The Story of My Career: How to Go from an English Major to IT

It was my 16th birthday and I was working at JCPenney’s in package pick-up. A co-worker heard it was my birthday and went over to the bookstore and purchased a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” for me. I had just finished reading George Orwell’s “1984” and both books blew my mind.

This is what I wanted to do – read great novels and teach kids to love literature.

I went to Penn State with every intention of majoring in English and doing, well something. At one point, I took my LSATs. In the late 90s though, the Internet exploded! Penn State started offering web sites to students and professors. I was fascinated with HTML and volunteered to do everyone’s class page.

I still loved to read, but I found I had a knack for the technical as well. There seemed to be money in technology and, the best thing was I could see it coming.

A lot of colleges were behind the ball in offering classes in what would become IT in the professional world. Computer Science at Penn State in 1997 wasn’t an exception. Now, I had been tutoring Calculus for 2  years despite my Liberal Arts education. In my senior year, I went to the Dean of the Computer Science department and asked what it would take to switch majors or at least get a minor.

Turns out neither was an option, or at least that was my understanding. It was hard to glean the true meaning behind all the laughing. I actually walked out to the sound of laughter.

I refused to believe this was the end. I started checking into what kinds of IT jobs were out there.

I kept developing websites for folks over the next year and grew my computer skills in general. By my senior year, I found Microsoft Networking Essentials and the MCSE program. I came up with a plan.

I graduated with my degree in English in the spring of 1998, but my roommates and I had the apartment through the summer. I scrapped my TV and immersed myself in Networking Essentials over the summer.

In the fall, I went to work for my father’s company upgrading their servers and managing a customer database. He offered to pay me in MCSE courses. After a few months, I had my MCSE and was on my way.

Phew, 1998 was a long time ago. In that time, I’ve grown a strong career on collaboration tools and IT infrastructure. Now, I haven’t become CIO or anything, but I did get to be manager of an international team of IT engineers for a global semiconductor company.

Oh, and that English degree? It absolutely helped me get here. Nothing balances out a technical career like a Liberal Arts education.

I have no idea whatever became of the Dean, but I will never forget him laughing at me. Who knew an English major could get so far in IT? So, what about the dream of reading great novels and teaching kids to love literature? Well, I have 3 kids under 8 and if our growing library is any indication, I’m doing just fine.

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