Bringing Calm to Chaos as an IT Project Manager

Gina Marbury Akinjo always knew she wanted a career that made an impact on people’s lives. Her desire to help others led her to her first job as an emergency medical technician, but after many years in such a high-stake field, she decided it was time to make a change.
Bringing Calm to Chaos as an IT Project Manager

Gina Marbury Akinjo always knew she wanted a career that would impact people’s lives. Her desire to help others led her to her first job as an emergency medical technician (EMT)—but after many years in such a high-stakes, 24/7 field, she decided it was time to make a change. Entering the tech industry was the answer.

Marbury Akinjo found she was able to transfer many of the skills she learned as an EMT, such as making smart decisions under pressure and teamwork, into a new career in IT project management. She completed the CompTIA Project+ certification to expand her knowledge base and catch the eye of prospective employers, and it worked—she’s now an IT project manager for Cisco.

From the Ambulance to the Office

“At the beginning of my EMT career, I loved everything that I did. I loved getting calls. I loved helping people,” Marbury Akinjo said. “After several years I didn't enjoy it anymore. I felt like I wasn't being my best self. I didn't enjoy getting the runs. I didn't enjoy helping people as much as I did.” And when she injured herself on the job, she knew it was time to move on from emergency medical services.

Tech was booming, and Marbury Akinjo wanted to be a part of it. “I thought it was cool,” she said. She also liked that technology was such a broad field. “There are so many different opportunities in tech that I can always make a lateral move—or I can stay where I'm at. I’ll never get bored. I just love that.”

Finding Her Place in the Tech World

Once she had made up her mind, she determined what kind of role in tech she could excel at. “I went into IT management because I knew that I wanted to manage people,” she explained. “I didn't meet the deep technical knowledge that maybe a developer might need. But I was still able to be part of technology without being the person who created the software.”

Because she was entering IT from an entirely different profession, she looked for mentors that she could learn from in the field. “Having mentors has helped me a lot, as well as just shadowing people doing the job that I wanted to do,” she said. When building a relationship with a mentor, listening is key. “What I found is that people love to talk about themselves and what they do,” she said.

“In my role as an IT project manager, I like to say that I herd cats,” she said, laughing. “My job is to gather resources, ensure that our stakeholders understand what we're going to be delivering and make sure that we deliver what we promised within our financial constraints.” She adds that technical skills such as understanding IT infrastructure and how it interacts with different kinds of software is essential to the job.

Having experienced a layoff in the past, Marbury Akinjo is also focused on what she calls “future proofing” her career. “To me, future proofing is making myself the most valuable employee, taking steps to increase my skill set, increasing my knowledge and increasing my value to another employer,” she explained. “I want to make sure that I am in control of when I leave a company.”

That’s part of her reason for getting CompTIA Project+-certified. She wanted to increase her earnings and be competitive in future job searches. “Employers value CompTIA,” she said. “It is very well respected in the technical space. I believe having that certification has helped me to stand out from the other project managers.”

The Benefits of an IT Career

Compared to her past work as an EMT, Marbury Akinjo is happier to be in a career where stress levels are more manageable. “I know that if I don't answer an email at seven o'clock at night that someone won't die,” she said. That said, her EMT experience has helped her manage stressful situations for herself and her team at work. “I feel like I bring calm to chaos,” she said.

Working in IT has benefitted Marbury Akinjo outside the office as well. “My career has afforded me the opportunity to be financially stable,” she explained. “I can take my kids on amazing international trips. I can take a couple of weeks off from work and enjoy time with my family. And that's something that I would not have been able to do as an EMT.”

Marbury Akinjo’s advice to others looking to reinvent their careers in tech is straightforward. “First, figure out what you like to do, then narrow down and focus on an area that interests you,” she said. “Then find someone actually doing the work and shadow them, and then start taking the certifications, the low hanging fruit that will increase your worth right away.”

In fact, she is planning to take more certifications herself. “My next career goal is to become a program manager. I really want to focus on cloud delivery, so CompTIA Cloud Essentials+ is what I'll be working on next.”

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