Those who have ever had the chance to talk with Samantha (Sam) Ciaccia understand. Behind a youthful, friendly appearance is a tech industry professional who can go toe-to-toe with anyone at any time. As Datto’s 52nd employee, she has taken on assignments and responsibilities over the past five years that many long-tenured channel experts wouldn’t dream of tackling. Not all were as glorious as representing the company on the main stage at industry events, but each taught her what it takes to run a successful channel organization.
“My first tech role was as Datto’s marketing assistant five years ago when we had maybe 4-5 people in the department. I packed and shipped the trade show boxes and handled travel logistics for the team.” Ciaccia was quickly promoted to Channel Engagement Manager when Datto built out its business development team, moving from a behind the scenes role to larger corporate responsibilities at all the industry trade shows the company attended. Recently promoted to Partner Marketing Manager, she works closely with team members and Datto partners across the globe, helping develop and manage enablement programs that are crucial to the company’s success.
Ciaccia learned quickly how to adapt and excel in the quick-paced, demanding IT environment. Of course, she credits many for helping her learn the ropes and cope with all those transitions. As with many young professionals with little exposure to our industry, a career in IT was not something she planned, and her perceptions almost kept her from accepting an interview when the call came in from Datto.
“I wanted to be in marketing and sent my resume to many different companies. Datto was the first to call me and I remember expressing concerns to my Mom about working for a cloud company, a concept that was confusing to someone with no technical background and little (known) passion for technology. What I didn’t realize was how diverse tech companies are and the different types of people necessary to make the business successful. My mom convinced me to go to the interview and after walking through the door, I was convinced it was the right choice for me.”
Ciaccia credits Datto’s culture for luring her in. “Everyone had a smile on their face and I never expected a tech business to have such a young, energetic vibe. They could have sold shoes, paper, or literally any product and I would have signed on. To me, it wasn’t about the product, it was about the team I would spend my days with and the culture.”
Starting from Scratch
From there, the freshly minted Datto employee needed to learn the ropes. That began with immersion in the technology. “My very first assignment was to plug in a Datto device using only the setup guide. Our VP of Product gave me basic instructions and offered to help if I got stuck. It was a little intimidating, but I knew I was capable of figuring it out, and was flattered that he wanted me to help with this project (validating instructions). Turns out I did get stuck, and the issue was escalated to many people, eventually ending with Austin McChord, Datto’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer. Of course, Austin figured out the problem, and I was given kudos for identifying it. Maybe I’m more technical than I thought!”
One thing that was both a challenge and an opportunity for Ciaccia was having her desk right outside the VP of Product’s office. Though the two were the same age, their experiences and skill levels in the IT field were vastly different. “The conversations that took place around me were very technical and product focused and, while I was often close enough to participate, I rarely asked questions and was sometimes embarrassed not to know what they were talking about. The reality is, I created my own barrier by not asking more questions and asking co-workers to explain things more clearly. Over time, I learned not to compare myself to others with different backgrounds, which hurt my confidence early on.”
As Ciaccia points out, a lack of familiarity and experience can be intimidating to new hires in tech, especially to those starting out with little or no knowledge of the industry, its terms and other quirks. And no matter how hard they try, employers are not clairvoyant. They may be prepared to answer certain questions or address most issues new recruits might have, but in the fast pace of an IT business, they can’t do it all. Newcomers often need a little extra support from the industry.
A Hand Up from The Tech Community
Ciaccia is quick to praise Datto for providing the environment to learn and thrive. The team was extremely supportive, especially in the early days where everything cloud and tech-related was new. Datto also introduced her to CompTIA.
Engagement was a key factor. Ciaccia acknowledges that her involvement in the Association has been rewarding from both a career and personal development perspective. “It all stems from the sense of community. I loved knowing that others were going through similar things, and being a part of the Advancing Women in IT and the Future Leaders meetings gave me confidence and inspiration.”
She found empathy and understanding, and ways to overcome obstacles. “The work I was doing in the communities helped build up my confidence at work. They helped me realize the things I was going through (as a new person in the tech industry) were real. All these people were behind me, and CompTIA gave me recognition for helping others.”
As a founding member and leader of the Future Leaders Community, her commitment to help others like herself build successful careers in IT is admirable. It isn’t easy juggling those volunteer activities along with her own, crucial work responsibilities.
She seems to be handling them both quite well, receiving the CompTIA Channel Changers award for her contributions to the industry while advancing quickly in her own organization. That dual commitment resulted in another change last year — accepting the Vice-Chair position in the Cloud Community. “We did a lot of heavy lifting to get the Future Leaders Community off the ground and, while I continue to enjoy being involved, I didn’t want being a Millennial to define me in the industry. I wanted to broaden my exposure and be part of building content and the tools our cloud partners really need.”
With the help of CompTIA and a supportive employer, Ciaccia made a successful transition. She is now an experienced cloud professional and proven industry leader who plans to continue giving back to the IT community.