I Broke Out of My Comfort Zone to Switch to a Tech Career. Here’s How You Can, Too.
Rita Barry Director, Public Cloud Alliances
People frequently tell women how fortunate they are to be where they are in their careers: lucky to have amazing mentors, lucky to be stepping into a new role — the list goes on and on.
But I didn’t get to the point I’m at in my career as a result of luck. After more than a decade in marketing, I successfully transitioned to a new field — cloud alliances — because I have difficult (yet necessary) conversations and continuously learn from other women in the industry about the importance of going after what you want. While I have been fortunate to have supportive mentors throughout my career, it’s hard work and passion that allowed me to pivot my career.
At first, I felt anxiety about setting out to explore uncharted career territory — like anyone making a career change. But as a woman in a male-dominated industry, I knew the unconscious biases toward women in the workplace would make the risk even greater if I failed in the new role. Spoiler alert: I didn’t fail. But my success would not have been possible without breaking out of my comfort zone.
Make the jump, even when you’re unsure
I started my career at Ensono as a marketing manager. With support from my team, I was thriving in my role. But there have been times in my career when I’ve felt as though my opinions and ideas were overlooked or considered less important — simply because I’m a woman in a male-dominated industry.
Even for the most confident people, these biases can make you doubt your abilities. But one thing I’ve learned over time that’s helped me overcome some of the self doubt is to keep going even when you’re unsure. Whether your next move is to a different industry or a new company, you don’t have to be “ready” to start — if you keep going you can learn on the way.
So when a new role opened up in the public cloud alliances division at Ensono — a role I initially wasn’t sure I could manage — I took my own advice. The job was out of my comfort zone and I had questions, but I decided to move forward. After speaking with peers in the industry to learn more about the role and with strong support from my team, I made the jump. And I haven’t had a single ounce of regret.
How to break the mold and get out of your comfort zone
Breaking out of your comfort zone — especially as a woman in a male-dominated industry — is intimidating. Yet, my own story has taught me that it’s not only possible, but it’s the best way to empower yourself and advance your career. Consider this advice if you’re contemplating a career change like mine.
You don’t have to be perfect at something to start. Remember when you learned to drive a car or ride a bike? You probably weren’t very good at first. While you may have been frustrated with yourself at the time, driving or riding a bike probably feels like second nature to you now. The same concept can be applied to anything in life: It takes time to learn. What you really need is passion and dedication, because more information is available to us than ever before. With learning opportunities at our fingertips, you just have to seek them out.
Look for opportunities to empower yourself and others. One of the most important things we can do as women in the technology industry is to empower ourselves and each other. Don’t be afraid to take up space because if you don’t ask for that opportunity, someone else will. Also, consider joining a group for women in technology. I’ve joined several groups, both external cohorts and one at Ensono, where we meet and chat about everything from our greatest successes to our biggest failures. If you continue sharing your story (both the good and the bad), you may end up inspiring someone else to make an important career leap.
Having faith in your abilities is critical to succeeding in your career. While having a supportive team nearby is always a good thing, you first have to trust yourself. Stop fearing discomfort and criticism — strive for progress, not perfection. This is the only way you can truly break the mold and step out of your comfort zone.