Don't Sell Yourself Short — A Big Career Change is Possible, Here's How I Did It

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Fairygodboss
May 22, 2024 at 2:19AM UTC

Aksana Waldman made a major pivot in her career 20 years ago when she went from teaching 4th grade to working in IT. It wasn’t an easy decision. In fact, she recently told Fairygodboss, she was “terrified of venturing away from my comfortable teaching position.”

But the reward was worth the risk. She’s currently Senior Manager – IT Quality Assurance (QA) & Release Management at Marsh & McLennan — a job she’s loved for six years. She tells us she appreciates the people the most: “I have worked with many across the different businesses at Marsh & McLennan and all have been wonderfully kind and helpful.”

Marsh & McLennan is Hiring! Browse Opportunities. 

This helpfulness is found across the organization. Marsh &McLennan makes it a priority to support  women in the workplace. It’s a member of the 30% Club — a campaign for greater representation of women on corporate boards and in other leadership roles. It was also recognized with a place on the 2020 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index. 

So what gave Aksana the courage and confidence to make such a big shift into a career in which she had no experience in her new profession? She talked to Fairygodboss recently about the how and the why behind her big decision. She also shared her best advice on not selling yourself short. 

How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously? 

I have been with Marsh & McLennan for over six years. Although I have been in IT for the past 20 years, I started my career as a fourth grade teacher.

Pivoting career paths can feel overwhelming. Why did you want to make this change, and what ultimately helped you do it? 

At the time I made my career change, I had young children at home that went to a private school. Except for the summer, my time off never coincided with theirs. It was easy to take them out of school back then, but I realized I needed a job that was more flexible. I spent a summer training in Software Quality Assurance and nailed a job by September with my first interview. My husband was supportive of my decision and more than doubling my salary was a definite motivator. 

Tell me a bit about your current role. What are your priorities, and what about it excites you most?

In my role as the QA & release manager, I’m responsible for ensuring the CIS (Corporate Information Solutions) suite of applications meet quality standards as well as adherence to processes for release.

My team and I are definitely never bored, there seems to always be something new happening to keep us on our toes. The best part of this role for me is being in the position to work closely with just about every person in CIS.  

What about this company stood out to you and made you want to join? What’s been your favorite aspect since joining?

I’ve always been lucky to work at companies that were leaders and at the forefront of their industries and Marsh & McLennan is certainly that. I was also recruited by a former colleague that worked here at the time. 

I know it’s a cliche, but the people are definitely my favorite aspect since joining. I have worked with many across the different businesses at Marsh & McLennan and all have been wonderfully kind and helpful.

Tell me a bit about your first day (or week). What kinds of things (whether formal onboarding programs or casual interactions) made you feel comfortable? 

I was lucky to have a familiar face here when I joined so I was immediately comfortable. I was introduced to my team and colleagues and everyone willingly helped make my transition easy.

What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day?

My team is mostly situated in India and I get to the office early enough to catch the end of their day. This helps me catch up with them daily and allows me to prioritize my work to make sure I address their concerns and any issues they may have encountered so their work is not impacted by any roadblocks.

What’s been your favorite career mistake that you’ve made?

Around the time I was contemplating a change in careers, I received a job offer from a prestigious private school. They wanted me to sign a contract that would lock me in for at least a year. It was then I realized that if I really wanted to leave teaching, it was now or never and started sending out resumes. Imagine my disappointment when September rolled around and I had to go back to my public school teaching job. I was certain I made the biggest mistake of my career turning down the once in a lifetime offer from the private school. Luckily, I got a job offer a week into the school year and never looked back.

What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?

Don’t sell yourself short. I was terrified of venturing away from my comfortable teaching position. I didn’t have any IT job experience; I was also a little older than the typical entry level candidate. I quickly realized that I could correlate many of my soft skills to the job requirements I was looking at and that I had a considerable amount of practical experience to bring to a new employer. This revelation definitely boosted my confidence.

What advice would you give to other women interested in making a major career change?

Do it! Everything is achievable if you set your mind to it.

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