I am Lauren Richardson, a software engineer for Cisco! I have to start with my introduction because, back when I graduated from Florida A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, there is no way you could have told me that I would be working for a tech company.
I bet you’re wondering how I got here.
My tech journey started after I closed my business “due to the pandemic.” I kept asking myself, “Well, what’s next?” Until this point in my career, I have worked in business operations, accounting, finance, animal grooming, veterinary medicine, non-profit, and real estate. I am truly unafraid of dusting myself off and starting over.
Well, that is not completely true.
I actually had a lot of apprehensions when considering announcing I accepted an offer with a tech company, as many did not even know I had closed my business. I consider myself a very confident person and starting over in a field I enjoyed before was easy. For whatever reason, making a career switch to tech gave me a lot of imposter syndrome. Was I smart enough, qualified enough, or prepared enough? I started to think, “Don’t tell too many people because what if they say, ‘Just kidding. You’re not qualified. We are giving the job to someone else.'” With all of those feelings bottled up inside, I decided to share my story on LinkedIn. I was not prepared for the response that came with that post. Over 200,000 people saw it! At that moment, I realized I was not alone in those feelings. And by sharing my story, we can connect and empower one another.
The best and most honest advice I can give anyone considering making a career switch into tech is to never give up. Your time is coming, and you belong. Fun fact: I applied to Cisco fresh out of the coding boot camp I took and was denied. Then, I applied to roughly 250 more jobs and received at least five rejections a week. My greatest memory of that time is when I applied to Disney, then went to Disney World to decompress from applying for jobs. I received that rejection email as soon as I made it to the park. So much for being the happiest place on earth. It’s okay to laugh now–it is hilarious.
After that experience, I told my career coach I was taking a week off to reset. My mental health needed a break from the constant rejection … and then I received an email from a Cisco recruiter. The recruiter let me know Cisco was creating a cohort of beginner software engineers and that she found my information from my previous application. It felt like she created the position just for me!
It is so painstakingly cliché, but true, that when something doesn’t work out, it is for your benefit. My experience joining Cisco as an apprentice has exceeded any expectations I had. I feel supported by my colleagues and management. The people in my cohort are like a little family. I love the culture of mentorship. And best of all, the opportunities to learn and grow are endless! When I finally stopped letting my fears and doubts hold me back, the best opportunity became mine, and I am excited I am part of the #1 Best Workplace in the U.S.
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