Most of us have, at some point, struggled to fight off anxiety during an interview. For days beforehand, you practice your elevator pitch and do research into the company, telling yourself how perfectly prepared you’re going to be. Then, when the moment finally arrives — so do your nerves.
Luckily for Ernestine Neely, when interviewing at software company Teradata nearly seven years ago, her nerves were nowhere to be seen. That’s because the conversation with her interviewer was an incredibly comfortable one, and Neely took it as a positive sign of the company’s culture as a whole.
“It was one of the most fun interviews I’ve had in my career,” she recalled. “It felt like having a coffee with a friend. They really wanted to understand who I was as a person, which was a nice change of pace.”
Neely, today an Operations Manager of Agile Transformation, got the job, and her intuition about Teradata’s culture proved to be on the mark. Though she’s had the chance to stretch across multiple roles, keeping things dynamic and interesting, Neely says that each of the teams she’s worked with have further proven what a positive energy Teradata has.
“Everyone is so approachable — even our C-suite,” she said. “I get to spend a lot of time with them, and it’s such a fun environment. I even invited a member of our C-suite to a Zumba class one time, and sure enough, they showed up!”
Recently, Neely shared with us how she’s grown her career without changing companies, as well as her best advice for other women in tech.
How long have you been with your company? What about it made you first want to join?
I’ve been with Teradata for six, going on seven years. To be honest, I had never heard of Teradata when I first came across the job description. I was excited for the interview because it aligned with some of my previous experience working with data. However, it wasn’t the technology that made me want to work at Teradata — it was my interview experience. It was one of the most fun interviews I’ve had in my career. It felt like having a coffee with a friend. They really wanted to understand who I was as a person, which was a nice change of pace.
Tell me about the roles that you’ve held at your company, as well as your current one. What about this role most excites you?
I started with Teradata in a one-year contract position as a quality assurance engineer. From the very beginning, I loved the team. It was a great culture where you always had access to resources and people to learn from. Once the end of my contract period was approaching, they told me they were interested in keeping me on full-time. Because I had a Scrum Master certification and was involved in agile development, I was hired as a full-time Scrum Master for a team who was in need of one. I was supporting two different teams at the time. It was a great opportunity for my career to be able to support two teams and learn new ways of communicating with my colleagues.
Next, I started helping another group with quality assurance to be more consistent in their product delivery. We helped our customers feel confident about using our products and that was such a big win. That particular team was spread out all over the world. It was a challenge and an opportunity to work with a larger, more widely distributed team.
Then, about a year and a half ago, I decided to look for new roles within the Teradata organization. It had been a while since I had worked directly with coding, so I switched over to global support in a more technical role. We started our data science and automation branch within global support. That opened up the opportunity for a new role which I was able to help define. My leadership gave me the flexibility to work in a lot of different areas of business, essentially giving me the opportunity to define my current role as Operations Manager in Agile Transformation.
A lot of people believe that developing your career means changing companies, and not infrequently. What has enabled you to develop/advance your career without job hopping?
There are so many opportunities to grow at Teradata. Within your role, you’re able to explore other areas you’re interested in. The leadership here is really supportive of working with you to adjust your role based on what you’re best at and most interested in. They would rather you be happy in the role that you’re in than look for jobs elsewhere, which is what has allowed me to grow my career without changing companies.
What’s something you think most people, perhaps even current employees, don’t know about your company that you think they should?
There’s such a drive here to continue to learn and better yourself. We have employee groups based on your personal interests, whether that’s anime, learning a new language, sports or other hobbies. The people here are genuinely kind and interested in getting to know you on both a professional and personal level, which I find really unique.
What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?
They welcome a challenge. They are open to your ideas on the best way to reach specific goals. Having an open-door policy is really important between a boss and an employee.
How does Teradata help you maintain work-life balance as a working mom?
One of my daughters had health issues and sometimes ended up in the hospital. During those earlier days I was working at another company that did not give me the flexibility I needed to be there for my daughter. But when I came to Teradata, they always encouraged me to take the time I needed to make sure my daughter was healthy. They really stressed that family comes first, which said a lot about this organization. They do a great job of making sure you’re happy in your home life so that you can carry that into your work life. Your work life, home life, and social life are all intertwined, so you want to make sure those are harmonious.
What advice do you have for other women looking to pursue a career in tech?
Spend time learning, loving and believing in yourself. When you go out to apply for a job, ask for a promotion or ask for a raise, feel confident in knowing that you’re worth it. Don’t be shy about valuing what you know.
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