In 2012, I was a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), double majoring in Computer Science and Psychology. I was looking at internship opportunities for the Fall semester and someone referred me to BDO Digital. I liked that BDO Digital had a software team that did web and app development as well as an IT team that worked on infrastructure projects and support. At that time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to follow a development or an IT path and I liked that both paths were available at BDO Digital and decided to apply for the internship.
During the interview process, I was open about my interests; I wasn’t exactly sure where my future would take me. The hiring managers at BDO Digital were straightforward with me and said, if I worked hard on my end, they were open to seeing what opportunities could be available to me. BDO Digital was also very flexible and able to schedule me part-time on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to accommodate my Tuesday and Thursday class schedule.
starting off as a Managed Services Intern at BDO Digital
I began my one-year internship on the Managed Services Service Desk team, working to apply basic classroom principals to the real world. After about six months of this, my manager recognized that I was doing well and was ready for a new challenge. I was moved to what was then the NOC team, learning how to troubleshoot more complex IT problems.
After a year internship, I was offered a full-time role at BDO Digital as a Managed Services Associate Engineer prior to my graduation. I was assigned a Career Advocate (CA), someone to serve as a mentor and help guide me throughout my career. They wanted to know what I liked doing and what I didn’t, where my strengths were and where I could improve. I felt comfortable being open with my CA and treated it as an opportunity to help me figure out what path I ultimately wanted to follow.
Flexibility to work around my schedule
BDO Digital was able to offer me a unique weekend role that consisted of two 12-hour shifts, which were a mix of onsite and remote. I’ll admit, it was tough at times to work late nights and as attend my classes, but I knew that this was an opportunity to learn a ton and prove myself. My team had shown they were willing to invest in me and help me work toward my personal goals, and I was showing them I could get the job done and prove myself in sometimes high-pressure situations, which is key to consulting.
After about a year of that, I moved into a first-shift Technical Engineering role. I continued to work weekends and added two more days in the office during the week to accommodate my class schedule. In this role I was able to handle higher-escalation infrastructure issues, like troubleshooting everything from Office 365 to SQL, supporting phone and VOIP systems, and security compliance issues.
career coaching helped me find my passion for software development
Toward the end of my Computer Science curriculum at UIC, I had the opportunity to work on app dev projects at school. I loved it! My experience in IT at BDO Digital gave me a unique view of software development that helped me see it more holistically. I was now considering two options: pursue IT full-time with the goal of becoming a Systems Engineer or IT Manager, or switch paths and become a Software Developer. These were pretty different paths, so I wanted to be sure I made the right decision.
I began to talk to my manager and CA about this, and if there was a potential future for me in Software Development. This was a completely separate team at BDO Digital, and there had never been anyone who started in IT that had moved over to software before, so they weren’t really sure what to do. But they agreed to work with me and explore this opportunity. I moved into an internal onsite IT role with a key client. At the same time, I was assigned a CA from the Software team. My CA guided me in what languages to focus on (.Net and Java) and how to best prepare. I began by going through SSG University, the training program every new developer goes through, and then was put on a small project. Just like on Managed Services, I had to prove myself as capable before I could fully transition onto the team.
During this time, I also graduated from UIC with a BS in Computer Science – all the hard work paid off! I began to split my time more and more between Managed Services and Software Solutions, and I will be fully transitioning to a Software Developer role in the coming months.
work for a company that puts you first
I have now been with BDO Digital for over five years and can’t believe how much has changed in that time frame. I really appreciate their openness and willingness to work with me to help develop my abilities and career path.
My advice to students who are wondering what path in technology to take, is to get hands-on internship experience. Nothing is better than real-world experience to help you see what life is really like working in technology. Second, know that you have to earn it. You have to work hard and prove yourself; nothing will be handed to you. Be patient; change won’t happen overnight. And finally, while not every organization has a structured Career Advocacy programs like BDO Digital, find an advocate within the organization that will help you find ways to meet your goals.