Speaker: Alison Ayers, Career Services Instructor
Introduce yourself! What is your role and how long have you been with ACI Learning?
Alison Ayers: Hello, everyone! My name is Alison Ayers, and I'm a Career Services Instructor. I've worked for ACI Learning now for a year, and I can't wait to get to know you all in class.
Tell us about your professional journey.
Alison Ayers: My professional journey starts in my undergraduate degree. I have a degree in convergent media marketing and I'm a first generation college student. When I attended the university, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do, to be honest. Like maybe some of you all, I just wasn't sure where my career path was going to take me. So while I was in school, I was very involved as a student. I was student body president at my university, I was editor-in-chief of my school newspaper and graduation was looming and it was coming soon and I realized I didn't want to do marketing. I wanted to work in education. After I completed my undergraduate degree, I actually went straight into my master's program and got a degree in higher education administration. From there I actually worked at a STEM university working with IT students as well as engineering students and did that for 10+ years. Wore lots of different hats as an administrator in higher education. I worked with career fairs, I actually put on all of our major career fairs at the university I worked at. I was a career coach, and then I also wore other hats, like I put on concerts for students, comedian events, did leadership development workshops, and retreats for staff and for students. So I wore a lot of different hats in education. I came to ACI Learning a year ago because I really wanted the opportunity to work remote, which I know a lot of you all are looking for as well. I wanted that balance just for my life at home. I came to ACI Learning and I have loved it! I love being able to talk to you all as students going into IT and just exploring that journey, just like I explored my professional journey and helping you build that confidence for that IT search.
What is your favorite thing about working in career services?
Alison Ayers: My favorite thing about working in Career Services, I think is building confidence in our students and building confidence takes a couple of steps. So the first step is just knowledge. In my classes, one of the things I love to do is I'm not just, we're not just building a resume, we're not just updating a LinkedIn profile, but really teaching you how to do those things for the rest of your career. I love teaching and answering questions and telling you the "why" I'm doing anything that I'm doing, there's a reason why and really teaching my students how to do those things because if you know how to do it, it builds your confidence up. Another way that I instill confidence in my classroom is even if you don't come from the IT background, you have IT experience and skill sets. You have those transferable skill sets. Whether it's customer service, whether it's you've worked in different situations where you've had a problem solve, or worked in a fast-paced work environment. What I am really showing you all, no matter what your background is, you have transferable skills to the new field that you are going into. So really instilling that especially for my students that are brand new to the IT field. I love building confidence in my students So then when they leave the classroom, they have the knowledge they need to pursue this career. Not just the first step, but the second step, the third step, and they feel that they can go into those interviews in this new field confidently.
What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned from your education?
Alison Ayers: I think one of the most valuable lessons that I've learned from my education is it's okay to pivot. I shared with you all my background, my first degree for my undergraduate degree is actually in marketing and then I got my Master's degree in education. When you pivot, you don't just leave with nothing. So it's not that I got my degree in marketing. And okay, now I'm in education and I don't have anything from that degree. I have so much from that degree. I learned in marketing how to talk to people, how to work with different, diverse audiences and I took that information and I now use that in my education. So whatever education you're getting, you're continually able to add that to your career. I've made a couple of career pivots since starting my career from, marketing. I actually worked at a newspaper, it was my very first job. To going into education, working in higher education university, and now working at ACI Learning for technical education. I think as you make those switches though, you take along pieces that you've learned from each role. So probably one of the most important things I've learned is that as you pivot, you still are taking important things that you have learned to your new role. So you're not starting from scratch, you're starting with a foundation and each role, each thing that you learn, you're building a foundation for your career. One of the things that I definitely do is, I love to learn. So in any role that I'm ever in: What can I learn that's new? What can I expand on for my knowledge? And how do I keep growing? As long as I'm still growing, I'm happy in my position, and as long as my students are still growing, I'm happy teaching.
What's something you want students to know about you?
Alison Ayers: Something I want my students to know about me, is that when I'm teaching my class, I'm teaching it from three key perspectives. One, I'm teaching my class from the perspective of my education, my background. I've worked in higher education for 10+ years, worked with STEM students for 10+ years. A lot of my advice that I'm providing is from my career service background. But also I'm going to be sharing my perspective as a hiring manager. In my last role, I was in charge of all major hires at my university. That's faculty, coordinators, deans, multiple positions. A lot of times I will be sharing a perspective of what I was looking for in candidates, what we weren't looking for in candidates, and just what exactly made an ideal candidate when we're doing those hiring processes. So I'm gonna share a lot of that perspective as well. And then finally, I was in your shoes not too long ago. So just a year ago, I started my own career search. Made my own career pivot because I wanted to work primarily remotely. I'm gonna share a lot of perspectives of "this is what I did when I was doing my job search", "this is what didn't work for me", "this is what may work for you". So just sharing my own journey since it's not been that long since I did my own job search using job boards, using filters. A lot of the advice I'll give you is what I did in my own career search and what worked for me and what didn't. Finally, I just want to share some fun facts about me and just me personally, outside of ACI. So one, my dream was to work remotely, like many of you. The reason I had that dream is because I wanted to move to this little, tiny town and get this house that was built in 1907 and have a farm, and that's exactly what I did. So, I have a house that was built-in 1907 and I'm completely renovating it. My husband and I are renovating ourselves through some of our own knowledge as well as Youtube. We are completely renovating our 1907 house from scratch. So that's the journey that I've been having. We also have cattle, and I live in a town that has less than 1,000 people. So just interesting fact about me, we live in Missouri and live in a very tiny, little town and I love it! I love living in a small town and I love being able to work remotely from anywhere. Which is such a benefit. So that's a little bit about me.
What advice would you give to students starting out in the IT industry?
Alison Ayers: I think the advice I would give my students is one I don't want you to stress if you don't know what you want to do in IT yet. Some of my students that come to my class, I'll ask them "What are you thinking you want to do in IT?" And they're like, "I have no idea." That's okay. In class, we are going to be doing a lot of exploring. We're gonna be talking about what are the typical entry-level IT positions that you could start in, what are the different job titles that fall under that, what's the different specialties for those different entry-level roles. what kind of roles can you go into in the next 3 to 4 years? 5 to 6 years? 8 to 9 years? Really explore what the IT field looks like. There are so many different types of positions and different specialties you can go into. So we're gonna do a lot of exploring. If anyone's feeling like I don't know where I wanna start, this is brand new to me. That's okay! We're gonna talk a lot about that in class and you're gonna get the chance to continue to explore that in your technical classes as you get the chance to see, what do you really enjoy? What are the things that you may want to do as you're ending our program. The other advice I would give is you are not starting from scratch. So a lot of my students say, "Well, I've got no IT experience." "I'm starting from scratch." "This is brand new to me." That's okay! But you're not necessarily starting from scratch. We bring a lot of what we've done before in the past from our education, our professional backgrounds, and we bring that with us. And so we're going to talk a lot about what are the transferable skills that you've utilized in your last jobs. Most people have used a computer at some point in their professional lives or in their education. Really highlighting that on our resumes. Really highlighting those transferable skill sets that we've used in our past jobs and using that to show exactly where we're coming from and our backgrounds. So, don't worry, I am here for you and we're gonna be covering all of those things in class and we're gonna build that confidence. So you feel good about it.