utilize our software platform.  I have added workflow analysis and e-learning to my repertoire by creating and maintaining courses in our online learning platform and working with customers and SME’s to conduct operational reviews and ensure that customers are getting the most of our platform.

My current position is kind of half-in and half-out of technology.  I am working at a technology company, and I do utilize technology ranging from basic office products to more intense programs like Adobe Captivate.  But I see a future in technology, especially with the increased reliance on technology in many sectors, such as health care.  As a result, I consider myself a Techie-In-Transition.  Earlier this year I obtained certification as a Healthcare IT Workflow Management and Training Specialist, essentially the equivalent of my current position but for the health care sector.  I am currently studying for the Comptia A+ exam, which is a basic computer repair certification that is the equivalent of preparing you for being a help desk style technician.  I have plans after that to work towards Comptia’s Network+ and Healthcare IT Technician certification, along with a certification in Project Management.

But transitioning into technology isn’t as easy as simply racking up certifications, which aren’t necessarily a simple task to start with.  I am utilizing Cybrary to help me study, and it has been a lifesaver when it comes to trying to de-code the official Comptia study materials, which I find poorly organized from an educational perspective for anyone who is coming into technology with mainly user-based experience.  I have also been scouring the internet looking for other sites and/or podcasts to help assist in my transition, and while I have found several articles detailing how it is becoming more common for people to transition into technology, I have found a dearth of sites (with the notable exception of Cybrary) that would assist in that kind of transition.  This article is typical of the kinds of things I have been finding, and while it does raise some good points about technology being a more diverse beast than it’s given credit for by non-techies that possesses many cross-industry needs, it isn’t necessarily helpful.  I have been thinking about starting a blog or a podcast to document my transition to help guide others who may be in a similar situation.

So why am I transitioning into technology?  Part of it is because that sector has the most consistent career growth potential, compared to where I was.  I love the museum field, and I was sad to leave it.  But career opportunities in the field are scarce, and even those that exist are not secure in the long-term; nor are they compensated in such a way that allows career entrants to repay student loans they acquire in order to gain entrance to the field (most positions now require a Master’s Degree).  Part of it is also because with the diversity of the technology sector, it seems to be the best way to gain entrance to a wide array of sectors.  For the youngest members of Gen X and the earliest Millennials, who graduated into the midst of the Great Recession and saw downsizing and layoffs at an unprecedented pace and thus prize job security, having a wide array of options for career growth is essential. Take healthcare IT for example.  Taking the advice of the article above, one of the ways to transition in would be to find a cross-discipline job, for example an educator or analyst.  But I have found that many of these positions in the Healthcare IT sector require a clinical degree (most often a nursing degree) as a baseline required qualification.  I understand why they have chosen to do that, but it does severely limit not only their talent pool, but also stops the entrance of anyone from outside. A nursing degree is rather impractical for someone like myself who already possesses a graduate degree and multiple cross-disciplinary certifications.  Technology, on the other hand, seems to rely more on certifications, which you can take from sector to sector, thus making them more flexible.  It appears to be easier to enter into that sector by going the straight technician route, contrary to the advice I find about using your skills outside of tech to try to get your foot in the door.

But part of the reason for my decision to transition is also because I can see many parallels that make a Liberal Arts background a good complement to technology.  If you have a Liberal Arts education, you learn to think critically about ideas, events and situations.  You don’t just accept something for what it is; you pick it apart for what kinds of factors contributed to it, and what impacts changes in those factors would have.  This forces you not only to see the parts of the whole, but also to have the long-term vision to see the bigger picture.  Liberal Arts education also focuses on communication, particularly reading and writing.  You spend a lot of time reading, analyzing what you read, and writing about what your ideas.  This focus on communication is something I think could really benefit the technology sector, which has a reputation for not necessarily being the best communicators.

These aren’t the only overlaps between a Liberal Arts background and technology.  I have been thinking about them lately, and I find them all fascinating to ponder, especially on a Friday.

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