Cindy Prudhomme, AINS, CPIA, CIIP, CLP
After a year of lockdown, adapting to the quarantine lifestyle, and learning that we really can do business without shaking hands or going out to lunch, I took a moment to reflect on the last year… how I came into it and how things worked out.
When businesses shut down and we read about millions of workers losing jobs, did you – like me – find yourself edging toward uncertainty, wondering if the workplace could adapt to a virtual environment? Did you ask whether your employer could hold out, willing to pay salaries for employees they cannot see working? Could you still sell, service, market, process, account, and do all the things from home that you were previously doing in an office full of co-workers, support, and oversight, or would you, like millions of others soon be in search of another opportunity?
Perhaps these uncertainties had you planning your second career – anything to have a plan if it all went away tomorrow. Nothing out of the ordinary in this – the average American changes careers three to seven times; it is completely normal to transition from one career to another, whether due to pandemic or simply because interests or circumstances change. Changing careers can work out to be a very effective way of building success!
For many years, I’ve encouraged my risk management colleagues to consider a career in technology, because it’s often as simple as bringing inherent skills and talents and applying them in new ways to new challenges. IT professionals who were once considered back-end support are now claiming a seat at the table, participating in leadership as trusted counselors, problem solvers, and strategic secret weapons.
Technology is changing business as we know it today, and that makes technology careers exceptional vehicles to make a positive difference in our industry while expanding earning and growth potential. The U.S. Department of Labor has been recording employment statistics since 1994. Since that time, the average rate of unemployment has averaged 5.8% for all non-farm workers. In February 2021 that rate was 6.2%. In the technology sector the unemployment rate in February 2021 was a skinny 2.5% – significantly lower than the national average for other types of work. The earning potential for IT professionals betters the national averages as well. Average hourly earnings for Americans as of year-end 2020 was $29.96 per hour. Technology workers averaged $35 per hour, with most jobs paying in the $32-$38 per hour range.
In the world of technology, there is a place for everybody, and the bodies most sought after are those who bring an understanding of their business. Depending on your interests and career goals, the entry to IT can be as simple as packing your desk and moving from one desk to another or completing a short certificate program, to the opposite extreme, years of study for high-tech specialties and designations.
Some technology roles are best filled by those coming from a business background, and with a little training or maybe just some fearlessness when it comes to tech, you can be off and running, building your career in ways you never planned. Consider these roles that leverage business experience in a big way:
Service Desk: These IT professionals are the folks who answer the phone when you call a help desk with a problem. Their most valued trait isn’t knowing what’s wrong with your computer – it’s helping you, the user, to be calm, to coax information from you, to walk you through steps to troubleshoot, and to problem solve within a limited parameter. Then, they use good judgment to escalate your problem to the team that can dig more deeply. They are communicators, they are fact finders, they are problem solvers, and most of all, they are empathetic customer service professionals, just like many of you.
Business Analyst: These subject matter experts usually come from the industry because their greatest responsibility is to know the business and its processes, and to help others understand its needs. They translate techno-babble to insurance-speak and vice versa, they help others understand what the business needs to do its work, and they help the business understand what is involved in managing, changing, acquiring, or implementing its technology. Business Analysts often make six figure salaries, leaning heavily on their knowledge of the business to deliver solutions that meet its needs.
Application Development and Support: Once a career that required technical skill and training to write and troubleshoot programming language, with the shift to platforms and configuration taking the place of development, this is a role that greatly benefits from a professional with business experience. For many applications, all it takes to maintain and support business processing systems is as much experience using it as a strong business user might have. This type of career offers an opportunity for a tech-savvy business user to transition to a business-savvy technician who can make a business application ‘sing’, so that it directly serves the business’ goals and objectives.
These are just a sampling of entryways into technology from an established business career, and they offer an exciting path to growth! In a field that was once driven by high tech programming, which required technical education, training, and experience, more and more applications are moving to ‘platforms’ that the business can configure to its needs, using drop down selections, point and click or drag and drop configuration, and simple query language that can be easily learned.
Tools that once leaned heavily on complex and mysterious programming languages have transitioned to ‘no-code/low-code’, allowing almost any tech-savvy user to write their own programs, automate processes, and leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automate what they never thought possible.
This is an exciting time to work in technology! It is also a great time to consider a new career that offers strong earning potential, appreciation for your business perspective, opportunities for growth, and challenges that make each day fun and interesting. Though I entered the year of COVID with apprehension, I finished the year with the chance to do some of my best work, delivering technology that directly contributes to business success. Come create with me, won’t you!
Cindy Prudhomme, AINS, CPIA, CIIP, CLP
Cindy is employed by H.W. Kaufman Group as an IT Technical Product Manager, representing Atain Insurance Companies and MinuteMan Adjusters. She is responsible for onboarding, implementing and road-mapping technology solutions that support the goals and strategies of these businesses. Cindy is also a Past President of IAIP, remains involved in various capacities with her IAIP Council, Region, and International levels of the association, and frequently teaches and speaks at industry events on the subjects of leadership, communications, and technology. You can read more of Cindy’s articles on her LinkedIn site: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cindyprudhomme/